Critics Award for Theatre in Scotland: Rhinoceros wins big

Edinburgh International Festival's revival of Eugène Ionesco's anti-fascist play wins four awards at the 2018 Critics Award for Theatre in Scotland

Article by Jamie Dunn | 10 Jun 2018
  • Rhinoceros

Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) have announced their winners for 2018, with Edinburgh International Festival’s production of Rhinoceros the big winner this year, picking up four awards. A co-production of EIF, Royal Lyceum Theatre, DOT Theatre and Istanbul international, the absurdist drama – originally written in 1959 by Romanian-French playwright Eugène Ionesco and read by many as a response to the rise of fascism in Europe – imagines a small French town in which the residents are mutating into rhinoceroses and smashing up their hometown.

Last August’s timely production at the Lyceum, staged against the backdrop of the current rise of authoritarian nationalism across the globe, was directed by Turkish theatre-maker Murat Daltaban, who recently announced that he and his family are relocating from Istanbul to live in Edinburgh. Daltaban was among Rhinoceros’ four winners at CATS, picking up the award for Best Director. Robert Jack also won for Best Male Performance as Rhinoceros’ protagonist Berenger, while Oğuz Kaplangi picked up two awards for Best Sound and Best Music.

Announcing the Best Director Award, Mark Brown of the Sunday Herald and The Daily Telegraph said that "the nomination of Murat Daltaban has a particular significance. The play is a powerful warning about the dangers of conformity, of a mass succumbing to a social miasma that robs us of our culture, our freedom and, ultimately, our humanity.

“The times in which we live can feel like the 1930s with the film running slightly slower. That is particularly true of Murat’s homeland Turkey, where freedom of thought and expression, not least the freedoms of theatremakers, are currently under serious threat.” 

Jessica Hardwick won Best Female Performance for her role as 'Young Woman’ in Knives in Hens at Perth Theatre, while Best Ensemble went to The Belle's Stratagem, also at the  Lyceum in Edinburgh. “The cast of this stylish, colourful comedy took it close to pantomime in their occasional breaking of the fourth wall,” said The Stage's Thom Dibdin of The Belle's Stratagem. “But they retained an intense theatricality in a series of generous performances that served both the comedy – with brilliant understanding of its rhythm – and the more serious points in a script that celebrates women as the driving force of its narrative.” 

Best Design went to another EIF commission: Vox Motus's Flight, with the prize going to Jamie Harrison (co-designer), Rebecca Hamilton (co-designer and lead model maker) and Simon Wilkinson (lighting designer). Flight also won Best Technical Presentation.

The award for Best New Play went to Peter Arnott’s The Monarch of the Glen at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, with Michael Cox of Across the Arts calling the production “not just an affectionate adaptation of a much-loved classic but serves both as a brilliant satire of Scottish clichés and a witty look at the state of the Scottish nation. It might be set in the past, but this is a multi-layered play that cleverly looks at Scotland’s place in the modern world.”

Space Ape, Andy Cannon’s show inspired by his boyhood fascination with the 1969 moon landing, won Best Production for children and young people. The Herald’s Mary Brennan called it an “utterly engaging solo show in which science and imagination take flight together in a wishful-thinking story about a girl, a chimpanzee and a manned mission to Mars.”

For more on this year's CATS, head to criticsawards.theatrescotland.com