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Andrew Scott and Ian McKellen among winners as Britain’s Olivier Awards celebrate struggling theatre industry

The awards took place via a pre-recorded stream as the majority of Britain's theatres remain shuttered

Andrew Scott and Ian McKellen were among the winners at Britain’s Laurence Olivier Awards. AP Photo
Andrew Scott and Ian McKellen were among the winners at Britain’s Laurence Olivier Awards. AP Photo

Andrew Scott and Ian McKellen were among the winners as Britain’s Laurence Olivier Awards celebrated the best of the London stage in bittersweet fashion on Sunday evening while most UK theatres remain shuttered.

Stage curtains came down when Britain went into lockdown in March, and the virus also scuttled the planned springtime ceremony for Britain’s leading awards for theatre, opera and dance. Instead, the trophies were bestowed during a pre-recorded event streamed online and shown on British TV.

Fleabag star Scott was named best actor in a play for his turn as a narcissistic actor in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter. Sharon D Clarke won the best actress prize for her performance as an American matriarch in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell won the directing award for the same production, which featured black actors in the central roles of the struggling Loman family.

McKellen won a special Olivier — his seventh — for his one-man 80th birthday tour of the UK, staged before the pandemic as a fundraiser for regional theatres. Choreographer Matthew Bourne won a record ninth Olivier, alongside collaborator Stephen Mears, for his fleet-footed work on Mary Poppins.

Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, which addresses history and the Holocaust through the story of a Viennese Jewish family, was named best new play. The best musical trophy went to Dear Evan Hansen.

Director Jamie Lloyd’s production of Cyrano de Bergerac, starring James McAvoy, was named best revival of a play, while a Trevor Nunn-directed production of Fiddler on the Roof took the prize for best musical revival.

Britain lifted its full lockdown in June but remains under strict limits on social mixing as it tries to curb a new wave of coronavirus infections. A handful of theatres have reopened to reduced, socially distanced audiences, but many are still shut and relying on emergency funding from the government to stay afloat.

Olivier organisers say the next awards ceremony will likely not be until 2022, because so little work has been staged this year.

Prince Charles’s wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, presented lyricist Don Black with a special Olivier Award for a six-decade career that includes lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals such as Sunset Boulevard and Starlight Express, as well as James Bond themes for movies including Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever.

Congratulations to renowned lyricist, Don Black for winning our Special Award. #OlivierAwards

A post shared by Olivier Awards (@olivierawards) on Oct 25, 2020 at 4:23pm PDT

Camilla, who recorded her contribution at London’s Palladium theatre last Tuesday, said Black’s “wonderful lyrics have become part of the fabric of our lives.”

The duchess urged those working in theatre to “please remain resilient - we need you and we have missed you.”

Updated: October 26, 2020 12:09 PM

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