Olivier Awards 2023: winners in full
The 2023 Olivier Award winners in full, plus interviews with Jodie Comer, Marisha Wallace, My Neighbour Totoro's Tom Morton-Smith and more
My Neighbour Totoro was the big winner of the night, scooping up six awards including the Best Director award for Phelim McDermott and Best Set Design for Tom Pye.
Speaking to Culture Whisper outside the ceremony, playwright Tom Morton-Smith joked of adapting the beloved Studio Ghibli movie into a play: 'It's a joy and an honour to be allowed anywhere near it, to be honest. It's full of the mischief of the original film, but with our own quirky take on it in places so a British audience who might not know the film can recognise what it is.' My Neighbour Totoro is returning to the Barbican Theatre in November 2023, with tickets on sale from Tuesday 11 April.
Jodie Comer in Prima Facie. Photo: Helen Murray
It was also a night of recognition for Australian playwright Suzie Miller’s Prima Facie. It won the Olivier for Best New Play and the Best Actress award for its solo performer, Jodie Comer.
The Killing Eve star talked to Culture Whisper about making her West End debut after cutting her teeth on screen. 'It took me a while to embrace the fact each show is unique and each audience will have their own experience. Once I got used to that it was just so thrilling to realise [the play is] never really a final product and it can be so many different things.'
On the harrowing subject matter of Prima Facie, which sees Comer's character fight her way through a legal system stacked against rape victims, she added: 'It can be an incredibly difficult watch, but there can be such power when you hold a mirror up to society in that way, and force people to question their own experiences and behaviours.'
2023 OLIVIER AWARD WINNERS IN FULL
Best New Play
Prima Facie at Harold Pinter theatre
Best New Musical
Standing at the Sky’s Edge at National Theatre
Paul Mescal for A Streetcar Named Desire at Almeida theatre
Jodie Comer for Prima Facie at Harold Pinter theatre
Best Actor in a Musical
Arthur Darvill for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Young Vic
Best Actress in a Musical
Katie Brayben for Tammy Faye at Almeida theatre
Sir Peter Hall Award for Best Director
Phelim McDermott for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican theatre
Noël Coward award for best entertainment or comedy play
My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican theatre
Best Family Show
Hey Duggee: The Live Theatre Show at Royal Festival Hall
Gillian Lynne Award for Best Theatre Choreographer
Matt Cole for Newsies at Troubadour Wembley Park theatre
Best Costume Design
Kimie Nakano for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican theatre
A Streetcar Named Desire at Almeida theatre
Best Musical Revival
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Young Vic
Best Sound Design
Tony Gayle for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican theatre
Best original Score for New Orchestrations
Richard Hawley and Tom Deering for Standing at the Sky’s Edge at National Theatre
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Will Keen for Patriots at Almeida theatre
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Anjana Vasan for A Streetcar Named Desire at Almeida theatre
Best Set Design
Tom Pye for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican theatre
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Beverley Knight for Sylvia at the Old Vic
Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Zubin Varla for Tammy Faye at Almeida theatre
Best New Opera Production
Alcina by Royal Opera at Royal Opera House
Outstanding Achievement in an Opera
William Kentridge for his conception and direction of Sibyl at Barbican theatre
Best New Dance Production
Traplord by Ivan Michael Blackstock at 180 Studios (The Strand)
Outstanding Achievement in Dance
Dickson Mbi for his choreography of Enowate at Sadler’s Wells
Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre
The P Word at Bush theatre
Dame Arlene Phillips
Lifetime Achievement Award
Sir Derek Jacobi
The cast of Newsies. Photo: Johan Persson
Speaking to Matt Cole, winner of Best Theatre Choreographer for Newsies at Troubadour Wembley Park theatre, we suggested any production that sends its performers flying onto stage from a zip line above the auditorium is surely worthy of some recognition. 'We put [the cast] through their paces,' he laughed. 'It’s an extremely athletic show.' The Disney production is enjoying something of a fairytale run in Wembley. It was originally meant to play for 12 weeks, but having opened last November, it's booking until July 2023.
Marisha Wallace, who most recently made us whoop with her performance as wife-in-waiting Miss Adelaide in Nicholas Hytner's Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre, was reunited with her Oklahoma! cast members for the night. The show picked up the awards for Best Musical Revival and the Best Actor in a Musical award for Arthur Darvill. While Wallace didn't win the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award she was nominated for, she's conscious of her influence in putting some guts and feistiness into the part of Ado Annie. 'I've changed that role forever I think now,' the American actress told Culture Whisper.
Wallace also believes she has Oklahoma! to thank for landing Guys and Dolls. 'I feel like I had to get through Ado Annie to get to Adelaide. I learnt so much playing Ado… Women are real, they’re not caricatures. They’re vulnerable, they’re sexy, they’re strong, they’re weak, so to have a fully rounded woman represented on stage was amazing.' It was a tough call, though, leaving Oklahoma! before its West End run to take a punt on another production, but Wallace knew it was the right challenge. 'Adelaide scared me, so I knew that was the one I should do,' she said.
Marisha Wallace, James Davis and Greg Hicks in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at the Young Vic © Co-set Designer Laura Jellinek & Grace Laubacher, Costume Designer Terese Wadden, Lighting Designer Scott Zielinski, Projection Designer Joshua Thorson. Photo: Marc Brenner
Culture Whisper also spoke to Rose Ayling-Ellis about her trailblazing performance signing the part of Celia in director Josie Rourke’s As You Like It @sohoplace. ‘It’s difficult because it’s not easy to translate Shakespeare into modern English and that into sign language. We had to work out what that means,’ she said. In Ayling-Ellis's performance, audiences found new meaning in Celia's dependency in her cousin Rosalind. ‘It somehow fits in so well with Celia, as if she was deaf in the first place. Every single scene made sense.’
Waleed Akhtar's The P Word won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre this year – a category that saw Age Is a Feeling, Blackout Songs, Paradise Now! and Two Palestinians Go Dogging all nominated.
On receiving a nomination for her beautiful, life-affirming show Age is a Feeling – one of Culture Whisper's best plays of 2022 – writer-performer Haley McGee said: 'It feels amazing. I'm 37 and I’ve been working in the theatre since I was 21. I've never won anything or been nominated for it, so I got it in my head it's about making things and sharing them with people, and that’s the prize. Now I’m here, nominated.' The show has recently finished a second sold-out run at Soho Theatre, and McGee's plan is to continue touring it, 'but we're not sure what continent or when.'
The cast of For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy were also out to celebrate their joint nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role – the first time multiple performers have been nominated collectively for the award. The play opened in the West End last Friday, 31 March, following a critically acclaimed run at the Royal Court last year. They told us: '[The West End means] more seats and more people get to see the show. We’re teaching the audience mental health is so important and we’re doing the same as performers, looking after ourselves and our brotherhood.'