David Benedict on theatre

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The Independent Culture
Following the birth of her son, a colleague came up with an acid test for nights at the theatre. "Was it worth abandoning my baby for that?" Presented with evidence that I had spent an evening watching Cavalcade, I suspect that any child of mine would sue for unreasonable neglect. And win...

Conversely, they wouldn't have a leg to stand on with Old Times, the revival of the year, which featured a bewitching cast; a knock-out performance from Harriet Walter and an acute director, feasting upon a magnificent piece of writing.

Best Actress award, however, goes to the sensational Judi Dench (right) for her whiskey-soaked Christine in Anthony Page's excellent Absolute Hell and who then stopped the heart in A Little Night Music, transforming a distinctly flawed evening. Michael Gambon's towering performance in the marvellous Skylight wins him Best Actor

With the exception of David Harrower, whose spellbinding Knives in Hens was the theatrical debut of the year, men spent the year gazing at their navels and ignoring actresses altogether. 1995 also saw the return of the hackneyed gay suicide scenario with the RSC exhuming A Patriot for Me (at four hours it was four hours too long), According to Hoyle and Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club, saved by Elizabeth Berrington: Best Supporting Actress, no contest.

The Morecambe and Wise award for Best Double Act goes to Michael Bryant and Paola Dionisotti who show the rest of the cast how to act in Deborah Warner's under-valued Richard II, while Best Supporting Actor is Tony Haygarth for wondrous work with Janet McTeer in Simpatico, and Harold Pinter in The Hothouse.

HG was an installation, Enter Achilles was dance and The Makropulos Case was opera, but all three were theatrical masterpieces.

Finally, Phyllis Nagy had winners with Disappeared and the marvellously written The Strip, and Philip Osment's What I Did in the Holidays was unfashionable, had no star role and was the play of the year.

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