Olivier Awards: Runners and Riders and Early Fallers

Last week the nominations for the Olivier Awards were revealed and if its place at the end of the long awards season means it is an unlikely place to find many surprises, the shortlist does provide potential of scope for eyebrow raising omissions. Most people in theatre – who don’t work for the RSC – will be mightily relived that the Matilda juggernaut is no longer crush all of the competition. Looking across the nominations, it seems impossible that anything will come close to the level of dominance that Matilda achieved. The leading contender, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, has eight nominations  and could conceivably end up with five awards given the excellent technical work underpinning the show.

As usual the subsidised sector leads the nominations but the private sector is not totally unrepresented. However the lasting impression of the shortlist is the absence of controversy and also the absence of anything that really stands out. For the first time in a number of year there doesn’t seem to be a new play that blew everyone away or a revival that places an actor at the very top of their game.

Thinking back through the last few Best Actor winners, the Mark Rylance of Twelve Night does not appear comparable to the Mark Rylance of Jerusalem. James McAvoy is good but not near the level of Chiwetel Ejiofor in the 2008 Othello.  Rupert Everett appears to be getting rave reviews in The Judas Tree and good easily be the dark horse in the pack for a play that continues to build an unstoppable momentum.

This year’s round-up takes its cue from the Oscars and includes a number of special awards dedicated to certain fields. So without further ado we have:

3243292_ratio1x1_width42The Day-Lewis Award:

This special award is made of cast-iron and essentially means that whether or not the judges have actually seen the play in question, they are duty bound to give the award to this actor. It’s cast-iron qualities means that its long-lasting and on receipt of one, you are more likely to come home with another in the future. Not to be mistaken for the Tomei Award, which is made of stone and causes your career to sink equally fast.

1d1ea3a837e3cfcc607da792eb69bc38_normalThe Deakins Award:

The Deakins is given to those who suffer from unrecognised brilliance. The ability to from award show to award show and be cast over due to the fact you are so darn good that people already think that you have won one. Unfortunately as a result you have never won an award. This award is for you.

ben-affleck-2013-64x64The Ben Affleck WTF Award:

So just because you star and direct something that goes on to win Best Film means you will at least get nominated right? I mean, you even went to the effort of growing a dashing, auteur beard for the occasion. Wrong, sucker. I mean they loved absolutely everything about the show, well, apart from the way it was directed and the main star was pretty irritating as well.

*Note: Apologies for the terribly boring formatting below. WordPress is still completely inept at handling tables. Or more possible is the fact that I am equally inept at handling tables in WordPress. Why you can’t just past from Word it keep the formatting is beyond me. God knows where the lines are. I can see the lines and then they disappear. *Sigh* Technology Fail.

Best Actor
James McAvoy


Mark Rylance

Twelfth Night

Rafe Spall


Luke Treadaway

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Rupert Everett

The Judas Kiss

As noted this doesn’t feel as much as gold star category as it has done in previous years. It is hard to look beyond a Rylance / Everett shoot-out for the win. Rafe Spall is good with a very difficult text but not stretched, McAvoy is the weaker of the two Shakespeare and Treadaway may just be a little young to take it from such established titans.
The Day-Lewis Award: No lock-in here, but I fancy the almost unrecognisable Rupert Everett against the gender-bending but still strangely recognisable Mark Rylance.

The Deakins Award: Again nothing stands out, probably Rupert Everett.

The Ben Affleck WTF Award: It is telling that I cannot think of a single person more deserving than these five. Maybe Christopher Ecclestone in Antigone but even that was slightly underwhelming

Best Actress
Helen Mirren

The Audience

Hattie Morahan

A Doll’s House

Billie Piper

The Effect

Kristin Scott Thomas

Old Times

If the men have not lived up to expectations then Michael Billington was able to find an almost entire shortlist of women who might have expected to be represented.It is hard to see (particularly after last years Cumberbatch / Lee-Miller double) how they could split Lia Williams and Kristin Scott-Thomas. However Hattie Morahan is so much of a lock for the Day-Lewis they might as well rename it the Morahan for next year.
The Day-Lewis Award: Hattie Morahan. That is all.

The Deakins Award: Since Kristin Scott-Thomas and Helen Mirren are already in the upper firmament of stars, they can hardly claim the Deakins. So again it must go to Morahan.

