Meat cleavers at dawn: Imelda Staunton beats Sweeney Todd co-star Michael Ball to theatre awards gong


He may have been the demon barber brandishing the cleaver, but Imelda Staunton has been proven stronger than her Sweeney Todd co-star Michael Ball after she beat him to win best performance in a musical at the Theatre Awards UK.

She played Mrs Lovette in Jonathan Kent’s production for the Chichester Festival Theatre which transferred to the West End after rave reviews.

Both Staunton and Ball were nominated for best performance in the Stephen Sondheim-scored production which was also nominated for best musical but it missed out to The Go-Between, written by Richard Taylor and David wood and directed by Roger Haines.

Ball gamely picked up Staunton’s award on her behalf, with the words: “I’m not Imelda Staunton…I had the best time playing the Ernie to her Eric.”

The actress said in a statement read out by Ball that she was “totally indebted to the wonderful Jonathan Kent for his superb direction".

This year the public was asked to vote for its favourite touring production for the first time ever. The English Touring Theatre’s Anne Boleyn took the prize, beating The King and I, Swallows and Amazons, and We Are Three Sisters.

"The TMA is thrilled that thousands of theatre-goers flocked to vote in our first ever publicly chosen award for Best Touring Production with The Stage. Regional theatre is going from strength to strength, and we should recognise and celebrate that success," President of the Theatrical Management Association, Rachel Tackley, said.

Henry Goodman won best performance for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, also a Chichester Festival Theatre production. Best supporting performance was won by Aidan McArdle for Democracy, a Sheffield Theatres production at the Crucible.

In The Next Room by Sarah Ruhl, a Theatre Royal Bath production in the Ustinov Studio, won best new play.

Theatre Awards UK honours creative excellence in regional theatre.

The winners were announced at the Guildhall in London during a lunchtime ceremony on Sunday.