News Published 28 February 2011

The Off West End Theatre Awards 2011

Inaugural ‘Offie’ Awards announced.

Tom Wicker

This Sunday saw not just the Oscars, but Offwestend.com’s inaugural awards bash celebrating the best of independent theatre from the past year.

Held in the beautiful Wilton’s Music Hall, this refreshingly informal, chatty and big-hearted occasion was marked by raucous laughter, a lot of booze and a great deal of joy. It turned a spotlight on the creativity and innovation of the London fringe scene which had long been overdue.

The ‘Offies’ were the brainchild of Sofie Mason, an arts fundraiser who set up Offwestend.com a couple of years ago to boost the public profile of writers, plays and venues throughout London. In the 12 months leading up to this January, a large team of assessors saw more than 300 productions. Of these, they each submitted a whittled-down list of candidates for awards to a critics’ judging panel consisting of Mark Shenton, Matt Wolf, Ian Shuttleworth, Roger Foss, Dominic Cavendish, Daisy Bowie-Sell and Paul Vale.

There were also a number of categories voted for by the public, including, brilliantly, Best Theatre Bar and Best Foodie Experience. The winners eventually chosen by the panel were presented with their awards by an impressive roll-call of big-name actors, including the unfeasibly tall Alex Jennings and a slimmed-down Simon Russell Beale (who takes to the stage in a ballet version of Alice in Wonderland this evening). Meanwhile, the velvet-voiced Don Warrington regaled the audience with his story of an old couple who arrived at one of his shows with a thermos and sandwiches and called out “come again soon” to him at the end of the performance.

The ceremony was hosted by the inimitable Simon Callow, who managed to dominate the stage even when he wasn’t on it by, at one point, tumbling down the wooden steps leading to the auditorium. Luckily, he quickly reappeared, smiling, slightly dishevelled but unbruised.

Assassins, at the Union, did particularly well, winning both Best Production and Best Sound Designer. Thom Sutherland picked up Best Director for Me and Juliet at the Finborough – which attracted a Best Artistic Director award for Neil McPherson (who must already have been riding pretty high on the success of Accolade). Nina Raine’s Tribes won Best New Play and Michelle Terry Best Female Performance for her role in it. Danny Webb took away a Best Male Performance award for his turn in Blasted at the Lyric.

The Panel awards in full:

Best New Play: Tribes by Nina Raine at the Royal Court

Most Promising Playwright: Arinze Kene for Estate Walls at Oval House

Best Director: Thom Southerland for Me and Juliet at The Finborough

Best Artistic Director: Neil McPherson at The Finborough

Best Producer: Lilli Geissendorfer

Best Choreographer: Alistair David for Bells Are Ringing

Best Lighting Designer: Howard Hudson for Me and Juliet and Tomorrow Morning

Best Sound Designer: Steve Miller for Assassins at The Union

Best Set Designer: Ultz for The Beauty Queen of Leenane at The Young Vic

Best Costume Designer: Emily Stuart for Anyone Can Whistle at Jermyn Street

Best Marketing Campaign: Ghost Stories at The Lyric Hammersmith

Best Entertainment: The Animals and Children Took to the Streets at BAC

Best New Musical: Porn -The Musical at Theatre503

Best Production: Assassins at The Union

Best Female Performance: Michelle Terry in Tribes

Best Male Performance: Danny Webb in Blasted at Lyric Hammersmith

Panel Award: Chickenshed

The Public Vote awards:

People’s Favourite Production: Camp Horror at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

People’s Favourite Musical : Britain’s Got Bhangra at Theatre Royal Stratford East

People’s Favourite Entertainment: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum at

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

People’s Favourite Male Performance: Alan Richardson in Pirates of Penzance at Wilton’s

Music Hall

People’s Favourite Female Performance: Jessie Cave in Breed at Theatre 503

For further information, visit: Off-WestEnd.com

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Tom Wicker

Tom is a freelance writer and editor, based in London. He has acted in the past, but the stage is undoubtedly better off without him on it. As well as regularly contributing to Exeunt and OffWestEnd.com, he reviews for Time Out, has reviewed Broadway productions for The Telegraph. He has also written for The Guardian and the online world affairs magazine openDemocracy.

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