The Ben Affleck WTF Award: Lia Williams for sure. But also how there is no space for Harriet Walter in the Donmar’s Julius Caesar is absolutely outrageous – for me the stand-out female performance of the year without question. Also, given Rafe’s nomination, Sally Hawkins may feel a little hard done-by not to get a look in.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Paul ChahidiTwelfth Night

Richard McCabe

The Audience

Adrian Scarborough

Hedda Gabler

Kyle Soller

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

For this I campaign on an anyone but ‘Kyle’ ticket. Having given total support for his emergence after The Young Vic’s The Glass Menagerie a volte-face is in operation after watching this car crash of a show. Strangely beloved by critics, no-one I went with could comprehend why such a stiflingly long and boring production could have had everyone in such raptures.
The Day-Lewis Award: Richard McCabe – because we love a Peter Morgan play and Helen Mirren won’t win.

The Deakins Award: Paul Chahidi – if only that someone wins who isn’t Kyle Soller.

The Ben Affleck WTF Award: Reversing it for this award – Kyle Soller, really? (Fine actor, just not in this).

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Janie DeeNSFW

Anastasia Hille

The Effect

Cush Jumbo

Julius Caesar

Helen McCrory

The Last Of The Haussmans

Nicola Walker

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Having not seen any of these performances bar Cush Jumbo it is difficult to provide a fair judgement.  All were well received and again are, if anything, stronger than their male counterparts.
The Day-Lewis Award: In a strongly contested field Helen McCrory may edge it due to the intergenerational vote-grabbing of The Last Of The Haussmans .

The Deakins Award: Pass.

The Ben Affleck WTF Award: Linda Bassett in People. I thought as far as Supporting Parts are concerned this was the kind of scene-stealing performance in a populist play that is guaranteed a nomination. Surprised to see People miss out across the board.

MasterCard Best New Play 
ConstellationsThe AudienceThe Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-TimeThis House Well a win for Constellations would be a final feather in the cap for what has been an obscenely successful year for the 29-yr old playwright, Nick Payne.However this may prove a bridge to far and whilst I hope that an adaptation won’t win, I think the sheer complexity and vision of This House will see it through.
The Day-Lewis Award: This House. Not without flaws but you have to admire the vision.

The Deakins Award: Constellations. A play that shows a deeply complex topic can sell-out the West End.

The Ben Affleck WTF Award: The Effect. Lucy Prebble’s follow-up to ENRON was one of the most anticipated of the year and sold-out almost instantly. Despite picking up two acting nominations, it has been snubbed for new play and best director. Ouch.

Best Director
Stephen DaldryThe Audience

Marianne Elliott

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Jeremy Herrin

This House

Simon McBurney

The Master And Margarita

Stephen Daldry’s return to the stage can be met with a significant yawn; The Audience proving to be a rather bland affair given the previous vehicles that Peter Morgan has found for Dame Mirren.The other three are technically complex in varying ways. McBurney deserves great credit for bring Bulgakov’s masterpiece to the stage with some degree of coherence.Herrin’s This House is remarkable for the way it gels such difficult material and Marianne Elliott combines visuals with superb performances from the leads.
The Day-Lewis Award: Marianne Elliott. The only director to get both visual and acting nominations for the play.

The Deakins Award: Marianne Elliott. For the above reason.

The Ben Affleck WTF Award: Rupert Goold, like Lucy Prebble, must be feeling somewhat aggrieved by the nominations. Still he does get to be Artistic Director at the Almeida, so there’s always that.

Best Actor in a Musical
Michael Ball – Sweeney Todd
Alex Bourne – Kiss Me, Kate
Tom Chambers – Top Hat
Will Young – Cabaret
 Michael Ball has this locked in. He has won pretty much everything going and a better Mr Todd in a better production it is hard to imagine.
Best Actress in a Musical
Heather Headley – The Bodyguard
Imelda Staunton – Sweeney Todd
Summer Strallen – Top Hat
Hannah Waddingham – Kiss Me, Kate
Until seeing Kiss Me, Kate then I would have put the house on Imelda Staunton helping Sondheim sweep the board. However Hannah Waddingham’s performance is sunshine in an otherwise cloudy production and is most deserving of the win.
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Adam Garcia – Kiss Me, Kate
Debbie Kurup – The Bodyguard
Siân Phillips – Cabaret
Leigh Zimmerman – A Chorus Line
 Having only seen Adam Garcia, all I know about this is that Adam Garcia surely can’t win. There must have been something better. My money goes on A Chorus Line.
Best New Musical
Soul Sister
The Bodyguard
Top Hat
Christ, best new musical includes a remake of a woeful 1990’s film with one massive song, and (how is this anything but technically not a revival) of the 1935 classic with Fred ‘n Ginger.For that reason hopefully the flop Loserville will win it.
Best Revival
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Old Times
Twelfth Night
I suspect that Long Day’s Journey Into Night will win. It sends a cold shiver down my spine but I think it will. Any of the others are more deserving but lets face it Macbeth and Twelfth Night are revived every other bloody year.
Best Musical Revival
A Chorus Line
Kiss Me, Kate
Sweeney Todd
  Sweeney Todd. The Day-Lewis Award for certainty.
Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre
Caroline Horton for You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy at the Bush theatre
The production of Red Velvet at the Tricycle theatre
The season of new writing at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court theatre
Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd for You Me Bum Bum Train, presented by Theatre Royal Stratford East
The usual suspects are deservedly well-represented here. The Royal Court with its normal stellar seasons, the Bush gets a nod and its nice to see Jerwood recognised.Hopefully the Tricylce will win but I have a fear that You Me Bum Bum Train may get the prize and even worse fear that it may encourage others to follow in its footsteps.

