2020 Winners

For all the difficulties created by Covid-19, the CATS judges remained aware of the tremendous year of work, in 2019–2020, that was just coming to an end when the theatres closed down in March; and once we realised that there was no hope of holding a live judging meeting, far less a summer CATS Awards celebration and party on the usual scale, we decided to work online to decide our shortlist and winners for the year. We will celebrate this work at a live ceremony and party just as soon as that is possible.  In the meantime, though, we hope the celebration of these wonderful shows from 2019–20 will remind us of the sheer richness of Scotland’s theatre scene, of what we stand to lose if we don’t support our theatre-makers through this crisis, and of how much there is to look forward to, when our wonderful theatres are finally able to open their doors again.

Best Female Performance

Sponsored by STV

Anna Russell-Martin (Anais Hendricks), The Panopticon, National Theatre of Scotland

During lockdown, I had a lot of time to think about what made my experience with The Panopticon so special. As always, it was being able to work with incredibly talented , hardworking and passionate people. More than ever, it’s essential that we fight for this industry and the remarkable artists who make it. It’s clear just how much we’re starving for theatre right now, and to be a part of a ceremony dedicated to celebrating it is a huge honour.

Anna Russell-Martin, actor

Best Male Performance

Tom McGovern (Thomas Barclay), The Signalman, A Play, a Pie and a Pint in association with the Traverse Theatre

See Best New Play below

Best Ensemble

Sponsored by Equity

Thank You Very Much, Manchester International Festival and National Theatre of Scotland

On behalf of the performers of Thank You Very Much – Dan Daw, Tanja Erhart, Vicky Malin and myself Claire Cunningham – I would like to say a profound thank you (very much!) for this award. At this time in particular, where none of us know when we will be with, and be close with, audiences again it feels particularly touching to feel remembered and to know that our presence burned vividly in the memories of those who shared space with us during our shows. As disabled artists, at a time when there is genuine fear among our wider community of being forgotten or of categorisation as ‘vulnerable’ or even ‘expendable’, this recognition of our presence and contribution feels especially vital. We would like to acknowledge that, as the visible ensemble of the work, this award also carries beyond us to the whole ensemble involved in making & staging Thank You Very Much and extend our own thanks to them for their care, talent and support in crafting the world we truly revel in performing within. Thank you sincerely to the CATS award panel for brightening all our days with this news.

Claire Cunningham, writer, actor, director

Best Director

Elizabeth Newman, Faith Healer, Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Kirsty Stuart in Faith Healer

It was a real honour and privilege to direct Brian Friel’s Faith Healer with such a brilliant creative team and the most extraordinary group of talented actors – George Costigan, Kirsty Stuart and Richard Standing. The piece meant so much to us all, not least George who suggested we make the play together several years ago. The entire team at Pitlochry Festival Theatre worked so hard to make this production such a wonderful experience for everyone involved. We also loved working with Eden Court to reach new audiences. It was a truly fantastic experience to tour the Highlands and islands in our little van. We all know, our islands are a place of inspiration and magic so there was something rather fortuitous that when I heard the news I was sitting in a van on the Isle of Lewis… I had been thinking about what we could do next in these strange times, so needless to say, it was an important moment to receive the recognition of this award. And more than anything it just told me: just keep going. Thank you to everyone at CATS, the brilliant artists, theatre teams and, of course, audiences who continue to stick with us during this time.

Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director, Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Best Design (joint)

Shona Reppe, Atlantis Banal: Beneath The Surface, created with Vélo Théâtre, France, produced by Catherine Wheels

See Best Production for Children and Young People below

Best Design (joint)

Hyemi Shin (set and costume), Paul Jackson (lighting), Tov Belling and Katie Milwright (cinematography), Toby Angwin (visual effects), Solaris, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Malthouse Theatre and the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

It is thrilling for Solaris to be nominated and recognised by CATS. Solaris brought together artists and companies from Edinburgh, Melbourne and London to tell a space story that traversed the globe. It wasn’t possible to create without bringing together an international team, and while it feels overwhelming to imagine how such a collaboration could occur now during this pandemic, I’m optimistic that we will find new ways to reach out and continue transcontinental collaborations in the future – we might just have to find even more daring ways to collaborate!

