Winners of the 31st annual Laurence Olivier Awards, London's equivalent of the Tonys and the UK's most prestigious stage awards, were announced tonight (18 February 2007) in a star-studded ceremony at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane (See Full Winners' List, 18 Feb 2007). Highlights from the winners’ acceptance speeches follow…



  • Best Lighting Design & Best Sound Design - Sunday in the Park with George’s Natasha Chivers gave credit to the Association of Lighting Designers, while her co-lighting designer Mike Robertson, with whom she won the Best Lighting Design award, urged the audience "do support them in their endeavours to get our fees up and raise our profile." Waves’ T-shirt-clad Gareth Fry, who took home Best Sound Design, mused that it was “odd to be on this side of the microphone for once”. He praised Waves director Katie Mitchell – this was their 13th show together – and her company who used over 300 props to create most of the production’s sound live each night.

  • Best Supporting Performance in a Musical & Best Theatre Choreographer - Cabaret’s two awards came one after the other, with Sheila Hancock winning particularly enthusiastic applause for her Supporting Performance win for her role as Fraulein Schneider in the Kander and Ebb musical. Hancock confessed that “I got my good loser face ready” – and demonstrated it. The actress has been nominated numerous times, but this is her first Olivier win. She recalled chatting to Thora Hird many years ago and lamenting the fact that she was always a runner-up. Hird told the young Hancock: “Darling, just wait until you’re over 70 and then you’ll get an prize for just getting on the stage.” The now-septuagenarian said, even if this award was in recognition of her age, she was very happy to get it. And she was “really thrilled that it’s for a musical”, dismissing “all this business about musicals crowding out plays…. I think our team is as good an artistic team as any play”. Cabaret’s Javier De Frutos, in accepting his Best Theatre Choreographer trophy, also gave homage to the creative team, thanking “Katrina Lindsay (designer) and Rufus Norris (director) for picking me to be part of this extraordinary show”.

  • Best Costume Design & Best Set Design - The Voysey Inheritance’s Alison Chitty, winning the award for Best Costume Design, said: “As designers, we can’t do our work on our own. We only survive because teams and teams of people” – including, in her case, the wig and costume departments of the National Theatre – “help us get our work on the stage”. Sunday in the Park with George’s Timothy Bird (projections) and David Farley (set), who won yet another award for Best Set Design for their melding of traditional stage design and computer-generated animation, said they found the award “particularly gratifying” because it recognised a unique “collaboration”. Farley thanked the show’s cast and crew for “their patience and belief in what we do”, while – after reeling off a long list of people involved in the process – Bird singled out director Sam Buntrock for having “the insane idea that it might work in the first place”.

  • Best New Dance Production & Outstanding Achievement in Dance - Wayne McGregor, whose Chroma nabbed the Best New Dance Production trophy, paid homage to the “amazing dancers of the Royal Ballet” and said: “It’s a testament to Monica Mason’s brilliant direction of Royal Ballet that the Royal Ballet had three nominations in this category”. Though taking home the Outstanding Achievement in Dance award for his programme of work and performances at Sadler’s Wells, Carlos Acosta also thanked the Royal Ballet – after telling the audience that “I feel like dancing for you right now… but the costume is not right”. He also revealed that “my Cuban people are still my number one inspiration”.

  • Best Actress - Much Ado About Nothing’s Tamsin Greig was initially lost for words when she took to the stage to collect her Best Actress prize. After gasping and making faces at the audiences for some moments, she confessed: “I think I just had a wee… oh, and it’s not my dress either”. She finally managed to thank her agent, director Marianne Elliott, the RSC company, her husband and her three children “who let me go away for seven months and didn’t seem to care”.

  • Best Actor - Currently filming in Canada, Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Rufus Sewell sent his director Trevor Nunn to collect his Best Actor trophy for him. Sewell dictated if-needed acceptance remarks to Nunn over the phone, which Nunn faithfully read, editing out only those relating to the director “bloke”. Sewell recalled he “had a great opportunity in the theatre when Tom (Stoppard) and Trevor cast me in Arcadia when I was first starting out”, but he’d come to realise during his career that those opportunities were rare. However, he said, another came in the form of Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll and he wanted “to thank Tom Stoppard on my knees” for letting him do it. He also praised all of his fellow cast members, including Sinead Cusack, who “every night cast her spell that I just had to wander into”. And he credited the Royal Court “for making Tom Stoppard a Royal Court writer at last”.

  • Outstanding Musical Production - Sunday in the Park with George’s stars Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell took to the stage with director Sam Buntrock and David Babani, artistic director of the Menier Chocolate Factory, where the production began. Russell said “Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine wrote the most extraordinary, magical piece and they were so supportive and lovely to us”. Evans thanked a list of “amazing producers who believed in the show so much and were so courageous” and the rest of the company, a “very naughty naughty” group of people who “I know they’ll all be glued to tonight (!!) so guys, this is for all of you”.

