THE Octagon’s artistic director said he was surprised the venue did not scoop a gong at the Manchester Theatre Awards — but praised the region’s vibrant theatre scene.

David Thacker was among the great and good of theatreland who attended yesterday’s awards at the Royal Exchange, hosted by comedian Justin Moorhouse.

A host of famous faces turned out to present 22 awards, including Scott and Bailey star Suranne Jones, John Henshaw, from Early Doors and The Cops, Loose Women’s Lisa Maxwell, former Coronation Street actors Graham Hawley and Julie Hesmondhalgh, Sue Jenkins, from Brookside and Paula Wilcox, from Man About the House.

The Octagon and its actors were up for seven awards including Kieran Hill, for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in The Glass Menagerie, which went to Ray Fearon, for his performance in Macbeth at Manchester International Festival (MIF).

Macbeth was named Best Production, beating the Octagon’s Of Mice and Men and The Glass Menagerie, while its star, Sir Kenneth Branagh, won the award for Best Actor, which was collected by his sister Joyce.

Mr Thacker said: “I think that the competition is getting stiffer all the time, particularly with the Manchester International Festival.

“If Kenneth Branagh comes, there’s going to be a high probability of him getting best actor and his production doing well.

“The most important thing is to celebrate how vibrant and flourishing the theatre scene is in Greater Manchester and the North West and the Octagon’s key role in that.”

In the Best Newcomer category, Nathan Ives-Moiba was nominated for the Octagon’s production of Tull and Nathan Wiley for The Glass Menagerie but the award went to Freya Sutton, from Hairspray at The Lowry.

Of Mice and Men was nominated for Best Ensemble but lost out to Chicago at Oldham Coliseum and Best Design, which was awarded to MIF’s The Old Woman. Mr Thacker said: "I think the most important thing is that the range of our work is recognised.

"The fact we had design recognised in that way and all elements — set, costume, sound and lighting in that show.

"I am, of course, delighted I have been nominated for two productions. That's very special and also how committed we are to seeking out young talent and to have two of our actors nominated for best newcomer.

"I'm very surprised one of those two did not get it but then again, I've not seen the work of the others.

“Kieran Hill, I’m delighted he got nominated. Again, surprised he didn’t win.”

Maxine Peake was nominated for Best Actress for MIF’s Masque Of Anarchy but Cush Jumbo won the award for A Doll’s House at Royal Exchange, exclaiming in both surprise and delight: “I beat the Peake?!”

The Library Theatre Company’s Chris Honer, who is stepping down as artistic director, was given a Special Achievement Award and the Stage Door Award for Excellence went to LipService Theatre Company.

See our live blog from the ceremony here.