West End set to beat outsiders at the Olivier awards
Jury change favours mainstream shows at expense of independents
Susie Mesure writes interviews, news and features for the Independent on Sunday, Independent and i, and has done for the last ten years or so give or take two lengthy maternity leaves. She is interested in just about any topic, especially anything Scandinavian, food, or consumer-orientated, and used to be the Independent’s Retail Correspondent
Sunday 28 April 2013
As Helen Mirren and Kristin Scott Thomas settle into their seats at the Royal Opera House in London tonight, they might look warily over their shoulders, for trouble is afoot at theatreland's prestigious Olivier awards.
The casts and producers of smaller shows are angered by changes to the judging panel that they fear will sideline them in favour of the West End's commercial goliaths.
Critics are questioning the likely outcome of tonight's ceremony, hosted by Sheridan Smith and Hugh Bonneville, and the first in a decade to be televised. Low-budget productions have traditionally fared well at the Oliviers – most spectacularly so three years ago when favourites Jerusalem and Enron were overtaken in the race for the coveted Best New Play award by Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, about the last hours of Martin Luther King.
This year, however, the jury of nine has been dramatically expanded to include 153 theatre owners and producers, prompting accusations that judges will favour their own productions and also lobby their friends.
Mark Rubinstein, president of the Society of London Theatre, said: "There's no doubt that people will vote for their own shows, but I think that will be blended out."
Mark Shenton, theatre critic of The Stage, cautioned that although some changes were welcome – such as returning the Oliviers to television – the independence of the judging panel had been compromised. "The awards will be inevitably weighted more towards commercially stronger shows over artistically strong ones," he said.
Mirren is among the favourites to secure the Best Actress award for her latest turn as the Queen in The Audience, which is also up for Best Play and Best Director (Stephen Daldry). She is up against Scott Thomas in Old Times, Billie Piper in The Effect and Hattie Morahan, for her Nora in A Doll's House, which has already won Evening Standard and Critics' Circle awards.
Theatre commentators warned that the jury changes mean not everyone in the voting pool will have seen all of the shows they vote on.
Terri Paddock, the managing director of Whatsonstage.com, which runs its own awards show based on votes from the public, predicted that there will now be fewer opportunities for surprise winners.
"Commercial West End shows were always the poorer cousin in the Olivier awards," she said. "That's going to change."
Mr Rubinstein defended the changes, saying that they brought the Oliviers into line with other major awards such as the Baftas, the New York-based Tonys and Hollywood's Oscars. He said the body wanted "the expertise" that would come from letting each of the society's members vote.
"Our advice was that people shouldn't vote in categories where they haven't seen all of the nominees," he said, adding that members had abstained in places.
The nominees for Best Actor are James McAvoy for Macbeth, Rupert Everett in The Judas Kiss, Luke Treadaway in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Rylance for Twelfth Night, and Rafe Spall for Constellations.
filmIn Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
- 2 Shia LaBeouf claims he was raped during #IAMSORRY art installation performance
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer: What we know about JJ Abrams' film
Exodus Gods and Kings casting controversy: Ridley Scott would never cast 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
David Cameron sets out immigration reforms: We should distrust Ukip and their 'snake-oil of simple solutions'