From a play without a venue to a first for the Olivier Awards

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Katori Hall becomes first black writer to triumph in best new play category

Katori Hall, a black female playwright, made theatre history last night when she picked up a Laurence Olivier Award for The Moutaintop, which was initially staged in a 65-seat London theatre after she failed to find a venue in America.

Until now, no non-white playwright had won an Olivier in the best new play category – previously claimed by the likes of Alan Bennett for The History Boys and Nicholas Wright for Vincent in Brixton.

Ms Hall, 28, an American, brought her play to London after struggling to find a theatre willing to stage it in the US. She finally found a home for The Mountaintop, about Martin Luther King's last night alive, in Theatre 503, in Battersea, London, where it premiered to critical acclaim. After a sell-out run at Theatre 503, it was transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End. The production was directed by James Dacre and starred David Harewood and Lorraine Burroughs. Harewood was nominated for best actor in the Evening Standard Awards and Burroughs for best actress in the Oliviers.

Nica Burns, the president of the Society of London Theatre, commended Ms Hall on her persistence. "No one in New York would show it so she brought it to London and it filled all 65 seats at the theatre in Battersea. Sonia Friedman (the West End theatre producer) saw it there and decided to take it to Trafalgar Studios, and now she's taking it to Broadway," said Ms Burns.

Set in a Memphis motel room on the eve of King's assassination, the play evokes the ordinary, everyday side of the man whose character has been obscured by myth. King, played by Harewood, has just finished addressing a civil rights audience of 2,000, and is worried about the fact that his feet smell and frustrated to find he doesn't have a toothbrush. He is ravaged by doubt, both about his political purpose and about whether he should shave off his trademark moustache.

Another historical landmark was reached when the revival of Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof claimed the best revival at the Olivier's. The play, written for a white cast but performed, at the Novello Theatre, with an all black cast, had a black producer – Stephen Byrd – again, the first non-white to win the accolade.

Rachel Weisz won the prize for best actress although her fellow Briton-in-Hollywood, Keira Knightley, missed out on an Olivier for her supporting role in Moliere's The Misanthrope. The far more seasoned theatre actress, Ruth Wilson, claimed that award for her part in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Theatre.

The plays Jerusalem, and Enron were both – unsurprisingly – recognised in the awards. Both productions, which started out at the Royal Court, and have since transferred to the West End, have featured prominently as winners in the Critics Circle and the Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

Rupert Goold picked up the best director prize for Enron, now playing at the Noel Coward Theatre, while Mark Rylance was named best actor for his role as Johnny "Rooster' Byron in Jerusalem, now at the Apollo. The play, written by Jez Butterworth, was also honoured for best set design.

Another two productions from the Royal Court – The Priory and Cock – won prizes for best new comedy, and outstanding achievement in an affiliate theatre (the Royal Court's Jerwood space), confirming its renaissance as a place of new writing excellence.

Winners were chosen by a public and professional panel of judges.

Olivier Awards The winners

*Best Actress: Rachel Weisz, 'A Streetcar Named Desire'



*Best Actor: Mark Rylance, 'Jerusalem'



*Best supporting actress: Ruth Wilson, 'A Streetcar Named Desire'



*Best supporting actor: Eddie Redmayne, 'Red'



*Best new play: 'The Mountaintop' by Katori Hall



*Best new comedy: The Priory' by Michael Wynne



*Best musical revival: 'Hello Dolly!'



*Best new musical: 'Spring Awakening'

*Best entertainment: 'Morecambe' by Tim Whitnall



*Best actress in a musical or entertainment: Samantha Spiro, 'Hello Dolly!'



*Best actor in a musical or entertainment: Aneurin Barnard, 'Spring Awakening'



*Best supporting performance in a musical or entertainment: Iwan Rheon, 'Spring Awakening'



*Best director: Rupert Goold, 'Enron'



*Best revival: 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'



*Outstanding achievemnet: Michael Codron

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week