Last night I attended the annual Whatsonstage Awards. I’ve been at the awards show for the last few years and so far it has always been a stagey and fun event – usually a bit random in parts and sometimes lacking a bit of professionalism but that never took anything away from the enjoyment on the night.
This year however I witnessed something that actually left me rather speechless. Now, I understand Whatsonstage likes to boost its profile with this awards show. It’s a business after all and Whatsonstage wants and needs to make money, stay in the press, acquire new sponsors and so on. I get this and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What is plain wrong though is the way some of the nominees were treated on the night. Yes, in most categories the winner was basically set as soon as the nominees were announced. It’s next to impossible to win when you’re in one category with Michael Ball or Mel C. But still, every nominee that takes time out of an often busy schedule to attend the awards deserves to receive the same amount of respect.
At this year’s awards I got to see something that can only be called a two-class society. Whatsonstage obviously decided to focus completely on the Michael Balls, Ramin Karimloos, Sherdian Smiths and Tim Minchins in the business – and please don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against these people. They’ve worked hard to be were they are and they deserve their success. Whatsonstage can pamper them all the way – I’ve got no problem with that.
I do, however, have a problem with Whatsonstage’s treatment of some of the nominees who don’t fit into their “Mr. or Mrs. Popular” scheme. I mean, seriously, when you put on an awards show and you have a lot of nominees showing up on the night one thing should be a given: You seat ALL the nominees in the stalls because they might have to walk up on stage at some point to collect their award.
But that’s not what Whatsonstage did. No, someone (and whoever it was should hang his/her head in shame!) decided to just seat some of the nominees in the Dress Circle and even the Upper Circle. That obviously meant said nominees knew one thing before the show had even started – they had not won an award.
Can you even start to imagine what this must feel like? Yes, a lot of them were aware that they stood little chance in their category. But how terrible must they have felt to be treated like second class nominees by a company that should have known better than to act in such a disrespectful way towards hard working people who are a vital part of the industry.
Whatsonstage, I have always supported your work and enjoyed the events you put on. I’ve voted in the annual Whatsonstage awards and I have been attending the awards show every year. But what I had to witness last night has truly shown me that in the end it’s all about the money and the popularity and the showing off with “theatre celebrities”. This is not something I want to be a part of in any way. For me one of the most important values of the arts has always been the sense of community. And that’s what was missing last night.
As much as I enjoyed parts of the awards show itself the whole evening left a really bad taste in my mouth. Shame on you, Whatsonstage!