National takes honours at Olivier stage awards: Theatre picks up 10 'Larrys' as West End is eclipsed. David Lister reports

THE National Theatre had a remarkable night of triumph yesterday at the Olivier awards - the premier awards for London theatre - with the commercial West End barely getting a look in.

The National's rediscovery of a neglected 1920s American feminist play, Machinal by Sophie Treadwell, won four awards in the ceremony at the Palladium. Fiona Shaw's poignant and compelling performance won her best actress; Stephen Daldry was named best director; the play was best revival; and Rick Fisher won the award for best lighting.

The musical Sweeney Todd, also presented at the National, won four awards: best musical revival, best director for Declan Donnellan, best actress in a musical for Julia McKenzie and best actor in a musical for Alun Armstrong. To add to the theatre's success, Tom Stoppard's Arcadia was named best play and Joseph Mydell won best supporting actor for his role in Perestroika.

In the West End, the producer Thelma Holt's brave decision to stage Much Ado About Nothing was rewarded when Mark Rylance won the best actor award; Griff Rhys Jones won the award for best comedy performance for An Absolute Turkey; A Christmas Carol, adapted and staged by Patrick Stewart, was voted best entertainment.

In the best musical category there was disappointment for Andrew Lloyd Webber whose latest effort, Sunset Boulevard, which re- opens with a new staging this week, was beaten by the witty American show, City of Angels. Ironically the latter had to close early because of poor ticket sales.

Among the other awards, Terry Johnson's Hysteria was best comedy, Helen Burns was best supporting actress for The Last Yankee, and Sara Kestelman best supporting actress in a musical for Cabaret.

Outstanding achievement in opera went to the orchestra of the English National Opera, while the outstanding achievement in dance award went to the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. Best new opera production was The Damnation of Faust; best new dance production was Birmingham Royal Ballet's Choreartium.

(Photograph omitted)

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