The Olivier Awards are seen, rightly or wrongly by the public, as the Oscars of London Theatre. Here's part 3 of the nominations in each category and who I'd like to see pick up the prizes.
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AN AFFILIATE THEATRE
Cuttin’ It at the Maria, Young Vic
The Government Inspector at Theatre Royal Stratford East
The Invisible Hand at Tricycle Theatre
It Is Easy To Be Dead at Trafalgar Studios 2
Rotterdam at Trafalgar Studios 2
The main controversy with the Olivier Awards is the concept of the "affiliate theatre". The awards were conceived as a marketing tool to celebrate productions in West End Theatres only. The trouble is that this excludes some of London’s powerhouse venues, notably The Almeida and the Royal Court so in order to gather enough nominations the spotlight is thrown elsewhere. My friend Neil McPherson wrote It Is Easy to be Dead, it was superb and it originated at my home venue, the Finborough, so because it’s such a dodgy category I'm going to allow myself the indulgence of championing that one.
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
Neil Austin for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Lee Curran for Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Natasha Katz for The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre
Hugh Vanstone for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic.
Neil Austin’s work was absolutely integral to magic, artistry and power of the once in a generation, soaring success of the Potter stage show for which he deserves this award.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Gregg Barnes for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre
Hugh Durrant for Cinderella at London Palladium
Rob Howell for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
Katrina Lindsay for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre.
Successful pantomime costumes require a particular blend of the witty and the spectacular to bring the shows to blistering and colourful life. It’s been years since this audience pleasing art form has been recognised in nominations for a prestigious award so I'm hoping Hugh Durrant picks up the prize for Cinderella.
BEST SET DESIGN
Bob Crowley for Disney’s Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre
Bob Crowley for The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre
Rob Howell for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
Christine Jones for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Bob Crowley seemed to be doing “Disney by Numbers” with the Aladdin set design and the full impact of his “floating” Glass Menagerie design was invisible from the stalls so I'm going to pick Rob Howell who turned the ordinary little town featured in Groundhog Day into a Christmassy delight without losing its heart and identity.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Anthony Boyle for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Freddie Fox for Travesties at the Apollo Theatre
Brian J. Smith for The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre
Rafe Spall for Hedda Gabler at the Lyttelton, National Theatre.
It’s Rafe Spall for me. Who could have predicted the role of the parasitic Judge Brack in Hedda Garbler could be infused with such dangerous, unnerving, sexual charisma.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Melissa Allan, Caroline Deyga, Kirsty Findlay, Karen Fishwick, Kirsty MacLaren, Frances Mayli McCann, Joanne McGuinness and Dawn Sievewright for Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour at the Dorfman, National Theatre
Noma Dumezweni for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Clare Foster for Travesties at the Apollo Theatre
Kate O’Flynn for The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre.
Kate O’Flynn gave one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen in the West End. As the painfully shy daughter in The Glass Menagerie the very air around her pulsated with despair and apology. The moments when she blossoms were heart stopping and although I’ve seen the play a million times before and know the ending I found myself on the edge of my seat willing the outcome to be different.
Ed Harris for Buried Child at Trafalgar Studios 1
Tom Hollander for Travesties at the Apollo Theatre
Ian McKellen for No Man’s Land at Wyndham’s Theatre
Jamie Parker for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre.
Ed Harris and Ian Mckellen were just doing their usual thing, with neither breaking much of a sweat, Jamie Parker deserves praise for rising above the Harry Potter machine to make any kind of an impact at all but reluctantly, because I hate the play, I’d give the prize to Tom Hollander for his herculean efforts in keeping the smug, annoying Travesties buoyant and getting more laughs than I'd have thought possible.
Glenda Jackson for King Lear at The Old Vic
Cherry Jones for The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre
Billie Piper for Yerma at the Young Vic
Ruth Wilson for Hedda Gabler at the Lyttelton, National Theatre.
If these awards are about celebrating the extraordinary this prize has to recognise Glenda Jackson's triumphant return to the stage, in her seventies, not in a safe supporting role but in a barnstorming, role defining interpretation of a male character. She blew away any considerations about gender-blind casting to simply deliver a captivating performance as King Lear that put her younger co-cast in the shade throughout.
Simon Stone for Yerma at the Young Vic
John Tiffany for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
John Tiffany for The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre
Matthew Warchus for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic.
It’s John Tiffany’s year (again). Everything that director touches seems to turn to gold and the Potter project was a tight rope from which he could have tumbled spectacularly but which he turned into another triumph. Warchus did a great job with Groundhog Day but Cursed Child was the directorial achievement of the year.
BEST NEW PLAY
Elegy at Donmar Warehouse
The Flick at the Dorfman, National Theatre
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
One Night In Miami… at Donmar Warehouse.
I'm all for supporting the underdog but it would be criminal if Cursed Child wasn’t acknowledged for the great fat, critical and box office success that it is. Not only meeting expectations but exceeding them on every level even under the penetrating scrutiny of avid Harry Potter fans.
BEST NEW MUSICAL
Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre
The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre
Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
School of Rock the Musical at the New London Theatre.
Groundhog Day. Absolutely. Dreamgirls isn’t new – it’s a tried and tested formula, The Girls and School of Rock are pleasant enough without taking many risks but Groundhog Day was an achievement which redefined how intelligent and innovative populist musical theatre can be.