Co-hosted by Sir Elton John and proprietor Evgeny Lebedev, the LESTAs took place in central London on Sunday night. The judges comprised Daily Mail columnist Baz Bamigboye; What’s On Stage’s Sarah Crompton; London Evening Standard chief theatre critic Henry Hitchings; Guardian culture writer and broadcaster Mark Lawson; and Matt Wolf, London theatre critic of the International New York Times; alongside the London Evening Standard’s editor, Sarah Sands. They faced an interesting challenge this year.

(R) Charlene James, winner of the Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright, with Helen McCrory (L) Photo: Dave Benett

(R) Charlene James, winner of the Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright, with Helen McCrory (L)
Photo: Dave Benett

The year in which Adrian Lester wowed everybody with his ‘mighty performance’ as Ira Aldridge in Lolita Chakrabarti’s, Red Velvet, saw him overlooked for even a nomination. Meanwhile, Sir Kenneth Branagh not only received the special Lebedev Award for his Plays at the Garrick – the 13-month, six play residency, which included, Red Velvet and revived the tradition of the actor-manager, but also earned him a nomination for best actor for his role in, The Entertainer (also a play at The Garrick). In that category, he was up against TBB Favourite O-T Fagbenle for his performance as troubled Levee in August Wilson’s, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Fagbenle certainly gave what could be a career best performance in that production, but of a quartet which included fellow British Blacklisters Clint Dyer, Lucian Msamati and Giles Terera, we’re not sure his was the strongest. Branagh and Fagbenle both lost out to regular awards shortlister Ralph Fiennes for, The Master Builder/ Richard III, at The Old Vic/Almeida Theatre.

TBB Treasure Noma Dumezweni represented J K Rowling, and accompanied playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany, to accept the best play award for, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre, in which she ‘controversially’ co-stars as Hermione Granger. The smash hit show beat Annie Baker’s, The Flick, which co-starred Jaygann Ayeh, and Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) starring a cornucopia of British Blacklister excellence – Steve Toussaint, Jimmy Akingbola, Nadine Marshall, Jason Pennycooke, Sarah Niles, Dex Lee, Leo Wringer and Sibusiso Mamba.

Dumezweni was also nominated in the best actress category for a role for which she dramatically replaced Kim Cattrall with only eight days until opening night in the Royal Court’s production of, Linda. With a script in hand, our girl still managed a skilfull triple-tasking, wowing critics and audiences alike with her performance in a tale of the 55 year old award-winning businesswoman whose life is falling apart. Billie Piper won for Yerma at the Young Vic.

 Tyrone Huntley, winner of the Emerging Talent Award in partnership with Burberry Photo: Dave Benett

Tyrone Huntley, winner of the Emerging Talent Award in partnership with Burberry
Photo: Dave Benett

The Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright went to Charlene James for, Cuttin’ It at the Royal Court and Young Vic. This builds on the play’s award-winning pedigree, since the play, which addresses the on-going practice of Female Genital Mutilation in the capital, won James the 2014 Alfred Fagon Award.

John Malkovich took the best director award for, Good Canary at the Rose Theatre Kingston, beating Dominic Cooke for, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the National Theatre, Lyttleton, the first white director to tackle an August Wilson play, and John Tiffany for, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child.

Lorraine Hansberry’s, Les Blancs at the National Theatre, Olivier, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom lost out to, No Man’s Land at the Wyndham’s Theatre for Best Revival.

Future British Blacklister Jaygann Ayeh as cinema worker Avery in, The Flick, National Theatre, Dorfman, lost out to Tyrone Huntley, who took the Emerging Talent award for Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar from the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. He will next star in the upcoming, Dreamgirls. Glee’s Amber Riley, starring alongside Huntley as Effie White, performed And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.

Malachi Kirby, Paapa Essiedu and Liisi LaFontaine also attended the awards – the young men choosing more traditional outfits than the young woman.
The Evening Standard theatre awards don’t always predict how the Laurence Olivier Awards are going to go, so we shall watch with interest…


For full details, visit The Evening Standard Awards