Hello, and welcome once again to the only awards to celebrate the things the Evening Standard never mentions.
First, I’d very much like to thank Andrew Lloyd Webber’s builders for forgetting to board up the tunnel entrance Michael McIntyre used for his TV show, to get victims into the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. If everyone could get their hard hats on, we can get started.
Unlike last year, there is some serious stuff to get out of he way first:
Theatremonkey Gold Medal. To Alistair Smith, Editor of “The Stage” newspaper and team. In May 2019, while researching an article on mental health resources for actors, “The Stage” came up first in Google rankings. The article was behind a “paywall.” I emailed Mr Smith suggesting maybe making mental health articles free online. Within an hour I got a reply thanking me for the suggestion and saying the team were already on it, just allow 48 hours to work. His grasping the idea and sprinting with it may save a life sometime, who knows. A fine response.
Theatremonkey Gold Medal. To the doctor who answered the plea “is there a doctor in the house” to attend to a man who collapsed in the aisle on the way out after “Fleabag.”
Theatremonkey Silver Medal. To SJM Entertainment, The Spice Girls and most of all the energetic young woman at the front of block 101 on 12th June 2019 who provided a fully signed performance of the entire Spice Girls concert. Impressive that a huge show thought of it and took the trouble.
Theatremonkey Silver Medal. To the young front of house lady who assisted a person with learning difficulties during a performance of “Mary Poppins.” The person, and her escort, had to leave before the show, as the person couldn’t tolerate sitting on the edge of the orchestra pit in the front row. 30 minutes in, the young front of house usher got them back to their seats without disturbing anyone around them. Impressive.
And now the fun stuff:
The Patterson / Leveson Step for improvisation: to David Troughton as Falstaff – including jumping on a stuck stage lift to check it was safe at “The Merry Wives Of Windsor” at the Barbican Theatre. Concurrently to Lenny Henry as King Hadley, for yelling "bang" when his gun refused to co-operate, and to his co-stars who took bravely the ironic audience laughter at a later line concerning whether the gun worked.
Casa Rosata Balcony: to Mark Shenton. At the press night of “Violet” (Charing Cross Theatre) the esteemed reviewer was ‘caught-short’ 20 minutes from the end, hurrying for the exit at a show with a strict ‘no-readmittance’ policy due to staging. Evita-like, the unstoppable man appeared again 5 minutes later in a side balcony seat which has handy direct access from the foyer.
IgNobel Nomination (for blatant defiance of the laws of physics): to the Southwark Playhouse genius who thought that a magnetic seat number disc would stick to the wooden chairs as perfectly as the metal ones they replaced in row A for “Aspects of Love.”
Olympic Committee Membership (for best competition rules ever): to ATG Tickets. Automatically entering all ATG membership cardholders into a “Mother’s Day” Prize draw to win 2 premium tickets and a bottle of Prosecco to the show of the winner’s choice. Wonderful... except that the attached ‘terms and conditions’ stated:
A Bidet (for ignorance on all levels): to the woman in row A of the stalls at “Only Fools and Horses The Musical” who took off her flip-flops and wiped her bare feet clean on the cloth across the stage front. The same cloth the rest of the audience had to watch and brush past to leave the row...
The White Rabbit (for ensuring nobody is late): to the Theatre Royal Stratford East Box Office. When the times for ‘King Hadley III’ were altered, they both emailed and telephoned every client personally. That’s service.
The Theresa May Abba Moment (for self-mockery): to Nicholas Hytner for his fantastic explanation as to why a Rude Mechanical was shining a torch into Hippolyta’s eyes, “immersive theatre.” Got the biggest laugh of the evening.
The Weasel (for best pop-up): to Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Would any other person use space unsuitable for actual seating in the grand circle at the Noel Coward theatre for a “Dear Evan Hansen” souvenir shop?
The Howard Carter Peephole: for set design at “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Who else spotted (and loved) the clever touches like the “Jacob and Sons minus one” sign on the wagon and, later, the burger recipe and Phantom mask both hidden in the hieroglyphics?
The Paddington Marmalade Jar (for kindness to bears): to the souvenir counter sales assistant the monkey chatted with at the Dominion Theatre. Noticing teddy bears for sale with “White Christmas” sweaters on, the monkey joked that they were the same bears left over from previous show “Big,” – and someone changed the sweaters. The assistant explained that in fact the “Big” bears had arrived ready clothed... the “White Christmas” ones hadn’t. Turns out she spent an entire afternoon dressing every single one. Now, that’s someone the monkey would hire if it were looking for a dedicated worker.
The Ratner Decanter and Glasses (for PR gaff) to: LW Theatres. A badly written press release suggested that the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane would henceforth be known as just “The Lane.” An instant (overwhelmingly fierce) backlash led to a second release just hours later, saying the new name would apply only to the new “open all day” bars and restaurants planned in the foyer spaces.
Which brings us right back to where we are now, and I think I can hear the night-watchman approaching... so, hard hats in a neat pile by the ice-castle please, and everybody keep your reflective tabards on until you reach the tube. Anyone asks, you were doing overtime, right... oh, and same time next year – if we can find another theatrical building site, with luck...