Olivier Awards 2018: What we learned at the ceremony

While there was (quite rightly) a lot of song and dance about Hamilton at the Olivier Awards, there was a lot more that went on at the annual ceremony.

Here’s a look at what else we learned backstage and on the rather soggy red carpet at the event, the highlight of the year for UK theatre.

Oliviers don’t always last forever

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Image caption Best hold on to that one, Jez

It fell to The Ferryman writer Jez Butterworth to pick up the first Olivier Award of the night – that for new play. It was the second such award he had won, last winning in 1995 for Mojo, which also debuted at the Royal Court.

Olivier Awards 2018: What we learned at the ceremony
Olivier Awards 2018: What we learned at the ceremony

But Jez (who hugged Gary Lineker on the red carpet, winning the unofficial “unexpected celebrity friendship” award) had a bit of a story to tell about his first award.

“I’ve won one of these before and it was 22 years ago,” he recounted. “About 10 years ago, this bit here on the bottom – it fell off and I lost it. And then after a move, I lost the top bit, which – let’s face it – is the important bit. It’s the Olivier bit of it.

“Otherwise it’s just your name on a bit of wood. Then I had to write another play to replace it. I wrote Jerusalem, and that didn’t win, so I had to write another one.

“I’m already worried, as the build quality [of the award] hasn’t improved.”

Dreams do come true

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Image caption Worth waiting for – Shirley Henderson with her award

Shirley Henderson – who you may also remember as Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films and Bridget Jones’s friend Jude in the films about her diary – had a rather sweet story to tell.

The winner of the best actress in a musical award was spring cleaning last week and came across her diary, from when she was 17 and about to start drama school.

“I wrote that my dream was to sing on the London stage,” she said. “It took 33 years – but it’s been worth the wait.”

It’s also worth remembering stars get butterflies too, when their big moment finally comes, with Shirley admitting she was massively nervous.

And when Bryan Cranston was backstage at the same time as Laura Donnelly, he congratulated her on her award, asked her quietly: “You still shaking? Me too.”

People can be forgetful

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Image caption Ophelia Lovibond, with the right bit of paper

Rather a lot of them were, in fact.

James Graham won the award for best new comedy for Labour of Love (prompting a slap on the back from Jez Butterworth, who was still in the winners’ room, who told him: “Good on you. Thoroughly deserved”). But while on stage, he forgot to thank his mum – who encouraged him to write from a young age, buying him a typewriter at the age of four.

Luckily, he’d brought her as his guest and promised: “I’ll buy her a drink tonight to make up for it.”

Then we had Shirley Henderson forgetting to thank the man who wrote the music that inspired her musical, Girl from the North Country (“Bob Dylan! Bob Dylan, I forgot about you!” she cried).

Host Catherine Tate forgot to put on her Time’s Up pin until after the ceremony had started – and also forgot she wasn’t meant to swear. More than once.

Perhaps the most spectacular case of forgetfulness was Ophelia Lovibond, who was collecting the best actress in a supporting role award on Denise Gough’s behalf – and brought the wrong piece of paper to the podium. She excused herself to go back to her seat before returning. What we want to know is, what was on the other sheet?

The Me Too movement is going strong

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Image caption Former Doctor Who star Pearl Mackie was accompanied by End Violence Against Women’s Andrea Simon

From those Time’s Up pins to countless references in speeches, one thing was clear – the Me Too movement is here to stay.

Several actresses were accompanied by activists on the red carpet.

Marai Larasi, executive director of black feminist organisation Imkaan, had also been on the Golden Globes red carpet, with Emma Watson. She said: “There’s something about having the conversation here in the UK.

“This is such a powerful moment – but it’s not a moment that’s going to stop.”

Best actor winner Bryan Cranston said: “The idea that older white men are controlling the world and having free reign is over.”

Actors have no time for hobbies

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Image caption Bryan Cranston – a big fan of British cuisine

“I realised the other day,” mused Cranston. “I don’t have a hobby. When I’m not working, I’m sleeping.

“I like to create more than I like to recreate.”

While working in the UK, he admitted he does enjoy eating out though.

“When I first came here 35 years ago… not so much,” he said backstage. “There was a lot of pub grub. But now it’s some of the best in the world, now it’s extraordinary.”

And does he get the Tube while working in London? “I walk,” he said. “I walk everywhere. I wear a little cap and some glasses. I like to head out and observe and be unnoticed.”

It’s a great time for British theatre

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Image caption Everybody’s Talking About Jamie was up for best new musical

Another thing everyone could agree on was what a fantastic year it had been on the stage, with praise for new writing and exciting revivals.

Dan Gillespie Sells, who wrote the music for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, said: “It’s been a very strong year. There are so many new shows. I’m very proud we’re a part of that.

Oscar nominee Lesley Manville, who was nominated for an Olivier for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, said: “We’re here to celebrate theatre. It’s thriving, and that’s lovely.”

Acclaimed theatre producer Sonia Friedman said: “There could have been another 10 new plays nominated. I can’t remember a better year for new writing.”

But why is there so much brilliant new writing? “We’re living in complicated times,” she added. “Writers have had to take a couple of years to come to terms with the world we’re in. These stories are now emerging – and they will continue to do so.”

And finally… the above and beyond award

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Image caption Laura Donnelly’s co-star helped her out during her pregnancy

Laura Donnelly had a special thanks to give backstage which didn’t quite make it into her acceptance speech for best actress.

The star of The Ferryman, who was pregnant throughout the play’s run, singled out co-star Genevieve O’Reilly for letting her have a bigger dressing room – “and holding my hair back when I was sick”.

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