Cillian Murphy wins the Best Actor award at The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards

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"HAVING ALREADY won acclaim in Galway and New York for his performance in Misterman , Cillian Murphy last night picked up the Best Actor award at The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards. Laundry , a play which could only take three audience members at a time, took the Best Production award.

At a ceremony at Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Murphy was awarded the prize for his performance as a disturbed character in Enda Walsh’s one-man play."

“I only have two words for this really: Enda Walsh,” Murphy said in his acceptance speech. “Fifteen years ago he gifted me a career with his play Disco Pigs and 15 years later he gifted me the part of Thomas Magill in Misterman.”

Produced by Landmark Productions and the Galway Arts Festival, the play sold out in advance of its run during July’s festival.

Misterman will next run at London’s National Theatre in April. When it ran in New York last year, the New York Times described Murphy as “electrifying” and said he seemed “to inhabit every millimetre of the vast and cluttered wasteland in which he has been let loose. And it’s not just because of all that running he does from one end of the stage to the other.”

Misterman was one of four plays up for Best Production, and that award went to Laundry, which ran at the former Magdelene Laundry in Dublin’s Seán MacDermott Street during the Dublin Theatre Festival. A highly choreographed depiction of life in the laundry, audience members became participants in an immersive and emotional production. Directed by Louise Lowe, and produced by Anu Productions, Laundry was considered the highlight of more than 150 productions judged during 2011.

Lowe dedicated the award to the “women whose stories and lives inspired” the work.

Newcomer Charlie Murphy was named best actress for her role as Eliza Doolittle in the Abbey Theatre’s production of Pygmalion.

Best New Play went to Mark O’Halloran’s Trade, directed by Tom Creed for Thisispopbaby. The short play about a middle-aged man visiting a rent boy was put on in a B&B near Dublin’s O’Connell St during the theatre festival.

Conall Morrison was named best director for his work on Henry Miller’s play The Crucible at Belfast’s Lyric’s Theatre. The play had opened the refurbished theatre last year and gained further success with the Best Supporting Actress prize going to Aoife Duffin, for her part as Abigail Williams.

John Olohan was awarded Best Supporting Actor for playing Byrne in Druid’s production of Big Maggie , which has recently toured the country. He described the tour as “one of the best holidays Ive ever been on”.

Best Opera Production was Tosca , directed by Oliver Mears for NI Opera.

Best Designer Costume was given to Joan O’Clery for Rough Magic Theatre’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt.

Best Designer Lighting was awarded to Aedin Cosgrove for two works: bringing Samuel Beckett’s radio play All That Fall to a new level for Pan Pan Theatre and Man of Valour, produced by Corn Exchange. All That Fall also earned Best Designer Sound for Jimmy Eadie.

Best Designer Set went to Jamie Vartan for Misterman , and Landmark Production’s night was rounded off perfectly when it took the Judges’ Special Award “for sustained excellence in programming and for developing imaginative partnerships to bring quality theatre to the Irish and international stage”.

A Special Tribute Award was presented to Gerry Smyth, in recognition of his developing and supporting the awards from 1998 until he recently retired as a managing editor at The Irish Times.

Accepting the award, he said: “My year-to-year involvement with these awards afforded me a privileged perspective on the ongoing renewal and replenishment that takes place in Irish theatre – as well as a broadening and deepening of my sense of how it is part of the larger conversation, providing a space in which we can re-engage with a world we often take for granted.”