Olivier Awards: It wasn't all about Harry Potter

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child may have cast a spell over the Olivier Awards, but it wasn't the only topic of conversation.

Here are a few other things were learned backstage and on the red carpet.

It was the first time a transgender-themed play won an Olivier

Image source, Munch Media
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Anna Martine Freeman

Rotterdam, about a lesbian couple, one of whom wants to start living as a man, won the award for outstanding achievement in an affiliate theatre.

"It's really exciting that trans-narratives are being brought into the mainstream," said Anna Martine Freeman, who plays the lead character of Fiona/Adrian.

"As far as we have been made aware, it is the first transgender-themed play to be nominated at an Olivier Awards."

Jon Brittain's comedy started at fringe venue Theatre 503 and transferred to Trafalgar Studios, and will play in New York next month.

"It's come from what feels like humble beginnings and is really flying," Anna told the BBC.

"With everything going on, I'd love for Rotterdam to have a larger effect on inclusion and understanding around the world."

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John Tiffany (left) shares a joke backstage with Star Wars actor John Boyega

Sir Kenneth Branagh and Andrew Lloyd Webber were among those who spoke out on stage in support of arts in education.

So too did Cursed Child director John Tiffany who admitted backstage he got angry about cuts to arts subjects in state schools.

"I'm doing what I'm doing because of free guitar lessons, because I had a grant to go to university... and they don't exist anymore," he said.

"If I was graduating from high school now I certainly wouldn't be holding this," he added, waving his Olivier statuette.

"And I'm not being dramatic!"

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More backstage laughs from Tim Minchin

Groundhog Day, which won best new musical, is about to open on Broadway after its run last year at the Old Vic.

"The production here was gorgeous and came after thousands of hours of grind and self-doubt," songwriter Tim Minchin told us.

"It closed and that was always the plan, but we'll be back here within the year," he added.

In the West End? "Certainly that's the plan. It'll come back before you know it."

Which all sounds a bit like the plot of Groundhog Day.

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Amber Riley stars in Dreamgirls

"I'm in a show where the three leads are three black women - I think that's exceptional," said Amber Riley backstage after picking up her award for best actress in a musical.

"In the theatre you want to see people who look like you sometimes," the Dreamgirls star said.

"I'm not ashamed to say I'm not necessarily the standard of what the industry may feel is beautiful or could be a star, but I'm doing it anyway because I'm making my own way."

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Denise Gough (left) with best actress winner Billie Piper and Andrew Garfield

Last year's best actress winner Denise Gough presented this year's award to Billie Piper.

The Irish actress will be back on stage at the National Theatre soon - after her acclaimed performance in People, Places and Things - in the epic Angels in America.

Tony Kushner's two-part play is set in mid-1980s New York in the midst of the Aids crisis.

Gough plays Harper Pitt in a cast that includes Andrew Garfield (her co-presenter at the Oliviers), Nathan Lane, James McArdle and Russell Tovey.

"It's the hardest job I've ever done," Gough confided on the red carpet. "There were three rehearsal rooms going at one time. It's been a big gig."

So could we be seeing Gough bag another Olivier for Angels in America?

We'll find out in 2018...

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