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Features Published 12 December 2017

The Exeunt Awards

The wait is over: Exeunt's writers announce the winners of some highly prestigious (if unconventional) accolades.
Exeunt Staff

As the great and good of the theatre world unite to bestow their most priz-ed gongs upon the year’s brightest stars, we’re getting in on the act with some awards that are impartial, prestigious, selected by jury…. no, sorry, these are very silly.

Heads Up, UK tour. Photo: Niall Walker

Heads Up, UK tour. Photo: Niall Walker

The ‘it’s 2017, the world is a bin fire and we’re all going to die’ award
Perhaps I should be less surprised that I saw so many shows about death and the apocalypse this year, but if I had to pick a theme, this would be it. Weirdly, though, most of them have been really, really funny. James Rowland’s Team Viking and Jack Rooke’s Good Grief were both intimate and moving looks at death that were nevertheless often hilarious, while Dom Coyote’s Songs for the End of the World was a sly, melodic look ode to end of times, and Kieran Hurley’s similarly focused Heads Up was packed with dark comedy. (Tracey Sinclair)

The venue you most want everyone to know about (while simultaneously not in case it gets too popular and you can’t get tickets)
For a couple of years now, I have been a big fan of the Marlborough bar and theatre – a warm, welcoming LGBT focused space that gets consistently great shows and has bold, inclusive, programming. Plus, in true Brighton style, there is almost always a dog in the bar. It is teeny though and things often sell out so you better not beat me to it. (TS)
 
Most baffling audience reaction
English people’s audible gasps when someone on stage says ‘cunt’. Seriously, it’s 2017, how can you be this shocked? Bonus points if speaker is Scottish person who is using it as casual punctuation. (TS)
Swag par excellence. Photo: Tracey Sinclair

Swag par excellence. Photo: Tracey Sinclair

Best interval swag
While a glass of wine or two never goes out of fashion, for sheer originality and heart I loved my interval goody bag at Daisy Jordan’s The Sorrowful Tale of Sleeping Sidney, a gothic puppet show about poisoned chocolates that at the interval gave out… yes, ‘poison’ and chocolates… (TS)

The shows that made me feel like I was imploding
Imploding is a strange concept. I essentially define it as when, after a show, you feel cataclysmically altered. In February of this year my friend Ben had been given a bright green vinyl of a show called This is How We Die. Me, Ben, and maybe 12 of our friends crammed into my tiny bedroom in halls to listen to the show on my record player. In September, we see the show itself. And it is nothing short of a mind-melting, extraterrestrial, heart-exploding wordgasm. By the end, there are no words left, only the sound of Chris Bett Bailey’s guitars and your body crumpling in your seat.

L¥€$ was the last show I saw at the Edinburgh Fringe and continues to be something I think about almost every day. You become your own worst nightmare, the system you fight against – I can’t help thinking they were maybe showing us how to effectively enact the revolution.

There is little I can say about Anatomy of a Suicide that has not already been said, except that this perhaps exemplifies the state of implosion which occurs after the curtain comes down, because I am still in that imploding state. It has not left my body or my consciousness for nearly 100 days. It does not feel right to give an award to a show that hasn’t ended yet? But it had to be here, it is the definition of a world-altering show. (Eve Allin)

Anatomy of a Suicide at the Royal Court. Photo: Stephen Cummiskey.

Anatomy of a Suicide at the Royal Court. Photo: Stephen Cummiskey.

The set design I most want to live inside
As I hunt for a new place to live in 2018 I’m entertaining increasingly wild ideas, and daydreaming about some of the most gorgeous spaces I went to this year. As much as I’d like to crouch in the picturesque, gilded rubble of Vicki Mortimer’s design for Follies, for full-time occupation I’ve got something a little more restful in mind.  In May, The Royal Court’s season at The Site housed performances in a wonderfully squishy, tactile room with walls coated in blue foam spikes, designed by Chloe Lamford. Even bluer, Rosie Elnile’s design for The Unknown Island wrapped the walls of Gate Theatre in sky-coloured sailcloth. Magical, and perfect for dreaming. (Alice Saville)

Best earworm 
Solo show meets pop-up choir in the most seamless way possible in Our Carnal Hearts, Rachel Mars’ witty meditation on envy. The memorable moment deserving of this accolade is the show’s choral repurposing of the Spandau Ballet hit Gold as an unlikely motivational mantra. (Duška Radosavljević)

Best maturing with age
I was very late to this party, only seeing Rash Dash’s Two Man Show on its third London run, but it was as fresh and invigorating as if it had only just been launched. A brilliantly insightful and innovative exploration of both patriarchy and theatrical form on its way to becoming a classic. And with the current state of affairs it is bound to have topical mileage for a long time to come. (DR)

Two Man Show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Two Man Show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

 Most effective jump cuts
The terrifying jump cuts from Pomona made a welcome return in Ned Bennett’s ultra-theatrical production of An Octoroon. Scenes abruptly cut with a blackout and blaring music, before Elliot Griggs’ lights snapped back on reveal a stage covered in cotton, a lone cellist, a creepy Br’er rabbit, a man in a pool of his own blood. It sure kept you on your toes. (Ben Kulvichit)

Most all-consuming sonic landscapes
I saw four shows which Melanie Wilson worked on this year. In Anatomy of a Suicide and The Shape of the Pain she created all-consuming sonic landscapes, entirely through-scoring them. The subtle rumble of an imminent revolution underscored Kingdom Come, with moments of expansive brass fanfare. A surprisingly foregrounded design punctuated HOME’s Uncle Vanya, with rattling drums and manipulated piano motifs working in counterpoint with the production’s Chekhovian quietude. Wilson is simply unparalleled in her field. I am forever in awe. (BK)

Nothing is Coming, the Pixels are Huge.