Matthew Lutton, director

Best Music and Sound

Sponsored by the Scottish Drama Training Network

Matthias Hermann (sound designer and composer), Thank You Very Much, Manchester International Festival and National Theatre of Scotland

Thank you very much for this awardI feel lucky to have been part of the fantastic group of people who created this show in the warmest and friendliest atmosphere I have experienced. I had such huge support from the whole group and especially Claire Cunningham. Her openness to everybody’s ideas created a space where creativity was propelled like a rocket.

Matthias Hermann, sound designer and composer

Best Technical Presentation

Sponsored by BECTU

Solaris, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Malthouse Theatre and the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

It’s always lovely for a theatre’s work to be recognised but, after a summer as difficult this one, there is a particular pride at Lyceum productions being recognised like this. Solaris was a collaboration from top to bottom. Matthew Lutton is a genius, of course, and Hyemi Shin’s design is a typically brilliant answer to the question of how to stage an ultra-futuristic space station in a Victorian theatre. We loved working for the second time with the Malthouse in Melbourne and the Lyric in Hammersmith. Our partners imbued the show with an internationalism that feels very important to hang on to right now. Lastly, I want to note the incredible work of the workshops, stage management and stage teams at the Lyceum, Malthouse and Lyric who made and operated the show’s complex set. Solaris is a play about loneliness but it could only be made because of the dedicated, patient, collaborative work of theatre teams working together. More of that in 2021 please! Planet permitting, of course.

David Greig, playwright and Artistic Director, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh

Best Production for Children and Young People

Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface, Shona Reppe, created with Vélo Théâtre, France, produced by Catherine Wheels

It’s an honour and a delight to have Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface recognised in such an amazing way! We all worked so hard to make it happen, but I’d like to thank in particular: Tamlin Wiltshire, my Neptune, my rock to cling to, for not only wrestling the technical aspects of the show like a giant squid but wearing a gallery guard costume and performing a safety demonstration with me wearing a fictional lanyard. To (Captain) Charlot Lemoine of Vélo Théâtre whose creativity and fire continue to inspire and push me in ways I didn’t think were possible! To Fabien Cartalade for creating the most beautiful & magical musical soundscape for me to submerge myself in. To Jose Lopez for the gorgeous watery lighting design. Thank you as always to my family, my faithful crew, for their endless support and encouragement. They are the square in my meal. And last but certainly not least I thank Louise Gilmour-Wills of Catherine Wheels who has produced for me (along with the fantastic Catherine Wheels team) with great patience and strength, guiding me through the stormiest of seas and holding the tiller steady while I splash in the waves of creativity in a flowery thinking cap and a blow up flamingo rubber ring. More importantly, this award is dedicated to theatre-makers everywhere. Keep your heads above water chums – keep doggy paddling through this Covid tsunami and I’ll see you on the shore as soon as possible. I’m the one in the flowery cap clinging to a rock.

Shona Reppe, writer, actor, director

Best New Play

Sponsored by Nick Hern Books 

Peter Arnott, The Signalman, A Play, a Pie and a Pint in association with the Traverse Theatre

I’m delighted about the award. I’m especially pleased for Tom. It was conversations with him back when we did The Cone Gatherers that led ultimately to both this play, and to Tay Bridge, its companion piece for Dundee Rep. But It does feel like that conversation and that theatre-making took place on a different planet. I think we’re in much deeper trouble than we know and that Covid is just the start of it… And I have the uneasy feeling that people are acting as if someone is just going to throw a switch to put all the lights back on, and as if we can just pick up where we left off. I don’t know anything for certain, but I do know that it’s not going to be like that. And I think we are going to have to think some pretty radical thoughts about how we organise what it is we do for a living if any of us expect to do anything like it again. And I’m not talking about what we do online or how to space out a socially distanced audience… I’m talking about upending the entire structure of governance we inherited from the reinvention of culture at the end of World War ll… and reinventing it all over again. Regional hubs, direct public ownership, a ministry of the arts, elected local and regional boards… everything… if we hope that in ten years to have the prosperous and successful industry that our talent and our audiences deserve.

Peter Arnott, playwright

Best Production

Peter Arnott, The Signalman, A Play, a Pie and a Pint in association with the Traverse Theatre

See Best New Play above

The CATS judging panel for 2020 was made up of: Mary Brennan (The Herald), Anna Burnside (Daily Record), Neil Cooper (The Herald), Michael Cox (Across the Arts), Thom Dibdin (The Stage and AllEdinburghTheatre.com), Mark Fisher (The Guardian), Joyce McMillan (The Scotsman) and David Pollock (freelance arts journalist).