This unspeakably glamorous honour is bestowed upon those who manage to keep their heads when all about are losing theirs. Diamonds in the dust, they redeem dreadful evenings - with no help from directors.
Last year's indecently fought-over prize went to the designers of Always, who made truly terrible material look ravishing. This year's nominees include Mazz Murray, who tore the Bridewell apart as a gobsmacking cross between Vera Duckworth and Dusty Springfield wearing a purple fringed bikini in an ill-conceived revival of the ghastly Pippin; and David Yelland, whose graceful performance went a long way towards saving Peter Hall's miscast and stupefying The Misanthrope.
The runner-up is Helen Mirren, who, amazingly, kept her dignity in the scandalously bad Antony and Cleopatra. But the 1998 award goes to Josie Lawrence and Robert Bathurst in Alarms and Excursions (above), a lam- entably unfunny evening of over-extended sketches by Michael Frayn, who should know better.
Lazily edited, with a merely efficient production, the evening's sole pleasure came from the detail and conviction of these two performances. How they managed it remains a mystery.