Olivier Awards 2022 winners headed by Cabaret and Life of Pi, with a plea to make theatre safe for all again

Musical CABARET and play THE LIFE OF PI were the big winners in an interesting Olivier Awards ceremony held on Sunday April 10th at the Royal Albert Hall. But for me the best part of the evening was seeing Hiran Abeysekera raise the Best Actor award for his work in PI

CABARET achieved a notable success in winning seven Oliviers from eleven nominations, including all four Musical Acting awards- for Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Actress (Jessie Buckley), Best Supporting Actress (Liza Sadovy) and Best Supporting Actor (Elliot Levey), as well as the awards for Best Musical Revival, Best Director (Rebecca Frecknall) and Best Sound Design (Nick Lidster).

THE LIFE OF PI won five Oliviers from seven nominations- Best Actor (Hiran Abeysekera), Best New Play (Lolita Chakrabarti), Best Set Design (Tim Hatley for Design and to Nick Barnes & Finn Caldwell for Puppets) , Best Lighting (Tim Lutkin and Andrzej Goulding) and the award for Best Supporting Actor given to all seven actors who create the role of the lion. (There are eight names on the show’s website, which I cant quite figure out).

I last saw Abeysekera in Jordan Tannahill’s muddled BOTTICELLI IN THE FIRE at Hampstead in 2019, when I wrote in this blog “the performance of Hiran Abeysekera as Leonardo was a low-key delight, fragile, tender and vulnerable, well worth sitting through the rest of the play for.” His success later that year with Sheffield’s original production of THE LIFE OF PI was deserved, winning Best Actor at the UKTheatre Awards. Of Sri Lankan descent, he has rocketed to justified success and I am sure he has much more to surprise us with in future years.

Actress Liz Carr, who is a wheelchair user, won Best Supporting Actress in a Play for her role in THE NORMAL HEART at the National Theatre. She wisely reminded the audience that many people who were previously enthusiastic theatregoers are not yet ready to return to theatre as they do not feel safe, and suggested that theatres schedule a number of mask-only performances to encourage the wary to return to one of the pastimes they love. A very wise and thoughtful suggestion, which I would embrace fully. I do not want other audience members to risk damaging my health and I will not be back until there is a significantly reduced risk. Thank you Ms Carr for voicing the unheard and unheeded concerns of so many who love theatre but value their health more than a night out.

Sheila Atim won Best Actress in a Play for her performance in the Donmar’s revival of CONSTELLATIONS, a production which alternated four different two-person casts during its run and was also available to view online. The play also won the award for Best Revival of a Play.

BACK TO THE FUTURE- THE MUSICAL won Best New Musical, which will no doubt be a help to the production’s ticket sales.

The always slightly ill-sitting Noël Coward/Geoffrey Johnson Award for Best Entertainment or Comedy Play was this year won by PRIDE AND PREJUDICE* (*SORT OF), which was brought into the West End by renowned producer David Pugh.

The ceremony also included awards for dance and opera. This article does not provide an exhaustive list of all awards presented.

Although available on YouTube, yet again this year the awards were not properly televised, which is a huge missed opportunity. These home-grown awards are a very important part of our theatrical life for over 40 years, and tv should recognise its responsibility to broadcast these important aspects of UK culture. What does this say about broadcasting’s commitment to the arts?

There is a cut-down 90 minute version of the ceremony on itvHub which you can find here, but it is absolutely not enough….

Of course it didn’t help that the execrable Jason Manford was hosting (what do people see in him? He must be very cheap to get…)

Let’s hope that the theatre sector revival includes appropriate representation on UK TV screens. Let’s not forget that more people go to the theatre each week than attend football matches. When you look at the disparity in media coverage you’ll understand what I mean.

Congratulations to all the Olivier nominees and winners.

For a full list of awards and winners, click here