THE Covid-19 pandemic has taken, and continues to take, a devastating toll on our society. In the grand scheme of things, when or even whether there was an announcement of the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland was a relatively minor matter.

Nevertheless, with dozens of shows in the 2019-20 season to consider, the critics had to decide what to do about their annual awards.

In the end, a majority decided to proceed with online judging, followed by an announcement of the results in the media.

I understand and respect those colleagues’ desire to press on with the judging, in deliberate spite of the virus.

Likewise, I support the wish that last Thursday’s awards announcements would be something of a pick-me-up for, at least, some of Scotland’s beleaguered theatre-makers.

Laudable though their motivations were, however, I disagreed with them. Having been a founder member of the CATS judging panel back in 2002-03, and having taken part in the judging every year since, I took the painful decision to withdraw from this year’s deliberations.

To my mind, there was no real purpose in replacing our annual, jury room-style debate (a kind of Twelve Angry Men for theatre critics) with a long and arduous Zoom meeting. Did the theatre community really need the CATS awards announcement in the midst of the pandemic?

Many theatre artists and, let’s be honest, theatre critics, are facing huge uncertainty about their future livelihoods. Wouldn’t it be better, I suggested, to wait until the pandemic was over and the theatres were re-opening? Then we could hold our traditional judging meeting, with something closer to our full complement of 13 colleagues, and unencumbered by the constraints of online discussion.

Even more importantly, by holding on until the playhouses re-opened, our awards ceremony could also become a celebration of the re-emergence of live drama from under the cloud of the virus.

As it happens, I concur with many of the decisions made by the eight CATS judges this year.

I enjoyed The Signalman and Atlantis Banal enormously; although I think Vanishing Point’s astonishing The Metamorphosis was deserving of awards, rather than mere nominations.

The artists who have been nominated and awarded are, naturally, delighted. I can’t help but feel, however, that we would have spread the joy much wider if we had announced their success at a special awards ceremony in the post-Covid future that is, we hope and pray, just around the corner.