Olivier Awards waiting for their winners (2019-04-07) by David LeveneSociety of London Theatre & UK Theatre
10 Things You Didn't Know About the Olivier Awards
Running for more than 45 years, the Olivier Awards are the biggest celebration of London Theatre every year. But here are some surprising facts you might not know about the glitzy awards.
1. They weren’t always The Olivier Awards
When they first launched in 1976, the awards were called the Society of West End Theatre Award (or SWET awards!) after the company that founded them.
The SWET Awards
This means that some London Theatre stalwarts, including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Zoe Wanamaker, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice have won both Olivier Awards and SWET Awards!
2. An award by any other name
It wasn’t until 1984 that the awards were named after Laurence Olivier, though he won the Special Award in 1979 in recognition of his contribution to British theatre both as an actor and a director.
3. The blue period
The awards used to be nicknamed the Urnies, after the physical award winners were given, which used to be a specially commissioned blue Wedgewood urn.
4. The bronze age
Those blue urns were replaced by the iconic bronze statuettes you recognise today. The statues are of Laurence Olivier as Henry V at the Old Vic in 1937, and they each weigh in at 1.6kg! Handmade at the Arch Bronze Foundry, check out how the prestigious statues are made.
5. Location, Location, Location
The Awards have had many homes over the years! From the first ever ceremony at the Cafe Royal, to Grosvenor House Hotel, to the London Hilton Park Lane and the Royal Opera House.
Space for thousands
For the last few years, the Awards has been held at the Royal Albert Hall, allowing a huge capacity of over 5,000!
6. Start ‘em young
The youngest ever winners of an Olivier Award were just 10 years old! Eleanor Worthington Cox and Cleo Demetriou won for their shared role as Matilda in Matilda The Musical, alongside Sophia Kiely and Kerry Ingram who were both 12.
7. Double trouble
Several people have had to dust off their acceptance speech for two years in a row!
Winning again and again...
Including Stephen Daldry (Best Director in 1993 & 1994), Sheridan Smith (Best Actress in a Musical for Legally Blonde in 2011 and Best Performance in a Supporting Role for Flare Path in 2012), and choreographers Dein Perry (1996 & 1997) and Matthew Bourne (2002 & 2003).
8. Judi is the one to beat
Some performers have won in musical and play acting categories, but Judi is the only one to win both in one night! In 1996 she won for her performances in Absolute Hell and A Little Night Music. Plus, with 8 statuettes, she’s also got the record for the most Oliviers in total!
9. The boy who lived wins again
The record for most wins by one show goes firmly to Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, with a staggering nine wins in 2017.
Musicals on top
The highest-winning musical title is split by Matilda, Hamilton and Cabaret, both of which won 7 awards, in 2016, 2018 and 2022 respectively.
10. Where there’s a Will…
If Shakespeare was alive today, he would have seen his plays receive a total of 66 awards in both creative and performing categories, which averages out at more than one a year!
Hiran Abeysekara (2022-04-10) by Jeff Spicer for GettySociety of London Theatre & UK Theatre
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