Edinburgh’s Lyceum Co-production of Anti-fascist Play Tops 2018 CATS

A new version by Zinnie Harris of Eugène Ionesco’s absurdist classic, Rhinoceros, that responded to the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe, has topped the 2018 Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS).

The 2018 Awards were presented at Perth’s beautifully re-furbished theatre by well-loved Scottish actress Blythe Duff who is no stranger to the CATS, having won Best Female Performance two years running. Blythe generously stepped in as guest presenter at the eleventh hour in place of Scots Makar, Jackie Kay who was indisposed and this year’s ceremony was ably assisted by 2 BSL translators.

CATS co-convenor, Mark Fisher said, “Investment in Scottish theatre is vital for its future …[and] we are delighted to be … in Perth Theatre celebrating the reopening of this historic building following its major refurbishment, which will ensure it continues to be a beacon for artistic endeavour for generations to come.”

This year, Edinburgh International Festival, Royal Lyceum Theatre and DOT Theatre, Istanbul international co-production won four CATS for Rhinoceros including the supreme award for Best Production, as well as Best Male Performance, Best Music & Sound and Best Director.

A timeous production staged against the backdrop of the current rising tide of authoritarian nationalism across the globe, Rhinoceros was directed by Turkish director Murat Daltaban, who has recently announced that he and his family are relocating from Istanbul to live in Edinburgh.

Announcing the Best Director Award, Mark Brown of the Sunday Herald and The Daily Telegraph said, “The nomination of Murat Daltaban for his production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros has a particular significance. The play is a powerful warning about the dangers of conformity, of a mass succumbing to a social miasma that robs us of our culture, our freedom and, ultimately, our humanity.

“The times in which we live can feel like the 1930s with the film running slightly slower. That is particularly true of Murat’s homeland Turkey, where freedom of thought and expression, not least the freedoms of theatremakers, are currently under serious threat.”

There were dramas within dramas as an external power cut meant the show being taken out to the foyer stairs and continued there ad hoc before everyone gathered back in the gilded auditorium to complete the ceremony.

As ever, this annual celebration of the very best of Scottish theatre, that is a tremendous affirmation of the abundance of talent in the industry, is a pleasure to attend.

The CATS judging panel for 2018 comprised Mary Brennan (The Herald), Irene Brown (edinburghguide.com), Mark Brown (Sunday Herald and The Daily Telegraph), Anna Burnside (Daily Record) Paul F Cockburn (BroadwayBaby), Neil Cooper (The Herald), Michael Cox (Across the Arts), Thom Dibdin (The Stage and AllEdinburghTheatre.com), Mark Fisher (The Guardian), Joyce McMillan (The Scotsman), David Pollock (The Independent), Allan Radcliffe (The Times) and Joy Watters (Across the Arts).

And the Winners, with quotes from the announcing critics, are:

Best Male Performance
Robert Jack (Berenger), Rhinoceros, Edinburgh International Festival and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in association with DOT Theatre, Istanbul

“Robert Jack perfectly captures the role of Berenger, dishevelled over-refreshed bystander staggering about an apparently irrational world. Wide-eyed and hapless, his portrait of total incomprehension is stunning as is his realisation that the inhabitants of the town are all being turned into rhinoceroses and he alone is left unscathed, to fight on.” Joy Watters, Across the Arts

Best Female Performance, sponsored by STV
Jessica Hardwick (Young Woman), Knives in Hens, Perth Theatre

“When Jessica Hardwick first came onstage in Perth Theatre’s production of David Harrower’s remarkable play, Knives in Hens, she was as unrecognisable as she has been in pretty much everything she has done in her still short acting career so far. …
“As Harrower’s Young Woman, … Hardwick was utterly fearless in her embodiment of her, …For someone who’s barely started her career, Hardwick’s performance was a remarkable achievement, full of nuance and maturity amidst the fury. Neil Cooper, The Herald

Best Ensemble, sponsored by Equity
The Belle's Stratagem, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh

“The cast of this stylish, colourful comedy took it close to pantomime in their occasional breaking of the fourth wall. But they retained an intense theatricality in a series of generous performances that served both the comedy - with brilliant understanding of its rhythm - and the more serious points in a script that celebrates women as the driving force of its narrative.” Thom Dibdin, The Stage

Best Director
Murat Daltaban, Rhinoceros, Edinburgh International Festival and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in association with DOT Theatre, Istanbul

“…Murat Daltaban’s beautifully crafted production of Ionesco’s absurdist classic succeeded in capturing simultaneously the quasi-surreal craziness, the midnight dark humour and the sharp social allegory of the play…” Mark Brown, Sunday Herald and Daily Telegraph

Best Design, sponsored by the Scottish Drama Training Network
Jamie Harrison (co-designer), Rebecca Hamilton (co-designer and lead model maker), Simon Wilkinson (lighting designer), Flight , Vox Motus in association with Beacon Arts Centre, commissioned by Edinburgh International Festival

“This sumptuous installation …. was like a live graphic novel or a visual radio play or the kind of optical experiment the Victorians would have delighted in, sitting at the interface of magic and mechanics. … All of it was lit like a miniature theatre with the tiniest of light sources by Simon Wilkinson. It was as exquisite as it was genre defying.” Mark Fisher, The Guardian

Bets Music and Sound
Oğuz Kaplangi (composer, sound designer), Rhinoceros, Edinburgh International Festival and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in association with DOT Theatre, Istanbul

“Eastern sounds and whirling Turkish dance-rhythms played on a range of instruments and mixed with live foley on stage from Oğuz Kaplangi, added a haunting and subtle beauty to this outstanding production.” Irene Brown, edinburghguide.com

Best Technical Presentation, sponsored by BECTU
Flight , Vox Motus in association with Beacon Arts Centre, commissioned by Edinburgh International Festival

“Vox Motus's Edinburgh Festival show, Flight, used pre-recorded voices and soundtrack to accompany a revolving diorama to tell the story of two refugees fleeing to Europe. Every single element was an impressive technical achievement, adding up to an extraordinary and unique theatrical experience.” Anna Burnside, Daily Record

Best Production for Children and Young People sponsored by Young Scot
Space Ape, Andy Cannon and Red Bridge

“A boyhood fascination with the 1969 Moon Landing is the starting point for Space Ape, Andy Cannon’s utterly engaging solo show in which science and imagination take flight together in a wishful- thinking story about a girl, a chimpanzee and a manned mission to Mars. The message - … Dare to dream, and boldly go!” Mary Brennan, The Herald

Best New Play
Peter Arnott, The Monarch of the Glen, Pitlochry Festival Theatre

“Peter Arnott’s The Monarch of the Glen is not just an affectionate adaptation of a much-loved classic but serves both as a brilliant satire of Scottish clichés and a witty look at the state of the Scottish nation. It might be set in the past, but this is a multi-layered play that cleverly looks at Scotland’s place in the modern world.” Michael Cox, Across the Arts

Best Production
Rhinoceros, Edinburgh International Festival and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in association with DOT Theatre, Istanbul

“Sometimes, a show appears that not only captures the moment, but takes full possession of it, and slams it straight through the goalposts of the time we live in; and Murat Daltaban’s brilliant production of Rhinoceros - … - was one of those shows. …Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman.