Winning an Oscar was the easy part. Mark Rylance has now been thrust into a titanic Olivier awards battle with the British stage’s finest actors.
Hours after claiming his Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, Rylance received a best actor nomination at the London theatre awards, pitting him against Benedict Cumberbatch, Kenneth Branagh, Adrian Lester and Kenneth Cranham.
Rylance, twice an Olivier winner, was recognised for his role as King Philippe V of Spain in Farinelli and the King, the Shakespeare's Globe production, which was nominated for six awards including best new play.
Rylance competes against Cumberbatch’s Hamlet, which brought screaming fans to the Barbican Theatre and Branagh for his Leontes in The Winter’s Tale mounted at the Garrick Theatre by the actor’s own company. Lester is nominated for Red Velvet and Cranham for The Father.
The nominees for best actress are Gemma Arterton, Denise Gough, Janet McTeer, Lia Williams and Nicole Kidman, who made a triumphant return to the West End as overlooked DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin in Photograph 51.
Productions of Gypsy and Kinky Boots led the field with eight and seven nominations respectively. Imelda Staunton was nominated for her lead role in Gypsy whilst Dame Judi Dench received a Best Supporting Actress nod for The Winter’s Tale.
Stage shows adapted from hit British films appears an increasingly fruitful route for West End success. Kinky Boots, with songs written by Cyndi Lauper, will battle Bend It Like Beckham and Mrs Henderson Presents in the Best New Musical category.
Lauren Samuels, who plays Jules in Bend It Like Beckham, said: “People turned their nose up at movies turned into musicals at first but as long as you get the right essence it works really well. We’ve stayed true to the movie but added songs which have heightened the emotion.” Bend It Like Beckham will close this weekend but the show is now set to go on tour.
Michael Ball, the musical theatre performer who will present the 40th Olivier awards on April 3, said the nominations demonstrated that London theatre was in a healthy state. “There are great new writers and thrilling new plays. Some years they haven’t been sufficient entries for a best new comedy award,” he said. “There are more tickets sold in the theatre than for Premiership football matches. They are so much cheaper and, I would venture, far more entertaining.”
The English National Opera chorus, which has voted to go on strike in a dispute over pay and jobs, received a Best New Opera nomination for The Force Of Destiny, Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk and The Queen Of Spades at London Coliseum.
The 44-strong choir backed industrial action in a ballot held by union Equity. The choir, protesting against plans to cut pay by 25% and axe four jobs, will refuse to sing in the first act of a performance of Akhnaten in London on March 18.
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