Best Actor in a Play
John Heffernan, Love Love Love
One of those risky occasions when I allowed expectations to rocket sky-high was with Love Love Love, a new play by Mike Bartlett, fast becoming one of my favourite new playwrights, and featuring the delectable John Heffernan, fast becoming one of my favourite actors, to which I ventured to Manchester’s Royal Exchange in order to see it. And fortunately it paid off in dividends with (to my mind at least) a stronger play than Earthquakes in London and anchored by a stunning central performance from Heffernan, anchoring the play in a solid reality that allowed Daniela Denby-Ashe to play off him with huge amounts of fun as his raucous partner but also provided a strong platform for Bartlett to present the counter-case defending the baby boomers. Heffernan managed the leaps in age extremely proficiently, delivered the sharp dialogue well yet still brought a beautiful subtlety to the role: combined with his own turn in the superb After the Dance, mark my words, he really is a name for the future. He will be playing Richard II at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol early next year, I shall of course be there!
Honourable Mention: Benedict Cumberbatch, After the Dance
Before coming to the attention of the nation in a huge way with Stephen Moffat’s Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch has been steadily building a strong reputation for himself which was further continued with this excellent performance in Rattigan’s After the Dance. As the emotionally repressed David, he continued his hedonistic lifestyle, blissfully unaware of the damage he was causing to others around him and seemingly incapable of change: a sterling performance in a cracking production. He is of course taking to the stage at the National again in February in Frankenstein, cross-cast with Jonny Lee Miller as the doctor and the monster.
Best Actor in a Musical
Sam Harrison, Salad Days
For a while John Owen-Jones was in the running for this award for finally making me like the character of Jean Valjean who, despite me loving Les Mis like nothing else, has always been rather annoying to me! But when Salad Days swept me away on a gloomy Sunday afternoon to an altogether happier place and I realised just where I recognised the leading man from, the award moved into Sam Harrison’s hands. For it was he, amongst others, who helped me to fall right back in love with Avenue Q after I had had a bit of overkill, but in an understudy-heavy performance, he reminded why I loved that show so much. And going to see Salad Days with no idea what to expect, he brought his huge likeability to bear in a beautifully old-school take on his character, harking back to musical stars of old with nifty moves, strong pipes and a straight earnestness that was just so refreshing to see. Salad Days continues at the Riverside Studios through February.
Honourable Mention: Jon-Paul Hevey, Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi
Another unexpected pleasure came in Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi which became one of those shows that I texted everyone about as soon as I left the theatre, such was my enjoyment of it. Helped immeasurably by the classically handsome Jon-Paul Hevey (I swear he is a shoo-in for Sex and the City the musical!) as cheeky chappie Thompson and demonstrating the charm and vitality that sustained Alice’s love for such a long time and for good reason.