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Olivier Awards 2010: All Surprises | reviews, news & interviews

Olivier Awards 2010: All Surprises

Olivier Awards 2010: All Surprises

Theatre of the unexpected at this year's prizes

Rupert Goold, best director for Enron: 'At the Oliviers, anything can happen. Goold forgot the name of the theatre where the play is on' Charlie Hodgkinson

Furthering their reputation as the least predictable prize-giving organisation out there, the Laurence Olivier Awards last night gave their top prizes to a host of productions that have long departed London, starting with Best Play for Tennessee-born writer Katori Hall's The Mountaintop. You were thinking Enron or (my personal best) Jerusalem? You'd be wrong.

And so it went throughout an evening that dangled an odd carrot in the direction of some of the West End's reigning hits, giving Enron yet another directing trophy for Rupert Goold and Jerusalem the prizes for set design (Ultz's epic rural encampment) and for Mark Rylance's seismic starring performance. (If he hadn't won that, there might well have been a serious disturbance within the gracious confines of Grosvenor House.) But even the musical categories distributed seven prizes in total between Spring Awakening, a critically acclaimed London commercial flop that had run several years on Broadway, and Hello, Dolly! at the Open Air Theatre, Regents Park, a venue that isn't generally a major player at such events. (One odd glitch: Goold getting wrong the name of the theatre at which Enron is currently playing...) 

The result made for an entertaining night, not least by comparison with the Oscars of this world, which are so endlessly chewed over and analysed in advance that they seem to have been drained of all spontaneity by the time you get to the thing itself. Not so at an Olivier ceremony that saw two Welshman in their early 20s - Aneurin Barnard and Iwan Rheon - take the musical performance prizes for Spring Awakening and Samantha Spiro make it two for two in the musical actress category, having won previously nine years ago for Merrily We Roll Along at the Donmar.

Nor could one accuse the Olivier panel of anything resembling xenophobia at a ceremony that found Rylance starting his exceedingly eloquent acceptance speech with a nod in the direction of fellow nominee James Earl Jones and at which the Jones-led revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof bested the likes of Arcadia to take the prize for revival of a play. Does anyone outside of the industry types packing out the capacious, if stiflingly hot, Great Room care where the event was held? More, perhaps, than may have been allowed to care in the past, due to live streaming of proceedings this year on the Internet, so that nervous American producers could check how their various Broadway-bound ventures were faring. (The Mountaintop, due on Broadway in the autumn, will of course gain exponentially in exposure from this particular prize.)

"I'm in absolute shock," Mountaintop producer Marla Rubin told me following the ceremony, while playwright Hall remarked that she had arrived in London the previous morning and gone directly to back-to-back performances of Enron and Jerusalem (and was planning to see Jerusalem a second time before returning to New York). Fed an all but ceaseless diet back home of gong-giving extravaganzas of relentless predictability, those Americans in attendance at this year's Oliviers would do well to acquaint themselves with the one lasting verity of this ceremony in the quarter-century or so that I've been following it. At the Oliviers, anything can happen. In other words, if you're nominated, prepare a speech.

Oliviers_Rojo_c_charlie_hopkinsonISMENE BROWN adds: Awards in dance have a way to catch up with the prestige, consistency and commercial importance of an Olivier in the theatre world, and the variance between the South Bank Show Awards, the National Dance Awards, the long-established Theatrical Management Association Awards and the Oliviers has much to do with the difference in the selection of judges, their obligation (or not) to rectify the ingrained London bias, and their highly varying exposure of what goes on in British dance.

The National Dance Awards perm a wide pan-national panel of often limited views, the TMA awards are deliberately non-London, which means that a London studio production favoured by the metropolitan crop of Olivier judges will bypass their radar.

But the Olivier gong for Best New Dance Production to the Brandstrup-Rojo production, Goldberg, in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre last year certainly strikes me as a more interesting preference than the South Bank Show’s selection of David Bintley’s e=mc2 for Birmingham Royal Ballet. (Right: Tamara Rojo, photo by Charlie Hodgkinson.) The Bintley was also on the Olivier nomination list and deserved kudos for its ambition - using a big orchestral piece by the Australian composer Matthew Hindson - but it lacked the enticing theatrical and filmic inventiveness of the Brandstrup piece, which really did feel like a step forward for dance theatre.

In fact, there already was a superior science-inspired ballet this year at Rambert, which got the Outstanding Achievement prize for its year’s repertoire. This is a pretty good alternative recognition for Mark Baldwin’s Darwin-influencd Comedy of Change, which had Julian Anderson’s magnificent commissioned score to add to its considerable intrigue and fluency.

Actually, as far as repertoire goes Rambert have had a vertiginously up-and-down year, in my view, and the Outstanding Achievement award I’d have given to the great lighting designer Michael Hulls, whose wizardry has poured magic over Sylvie Guillem, Russell Maliphant, Jonathan Burrows and Javier de Frutos’s Cattle Call, among many other blessed stages. Lighting is too rarely celebrated as as much a transforming part of the dance stage as the music.

  • Best Lighting Design: BURNT BY THE SUN designed by Mark Henderson at the National Theatre, Lyttelton
  • Best Sound Design: SPRING AWAKENING designed by Brian Ronan at the Novello theatre
  • Best Costume Design: PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT – THE MUSICAL designed by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner at the Palace theatre
  • Best Set Design: JERUSALEM designed by Ultz at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs and now at the Apollo theatre
  • Best New Comedy: THE PRIORY by Michael Wynne at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
  • Best Theatre Choreographer: Stephen Mear for HELLO DOLLY! at the Open Air theatre
  • Outstanding Achievement in Dance: Rambert Dance Company for an outstanding year of new work
  • Best New Dance Production: The Brandstrup-Rojo project’s GOLDBERG at the Royal Opera House
  • Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre: The Royal Court for COCK at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Ruth Wilson for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE at the Donmar Warehouse
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Eddie Redmayne for RED at the Donmar Warehouse
  • Best Actress: Rachel Weisz for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE at the Donmar Warehouse
  • Best Actor: Mark Rylance for JERUSALEM at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs and now at the Apollo
  • Audience Award for Most Popular Show (as voted for by the users of music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman at the Apollo Victoria theatre
  • Best Revival: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF directed by Debbie Allen at the Novello theatre
  • Best New Opera Production: The Royal Opera’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE at the Royal Opera House
  • Best Supporting Performance in a Musical or Entertainment: Iwan Rheon for SPRING AWAKENING at the Novello theatre
  • Best Actress in a Musical or Entertainment: Samantha Spiro for HELLO DOLLY! at the Open Air theatre
  • Best Actor in a Musical or Entertainment: Aneurin Barnard for SPRING AWAKENING at the Novello theatre
  • Best Entertainment: MORECAMBE by Tim Whitnall, at the Duchess theatre
  • Best Musical Revival: HELLO DOLLY! book by Michael Stewart, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, based on the play The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, at the Open Air theatre
  • Outstanding Achievement: Michael Codron
  • Best New Play: THE MOUNTAINTOP by Katori Hall at Trafalgar Studio 1
  • Best Director: Rupert Goold for ENRON at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs and now at the Noël Coward theatre
  • Best New Musical: SPRING AWAKENING music by Duncan Sheik, book and lyrics by Steven Sater, based on the play by Frank Wedekind, at the Novello theatre
  • Special Award: Maggie Smith

The official Olivier Awards website

The result made for an entertaining night, not least by comparison with the Oscars of this world

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