The 2021 Black British Theatre Awards took place on Sunday 21st November at the illustrious Old Finsbury Town Hall, London. The energy was electric as hosts, nominees, presenters and partners toasted and celebrated winners of the coveted awards decided entirely by public vote.
The 2021 Black British Theatre Awards was an elegant affair hosted by Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award-Winner, and two-time Academy Award Nominee Cynthia Erivo and Black Panther, Star Wars and Killing Eve actor Danny Sapani.
Guest presenters included some of the most renowned names in theatre and the arts: Jason Pennycooke (Moulin Rouge!, Hamilton, Memphis, Rocketman), Miriam-Teak Lee (Hamilton, & Juliet), Dawn Hope (Follies, The Scottsboro Boys, Porgy and Bess, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks), Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE (Interim CEO- Eclipse Theatre Company), Mzz Kimberley/Kim Tatum (‘Straight White Men’, Southwark Playhouse and ‘I Threw it’, Old Vic), Matthew Xia (Director- Blue/Orange, One Night In Miami, Shebeen, Blood Knot, 846 Live, Family Tree, The Wiz), Brenda Emmanus OBE (Arts, Culture and Entertainment Correspondent most recently across BBC London and BBC Network news), Verdi Soprano Nadine Benjamin MBE, Layton Williams (Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, Bad Education, Benidorm, The Cleaner), Ahmet Ahmet (Director of Get Into Theatre).
A key aspect of this year’s awards was to acknowledge and celebrate the legacy of Black theatre trailblazers who have shaped the UK’s performing arts landscape. A touching interview and tribute honoured national treasure and Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Derek Griffiths. It featured contributions from cross-generational UK talent who spoke of how Derek’s theatre training shaped his multidisciplinary genius that has led to a 5-decade career across stage,TV and film; and how his presence as a Black man on children’s TV programme Play School transformed their ideas of what was possible for them as Black British performers.
As theatre navigates an important juncture with the focus on cultural recovery and authentic representation across on stage and behind the scenes, the awards spotlighted dynamic theatre that thrives, diverse representation and pushing through boundaries with the Best Use of Innovation & Technology and LGBTQ+ Champion awards.
The Black British Theatre Awards runs an annual Outreach programme providing young Black talent with access to leading performers, productions and experiences. The programme helps Black children to develop their capabilities in performance, as well as, behind the scenes leadership and creative roles. The empowerment of future generations was acknowledged during the ceremony with the Best Teacher of Performing Arts as a Subject Award and the Best Graduate Award.
The 2021 Black British Theatre Awards are sponsored by: Spotlight, Royal Opera House, Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, The Really Useful Group, Link Talent, Guildford School of Acting – University of Surrey, Bird College, Conservatoire for Dance and Musical Theatre, Galloways Agency, Michael, Harrison Entertainment, The Urdang, Italia Conti, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) and One Dance UK.
Getty Images is the ‘Official Photography Partner’ for the 2021 Black British Theatre Awards. Getty Images captured the outstanding talent present at the awards in a portrait studio and on the red carpet. The Getty Images partnership provided global visibility for nominees, and of course winners
THE 2021 BLACK BRITISH THEATRE AWARDS WINNERS ARE…
BEST DIRECTOR AWARD FOR A PLAY OR MUSICAL
Miranda Cromwell, and breathe…, Almeida Theatre
BEST MUSICAL DIRECTOR
Femi Temowo, and breathe…, Almeida Theatre
BEST PRODUCER AWARD
Chris Steward and Shanay Holmes, West End Musical Celebration at Palace Theatre
BEST CHOREOGRAPHER AWARD
Ingrid Mackinnon, Romeo and Juliet, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
BEST DANCE PERFORMANCE IN A DANCE PRODUCTION AWARD
Joseph Sissens, The Statement, The Royal Ballet
BEST DANCE PRODUCTION AWARD
‘And Still We Dance!’, Afro Dance Xplosion
BEST USE OF INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY
Ryan Carter, The Secret Society of Leading Ladies, Barn Theatre
RECOGNITION GROUP (BODY OF WORK)
LIGHT AND SOUND RECOGNITION AWARD
COSTUME DESIGN RECOGNITION AWARD
BOOK AND LYRICS RECOGNITION AWARD
MUSICAL DIRECTOR RECOGNITION AWARD
CASTING DIRECTOR RECOGNITION AWARD
LGBTQ+ CHAMPION AWARD
BEST TEACHER OF PERFORMING ARTS AS A SUBJECT AWARD
Ashley Campbell, British Theatre Academy
BEST RECENT GRADUATE AWARD
Natasha May-Thomas, Urdang Academy
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Derek Griffiths MBE
BEST MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
David Jonsson, and breathe…, Almeida Theatre
BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
Isabel Adomakoh Young, Romeo and Juliet, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
BEST SUPPORTING MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
Andrew French, Romeo and Juliet, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
Aretha Ayeh, Romeo and Juliet, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
BEST PRODUCTION PLAY
and breathe…, Almeida Theatre
BEST MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL AWARD
Ivano Turco, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, Gillian Lynne Theatre
BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL AWARD
Lucy St. Louis, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre
BEST SUPPORTING MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL AWARD
Caleb Roberts, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, Gillian Lynne Theatre
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL AWARD
Natasha May-Thomas, Carousel, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
BEST MUSICAL PRODUCTION AWARD
West End Musical Celebration, Palace Theatre
About The Black British Theatre Awards
The Black British Theatre Awards (BBTAs) was established to raise the profile of Black British creatives and performers who have not only influenced the UK’s artistic legacy, but have created an impact on an international level. October 2019 saw the inaugural ceremony of the BBTAS, launched to coincide with Black History Month. This new addition to the British theatre calendar was held at the captivating Old Finsbury Town Hall.
Why Black British Theatre Awards?
Black artists and creatives have contributed significantly to theatre well before the first major influx of Africans and Caribbeans into Britain during the 1950s. They have contributed a rich cultural influence and new ways of approaching theatre. Over the past 70 years, there has been a notable lack of recognition of the abundance of Black talent. Although it is slowly being addressed, the BBTAs amplify the positivity of talent and creativity in British theatre. The awards heighten visibility and recognition for Black professionals in all creative fields.
The next generation and the BBTAs
To inspire the next generation, the BBTAs fund scholarships for young Black talent in the UK to access training in performing arts and creative theatre roles whilst being mentored by established Black theatre professionals involved with the awards. Sponsors of the BBTAs contribute to the success of the grassroots project. Across the year, The BBTA Outreach team run a mentoring programme for young people, as well as, in-person courses and theatre visits.