John Byrne to present 2013 Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland

Press release 5 June 2013

  • Vicky Featherstone to be recognised with special CATS Whiskers Award

THE creative genius behind The Slab Boys trilogy and Tutti Frutti, John Byrne, is to present the 2013 Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) and the first artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland is to be recognised by a CATS Whiskers Award it was announced today, 5 June 2013.

“We are thrilled that John Byrne will join us at this year’s CATS ceremony,” says Joyce McMillan, co-convenor of the CATS. “John has had a long and fruitful relationship with the Traverse, with many of his plays premiering there. As we celebrate this year’s CATS Awards at the Traverse, a theatre with a worldwide reputation for new writing, we are especially pleased that our guest presenter will be a playwright, and one whose work has had a transforming impact on a whole generation of Scottish theatremakers.”

“Over the years the Traverse has done so much to promote new work by Scottish writers,” adds Mark Fisher co-convenor of the CATS. “In the 1970s it had the foresight to support John’s debut work, which was a ground-breaking moment in Scottish theatre. And that support for new talent continues to this day. It is no surprise that three of the nominations for Best New Play in the 2013 CATS are Traverse productions or co-productions.”

“I am delighted to be part of the CATS 2013,” says John Byrne. “It is tantamount to passing on the ‘baton’ to a future generation of young theatre practitioners and sending them back into the fray with renewed energy and vigour – all of them winners in my book.”

“We’re delighted at the news that John Byrne will be playing such an important part in the CATS Award ceremony as a key figure in the history of the Traverse and the landscape of Scottish theatre,”  adds Orla O’Loughlin, artistic director of the Traverse Theatre. “A true artist who is as cutting-edge now as when his work debuted at the Traverse, we are thrilled that he will join us for this special event in our 50th year.”

One of Scotland’s great polymaths, Byrne was born in Paisley in 1940. He was destined to work in the carpet factories that form the setting of his debut trilogy before being accepted as a Fine Art student at The Glasgow School of Art. In a career spanning almost 40 years he has written for the stage, radio and TV with highlights including The Slab Boys, Tutti Frutti and Your Cheatin’ Heart, and versions of Russian classics The Government Inspector, Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard.  Premiering in Edinburgh in 1978, The Slab Boys went on to be staged in New York with a cast that included Kevin Bacon, Val Kilmer and Sean Penn. Byrne is also an acclaimed artist. In the early ‘60s he designed covers for Penguin Books and later went on to design record covers for artists including Donovan, The Beatles, Gerry Rafferty and Bill Connolly. Several of his paintings are in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland and he has had a number of high profile exhibitions in recent years. 

The CATS Whiskers is an occasional award given to celebrate an outstanding achievement in Scottish theatre. The first director of the National Theatre of Scotland, Vicky Featherstone, who is now the artistic director of the Royal Court in London, will be only the second recipient of this special award.

“Vicky has made an outstanding contribution to Scottish Theatre,” says Joyce McMillan. “Under her guidance the National Theatre of Scotland has grown into an internationally acclaimed institution producing many world-beating shows from global hits Black Watch and The Strange Undoing Of Prudencia Hart to mainstage versions of Peer Gynt and Men Should Weep, and dozens of inspiring smaller-scale projects that have played in theatre and halls across Scotland.”

“We believe that Vicky made an absolutely brilliant job of a historic and immensely complex task, particularly in taking on – ·and making her own – the idea of a national ·theatre ‘without walls. ·It is difficult to imagine any other director who could have led the NTS through its opening years with such a combination of skill, creativity, and real, passionate engagement with Scotland and its stories,” she adds.

“The quality of the work produced and co-produced by the National Theatre of Scotland since its foundation has been recognised by the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland on many occasions,” adds Mark Fisher. “This year the NTS has received nominations for no fewer than six different shows: Macbeth, A Doll’s House, The Guid Sisters, Ménage à Trois, Ignition and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.”

“I am obviously delighted to be the recipient of the CATS Whiskers award,” says Vicky Featherstone. “The eight years I spent with the National Theatre of Scotland creating and producing work on stages across Scotland was an extraordinary period in my life and one which will always have a special place in my heart. I learnt more about theatre, what it is for and its true value in our lives than I could ever have imagined. For that transformation I am eternally grateful. I am deeply proud too of the bravery, talent and passion of the Scottish artists and the hunger and challenge of the audiences I had the pleasure of working with and for. We are all the cats whiskers, every person who bought a ticket, stood in the cold, uttered a word on stage, made one idea come to life, every person who has worked with us. Congratulations to all who shared the early years of the National Theatre  of Scotland’s journey with me. This is for all of us. And good luck too for the next precious part of that journey. I can’t wait to be amazed.”

Now in their 11th year, the prestigious CATS recognise the vibrancy and quality of theatre produced in Scotland. The 2013 nominations range from large-scale productions to solo performances and encompass both theatre-based and site-specific work. No fewer than 27 different productions staged across Scotland from Shetland to the Borders have made the CATS shortlists this year underlining the calibre of the work being produced throughout the country. 

The 2013 Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland, will be presented at a sell-out event on Sunday 9 June 2013. For further information the CATS visit:


For further CATS information, images and interviews contact:

Lesley Booth, New Century PR , 0779 941 4474

Posted in CATS guest presenter, CATS press releases.