Speeches: And the Laurence Olivier Winners Said
Winners for this year's 33rd annual Laurence Olivier Awards, London's equivalent of the Tonys and the UK's most prestigious stage awards, were announced this evening at a star-studded ceremony held at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane. Highlights from the winners’ acceptance speeches – shown in order of announcement - follow. See our other stories for analysis, speech highlights, photos, video and other coverage…
Best Lighting Design - Paule Constable, who beat, amongst others, herself to win for The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse, apologised to her fellow nominee Neil Murray (Brief Encounter): "Neil, I'm so sorry, we're such good friends", but she said she was privileged to be in "very good company" in her field. As for her work on The Chalk Garden, it was “all about the landscape I live in in Sussex, all I did was try to put that on stage”.
Best Sound Design - Gareth Fry, in the first of Black Watch’s awards for the evening, thanks director John Tiffany and choreographer Steven Hoggett and predicted that “hopefully we’ll see them up here later”. He also thanked “everyone behind the scenes at the National Theatre of Scotland” and his partner Laura, “who brings me happiness I can’t begin to express”.
Best Costume Design - Of the eight plays in The Histories cycle, Tom Piper provided the costumes for five-and-a-half productions, and Emma Williams for two-and-a-half – clothing over 280 characters between them – and Piper undertook the bulk of the Olivier thanks too. Piper noted that the project was a “fantastic example of a collaborative achievement” and worried that he and Williams may have had a slight advantage over their fellow nominees as with eight productions, there are “more chances to get it right … or wrong”. Both thanked RSC artistic director Michael Boyd and the company of actors for their “strength” and “trust”.
Best New Comedy - Translator Christopher Hampton accepted the prize on for The God of Carnage on behalf of its French author Yasmina Reza. She would be “thrilled”, though he admitted that he said that with tongue slightly in cheek “because she’s well known to get rather upset when people call her plays comedies”. Hampton reminded his absent colleague of the Chekhov quote that any fool could write a tragedy but it takes skill to write a comedy. He also took the opportunity to issue his own thanks to Reza for “mostly an extremely harmonious collaboration”. He, director Matthew Warchus and producer David Pugh have “been working on Yasmina’s plays for more than ten years and long may it continue”. Pugh, said Hampton, also asked him to than the show’s 82 investors but “unfortunately I mislaid the list”. Though he couldn’t acknowledge them by name, though, Hampton did thank them for supporting the show and theatre in such “parlous times”.
Best Set Design - August: Osage County’s American designer Todd Rosenthal opened by confessing that “I’ve been so inspired by London theatre my entire life” so to be recognised “amongst the best theatre artists in the world” was something “I could never have imagined”. He thanked the creative team behind the production out of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company, as well as their London home at the National, “truly a spa for designer”. His gratitude to author Tracy Letts – “you’re a bus, thanks for the ride” – caused presenter James Nesbitt to comment that “thanks for the ride means something completely different in Northern Ireland”.
Best Supporting Role in a Musical - Fellow American winner, Zorro’s Lesli Margherita, apologised for her nationality straight off the bat: “Sorry, I’m American”, she said breathlessly after sprinting to the stage to huge cheers from other Zorro company members. She recalled that, when her agent first called her three years ago about the Gipsy Kings musical’s workshop in Los Angeles, where she’s based, her reaction was “oh man, pass!”. Today, she said, “I’m so happy that I didn’t”. She thanked the team “for taking me from LA to ole” and lauded “the best cast and crew – I love like 95% of you, even though you make fun of my accent the whole time”.
Best Performance in a Supporting Role - Hamlet’s Patrick Stewart issued special congratulations to his fellow nominee, co-star and “dressing room pal” Oliver Ford Davies. He went on to say: “You cannot perform Claudius without Hamlet, but we performed Hamlet without David Tennant for four weeks” at the Novello Theatre during the production’s London season. He was saddened that that subsequently disqualified Tennant from Olivier consideration so, of his own award, Stewart said, “in part this is also going to the extraordinary David Tennant and to his understudy who went on to play Hamlet at a preview with four hours’ notice, the astonishing Edward Bennett”.
Best Actress - “When you find yourself in this most distinguished group of actors, you know it must have been a close call,” said The Chalk Garden’s Margaret Tyzack, accepting her third Best Actress prize for her performance in the Donmar production. Her prior success must have helped her believe her odds of “three to one” were still pretty good. She was amongst the many thanking artistic director Michael Grandage and the “glorious” Donmar”. She also singled out her co-star and fellow nominee Penelope Wilton: “you can’t wish for a better colleague onstage or off”.
Best Actor - Another Donmar winner, Derek Jacobi also thanked Grandage, who directed him in Twelfth Night, for being a “great director”. He went on to thank designer Christopher Oram “for solving my yellow stockings problem” and all at the Donmar for the production’s “wondrous and joyful journey”. He concluded by thanking “this man” – holding up the statue bust of Laurence Olivier. He remembered first meeting him 46 years ago, when Olivier employed Jacobi, then a young actor, for eight years at the “fledgling” National Theatre. Olivier, said Jacobi became, a “father figure” and “dear friend … I loved and revered him and I still do”. He relished the privilege now of holding him “in my hands publicly and to say ‘thank you, sir, thank you for everything’”. Before leaving the stage, Jacobi kissed Olivier’s head.
