Entertainment & Arts

Olivier Awards: Record eighth win for Judi Dench

Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench Image copyright Reuters

Dame Judi Dench was the toast of the Olivier Awards on Sunday night.

The veteran actress won a record eighth Olivier for her best supporting actress role as Paulina in Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company's production of The Winter's Tale.

No-one has won as many Oliviers for acting since the awards began 40 years ago.

As she collected her award she joked that she was "livid" because she had lost a bet with her grandson.

Speaking backstage about her record win, she said: "I'm rather overcome. I didn't expect it... it feels terrific."

Dame Judi praised the "really fantastic company and crew and stage management" of the Shakespeare production at the Garrick Theatre.

"Everybody says what a wonderful time they have doing something. I can truly say that in the Winter's Tale it was an absolutely memorable family."

She added the award was "lovely to have, but in actual fact it belongs to all those people just as much as it belongs to me."

The musical Gypsy won the most awards on the night for a single production. Its four prizes included best actress in a musical for runaway favourite Imelda Staunton, and best musical revival.

Staunton, who opened the ceremony with a performance of Gypsy's Everything's Coming Up Roses, said: "We felt we were doing something special every night and every night we went out and wanted to do a better show than the night before."

The show, which transferred to the West End from the Chichester Festival Theatre, also won for best lighting design while Lara Pulver was named best supporting actress in a musical.

Image copyright Johan Persson
Image caption Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh starred in The Winter's Tale

Hosted by Michael Ball, the ceremony took place at London's Royal Opera House and included a performance by singer Cyndi Lauper, whose Kinky Boots was named best new musical.

Denise Gough won best actress for her acclaimed performance as a recovering addict in People, Places and Things, recently opened in the West End after a sell-out run at the National Theatre last year.

Gough had been hotly tipped to win in a shortlist that included Gemma Arterton and Nicole Kidman.

The Irish actress used her speech to raise the issue of diversity, saying: "In a year where we have seen progress made in racial diversity on our stages it's just a bit sad that in this category it hasn't been represented."

People, Places and Things was one of four wins for the National. Duncan Macmillan's drama also won for best sound, while Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was named best revival and Mark Gatiss won best supporting actor for Three Days in the Country.

The best actor prize went to Kenneth Cranham in Florian Zeller's The Father.

Cranham, who plays a man with dementia, beat competition from Kenneth Branagh, Benedict Cumberbatch, Adrian Lester and Mark Rylance.

Speaking backstage, he admitted he didn't think he stood a chance of winning. "They are like brand names," he said. "I felt like a little old cornershop."

Meanwhile in the best director category, Robert Icke triumphed for his work on the Greek tragedy Oresteia, which ran at The Almeida theatre. The play is a blood-soaked family saga spanning several decades and is often said to not only be the 5th Century BC playwright Aeschylus's final play, but also his greatest.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Kenneth Cranham beat competition from Kenneth Branagh and Benedict Cumberbatch to win the best actor award
Image copyright Johan Persson/PA
Image caption Imelda Staunton opened the ceremony with a performance from Gypsy

Musical Kinky Boots won two other prizes, with Matt Henry collecting best actor in a musical for his portrayal of Lola and Gregg Barnes awarded for his costume design.

Musical In the Heights also had three wins - for outstanding achievement in music, choreography and a best supporting actor in a musical trophy for David Bedella.

The Royal Court's production of Martin McDonagh's Hangmen was named best new play and also won for Anna Fleischle's set design.

Nell Gwynn, starring Gemma Arterton and written by Jessica Swale, was named best new comedy.

The prize for outstanding achievement in opera went to the English National Opera chorus and orchestra for The Force of Destiny, Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk and The Queen Of Spades, which were all performed at London Coliseum.

The ENO has faced months of turmoil which includes the resignation of its musical director Mark Wigglesworth and the threat of strike action by its chorus over new contracts.

The ENO's head of music, Martin Fitzpatrick, who collected the prize, said the chorus and orchestra were "a vital part of the lifeblood" of an opera company.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption There was also a performance by singer Cyndi Lauper, whose Kinky Boots was named best new musical

Long-running musical The Phantom of the Opera won the Oliviers audience award - the only category voted for by members of the public.

Highlights from the ceremony were screened on ITV for a third consecutive year and secured an average audience of 700,000 viewers - the same as last year.

However, in 2015 that figure marked a 12.5% drop from the year before - and an almost 50% fall since it was first aired in 2013.

The ceremony will be shown in full on ITV3 on 4 April at 23:00 BST.

Next year the Olivier Awards will be on 9 April 2017 in a new venue, London's Royal Albert Hall.

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