Best Actress in a Play
Rachel Weisz, A Streetcar Named Desire
In a year full of strong female performances, not least just at the Donmar Warehouse, Rachel Weisz’s Blanche Dubois took this well-established character and gave it a whole new spin, but one which worked perfectly. Using Weisz’s (allegedly fading) looks to the full, this was a Blanche whose lonely desperation was heartbreaking to watch, yet to the end full of a grace that couldn’t be dimmed.
Honourable mentions: Phoebe Nicholls/Lisa Dillon, When The Rain Stops Falling and Chris Nietvelt, The Roman Tragedies
I’m cheating here as I found this my hardest category to decide. Nicholls and Dillon were superb playing older/younger versions of the same character, with beautifully nuanced performances which reflected each other subtly and were incredibly moving.
And I had to include Chris Nietvelt as her Cleopatra (and indeed her hysterical cameo as the newsreader in Coriolanus) was a tour de force in intense acting, transcending linguistic barriers and revealing the beating heart of the Egyptian queen.
Best Actress in a Musical
Samantha Spiro, Hello, Dolly!
Bursting with an infectious vitality and as cheery a disposition you’ll find this side of the rainbow, Samantha Spiro’s titular Dolly shone with such brilliance that I didn’t mind the cold and wet at the Open Air Theatre and would happily have sat through it all again no matter how unseasonably chilly it was.
Honourable mention: Julie Atherton, The Last Five Years
Echoing the Ginger Rogers quote about how she did everything Fred did but backwards and in heels, Julie Atherton had the harder job in two-hander The Last Five Years, having to tell the story of the troubled relationship in reverse, but she is such a skilled performer she had the audience in tears and caring deeply for her pain within 5 minutes. I look forward to the day when she gets the huge recognition she deserves, she really is one of the most accomplished actresses in Britain at the moment.