Olivier Awards 2014: Chimerica the big winner on UK theatre's big night

 

Arts Correspondent

The hit play about a photographer’s search for the Tiananmen Square “tank man” was the big winner at the most prestigious awards ceremony of the UK’s theatre calendar.

Chimerica, which had a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre before transferring to the West End, landed five awards at the 38th Oliver Awards last night, including best new play.

Olivier Awards: Winners list in full

Blockbuster American show The Book of Mormon dominated the musical categories, winning four awards including best new musical.

Chimerica, the play written by Lucy Kirkwood, secured the best director award for Lyndsey Turner and best set design for ES Devlin. The production also shared the lighting design and sound awards.

Ms Turner hailed the “dedication of the crew and as talented and heroic a bunch of actors that it has ever been my privilege to work with”.

The fictional story follows photographer Joe Schofield to discover the lone protester who stood in front of the tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square in 1989. The title refers to China and America and the play deals with broader themes to do with the relationship between the two superpowers.

 

It was a big night for the Almeida, as another of the north London theatre’s transfers Ghosts, won three Oliviers including best revival and star Lesley Manville was awarded best actress. Jack Lowden won best actor in a supporting role.

Ms Manville said: “I’m completely and utterly over the moon; I’m fizzing with delight.” She hailed the Almeida saying: “Subsidised theatre by its very nature can take risks, and the Almeida does that brilliantly.”

Richard Eyre, the director of Ghosts who also wrote the adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play, said: “I distilled the original play; I didn’t consciously try and update it. I tried to find a language for it that was not stuck in the 19th century,” adding: “It’s just a staggering piece of writing.”

The best actor was awarded to Rory Kinnear, for his portrayal as Iago in the National Theatre’s production of Othello. He shared the Evening Standard Theatre Award for best actor with his co-star Adrian Lester. Rory Kinnear, left, winner of Best Actor for 'Othello', and Lesley Manville, winner of Best Actress for 'Ghosts' Rory Kinnear, left, winner of Best Actor for 'Othello', and Lesley Manville, winner of Best Actress for 'Ghosts'

Mr Kinnear said: “Adrian brought the heart to it. Iago is the absence of heart and Othello has to jump off the top of the mountain to the dark pit at the bottom. Iago is thrashing around there from the beginning.”

The two outgoing heads of the National, Sir Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr were also handed a special award after more than a decade in charge.

The Book of Mormon’s four awards included best actor for Gavin Creel and best supporting actor for Stephen Ashfield and best theatre choreographer for Casey Nicholaw.

The musical, written by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker and playing at the Prince of Wales Theatre, won nine Tony awards in the US and dominated the Whatsonsstage Awards.

The American religious satire was named the most in-demand ticket in London’s West End last year beating shows including The Lion King and Les Miserables.

Best actress in a musical went to Zrinka Cvitešić for Once, adapted from an independent film about two musicians, playing at the Phoenix Theatre.

The PG Wodehouse-inspired Jeeves & Wooster In Perfect Nonsense, starring Stephen Mangan and Matthew Macfadyen was awarded best new comedy.

The awards show was closed by a performance from ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus to mark 15 years of the musical Mamma Mia! which features the band’s music.

Last year’s awards were dominated by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time receiving a total of seven awards, equalling the record set the previous year by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda the Musical.

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