Jodie Comer and Paul Mescal scoop top prizes at Olivier Awards

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Jodie Comer and Paul Mescal have secured top gongs for their West End debut performances at the Olivier Awards as the biggest night in British theatre returned.

The Killing Eve star won best actress for her role as Tessa in Prima Facie, a one-person production by Suzie Miller, which also won the coveted best new play award.

After receiving critical acclaim for her West End debut at the Harold Pinter Theatre, 30-year-old Comer will be taking the play to Broadway later this month.

Olivier Theatre Awards 2023 – London
Jodie Comer attends the Olivier Awards at the Royal Albert Hall (Ian West/PA)

“To Suzie Miller for writing the most exquisite play I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

“One thing I would like to say to any kids who haven’t been to drama school, who can’t afford to go to drama school, who have been rejected from drama school, don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t possible.

“It might take the stars to align and you to be met with generous, kind, patient people, but it is possible.

“Mum, Dad, I love you, and my Grandad is 82 today so happy birthday.”

Olivier Theatre Awards 2023 – London
Paul Mescal in the press room after winning the best actor award for A Streetcar Named Desire (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

The Almeida Theatre production also picked up the prestigious award for best revival and Anjana Vasan won best actress in a supporting role for her turn as Stella in the play directed by Olivier winner Rebecca Frecknall.

Mescal fought off tough competition from David Tennant for Good; Tom Hollander for Patriots; Rafe Spall for To Kill A Mockingbird; and Giles Terera for Blues For An Alabama Sky.

During his acceptance speech, 27-year-old Mescal thanked his mother, who is receiving treatment for cancer, adding: “I hope you get better.”

The big winner of the night was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s enchanting new stage adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s 1988 animated film My Neighbour Totoro which dominated the theatre awards.

The Brit Awards 2022 – Arrivals – London
Hannah Waddingham hosts the Olivier Awards (Ian West/PA)

It was among a plethora of musicals, plays and operas which received recognition during the ceremony hosted by Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham on Sunday.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! won best musical revival for its sell-out run at the Young Vic, while also winning Arthur Darvill best actor in a musical for his turn as Curly McLain.

During his acceptance speech, 40-year-old Darvill said: “My goodness this is very overwhelming.”

He said to his cast mates: “It’s a privilege to be on stage with you. (We) have created such an incredible piece of theatre.

“Growing up I was very lucky, I had incredibly supportive parents… I had an amazing drama teacher who is still teaching and is very inspiring.”

A total of six productions from The Almeida Theatre triumphed on the night, with Will Keen scooping best supporting actor for Patriots, and Tammy Faye garnering two awards in acting categories – Katie Brayben for best actress in a musical and Zubin Varla for best actor in a supporting role in a musical.

Standing At The Sky’s Edge, which is set in Sheffield and premiered in the city in 2019 before moving to London this year, took home best new musical while Richard Hawley and Tom Deering won the award for best original score or new orchestrations for the production.

British Soap Awards 2018 – London
Richard Hawley (Matt Crossick/PA)

He added: “We stayed friends and brothers all the way through, I will miss him my whole life.”

As well as performing twice during the ceremony, Beverley Knight also picked up the award for best actress in a supporting role in a musical for her performance as Emmeline Pankhurst in Sylvia at The Old Vic.

During her acceptance speech, the emotional 50-year-old said: “Emmeline Pankhurst stood on this stage and said ‘I incite this meeting to rebellion’ and she told the women in the room, be militant in your own way and that was in 1912.

“The next year they banned the social political union.

“One hundred years later we stand on this stage, we have reclaimed the power for those women. I want to thank with all my heart the Old Vic for giving us a second bite on this one.”

Olivier Theatre Awards 2023 – London
Beverley Knight in the press room after winning an award for Sylvia at the Oliviers (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

The ceremony also celebrated Sir Derek Jacobi, who was given the lifetime achievement award for his outstanding contribution to theatre throughout his career.

He struggled to hold back tears before giving an impressive speech, name dropping a number of famous people including Dame Shirley Bassey and Laurence Olivier, whom the ceremony is named after.

The show culminated in a tribute to Special Award recipient Dame Arlene Phillips, with a performance from Grease The Musical – a production she famously choreographed.

A total of 16 of the 18 winners won their first Olivier on Sunday, organisers said.

The star-studded ceremony featured performances from all the best new musical nominees including Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Sylvia and Tammy Faye as well as from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Sister Act.

Late entertainers including Paul O’Grady, Nicholas Lloyd Webber and Darius Danesh Campbell were remembered at The Olivier Awards 2023, along with Dame Angela Lansbury, Dame Hilary Mantel, Burt Bacharach, Bernard Cribbins and Kay Mellor.

The Olivier Awards 2023 were being broadcast on ITV1 and ITVX from 10.15pm to 12.20am.

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