Oliviers glory for Almeida Theatre

Salisbury Journal: Zrinka Cvitesic wins the Olivier Award for Best Actress In A Musical for Once, at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden Zrinka Cvitesic wins the Olivier Award for Best Actress In A Musical for Once, at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden

The two men behind the National Theatre's success over the last decade said goodbye to the Southbank with a special award for outstanding achievement at the Olivier Awards - but were upstaged by a small north London venue with just over 300 seats.

The Almeida Theatre, in Islington, picked up eight awards at Theatreland's annual bash with success for two of its plays, Chimerica and Ghosts.

The star-studded event at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden - which ended with Abba duo Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus on stage performing some of their biggest hits with the cast of Mamma Mia! - attracted names including Dame Judi Dench, Tom Hiddleston and Gemma Arterton, who co-hosted with Stephen Mangan.

The first award of the night set the tone and went to Ghosts - one of the Almeida's hits.

It was accepted by director Sir Richard Eyre, who paid tribute to the "most wonderful cast" in the new production of Ibsen's play.

Sir Richard said the awards, which recognise commercial hits as well as subsidised theatres like the National, showed the healthy "ecology" of the theatre.

He said: "For all the successes, you have to be able to fail and that is what subsidy gives you."

Ghosts triumphed again when a member of its cast, Jack Lowden, was named the best actor in a supporting role.

Sharon D Clarke won the best actress in a supporting role award for The Amen Corner, before the prize for best lighting design was shared between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Chimerica - Lucy Kirkwood's play inspired by events in 1989 in Tiananmen Square, China.

Rory Kinnear beat Hollywood heavyweights Hiddleston and Jude Law to the best actor award for his performance as Iago in Othello at the National Theatre.

Accepting his award, he said the part was one of the "most thrilling" of his life.

He said: "All of us nominated in that category would agree it's a lot easier to be recognised when you've got a decent part to play."

Speaking backstage, Kinnear said he had been fortunate to have a part the audience identified with so strongly.

He said: "Iago has a great rapport with the audience and people love the villain and people go along with Iago for the ride."

The best actress award was another win for the Almeida, with Lesley Manville named best actress for Ghosts, ahead of stars including Dame Judi and Hayley Atwell.

Accepting her award - a bust of Sir Laurence Olivier - she joked: "Oh Larry, where have you been all my life?"

There was another big win for the Almeida when the award for best director went to Lyndsey Turner for Chimerica.

Turner, who said she was "completely and utterly overwhelmed", joked that her mother was shocked because "she hasn't seen me in a dress since I first took communion".

Kinnear returned to the stage at the end of the night with James Corden to present a special award to Sir Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr for their work at the National Theatre, which has produced critical and commercial hits including War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors - in which Corden starred.

Sir Nicholas, who noted all the previous outgoing directors of the National had won a gong for outstanding achievement, joked it should be called the "thank you very much, and now f*** off" award.

He told the audience he would accept is as a "testimony to how extraordinary the National Theatre has always been".

The best sound design award was also shared, this time between Chimerica and the musical revival Merrily We Roll Along.

The award for best costume design, presented by Gok Wan and Alexandra Burke, went to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while Chimerica won best set design.

The award for best entertainment and family show went to The Wind in the Willows, while Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense was named best new comedy.

The BBC Radio 2 Audience Award went to the long-running musical Les Miserables.

Handbagged, a show that examines the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher, won the award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, which recognises work outside the venues of the West End.

Casey Nicholaw was named best theatre choreographer for his work on The Book of Mormon - one of four awards it won, including best new musical.

The award for outstanding achievement in music went to Once - the stage musical based on the low budget film about a busker who finds love on the streets of Dublin.

Merrily We Roll Along was named best musical revival, while Stephen Ashfield from The Book of Mormon won the award for best supporting role in a musical.

The show, penned by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, bagged another prize when Gavin Creel picked up the award for best actor in a musical.

C roatian actress Zrinka Cvitesic was named the best actress in a musical for Once, before Chimerica won the best new play award.

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