Best Company Performance - RSC artistic director Michael Boyd led the charge to the stage, with several dozen members of The Histories ensemble and creative team in tow. “I'll keep talking while they get to the stage,” he said. He revealed that they'd had a lottery to determine which of the company were able to fill the RSC's tables - “they're a lot of people who deserve to be here”. Boyd ordered others connected with the eight plays who were “too modest” to take to the stage to stand up for applause. He wound up saying he was finished “unless you all (his colleagues) want to say something ... that would probably be a disaster”.
Best Choreographer - Black Watch's nervous Steven Hoggett admitted he “swore all the way here so I've got to stop swearing”. Amongst others, he thanked National Theatre of Scotland artistic director Vicky Featherstone “for setting us right when we lost our way” and “the cast of Black Watch - without you I am nothing ... you went the extra mile again and again – and sorry about your knees”. He also thanked the Barbican for bringing the show to London, which gave his father a chance to see. Apparently, dad liked it but just couldn't stand “all that prancing about”.
Best Revival - Michael Boyd barely had time to get back from the press room and back on the stage to accept another award for The Histories. This time going solo, he pulled a sheet from his jacket and said “I'll try and read the rest of it”. He went on to thank various members of his creative team and absent friends including the “part-timers” (because they only stayed together for a year) of Gregory Doran's company for Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labour's Lost for “also making the RSC strong this year”. He praised The Histories' 34 actors, who were together for over two years, for demonstrating that “really good work can sometimes take a long time to produce, and it's worth taking the time”.
Best Actress in a Musical - “Muchos gracias!” shouted Piaf's Elena Roger to roars of approval before thanking “everybody who helped me to be in this country for three years”, not least the casting woman who first suggested her for the title role in Evita. She dedicated the award to her family in Argentina.
Best Actor in a Musical - La Cage aux Folles' Douglas Hodge remarked that “this project has been extraordinary, just about everything that could happen has happened in the time I've been doing it”. Jokingly, he credited his co-star and fellow nominee Denis Lawson: “thank god he didn't win this, I had to carry him through”. He noted that he'd now kissed both Lawson and his nephew Ewan McGregor (in Guys and Dolls) and that Lawson is a good kisser. He recalled how his father, who thought he wouldn't be able to bear a show set in a drag club, had come to love La Cage aux Folles and, fighting back tears, Hodge thought “he would have loved this if he'd been here to see it”. The actor's father just passed away on Thursday.
Best Entertainment - La Clique co-founder Brett Haylock brought several of his surprised company members with him to the stage. “Oh my god, we do not belong here!” he exclaimed. “Who ever could have imagined a show involving a woman pulling a red handkerchief out of her vagina could win an Olivier?” He declared that “this tiny dysfunctional circus full of heart-warming misfits has been validated by our peers” with this award ... “it's very significant for us”. He also made another plea to save La Clique's home at the London Hippodrome: “London does not need another casino”.
Best Revival - Director Terry Johnson, Menier Chocolate Factory artistic director David Babani and West End producer Sonia Friedman collected the award for La Cage aux Folles. Johnson said that he couldn't resume the list of people to thank that Douglas Hodge had started earlier as “I swear I wouldn't stop ... there's something about this show that makes you contribute with generosity”. Babani noted that the Chocolate Factory, where the show originated, celebrated its fifth birthday last week. He thanked all who'd worked on the venue's productions over the years and particularly his colleagues Lucy McNally and Tom Siracusa.
Best New Play - Black Watch author Gregory Burke said he was happy to see his show colleagues triumphing on the night since they're “proper theatre people, eh?” He thanked “all the people that Gareth thanked and all the people that Steven thanked” and “all the cast who been in it for the past two to three years ... the upper East Side of New York will never recover”.
Best Director - Black Watch's John Tiffany worried, “Is my shirt tucked in? My mum would kill me.” He went on to marvel “what an amazing night for Black Watch and to credit National Theatre of Scotland artistic director Vicky Featherstone, “my god, what a brilliant job that woman is doing”. He accepted the award on behalf of all of the people behind the scenes in Scotland, including the finance department who makes sure “everyone has Canadian dollars” when on international tour. He said he was very proud that this was a NTS production. Tiffany also remembered how Steven Hoggett and he, who were childhood friends, bunked off to school and came to London together to see a gig when they were 15 and “now we're on stage winning Oliviers!”
Best New Musical - The Four Seasons Bob Gaudio commented that “watching your life flash before you on a West End stage 47 years later (after the band's first London performance at the Hammersmith Arena) is just surreal beyond belief. I can't think of anything else to top it off”.
Special Award - Alan Ayckbourn, who was recognised for his lifetime achievement in theatre, said he wanted “to thank everyone in my life ... that's 72 plays and a lot of revivals”. Happily, he didn't list them all! He said he always thinks of a play “as being the touch paper on a firework or rocket – my play ignites a whole load of other talents”. If it's done properly, you get “a rocket to the moon that lights up the night sky”.
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LAURENCE OLIVIER WINNERS’ REMARKS