Edinburgh, Cream of the CATS

Jun 16 2024 | By More

Edinburgh companies win half CATS 2024

Three Edinburgh companies shared half the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland 2024 (CATS), awarded in a ceremony at the Glasgow Theatre Royal today, Sunday 16 June.

Gill Robertson of Catherine Wheels won Outstanding Performance for her turn in Lightning Ridge – which also won best show for children. The technical and musical teams at Tortoise in a Nutshell won the awards in their categories for Ragnarok; and the Lyceum’s team behind Anna Karenina won Best Design award.

Gill Robertson in Lightning Ridge from Catherine Wheels. Pic: Brian Hartley

Also winning big was Tron Theatre’s production of Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone, which scooped the Best Ensemble, Best Director and Best Production Awards.

Paul McCole won the second Outstanding Performance award for The Sheriff of Kalamaki, from A Play, A Pie and A Pint, while its writer, Douglas Maxwell, took the award for Best New Play.

This was the 21st time the CATS had been awarded. They were founded in 2003 by critic Robert Dawson Scott to celebrate the best of theatre made in Scotland, and to give an extra measure of recognition to a wide range of shows that Scotland’s critics felt were among the most impressive and exciting of the year.

fragile structures

CATS co-convenor, Joyce McMillan, said: “As writers about theatre, we know that the fragile structures of funding which support theatre production here in Scotland are under threat, in ways we have not seen in two generations.

“We hope and trust that by continuing to celebrate theatre made here in Scotland, we can both encourage the wonderful artists and organisations who make the work, and help to raise awareness of the vital role our theatre community plays, in enabling Scotland to remember and reimagine its own stories, and to tell them – and all the great stories of the world – in its own voice.”

Tortoise in a Nutshell. Ragnarok. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

Praising Gill Robertson’s performance in Lightning Ridge as “remarkable”, CATS co-convenor Michael Cox said “It was a barnstorming piece of storytelling that had an equal balance of humour and empathy. Robertson not only told the story well, but conjured a huge cast of characters—all brought to vivid life within the imagination of the audience through her wonderful use of words and physicality.”

Announcing the winner of the award for Best Production for Children and Young People, Æ editor Thom Dibdin said: “It is a thoroughly considered piece of storytelling. There again, it needs to be – it carries a twist that grown-ups might see coming from quite a long way off, and be braced for, but for which young people will not necessarily pick up all the warning signs.”

Giving the award for Best Design to Anna Karenina at the Royal Lyceum, Æ critic Hugh Simpson said: “As well as being impressive on its own terms, the design of the Lyceum’s Anna Karenina helped to knit the whole production together.

intelligent, sympathetic and creative

“The set and costumes of Emma Bailey, and Mark Henderson’s lighting, proved that intelligent, sympathetic and creative design can be as central as any dialogue to the stage adaptation of a novel.

“Indeed, the design of this production took a central role in the storytelling. The versatile minimalist set, with its central ominous spiky spiral chandelier, imposed without ever being fussy or detracting from the action.”

Stephen McCole, Ray Sesay, Noah Osmani (in bear costume), Angus Miller, Tallulah Greive, Lindsey Campbell, Jamie Marie Leary and Robert Akodotoin in Anna Karenina. Pic: Robbie McFadzean

Recognising the technical prowess of Ragnarok – Tortoise in a Nutshell co-production with Figurteatret i Nordland and in association with MacRobert Arts Centre, Thom Dibdin said the show was “next-level storytelling.

“The company used tiny hand held cameras, diving into the chasms between model houses to create a dystopian vision built on ancient Norse myth, foretelling the end of our world, projected live onto screens over the stage. They deconstructed their puppetry to the point that everything was visible – yet they still made the appearance of mystical beasts seem as if by magic.”

the clashing and grinding of glaciers

The dialogue in Ragnarok, winner of Best Music and Sound is on a pre-recorded soundtrack, but the music and sound is created live on stage by Jim Harbourne, hidden upstage, below and behind the screen.

Harbourne’s soundscape is haunting and beautiful at times, but at others terrifying, like the clashing and grinding of glaciers.

The event began with the presentation of a Cats Whisker  to Andy Arnold in recognition of his exceptional contribution to theatre in Scotland.

“Andy Arnold has made an extraordinary contribution to theatre in Scotland over the last 40 years, particularly through his work with The Arches Theatre Company and at the Tron Theatre,” says CATS co-convenor, Mark Brown.

“Andy imprinted his own style and personality on classics of international theatre including The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Brian Friel’s Translations and James Joyce’s epic Ulysses. He has also championed work by new writers such as Eilidh Loan and Isobel McArthur.”

“Andy has also been a tireless advocate for the importance of theatre in particular and the arts in general especially at a time when funding for the sector is under such intense pressure.”

The full shortlist of the CATS24  is here: Edinburgh Companies up for the CATS.

CATS 2024 – the winners in full

Andy Arnold
in recognition of his exceptional contribution to theatre in Scotland.

Paul McCole (Dion) The Sheriff of Kalamaki – A Play, A Pie and A Pint. (Æ review here).
Gill Robertson (Various) Lightning Ridge – Catherine Wheels (Æ review here).

BEST ENSEMBLE (sponsored by Equity)
Escaped Alone – Tron Theatre Company (Æ review here).

Joanna Bowman Escaped Alone – Tron Theatre Company (Æ review here).

BEST DESIGN (sponsored by BB Hair Collective)
Emma Bailey for Anna Karenina – Royal Lyceum. (Æ review here).

Ragnarok – Tortoise in a Nutshell co-production with Figurteatret i Nordland and in association with MacRobert Arts Centre. Jim Harbourne Sound Designer and Performer. (Æ review here).

Ragnarok – Tortoise in a Nutshell co-production with Figurteatret i Nordland and in association with MacRobert Arts Centre. (Æ review here).

Lightning Ridge – Catherine Wheels (Æ review here).

BEST NEW PLAY (sponsored by Nick Hern Books)
Douglas Maxwell – The Sheriff of Kalamaki. (Æ review here).

Escaped Alone – Tron Theatre Company (Æ review here).

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