Critics' awards far removed from public taste
By Louise Jury Media Correspondent
05 February 2003
Two sets of theatre honours yesterday showed the critics to be clearly at odds with the play-going public.
We Will Rock You, the rock musical of Queen songs, and the West End debuts of Madonna and Gillian Anderson won enormous support from the online votes of 16,000 people in the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards. Madonna's performance in Up for Grabs was named theatre event of the year.
But these popular hits were spurned by the Theatre Critics' Circle which honoured performances from the more likely stables of the Donmar Warehouse, the National Theatre and the Royal Court, all in London. Only rarely did the two sides coincide, most notably over the Royal Court's production of The York Realist, which won Peter Gill the best new play award from the critics and Richard Coyle the best supporting actor award from the public.
The critics named Clare Higgins as best actress for her performance in Vincent in Brixton at the National Theatre. Simon Russell Beale was named best actor for his performances in Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night.
By contrast Anderson, in What the Night is For, won the best actress award from the public, who voted Samuel West best actor for his role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet. Christopher Renshaw, who directed the musicals We Will Rock You and Taboo, won the public's vote for best director.
Mark Rylance won the critics' award for best Shakespearean performance for Twelfth Night at the Globe while Macbeth, a London production starring Sean Bean, was named best Shakespearean production by the public.
The public named up-and-coming Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal as best London newcomer for his role in This is our Youth.
But the most stunning victory was We Will Rock You which was named best new musical, a category not considered by the critics. Nearly half the voting public backed the work which has taken millions at the box office despite poor reviews. Roger Taylor, of Queen, was delighted. "This represents an overwhelming vindication of our wonderful cast in a new kind of musical and puts a fascinating spotlight on the seemingly total irrelevance of the traditional theatrical awards, decided upon by a dubious inner circle of increasingly detached luvvies."
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