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Home > Afridiziak Theatre News > 2010 ATNews > Mountaintop Triumph at Laurence Olivier Awards  

Mountaintop Triumph at Laurence Olivier Awards
Published: March 22, 2010
Words: Chloe Thomas


“I am so honoured to have won this award it has been a long journey for me and I had to come to London to get my work recognized and I feel that today is the beginning of walls being broken down”.
Katori Hall, winner, Best New Play Award: The Mountaintop

The 34th Laurence Oliver Awards happened at the Grovesnor House hotel last night in a ceremony that recognised the achievements of black theatre professionals without the usual whiff of tokenism. Of the 25 categories, eight of the nominees were black. These included James Earl Jones who was up for best actor for his performance in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , Lorraine Burroughs, nominated for best actress for The Mountaintop and Sister Act’s Patina Miller who was tipped for best actress in a musical. Set in the heart of the hotel there was glamour dripping from every chandelier as the crème de la crème of British acting talent gathered for the most glittering event in the theatre calendar. The star stakes were high this year with a generous scattering of A-listers in the dazzling forms of Keira Knightly and Rachel Weisz who were nominated in the best actress category and Jude Law who was nominated for best actor for his portrayal of Hamlet. Also present was rock god Brian May from Queen and the charming Paul O Grady.

The greatest victory of the night went to Katori Hall who won the Best New Play award for The Mountaintop. The 28-year-old African-American scooped the accolade despite intense competition from industry favourites-Enron and Jerusalem. Hall is the first black woman to walk away with the award, clutching her statuette she said “I am so honoured to have won this award it has been a long journey for me and I had to come to London to get my work recognized and I feel that today is the beginning of walls being broken down”.

The powerfully moving play which tells the story of Martin Luther King the night before his assassination is only Hall’s second, I asked her what inspired her to write it. “Well I was inspired by a story my mum told me, she was living in Louisiana at the time and had wanted to go and hear King’s speech but wasn’t able to because rumours had circulated of a bomb plot and then of course he was killed. I was inspired by what I thought his private moments before the event would have been like so I decided to make a story of it”. After her win Katori was greeted by The Mountaintop cast; David Harewood who played Martin Luther King, cut a dashing figure in a black tux and the ravishing Lorraine Burroughs looked stunning in a classic black floor sweeping gown. Also joining them in the press gallery was Jude Law who loved the play so much he insisted on being photographed with the trio.

Despite losing out in the best actress category to Rachel Weisz who won for her portrayal of Blanche in Street Car Named Desire, Lorraine Burroughs was thrilled to be nominated. She said “I put so much into the part night after night and it’s great that theatreland recognized that, but I would never have had the strength to be here if it hadn’t been for the support of my friends and family”.

The last 12 months have been a strong year for revivals of classic texts such as Street Car Named Desire, A View from the Bridge, The Misanthrope, Arcardia and Three days of rain. Happily Debbie Allen took the award for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, James Earl Jones who was nominated for his role of Big Daddy in the play lost out for Best Actor to Mark Rylance who has been scoring rave reviews for his critically acclaimed performance in Jerusalem.

With the presence of so many highly talented black performers, Afridiziak Theatre News were delighted to profile the event. Speaking about her turn as Big Mama in Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, Phylicia Rashad who was radiant in a lily green puff gown told me that theatre is her spiritual home. The actress even treaded the boards during the Cosby Show years. Also present was the beautiful bad girl’s actress Antonia Okonma who starred in Ìyà-Ilé at the Soho Theatre which was nominated for Outstanding Achievement for an Affiliate Theatre, but went to Cock at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. Standing at 5’10 and wearing a floral and white Grecian gown she looked like a supermodel.

Highlights of the evening included performances by the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the cast of Sister Act featuring the unbelievable voice of Patina Miller. Miller was nominated in the Best actress in a Musical category but was gonged out by Sam Spiro who took the accolade for her performance in Hello Dolly at the Open Air theatre in Regents Park. I clinked glasses with Patina in the bar afterwards where she was surrounded by a gaggle of male admirers who seemed to marvel at her beauty. She said “It’s the best feeling in the world to be an American and be nominated for a British award, even thought I didn’t win, I feel honoured”.

The 2010 Olivier award nominations celebrated and reflected the diversity of Britain and its theatre. Let’s hope in the words of Katori Hall that “walls are being broken” and black performers can now open their eyes to a new dawn of artistic recognition.

Related links
Laurence Olivier Awards official website
2010 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations announcement
Afridiziak Theatre News interview with David Harewood, The Mountaintop
Afridiziak Theatre News interview with Sanaa Lathan, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
Afridiziak Theatre News interview with Adrian Lester, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Winners for the 2010 Laurence Oliver Awards

BEST ACTRESS
* Rachel Weisz for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE at the Donmar

BEST ACTOR
* Mark Rylance for JERUSALEM at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court and now at the Apollo

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
* Ruth Wilson for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE at the Donmar

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
* Eddie Redmayne for RED at the Donmar

BEST NEW PLAY
* THE MOUNTAINTOP by Katori Hall at Trafalgar Studios 1

BEST NEW COMEDY
* THE PRIORY by Michael Wynne at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court

BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL
* HELLO DOLLY! book by Michael Stewart, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, based on the play ‘The Matchmaker’ by Thornton Wilder at the Open Air

BEST NEW MUSICAL
* SPRING AWAKENING music by Duncan Sheik, book and lyrics by Steven Sater, based on the play by Frank Wedekind at the Novello

BEST ENTERTAINMENT
* MORECAMBE by Tim Whitnall at the Duchess

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL OR ENTERTAINMENT
* Samantha Spiro for HELLO DOLLY! at the Open Air

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL OR ENTERTAINMENT
* Aneurin Barnard for SPRING AWAKENING at the Novello

BEST SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL OR ENTERTAINMENT
* Iwan Rheon for SPRING AWAKENING at the Novello

BEST DIRECTOR
* Rupert Goold for ENRON at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court and now at the Noel Coward

BEST REVIVAL
* CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF directed by Debbie Allen at the Novello

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER
* Stephen Mear for HELLO DOLLY! at the Open Air

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
* BURNT BY THE SUN designed by Mark Henderson at the Lyttelton

BEST SET DESIGN
* JERUSALEM designed by Ultz at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court and now at the Apollo

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
* PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT- THE MUSICAL designed by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner at the Palace

BEST SOUND DESIGN
* SPRING AWAKENING designed by Brian Ronan at the Novello

THE AUDIENCE AWARD FOR MOST POPULAR SHOW
* WICKED music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman at the Apollo Victoria

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AN AFFILIATE THEATRE
* The Royal Court for COCK at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs

BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
* The Royal Opera’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE at the Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA
* Nina Stemme for her performance in the Royal Opera’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE at the Royal Opera House

BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION
* GOLDBERG: THE BRANDSTRUP ROJO PORJECT, ROH2 at the Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
* Rambert Dance Company for an outstanding year of new work

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
* Michael Codron

SOLT SPECIAL AWARD
* Dame Maggie Smith

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