The 2023 CATS winners were announced at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh on Sunday 11 June. Special guest presenters were River City actor and celebrated panto villain Grant Stott, and BAFTA-award winning actor Shauna MacDonald.

© Infinite Blue Designs

Here are the winners of the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland 2023.

CATS Whiskers Award

A CATS Whiskers, the occasionally presented award that recognises an outstanding contribution to Scottish Theatre, was conferred on a single production for the first time. The award which went to The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil, created in 1973 by John McGrath’s 7:84 Scotland Theatre Company, was collected by original cast member Dolina Maclennan and Danny McGrath, son of John. Recorded messages were sent by the other three surviving cast members: Alex Norton, John Bett and Bill Paterson.

© Infinite Blue Designs

Outstanding Performance (2 Winners)

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David Hayman as Eric in Cyprus Avenue (Tron Theatre)

© David Ireland

 “Cyprus Avenue stands or falls on the central performance. We have to believe in Eric’s unshakeable knowledge that his new granddaughter is Gerry Adams. We also have to believe in his Ulster provenance – it must feel bone deep, not sprayed on. David Hayman delivered on both in a performance that was funny, moving and terrifying in equal measures.

Anna Burnside (Daily Record/Sunday Mail)

Sally Reid as Shirley Valentine, in Shirley Valentine (Pitlochry Festival Theatre)

© Fraser Band

In Elizabeth Newman’s captivating production of the Willy Russell monologue, Sally Reid made it feel like she was chatting to each of us individually. Alone on the stage, she made the big Pitlochry auditorium seem as intimate as her kitchen. With a downbeat wit, she played Shirley Valentine, the neglected Liverpool housewife, with charm, humour and a sparkle in her eye. She earned big laughs, but it was her unaffected honesty and emotional truth that made this a masterclass in acting

Mark Fisher (The Guardian)

Best Ensemble

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Castle Lennox (Royal Lyceum Theatre & Lung Ha Theatre)

© Pete Dibdin

“Castle Lennox, saw possibly the most brilliantly diverse cast on any stage this year bring a complex play about a truly shameful element of Scotland’s social history to light. Lung Ha always create work which impresses but this production, which we have had to wait so many years to see, took their unique method of using an all-professional cast of people with and without learning disabilities to a new level with a production that was frequently funny as well as utterly heartbreaking.”

Thom Dibdin (AllEdinburghTheatre.com)

Best Director 

Orla O’Loughlin, Enough of Him (National Theatre of Scotland & Pitlochry Festival Theatre) 

© Sally Jubb

“Appropriately for a four-hander, May Sumbwanyambe’s subtle and slippery play was directed by Orla O’Loughlin as if it were a square dance. It was about Joseph Knight, a real-life black slave brought from Jamaica to 18th-century Perthshire and was compellingly staged by the National Theatre of Scotland and Pitlochry Festival Theatre. O’Loughlin set a steady pace, giving the actors time to establish the codes and conventions that held the characters in check, drawing forth nuanced and complex performances from Omar Austin, Matthew Pidgeon, Rachael-Rose McLaren and Catriona Faint, on a set by Fred Meller that captured the contradictions of colonialism.”

Mark Fisher (The Guardian)

Best Design

Tom Piper (Set Design) Alex Berry (Costume Design /Associate Set Designer) and Lizzie Powell (Lighting Design), Macbeth (an undoing)  (Royal Lyceum Theatre)

© Stuart Armitt

“In Macbeth (an undoing), Alex Berry’s array of fabulous costumes brought the production into the early 20th century, Tom Piper’s perspective-altering, mirrored flats showed the many sides of Lady Macbeth while the chiaroscuro effect of Lizzie Powell’s lighting gave the whole piece depth. It was the show in which, more than any other, the design helped create the tension, dynamism and rhythm of the whole piece.”

Thom Dibdin (AllEdinburghTheatre.com)

Best Music & Sound

David Paul JonesLove Beyond (Act of Remembrance) (Raw Material & Vanishing Point)

© Tommy Ga Ken Wan

“For Love Beyond, David Paul Jones created a score that was beautifully attuned to the show’s themes of love, loss and memory, and to the situation of the play’s protagonist Old Harry, who is deaf and suffering with dementia. It was absolutely central to a show that was in many ways a mood poem – the music leads us straight into the surges of thought and emotion in Harry’s mind that cannot be expressed in words.”

Anna Burnside (Daily Record/Sunday Mail)

Best Technical Presentation 

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Love Beyond (Act of Remembrance) (Raw Material & Vanishing Point)

© Tommy Ga Ken Wan

“Love Beyond (Act of Remembrance) combines tremendous depths of emotion with sheer technical brilliance to depict the themes of love, loss, dementia and communication. Brilliant acting, direction, writing and design were all brought together through the flawless technical execution of a beautifully poignant production that was far more than simple ‘smoke and mirrors’.”

Michael Cox (Across the Arts)

Best Production for Children and Young People

The Gift (Capital Theatres and Barrowland Ballet) 

© Andrew Perry

“The Gift is an inspiring tale which ignites an earnest sense of playfulness, encouraging children, their families, and audiences to appreciate new ways of exploring imagination and creativity. A firm reminder from Barrowland Ballet and Capital Theatre of the value of imagination.”

Dominic Corr (Corr Blimey!)

Best New Play

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Enough of Him by May Sumbwanyambe (National Theatre of Scotland & Pitlochry Festival Theatre)

© Sally Jubb

“May Sumbwanyambe’s Enough of Him is an extraordinary piece about the African slave Joseph Knight and his famously successful bid to achieve his freedom through the Scottish courts. In the play, the Hell on Earth that was the slave colony of Jamaica crashes into the concocted gentility of the Scottish landowning classes. The drama imagines, with extraordinary power, the contorted racial, class and sexual politics that must have consumed Ballindean, the Perthshire mansion of Knight’s nominal ‘master’, the slave-plantation owner Sir John Wedderburn.”

Mark Brown (Sunday National and the Daily Telegraph)

Best Production 

Enough of Him (National Theatre of Scotland & Pitlochry Festival Theatre) 

© Sally Jubb

“Enough Of Him was a stunningly powerful and beautifully realised show, with a magnificent text by May Sumbwanyambe, which made – and I hope will continue to make – a vital contribution to the evolving debate about Scotland’s historic involvement with the slave trade. In a magnificently detailed and beautifully paced production by Orla O’Loughlin, it explored these themes through the relationship between the enslaved man, Joseph Knight, and  Sir John Wedderburn, who brought Knight back to Scotland as a servant at his Perthshire estate, and treated him as a favourite. The show was co-produced by Pitlochry Festival Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland, and featured superb design and music, as well as outstanding performances from Omar Austin and Matthew Pidgeon, as two men whose fractured and unequal relationship bears witness to the horror of slavery, and the damage and distortion it has inflicted, down the generations, on those whose lives were shaped by it.”

Joyce McMillan (The Scotsman)


As well as the category sponsors listed above, the CATS Awards are also generously supported by:

The CATS judging panel for the 2023 Awards comprised: Mary Brennan (The Herald), Mark Brown (Sunday National and the Daily Telegraph), Anna Burnside (Daily Record/Sunday Mail), Dominic Corr (Corr Blimey!), Michael Cox (Across the Arts), Thom Dibdin (AllEdinburghTheatre.com), Mark Fisher (The Guardian), Fergus Morgan (The Stage), Joyce McMillan (The Scotsman), Natalie O’Donoghue (Broadway World), David Pollock (freelance reviewer) and Allan Radcliffe (The Times)