One evening in February 2003 while waiting in the Arches, Glasgow for a play to begin, one theatre critic sidled up to his fellows and said, “I’ve been thinking Scotland should have awards for theatre.” The reaction from all was yes, so a group of regular theatre critics in Scotland started to organise the first Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland.

When announcing the launch of these annual awards in April 2003, the critics said: “Almost every trade and profession has some sort of annual review of triumphs and achievements. We feel that theatre in Scotland, which produces some excellent work and delights hundreds of thousands of people every year, deserves no less. The theatre critics between them probably see more of what is on than anyone else.”

At the beginning of May 2003, after five hours of vigorous and deeply felt private debate, where the critics considered over 130 eligible productions, the first Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland were decided. In the first year, awards were given in five categories: for the best production, male performance, female performance, design and new play. The critics’ panel also sponsored a seat at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow in appreciation of Giles Havergal’s immeasurable contribution to theatre in Scotland over the 34 years in which he was director of the Glasgow Citizens.

Best male performance winner Liam Brennan (centre) with presenters Kate Dickie and David MacLennan who presented the 2006 CATS awards. Photo: Alan Richardson

The first year was an experiment in which the regular theatre critics tried out the scheme and gauged support with a minimal number of awards. They were delighted by the positive feedback, especially from the theatre community, so they moved forward to a more permanent footing and began to reward other essential parts of the theatre process.

In 2004 five extra categories of award were added: best director, best technical presentation, best children’s show, best ensemble and best music. From over 140 eligible productions, a shortlist of nominees was announced on the May 16, 2005.

Vicky Featherstone, artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland, and David Tennant, named best actor for Look Back in Anger in the 2005 CATS

On 6 June, 2004 the second CATS Awards were announced at the first annual awards’ ceremony and celebration for the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland held at the Tolbooth in Stirling. The ceremony returned to the Tolbooth in 2005 and, since then, the CATS has moved from city to city and theatre to theatre.

  • No ceremony, 2003
  • Tolbooth, Stirling, 2004
  • Tolbooth, Stirling, 2005
  • Discovery Point, Dundee, 2006
  • Pitlochry Festival Theatre, 2007
  • Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2008
  • Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 2009
  • Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 2010
  • Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 2011
  • Tron Theatre, Glagow, 2012
  • Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 2013
  • Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, 2014
  • Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 2015
  • Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 2016
  • Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 2017
  • Perth Theatre, 2018
  • Tramway, Glasgow, 2019
  • No ceremony, 2020
Holby City/Taggart star John Michie, winner of the Best Male Performance award at the 2019 CATS. Picture: Photo: Robert Perry