Nothing is Coming, the Pixels are Huge.

Most impressive feat of projection mapping
Nothing is Coming, the Pixels are Huge,
 a beautiful show which I saw at the National Student Drama Festival, constructed science fiction worlds from 250 cardboard boxes, illuminated by two projectors mapping squares of colour onto each box. Projection and lighting designer David Callanan operated the show, working not from a cue stack but instead activating specific squares according to which boxes the actors decided to arrange on stage, becoming another performer himself. I loved the way it embraced liveness without sacrificing technical daring and intricacy. (BK)

Best reminder to Do What You Love
Ruby Tandoh says that you should eat what you love and ideally I’d extend this philosophy to more than just tray bakes. But it can be difficult to genuinely listen to what makes you happy, especially if you feel you should be happy following what once was your dream. With wit, style and insight into the Mean Girls world of Irish Dancing, Fishamble’s The Humours of Bandon was an edifying reminder that sometimes it’s OK to just walk away. (RW)

The Humours of Bandon at Dance Base, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.

The Humours of Bandon at Dance Base, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.

 Best solution to heartbreak
Relationships fail and most people get pissed, sob to their friends and phone someone else highly inappropriate at 3am (just me? I think not). Instead, Suzanne Grotenhuis bought a sustainable ice rink. Her solo show, On Ice, about this choice was a clever mix of comedy and something-that-got-in-my-eye. Every time I walk past a cruddy town-centre ice rink this winter I think of this show and my icy heart thaws. (RW)

Best Fuck You to (un)helpful others
Get a chronic medical condition and get, for free, a lifetime’s worth of largely inept advice from those unqualified to offer it. Rachel Bagshaw and Chris Thorpe’s The Shape of the Pain was partly an attempt to communicate the experience of chronic pain. But it was also taboo-breaking in its refusal to paint a glossy picture – to talk of ‘being grateful’ or ‘what this has taught me’. It was, at points, unapologetically angry, which sometimes feels like a miracle. (RW)

Most Joyful, Generous and Dignified Response to Your Critics
Since starting at Shakespeare’s Globe, Emma Rice has had more horse shit thrown at her than all the rose gardens in England. How did she respond? By producing shows that smelled as sweet as any a perfumed flower. Following the furore of amplified music/electric lights/Shakespeare not done the way Shakespeare purists wanted it, Rice’s Twelfth Night took to the stage and was possibly the least antagonistic show going. Like the name of the summer season, this was piece of theatre created solely from love. (RW)

'Twelfth Night' at Shakespeare's Globe. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

‘Twelfth Night’ at Shakespeare’s Globe. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Best Knitted Performer
Daniel Jamieson’s Fish Eye tells the story of Pam, an elderly woman who becomes the neighbourhood watch in a more enthusiastic way that most. The thoroughly lovely show was made better by the starring appearance of a knitted Fishy Footman, complete with concealed spy cam googly eyes. In the interests of professionalism, I tracked down a photo of this impressive performer after I went to review it so that you too can enjoy his woolly charms:

Fisheye Picture Saltburn

Most disturbing attempt at seasonal baking by a theatrical establishment
Ok, so most theatres don’t even do seasonal baking, but the National Theatre does and I take it upon myself to sample its offerings on a regular basis (I imagine one day starting a very boring blog about it that you will all feel obliged to read out of pity). Time has taught me that the inventiveness of the kitchen peaks in October when a brilliant array of florescent orange cakes and other treats appear to celebrate Halloween. But for 2017 things genuinely got scary – and probably not in the way they intended. A quick afternoon sugar break saw me purchase a caramel shortbread decorated with a… well… hmm…:
Less a sheet ghost, more something left on the sheets... Photo: Rosemary Waugh

Less a sheet ghost, more something left on the sheets… Photo: Rosemary Waugh

Most adoptable stage animal 
I want to save the goose from The Ferryman. And also the chicks from This Beautiful Future. And the grey rabbit from Anatomy of a Suicide. This year’s theatrical logic seems to be the more horrifically the human characters suffer, the cuter the animals they get in to compensate. I plan to set up a home for retired stage animals that have had enough of the thespian life. [Editors note: fergoodness sake, pick one animal. One award, one winner. *Shakes fist at the sky*] (Hannah Greenstreet)

A goose and a man star in 'The Ferryman'. Photo: Johan Persson

A goose and a man star in ‘The Ferryman’. Photo: Johan Persson


Most adoptable stage animal award (the verdict)
Twas the Exeunt awards and the excitement was palpable
As editors, reviewers, writers discussed their favourite stage animal
For many, the answer was clear to be seen
Ferryman‘s goose who stole the show from Consdine


They were smug in their choice, as Saville did boast:
‘For that bird had such a range compared to the court’s Goats!’
‘What about Pirate at the Bush?’ wondered Waugh (the objector)
‘We can’t count him, he’s the feline artistic director’


But Peschier jumped up, shouting and quick
How dare you discount The Yard’s starring chicks?
What would ‘Beautiful Future have been, if our discursive conference
Had lacked such a perfect metaphor for newborn innocence?


Whether fluffy and cute, or smelly and braying
I fear live animals is a trend that is staying
And letters from PETA not withstanding a blasting
It is infinitely better than some West End star casting
(Francesca Peschier)

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Exeunt Staff is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

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