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Tay Bridge disaster monologue is big winner at 2020 CATS

  1. The Signalman picks up Best Male Performance (Tom McGovern), Best New Play (Peter Arnott) and Best Production awards and is nominated in Best Director (Ken Alexander)

  2. Arnott throws proverbial “cat among the pigeons” calling for radical rethink of how culture is owned and organised in a post-Covid landscape.

  3. Best Director award won by Elizabeth Newman of Pitlochry Festival Theatre

  4. Two awards each for Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface, Solaris and Thank You Very Much

  5. 2020 awards celebrate the creativity of Scottish theatre while applauding its resilience

Tom McGovern in The Signalman

A solo companion piece to Peter Arnott’s 2019 play Tay Bridge is the big winner in the 2020 Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland it was revealed today, 12 November 2020. Written by Arnott from an original idea by actor Tom McGovern, the production was presented by A Play, a Pie and a Pint at Òran Mór. Both the playwright and actor are recognised, and The Signalman also picks up the supreme award, Best Production. Meanwhile, Ken Alexander received a nomination in the Best Director category.

Peter Arnott says he is thrilled by the success of The Signalman and the praise for Tom Govern:

“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.”

He goes on to callfor a radical rethink about how arts and culture are organised in a post Covid-19 landscape.

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.”
“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. 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.”

He calls for the establishment ofregional hubs, direct public ownership, a ministry of the arts, elected local and regional boards, “if we hope that in ten years to have the prosperous and successful industry that our talent and our audiences deserve.”

The 2020 CATS are announced at a time when performing in front of a live audience is virtually impossible, but also a time when Scottish theatre has kept the art form alive through virtual performances and innovative public interventions.

“This is a tremendously difficult time for everyone in theatre, both for those running our theatres, and for the huge rage of freelance workers – from actor and writers to designers and musicians – who create much of what we see on stage.  And paradoxically, the theatres who had been most successful in building up ticket sales, and other earned income from audiences, have been the ones who have suffered most severely, as those income streams collapsed to zero, from one week to the next,” says Joyce McMillan, CATS co-convenor. Yet for all the difficulties, 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 agree our short list and winners for the year; and then to make an announcement, so as to give richly deserved recognition to the theatre-makers in Scotland who were producing such wonderful work, before Covid intervened.” There will be no online awards ceremony, because we love the live experience, and 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.” 

George Costigan in Faith Healer (Pitlochry Festival Theatre)

Elsewhere, the Best Director Award goes to the artistic director of Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Elizabeth Newman, forFaith Healer. ActorGeorge Costiganwas nominated for the Best Male Performance award in the role of Francis Hardy in the production, and Faith Healer also picked up a Best Female Performance nomination for Kirsty Stuart and made the shortlist for Best Production. Stuart, meanwhile, got a second nomination for Best Female Performance for her role as the Duchess in The Duchess (of Malfi) for theRoyal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Citizens Theatre. This is the first time that an actor has received nominations in the same category for two different performances.

“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,” says Elizabeth Newman. “The piece meant so much to us all, not least George (Costigan) 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.”“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,” she adds.

Shona Reppe’s Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface (created with Vélo Théâtre, France andproduced by Catherine Wheels) picks up two awards: Best Production for Children and Young people and Best Design, an award given jointly for the first time. The other joint winner of the Best Design Award isSolaris(Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne and the Lyric Hammersmith)which also scooped Best Technical Award. Reppe dedicated her awards to theatre-makers everywhere who are battling to survive in these challenging times.

“It’s an honour and a delight to have Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface recognised in such an amazing way,” says Shona Reppe. “These awards are 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.”

Another production that garners two awards – Best Ensemble and Best Music and Sound – is the National Theatre of Scotland’s Thank You Very Much. TheBest Female Performance Award is wonby Anna Russell-Martin for Anais Hendricks in The Panopticon, a National Theatre of Scotland production staged at Edinburgh’s Traverse.

“From small-scale solo shows to major international co-productions, Scottish theatre punches above its weight,” says CATS co-convenor Mark Fisher. “On every level, theatre-makers made the job of the CATS judges a pleasure and delight, making the current closure of the theatres all the more poignant. We can’t wait to see such great talents back on stage where they belong.”

For further information, interviews and images contact:

Lesley Booth, 0779 941 4474 / lesley@newcenturypr.com

Notes for Editors

  1. The 2020 CATS were generously supported by: STV (Best Female Performance), Equity (Best Ensemble), Scottish Drama Training Network (Best Music and Sound), BECTU (Best Technical Presentation) Nick Hern Books (Best New Play), and also by the Mackintosh Foundation, BBC Scotland Radio Drama and The List.

  2. The CATS judging panel for 2020 comprised 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).

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