  • Special Award - Opera singer John Tomlinson, who was recognised for his overall achievement in a wide variety of roles, said the honour was “incredibly special to me to be presented with an image of this great hero of straight theatre by that great heroine of the operatic stage, Dame Janet Baker”.

  • Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre - Boy Blue Entertainment’s Kendrick “H20” Sandy and Michael “Mikey J” Asante were accompanied by director and designer Ultz to accept this trophy for their premiere production of Pied Piper at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Sandy said they were especially pleased that the award “recognised a new of theatre, which is hip-hop theatre”.

  • Best Director - The Crucible’s Dominic Cooke, in accepting his Best Director trophy, recounted an encounter prior to rehearsals with one of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “redoubtable” wardrobe ladies who marvelled as the “extraordinary cast and Rolls Royce production team that I had to work with on this show” – she told Cooke “well, if you mess it up this time, it really is your fault”. He went on to thank the people who’d stopped him from “messing it up”, including his leading man Iain Glen, who “really led the company, he really took risks in the rehearsal room and set the tone”. Cooke noted that “the tragedy of The Crucible is that it’s always relevant somewhere in the world and that’s certainly true in our times”. He also remembered the play’s author – no playwright, said Cooke, had a soul “more dignified, more humane and more full of righteous anger than Arthur Miller”.

  • Best New Opera Production & Outstanding Achievement in Opera - The audience saw double when David Alden, director of Best New Opera Production Jenufa, was accompanied onto the stage by his twin brother Christopher Alden, who directed fellow nominated show The Makropulos Case, another Janacek opera presented last year at ENO. Christopher joked that “my brother already got one of these so it’s not fair”, but after David made an impassioned speech to “acknowledge and celebrate English National Opera” which “has been leading England and the world” in presenting opera as theatre, Christopher changed his mind. “He gave a much better speech than I would have given so I’m glad he won after all”. Jenufa’s star Amanda Roocroft then took to the stage to collect her prize for Outstanding Achievement in Opera. ENO, she said, “I love you, absolutely you!” She also enquired: “Do we get any money with this because I made so many bets that I wouldn’t get it.”

  • Best Performance in a Supporting Role & Best Revival - Jim Norton, who won Best Performance in a Supporting Role for The Seafarer, congratulated his fellow nominees and thanked his fellow actors and “the wonderful and the amazing Conor McPherson”, writer and director of the play, now on tour. He also declared: “I’m proud to be a member of the National Theatre and a member of Actors’ Equity”. Only off stage a few moments after collecting Best Director, Dominic Cooke rushed back from the press room, where he was being interviews, to join Iain Glen to take the Best Revival trophy for The Crucible. Although Cooke had already used up his acceptance notes, Glen quipped: “He’s already got one so maybe I could take this?”

  • Best New Comedy & Best New Play - In the evening’s longest acceptance speech, The 39 Steps’ overwhelmed author Patrick Barlow frequently lost his way, even forgetting the name of his girlfriend. He told a story about once running into Michael Gambon, who praised him as his favourite playwright – unfortunately confusing him with Patrick Marber. As a result, Barlow’s confidence “plummeted for about seven years, but it’s coming up a bit now”. David Harrower, the author of Best New Play Blackbird, was unable to attend tonight, and his agent Mel Kenyon, collecting on his behalf, was nearly as confused as Barlow. She admitted, however: “We were getting drunk in the corner, we’re really in the corner and we’re really drunk”. She hailed Blackbird’s producers for having “the grace and courage to bring it into the West End when no one else would have done”, then added that “we hope a new generation of playwrights will come into the West End and seize it and take it by force”.

  • Best Actor & Best Actress in a Musical - Having just left the stage after singing “Move On”, Sunday in the Park with George’s Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell were back on in quick succession. In collecting Best Actor in a Musical, a visibly shaken Evans, on the verge of tears, said of his fellow nominees, “it’s an honour to be in this category with you, I hugely admire all of you”. He gave more compliments to Sunday director Sam Buntrock “for your fantastic idea and your vision and all that stuff happening behind me on stage” and to his two leading ladies Anna-Jane Casey (who appeared at the Menier) and Russell. As for Russell, she was so shocked when she leapt onto the stage to collect Best Actress in a Musical, she couldn’t help exclaiming “f***ing hell!” She said she and her partner of ten years, Raymond Coulthard, are off on holiday this week: “We’re going to Thailand on Wednesday and (now) I’m going to try to get an upgrade on the flight.”

  • Best New Musical - For the final award of the evening, Caroline, Or Change’s composer Jeanine Tesori dragged her title star Tonya Pinkins onto the stage with her to accept the award for Best New Musical. Tesori read a note from book writer Tony Kushner, who was unable to attend. Kushner thanked the “inexplicably splendid” National Theatre and urged the government to give the NT more money – “we’re hoping that arts funding in the UK is maintained or even increased so we can come back”. Pinkins then put Tesori in the spotlight, callng her an “extraordinary genius of an artist”.

    - by Terri Paddock