Taggart and Holby City star John Michie has been honoured for his moving portrayal of a traumatised fire chief - in a return to the stage weeks after his daughter's boyfriend was jailed for causing her drug-related death at a music festival.
The 62-year-old was recognised for the best male performance at Scotland’s annual theatre Oscars for his role as a haunted fire service chief in a new play inspired by the two devastating fires at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed Glasgow School of Art building.
He said he had found it “cathartic” to take on playing a commander trying to come to terms with the tragedies he has witnessed over the years in the fire service, adding that the role had come up “at the right time.”
Michie, who had previously described his character’s “personal disintegration” during Rob Drummond’s play, was praised by the judges of the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland for “a heart-wrenching dignity and subtlety”.
The best ensemble prize at the “Cats Awards” went to Lost At Sea, a fishing drama which Outlander and Outlaw King star Tam Dean Burn starred in weeks after an alleged stabbing incident after a poetry event. He was treated in hospital, but released the same day.
The 61-year-old actor played the lead role of the skipper in Lost at Sea, alongside his Local Hero co-star Jennifer Black. Ian Brown named best director for the Moray-set play at Perth Theatre.
Michie made his return to the stage at Oran Mor in Glasgow’s west end in April. The run came less than two months after rapper Ceon Broughton was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years behind bars for manslaughter, having given 24-year-old Louella Fletcher-Michie the hallucinogenic dug 2-CP at the Bestival event in Dorset.
Michie was on a break from filming TV drama Our Girl in Malaysia when tragedy struck in September 2017.
Speaking after the award ceremony at the Tramway in Glasgow, Michie said: “There is definitely a cathartic side to any performance that you do. It can be helpful if the time was right, and the time was definitely right for me.
“Mental health is in the headlines a lot at the moment. It felt like the right time to do something, especially because men, and particularly men of my age, tend not to talk about their feelings. Whatever an actor is doing, you’re going to use your personal life to work for the part you’re playing.
“The audience response was really good, particularly from men. If it was helpful to anyone I think we have done our job. We were all really pleased with the production. I would be more than happy to play the role again. It would be a great play to take to the Fringe.”
Mark Brown, one of the judges, said: “John Michie played the role of the traumatised fire commander with a heart-wrenching dignity and subtlety.
"His performance conveyed with reverberative power the emotional reckoning of a stoical, west of Scotland man who, following the first fire at the Glasgow School of Art, is finally brought down by a career’s worth of trauma.”
Meanwhile Traverse Fringe hit Ulster American won three awards. David Ireland’s black comedy about a Hollywood actor hoping a new play will help him connect with his Irish roots, was named best new play and best production, while Lucianne McEvoy, won best female performance.
The play, which went on to be staged in Belfast, Dublin, Australia and New Zealand after its Fringe run, was hailed by the judges as "a tragi-comic storm of razor-sharp, taboo-busting dialogue that spirals shockingly towards violence."
Mark Fisher, co-convener of the judging panel, said: "This has been another bumper year for theatre produced in Scotland. This was reflected in the large number of productions that were eligible for the awards and in the spread of winners between so many different companies.”
FULL LIST OF WINNERS
Best New Play: David Ireland, Ulster American, Traverse Theatre Company
Best Production: Ulster American, Traverse Theatre Company
Best Female Performance: Lucianne McEvoy (Ruth Davenport), Ulster American, Traverse Theatre Company
Best Male Performance: John Michie (Fireman), The Mack, A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Best Ensemble: Lost at Sea, Perth Theatre at Horsecross Arts and Morna Young
Best Director: Ian Brown, Lost at Sea, Perth Theatre at Horsecross Arts and Morna Young
Best Design: Shona Reppe (design concept), Ailsa Paterson (design realiser), Selene Cochrane (costume designer and maker) and Chris Edser (animator), Baba Yaga, Imaginate and Windmill Theatre Company
Best Music and Sound: Claire McKenzie (music and lyrics), Scott Gilmour (music and lyrics) and Richard Thomas (additional songs), My Left Right Foot – The Musical, Birds of Paradise and National Theatre of Scotland
Best Technical Presentation: The End of Eddy, Untitled Projects and the Unicorn Theatre
Best Production for Children and Young People: Stick by Me, Andy Manley and Ian Cameron, produced by Red Bridge Arts