The last time Helen Mirren portrayed the Queen she was rewarded with an Oscar and a Bafta award. After returning to the role on stage she has also been crowned with British theatre’s top acting award.
Dame Helen won best actress for her role as the Queen in The Audience at the 2013 Olivier Awards at London’s Royal Opera House on Sunday night.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was the most successful production on the night, matching the record haul of seven awards taken by Matilda the Musical last year, prompting the director to say the cast and crew would “party a lot”.
In her acceptance speech, Dame Helen referenced the Queen’s recent honorary Bafta for a lifetime of support of British film and television and said: “The Queen has already won a Bafta this year, I think she’s going to be thrilled with an Olivier Award as well.”
She continued: “She deserves one for the most consistent and committed performance of the 20th century and probably the 21st.”
Dame Helen had been nominated for the best actress award at the Oliviers three times before, including for Anthony and Cleopatra in 1983, but never previously won. She said the award was not because she was the best actress, but: “I think it is a reflection of the respect the Queen is held in.”
Her Oscar and Bafta awards came in 2007 for The Queen, also penned by The Audience writer Peter Morgan.
Richard McCabe, who played Prime Minister Harold Wilson at the show, currently playing at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End, won best supporting actor. He called Dame Helen “extraordinary”.
“She’s an absolute joy, she’s a truly great actress,” he added. “It’s important for an actor to be quite fearless and she is.”
He revealed that members of the royal family had come to see the play incognito, and one even suggested tweaks to the play.
A year after Matilda the Musical took Theatreland’s most prestigious awards by storm with a record haul of prizes, another book adaptation matched it this year.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time also won seven Olivier awards, including best new play and best actor for Luke Treadaway. He said: “I can’t believe it, I’m so surprised. Everyone I was nominated with are incredible actors. I’ve enjoyed watching their performances in many things over the years.”
Treadaway beat the heavily favoured Mark Rylance, twice winner of the award, as well as film and television stars James McAvoy, Rupert Everett and Rafe Spall.
The Curious Incident, an adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel, played at the National Theatre before transferring to the West End. “It felt like we knuckled down at the National Theatre last year and created something really special,” Treadaway said.
He attributed the show’s success to “the funding it receives and the fact that it’s subsidised theatre. It’s being able to create a chance to experiment and create new works. Not everything is being done for ticket sales,” before adding: “I hope the arts funding continues in a good supportive way otherwise shows like this wouldn’t happen.”
Mariannne Elliott won best director, beating Stephen Daldry, who directed The Audience. She agreed saying this and her show War Horse “could not have been done anywhere but a properly subsidised theatre”.
The play also won awards for lighting, set design and sound. Nicola Walker, who was named best supporting actress, said she had not won anything since a swimming badge at school. “The play was completely different from anything any of us had done.”
She predicted big things for the show’s star Treadaway. “He’s phenomenally talented, he’s enthusiastic in rehearsals, he’s hard working,” adding: “He’s an astonishing actor.”
Sweeney Todd won the award for best musical revival and its two stars Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton won best actor and best actress in a musical. The best new musical was awarded to Top Hat.
Other awards included Long Day’s Journey Into Night as best revival, while Einstein on the Beach was best new opera production.
Marianela Nunez, a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet who won best female dancer at the National Dance Awards earlier this year, won an Olivier for outstanding achievement in dance.