Best Actor in a Play
Benedict Cumberbatch, Frankenstein
An odd choice given how much I disliked the play itself, but thinking back over the year as a whole, Benedict Cumberbatch really did stick out as one of the best acting performances, in both of the roles in Frankenstein. Initially disappointed that Cumberbatch was the Creature the first time we saw it (previews were a lucky dip in that respect) and recovering from the shock of the unexpected nudity, he overcame our preconceptions with 15 minutes of stunning wordless acting, a physical tour-de-force. I also felt he brought much more to the under-written and under-developed part of Victor Frankenstein, transcending the limitations of Dear’s writing as best he could. Others may disagree but I found him to be the best part about both incarnations of the show and indeed, it was only the promise of his acting that made me go back!
Honourable mention: Andrew Scott, Emperor and Galilean
I don’t think Andrew Scott has got anywhere near enough credit for his Herculean efforts in this show which has to rival Hamlet in its demands from a leading man. This saw Scott grow as an actor, working in nuanced depths into his style and making a genuinely tragic figure out of the Emperor Julian who can’t see the larger picture that his actions are wreaking on his empire.
Best Actor in a Musical
Bertie Carvel, Matilda
Well it couldn’t really be anyone else, could it. One of those performances that you just know will become definitive, Bertie Carvel’s Miss Trunchbull is a masterclass in characterisation, a Quentin Blake illustration brought to genius life, and the perfect villain to face off with Matilda. There’s just enough of a tiny glimpse of frailty behind her walls to suggest the necessary chink in the armour but there’s so much fun to be had watching her at her bullying best. A truly must-see performance.
Honourable mention: Michael Ball, Sweeney Todd
Virtually unrecognisable as the demon barber, Michael Ball’s reinvention on the Chichester stage was hugely successful as he portrayed the glowering resentment of the wronged Sweeney Todd with barely repressed menace, sang with great passion and partnered Imelda Staunton like a dream.