Olivier Awards 2012…and the winners are…

Tomorrow night sees the stars of the stage descend upon the Royal Opera House for what is arguably the biggest night in England’s (or perhaps more contentiously given the list of nominees – London’s) theatre world: the Laurence Olivier Awards. It will be possible to watch the event live via the red button on the BBC, or listen to Radio 2, from 19:30.

As is often the case the list of nominees make for interesting reading and arguably casts a brighter light on the theatre scene than the list of those who actually win. Rather than going through the complete list of the  runners and riders, a quick glance across the categories does raise some interesting talking points.

8 Key Questions

  1. In what can only be seen as a damning indictment of the non-subsidised West End stomach for risk-taking, the only nominated new play that premièred outside of the subsidised sector was an adaptation of the most famous of all Ealing comedies. Whilst well-received by the critics, is it not possible for a playwright to be allowed to stage new work in the West End (special exemptions for famous Hollywood actor/writers not withstanding)?
  2. Is it a thin year dramatically? Even the revivals don’t seem to have their usual vim. Hopefully Anna Christie will be recognised for its fine work and it will be up against a strong revival of Rattigan’s Flare Path; a playwright very much in vogue.  However Noises Off seems to be a rather populist choice when you consider the fine year the Donmar had with the rarely performed and excellently executed ‘Inadmissable Evidence’ directly following Anna Christie.
  3. Will London Road be able to withstand the Matilda charge? It lost out to populism at the Evening Standard Awards, and whilst Matilda is a fine and deserving winner in its own right isn’t it time that London Road was recognised for the stunningly brave and unique production it is (and for those who missed it first time, it is coming back to the Olivier this summer – a portent perhaps?)
  4. Can the Sheridan Smith success story continue? Everyone’s favourite 2 Pints of Lager…breakout star is up for a fairly unique double; after picking up Best Musical Actress at the first time of asking for Legally Blonde, Ms Smith will be hoping to make it two in two years for her fine performance in Flare Path. However competition is tough in a category that also includes Mark Addy, Bryony Hannah and Johnny Flynn; all of whom should be regarded as excellent contenders in their own right.
  5. Just how many can Matilda win? The remarkable story continues and you don’t fancy anyone coming up against them. Best new musical to edge out London Road? Bertie Cavill is surely a lock-in for Best Actor Musical. Does anyone have the heart to deny the Matilda’s their moment as Best Actress Musical? Paul Kaye could be on shakier ground as he is up against Katherine Kingsley’s Lina Lamont – a scene-stealing role if  ever there was one. And after all that there is a raft of technical awards that someone has to win.
  6. The Best Actress/Best Actor awards seem totally up for grabs. Desperately hope that the double-header Cumberbatch/Lee Miller is overlooked as Frankenstein wasn’t that great.  My personal preference would be a Ruth Wilson/Jude Law double for Anna Christie. However Douglas Hodge in Inadmissible Evidence would be a worth winner.
  7. What is the point, I mean really, what is the point of the BBC Radio 2 Oliver Audience Award when you have to chose between Jersey Boys /  Wicked / Les Freakin  Mis and Billy Elliot? How about giving us a write-in winner?
  8. How much more alive does theatre feel when you look at the nominees in Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre? Mogadishu and Roadkill could have been strong contenders in the main categories but here they feel punted to the sidelines.

And finally good luck to all the nominees.

Laurence Oliver Awards 2012