Former UWTSD student wins 2017 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play


A former student of UWTSD’s Carmarthen Campus has won the 2017 Tony Award for the Best Scenic Design of a Play for The Play That Goes Wrong.  Pontypool born, Nigel Hook, studied in Carmarthen between 1974 and 1977 and this week returned to west Wales for the Annual Alumni Reunion dinner.

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Nigel won the prestigious Tony award for his work on the collapsing set pieces key to an Olivier Award-winning comically disastrous farce, which saw its first Broadway performance in April of this year.  Co-written by Mischief Theatre company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, The Play That Goes Wrong is a riotous comedy about the theatre in which The ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ do their best to put on a 1920’s murder mystery - but as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong… does.  Nigel Hook has designed for The Play That Goes Wrong in the West End, on Broadway and in multiple productions around the world. His work has also been seen in THARK at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the Wemland Opera in Sweden and in Dial M For Murder at the Vienna English Theatre.

During the Alumni Annual Dinner at the University’s Carmarthen Campus, Nigel Hook talked about his experience at the 71st annual Tony Awards ceremony.  He said:

“After the opening of The Play That Goes Wrong on Broadway I was also nominated for The Outer Critics Circle Best Set Design, The Drama Desk Outstanding Set Design Award and the Antoinette Perry Award for Best Design of a Play.  Earlier this year I had been in New York for a couple of months working on the Production and had returned home for a break prior to the opening.  Award season announcements were made and I discovered how lucky I was to have been nominated and I must admit that I was thrilled and amazed to be nominated for my debut Broadway show.  I returned for the opening night on Broadway and was blown away by the American audience reaction to the show.  The cast are superbly committed to the production and literally fly through the show where they get immediate standing ovations and when looking about the audience, you tend to wonder if an ambulance outside might be a good idea! 

The Tony Award Ceremony was held at the Radio City Music Hall - a wonderful building to be in at the best of times but when it’s populated with Stars of Stage, Film and Television as well as celebrated living writers and directors it really is an unbelievable experience.  As we were seated far back on the left of the auditorium something made me think this is too far back for me to have won anything! Also, considering the nominees in my group were heroes of mine when I was a student I was convinced that I hadn’t won the award - so to be honest I relaxed and got comfortable!

What usually happens is that the Creative Awards are presented during the Advertising breaks and we hadn't started yet - so again I relaxed further.  Well, suddenly they were galloping through the Creative Awards and I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to applaud some of my  heroes – people like Michael Yeargan, David Gallo, Douglas Schmidt as well as Santo Loquasto.  When they finally announced the Best Scenic Design in a Play I honestly didn't understand that they had called my name.   My partner Paul shouted at me to go and gave me a push to get out of my seat - I almost fell on my back into the aisle!  Then I  just had to start running as you only have 90 seconds from the announcement of your name to accepting the award and leaving the stage.  It was a long way in a big theatre and nobody giving you the exact directions – I just headed towards the bright bit!  Getting to the stage I had forgotten where my speech was which we all have to prepare just in case!   I produced a number of envelopes and bits of paper but to no avail.  The speech was actually in my back pocket and people thought I was making a joke about the Oscars wrong envelope incident!   It really was a wonderful evening.  I will always feel guilty about the fact that my job is hugely enjoyable, although not always easy, and slightly embarrassed by the fact that people want to give me awards for it.”

Nigel Hook was brought up in Cwmbran and attended Maendy Primary School and Croesyceiliog Grammar School before moving to Carmarthen to study at Trinity College, Carmarthen. On his childhood and his time at the University Nigel said:

“I have many wonderful memories of my childhood in Cwmbran.  I remember during my time at Maendy Primary School we had a visit from a company doing a production of Pinocchio which really got me interested - I can still sketch the setting for it at the drop of a hat.  I had originally come to Trinity to become an Art and Drama teacher and to learn Welsh. The college opened me up to the joy of  learning and the learning of others.  I will thankfully never reach a point of knowing everything but I will enjoy trying to and passing it on to others in whatever form I can.  I don’t think I’ll ever not be a teacher or a student, it is a huge part of me, the way I work and live.  I have fond memories of my time at the University in the 70s and I’m very grateful to all the staff that supported me during my time here.  It has certainly helped me throughout my career and it’s always wonderful to come back here to see old friends.  It was so interesting tonight to hear more about the exciting projects and developments at the University.  There’s no doubt the University is moving forward and achieving great things for the region.”

Programme Director for BA Theatre Design and Production at the University’s Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts, Stacey-Jo Atkinson added:

“What superb alumni the University has.  We’re extremely proud of Nigel and it’s a brilliant link for the BA Theatre Design & Production course to have and we look forward to welcoming Nigel back to the university in the new year. The current students are always enamoured of graduates who come and deliver talks, which in turn really inspires them in their future careers.”

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Further Information

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