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Arts: And the winners are ...; Credit where it's due. Arts Editor Philip Key highlights the best people,places,and performances of 2003.

Byline: Philip Key

THEREareno trophies, no dressy dinner and -best of all-no acceptance speeches in the annual Key Awards for the best arts events of the year. Just a sincere thank you to those who havemadememorablemany of the days and nights in the dark spent by your hard-working Daily Post reviewing team.

To befrank, it is not always a pleasure. Therehavebeen the art shows of such pretentiousness that it has been difficult to keep a straight face.

And then there are those nights in the theatre when you not only look at your watch but take it off and tap it to see if it's still going.

Thankfully, the majority of events we attend usually have some merit and more than a few a reactually a pleasure toattend.

It is never easy to select winners from the hundreds of events and performances we have reviewed in the year. Just when you select one winner you remember something or someone else equally deserving.

So,as withallawards, these should not be taken too seriously. The missing names are not absent because they were not good but because there were too many winners. Those named here were just lucky enough to escape the pruning shears.

So we will open the first envelope...

ACTOR OF THE YEAR: One of the toughest

categories to judge which ended up with a nose-to-nose final furlong between Louis Emerick and Andrew Schofield. Emerick was very impressive in Athol Fugard's Master Harold. ..and the Boys at theLiverpool Everyman. But Schofield turned in two top quality performances in the year, both at the Liverpool Playhouse. His nasty Gordon on a team-building course in Tim Firth's Neville's Island was followed later in the year by his car-madTed in Willy Russell's families-at-war sagaBreezeblockPark. Bothbrilliantly-judged performances, both very funny.

ACTRESSOF THE YEAR: Another difficultcategory. PaulineDaniels impressed both as Shirley Valentine at theGladstone Theatre, Port Sunlight,and as the mother Betty in BreezeblockPark. However, theawardgoes to Catrin Rhys for her role as Carolin David Mamet's two-hander Oleanna at Mold's Clwyd Theatr Cymru. Shehas impressed in child parts at the same venue-Flora's War andTo Kill a Mockingbird -but in the grown-up role of a student at war with her university professor she was a revelation and totally spell-binding.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: In his first major professional acting role, Eddie Redmayne impressed in Master Harold. ..and the Boys. His performance as the young white liberalHally was both moving and assured.

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR: It is not always wise for writers to direct their own productions. But Richard Williams,former artistic director of the Liverpool Playhouse, has been doing it successfully for some time and his latest --Merlin & Arthur at theChesterGateway -proved tobeone of his best. His story of King Arthur and his Knights was mixed in with modern youngsters playing with computers and the result was a piece of strong storytelling with visual treats on stage, a complete package.

BESTREGIONAL PRODUCTIONOF THE YEAR: Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge,directed for Clwyd Theatr Cymru by TimBaker and toured to the Liverpool Playhouse, was about as fine a production of this giant play as you arelikely to see. Struck through with magnificent performances from the cast and a simple staging which allowed the power of the drama to come through,it was classic theatre at its best.

BESTVISITINGPRODUCTION: At the start of the year, theBirmingham Rep brought John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men to the Liverpool Playhouse. It was a stunning production with two great central performances, Mathew Kelly playing the gentle giant Lennie and George Costigan his friend George. Directed by Jonathan Church,it proved a memorable experience.

BESTNEW SHOWOF THE YEAR: Theunpronounceable Tmesis at theUnity Theatre was created by Liverpool's newest theatre company Momentum. It was a stunning piece of theatre, part drama, part dance, physically demanding on its three principals, Yorgos Karamalegos,Elinor Randle and KateCave. Basedloosely on a work by Aristophones, it was incredibly inventive with performers climbing over eachother's bodies, separating into individuals, all toamarvellous score by TimBrowne and Michalis Delta.

BESTDANCE WORK: Tchaikovsky's TheNutcracker has been performed in Liverpool many times before but never with the sheer inventiveness of the English National Ballet production at theEmpire. The designs by GeraldScarfe were brilliantly imaginative and the dance itself highly inventive. It was a show that couldbeenjoyed by ballet lovers and those who had never seen a ballet in their lives.

BESTOPERA: The operatic highlight was Welsh National Opera's new production ofWagner's Parsifal. Massivein scope, magnificent in production,it had the critics raving after the first night in Cardiffin September. Theimpact was no less impressive when it arrived at theEmpire in December.

Particularly memorable was SaraFulgoni's quite magnificently voluptuous Kundry.

CLASSICALCONCERT: Liverpool composer Stephen Pratt's new Violin Concerto finally saw the light of day at thePhilharmonic Hall. Ten years or so in gestation, it was an intensely personal work, a memorial to his late father and an examination in music of the horrors of jungle warfare in Asia. It used the large resources of theRoyalLiverpool Philharmonic to great effect.

ROCK CONCERT: The return of Paul McCartney with his band to Liverpool in the summer was one of the great emotional events. Unable to find a stadiumbigenough, McCartney simply built his own by the river. Some 35,000 fans attended for a night of wonderful music making.

BESTEXHIBITION: The PaulNash show at the TateLiverpool was a tremendous exhibition but in the end it was overshadowed

by the magnificent Rossetti show at The Walker. Thebiggest show devoted to the Victorian artist Dante GabrielRossetti in 25 years, it covered most of his life works including drawings, watercolours, pastels,oils, picture frame,designs and, of course,his wonderful portraits. Quite stunning.

BESTVENUE: Thelong-awaited FACTCentre finally opened in Liverpool's Wood Street and is tremendously impressive. Early concerns with ceilings in the three cinema screens proved a problem but now fully open with great exhibitions of electronic art and fine resources,it is an excellent addition to the Liverpool arts scene.


STAR PERFORMANCES: Successes,clockwise,from; left,Andrew Schofield; Matthew Kelly and George Costigan in Of Mice and Men; Catrin Rhys performing on Oleanna with Vaughan Jones; new-comer EddieRedmayne who impressed in Master Harold ...and the Boys; and the Sibylla Palmifera,painted by Dante Gabrielli Rossetti
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 2, 2004
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