Judi Dench honoured for 'doing job I adore'

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Dame Judi Dench was honoured with a special award for her outstanding contribution to British theatre yesterday.

Dame Judi Dench was honoured with a special award for her outstanding contribution to British theatre yesterday.

The Oscar-winning actress, who has enjoyed an acclaimed stage career spanning nearly 50 years, picked up the prize at the Evening Standard theatre awards in London. The audience gave her a standing ovation as she took the stage.

"I've only been given this award for 47 years of doing a job that I absolutely adore," she said. "I didn't set out to be an actress but I changed my mind and I couldn't be more pleased that I did."

A second special award, handed out to mark the 50th anniversary of the ceremony, went to playwright Harold Pinter.

Pinter, whose plays include Old Times and The Birthday Party, accepted his award from Sir Peter Hall.

He told the audience: "When The Birthday Party first opened in London 46 years ago, it was slaughtered by the critics and it came off in a week. "But in the early new year I'm happy to say that rehearsals will start for the fourth revival in London. So not only is this award very gratifying in itself, it is also gratifying in terms of its timing."

Richard Griffiths caused a brief scare when he fell on stage as he went up to accept the best actor award.

Griffiths, known to a new generation as Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter movies, took several moments to be helped to his feet by presenter Dame Diana Rigg and host Rory Bremner. The portly actor joked: "It's because I can't see my feet."

Griffiths won the award for his role as a teacher in Alan Bennett's play The History Boys.

Victoria Hamilton won the best actress prize for Tennessee Williams's Suddenly Last Summer.

The West End production of The Producers took the prize for best musical. Its stars, Nathan Lane and Lee Evans, were there to collect their award. Lane joined the cast as a late replacement for Richard Dreyfuss.

The History Boys won best play while best director went to Rufus Norris for Festen.

The outstanding newcomer award was given to Eddie Redmayne for his performance in The Goat. It was presented by Kim Cattrall, who confessed to nerves at making her West End debut next month. She said: "As a newcomer to London and to the West End, I'm particularly excited and pleased to be here today."

LONDON THEATRE AWARDS

  • Best play: The History Boys by Alan Bennett
  • Best actor: Richard Griffiths, The History Boys
  • Best actress: Victoria Hamilton, Suddenly Last Summer
  • Best musical: The Producers
  • Best director: Rufus Norris, Festen
  • Best design: Festen
  • Outstanding newcomer: Eddie Redmayne, The Goat
  • Charles Wintour bursary for new playwriting (worth £30,000) - Owen McCafferty, Scenes From The Big Picture

Special awards:

  • Performer: Dame Judi Dench
  • Playwright: Harold Pinter
  • Institution: The National Theatre

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