Mammia Mia! creator and producer Judy Craymer, playwright Stephen Poliakoff and Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage) are amongst the stage names singled out for their services to the arts as part of the annual Queen's Birthday Honours list, announced this past weekend.

Craymer, who received an MBE, commented: “This is one of the most exciting things to have happened to me in my professional life. You never think you will be chosen and it is just wonderful to receive such recognition. It’s a real honour.”

Since its West End premiere in April 1999, Mammia Mia! - with a book by Catherine Johnson, set to the greatest hits of Abba - has been seen by more than 30 million people in over 160 cities across North America, Australia, Europe and Asia, grossing over $2 billion at the box office worldwide. Craymer is now producing the film version (due for a 2008 release), in which Meryl Streep leads a cast that also features Pierce Brosnan, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth and Dominic Cooper.

Barry Humphries was awarded a CBE. The Australian comedian and character actor is world renowned for his alter egos, including Sir Les Patterson, Australia’s outspoken cultural attaché to Britain, and most especially Dame Edna Everage (pictured). His last Dame Edna stage show seen in the West End was at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1998.

Also received a CBE, Stephen Poliakoff’s many stage plays include Blinded by the Sun, Breaking the Silence, City Sugar, Clever Soldiers, Favourite Nights, Remember This, Talk of the City and Sweet Panic, which he revived (and also directed) at the West End’s Duke of York’s theatre in 2003. His television screenplays include Perfect Strangers, The Lost Prince, Friends and Crocodiles and Gideon’s Daughter.

Elsewhere, Torquil Norman, who played a major role in securing the £30 million renovation for the Roundhouse, was given a knighthood, and there were OBEs for two acting veterans best known for their screen work – Peter Sallis and Sylvia Syms – who have occasional forays on stage (Syms was last seen in English National Opera’s On the Town in 2005).

Of all of this year’s honours, the one that’s caused the most international controversy was the knighthood for Salman Rushdie, who made a crossover into theatre when he adapted his novel Midnight's Children for the stage care of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2003. The Satanic Verses’ author’s award for services to literature has angered many Muslim countries, not least Pakistan, which has demanded that the government withdraw the “blasphemer’s” honour.

- by Terri Paddock