Seventeen years (and a Twelfth Night) after he did a runner, Stephen Fry wins theatrical redemption
Television personality named best supporting actor in Whatsonstage.com awards
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Monday 18 February 2013
When Stephen Fry made his troubled exit from a West End production in 1995, leaving anger and recriminations in his wake, the actor feared he would never tread the boards again.
Now, in a remarkable career turnaround 17 years on, Fry has been named the best supporting actor in a play at the Whatsonstage.com awards, hailed for his comeback performance as Malvolio in Twelfth Night.
The actor and television personality said he was “simply astonished” to receive the award, which is voted for by audiences. “ Seventeen years ago I left this country in disgrace having run out of a play and I thought I might never return to the stage again,” he said.
He was not exaggerating. Fry was starring opposite Rik Mayall in Cell Mates, a play about the KGB spy George Blake and the petty criminal Sean Bourke who helped him break out of prison, when he walked out on the production following a particularly excoriating review in the Financial Times.
The self-confessed bipolar sufferer has since admitted that he contemplated suicide after fleeing to Bruges. His departure caused problems for his abandoned colleagues too, causing audiences to dwindle so badly that the play closed just six weeks after opening night. “He has got a lot to answer for,” producer Duncan Weldon said at the time.
Fry would describe it as “my little wobble”, but the playwright, Simon Gray, was more brutal, accusing the comedian of behaving in a “most cowardly fashion”. In Gray’s subsequent diary of the production, Fat Chance, he was highly critical of Fry.
There have been no such wobbles with Twelfth Night. The Independent critic Paul Taylor called Fry’s Malvolio an “intelligent, generous performance – almost studiedly not a star turn”.
The industry newspaper The Stage described Fry’s performance as “memorable and heartfelt”, adding: “He manages to convey a deep sense of pathos beneath the pompous absurdity of the most famous character ever to sport yellow stockings and cross garters on the English stage.”
Thanking the production’s director, Tim Carroll, and producer, Sonia Friedman, as well as the audiences and Shakespeare himself, Fry said: “I have been back onstage in a wonderful play and had the privilege of playing with one of the best casts that has ever been assembled.”
Fry’s award for the all-male production, which stars Mark Rylance as Olivia, marked one of three for the Globe’s production last night. Sweeney Todd won five Whatsonstage.com awards including best musical revival, as well as best actor and actress in a musical for Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton.
Best actor was awarded to Rupert Everett, while Sheridan Smith won best actress for Hedda Gabler. Will Young’s performance in Cabaret saw him pick up newcomer of the year award, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won best new play. Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony was handed the theatre event of the year. Over 60,000 took part in voting for the awards.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food