Matilda musical takes record haul at the Oliviers

  • @MrNickClark

Matilda the Musical dominated UK theatre's most prestigious awards ceremony last night as the adaptation of Roald Dahl's book picked up a record seven Olivier Awards.

The sell-out show of the little girl who stands up to her bullying parents and headmistress overtook the previous record holder, Nicholas Nickleby, which won six in 1980.

Matilda, which is staged at London's Cambridge Theatre, has already won four awards for best musical and made it five last night. Writer Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin, who wrote the music and lyrics, picked up the award.

Minchin said: "The whole thing has been an absolute joy. I didn't expect to get this many awards. I was thrilled to see people who get less of the recognition be honoured."

"We had an incredible source text and the Royal Shakespeare Company took some really incredible risks," he said. "I think it's a victory for risk."

He said the company knew it had something special from the opening. The four young stars playing the lead – Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Sophia Kiely and Eleanor Worthington-Cox – won a combined award for best actress in a musical.

Cleo said: "It feels amazing." She added that the appeal of the show was that many people "wouldn't think a child would be such a strong singer and actor". Sophia said the show had sadness and comedy and "a lot of other stuff as well".

All the girls are between the ages of 10 and 12 and Eleanor is the youngest ever winner of an Olivier Award. Six years ago the Billy Elliots, who were aged between 13 and 15, won a combined best actor in a musical award.

Eleanor said: "That's pretty cool and scary. I hope the next person to follow in my footsteps feel as honoured as I do."

Bertie Carvel, who plays the headmistress Miss Trunchbull, won best actor in a musical. He said: "I'm proud of my part in it, I'm proud of every part of it." He said the Matildas "are incredible, just amazing. It's like a Hamlet role, you can see them grow into it".

Matilda's Matthew Warchus won best director, picking his award up from James Earl Jones in New York. The play, which was nominated for 10 categories at the Olivier Awards, is set to open on Broadway next year.

The best actor was also a combined award, handed to Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller for their alternating roles of Dr Frankenstein and his creature in Frankenstein at the National Theatre. It marked the first time either had won an Olivier Award, although they had picked up the best actor award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

Cumberbatch was not at the award ceremony, but after accepting the statuette, Lee Miller said he was "humbled". He said the dual role was "unique and very wonderful, especially to share your ideas with another great actor".

The 36th Olivier Awards, held at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden attracted stars including Zach Braff, James McAvoy and Sir Patrick Stewart.