Touring companies purr with pride after taking top Cats theatre awards

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A CONTROVERSIAL production set at the time of the 2005 London bombings and a play featuring a commentary similar to that of the hit television series Desperate Housewives were just two of the winners of the prestigious Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland.

Others included The Taylor of Inverness, a play about a son's exploration of his father's wartime escape from Poland to Scotland and a tale about the pain caused by a family's well-intentioned secrets and lies.

The accolades were made at an intimate ceremony at Edinburgh's Festival Theatre last night by Edinburgh-based radio presenter Grant Stott and Faith Liddell, head of Festivals Edinburgh.

The 2009 CATS were open to any professional theatre work produced in Scotland between 1 May, 2008 and 30 April, 2009. A total of 162 new productions were staged during the year, with 25 eligible for the children and young people's award.

This year six of the ten awards were won by touring companies, from Dogstar in the Highlands to Rowan Tree in the Borders.

However, the big winner last night was international co-production Interiors, which took three awards including Best Production.

A co-production by Glasgow-based touring company Vanishing Point, the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, and two Italian theatre companies, Interiors also scooped Best Ensemble.

Matthew Lenton won Best Director for the comedy, which casts the audience as voyeurs watching the action unfold behind a window, with the only audible voice that of a Desperate Housewives-style commentary.

The Best New Play Award went to another Traverse co-production, Simon Stephen's Pornography. Set in July 2005 – between the announcement that London had been awarded the Olympics and the 7 July bombings – the play features several interlinked stories including that of an imagined terrorist bomber.

The 2009 CATS proved third time lucky for Irene Macdougall as she picked the Best Performance, (Female) Award for her searing interpretation of Martha in Dundee Rep's production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Scotsman theatre critic Joyce McMillan, who was one of 13 on the awards panel, said: "In a year when no fewer than six of the awards were won by touring companies based across the length and breadth of the country it is clear that Scottish theatre is as strong and diverse as ever."

Two years ago the hard-hitting drama Black Watch, based on interviews conducted by writer Gregory Burke with former soldiers who had served in Iraq, won a handful of awards at the ceremony.

The play received international acclaim and was performed in theatres worldwide.

STAR TURNS

OTHER winners included:

Best Performance (Male): Matthew Zajac, The Tailor of Inverness, Dogstar Theatre.

Best Production For Children And Young People: Citizens Theatre based performers, TAG and Sounds of Progress for Liar.

Best Design: Alex Lowde (set) and Chris Davey (lighting), Beauty and the Beast, Dundee Rep.

Best Use Of Music: Seylan Baxter, Lillias Kinsman-Blake and Rachel Newton, The Lasses, O', Rowan Tree Theatre

Best Technical Presentation: Slick, a co-production from Vox Motus/Tron Theatre.

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