Olivier Awards: 8 things we learned at the ceremony

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Beverley Knight opened the ceremony and performed again during the In Memoriam section

Often at the Olivier Awards, a box office smash like Hamilton or Harry Potter will sweep the board.

But it was a different story this year, with several shows sharing the top prizes.

Come From Away, The Inheritance and Company each took home four prizes at Sunday night’s ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall.

Summer and Smoke, Caroline or Change, All About Eve and Tina: The Musical were also recognised at the event.

Here are eight things we learned – including the best acceptance speeches, jokes, and backstage quotes.

1. Jason Manford was on fine form

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Host Jason Manford may not be a West End star by trade – but he certainly embraced the theatrical theme with an impressive opening musical performance.

Manford has fronted the Oliviers once before, in 2017. His best gags this year included:

  • “A wonderful performance there from The King And I. Or, if you went to a normal school, Me And The King.”
  • “Between me and Sally Field, we’ve won two Oscars, a Golden Globe, and a Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Award.”
  • “When the Royal Albert Hall was first built in 1871, it had an 8,000-seater capacity. Today, it’s 5,400. And if that doesn’t tell you that people in this country have been getting fatter over the last 100 years, nothing will.”
  • “In my experience, theatre ushers are the greatest actors in the West End. How they manage to keep a straight face when charging £35 for two drinks, a programme and a packet of Revels is beyond me.”

2. Patsy Ferran credits Friends for teaching her about comedy

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Patsy Ferran (left) with Summer and Smoke director Rebecca Frecknall

Ferran won best actress for her role in a revival of the Tennessee Williams play Summer and Smoke – a part which required her to learn a huge amount of dialogue.

She also had to master the accent of the play’s Mississippi-born lead character Alma.

“I’m not good at all accents, but I think I find the American accent quite easy because we hear it a lot,” Ferran told BBC News backstage.

At 30 years old, the actress is of the generation who grew up with the hugely popular sitcom Friends, which she says may have helped her not just with the US accent, but acting techniques in general.

“I genuinely will say this, any comic timing that I might have, I learned from that show, 100%” she said.

3. Matthew Lopez may need a bigger hard drive

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Kelsey Grammer presented the best new play award to writer Matthew Lopez

“I have to thank my husband Brandon, who read more drafts of this play than anybody else,” said The Inheritance writer Matthew Lopez as he accepted the award for best new play.

Which left us wondering just how many drafts of the two-part play he wrote.

“To various degrees, whether big changes or small, I have probably over 200 drafts of each play in my hard drive,” he replies.

In a world of smartphones and short attention spans, we ask, did he ever worry about whether audiences could stomach a seven-hour play?

“We did wonder that, actually. We were sort of curious as to whether or not they were going to stay with us,” Lopez says. “That’s one of the reasons there are two intervals in each play.

“I don’t think we engineered it that way, but we realised we had essentially made a Netflix series on stage. And so we thought, ‘hey, we’re gonna go with it’.”

4. Sharon D Clarke bossed her acceptance speech

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Sharon D Clarke also performed during the ceremony

Clarke took home the best actress in a musical prize for her leading role in Caroline or Change.

She also was responsible for one of the night’s best acceptance speeches – where she balanced being funny and entertaining with a touching tribute to her parents.

“For my mum and dad who are no longer with us… mummy god bless you,” she said from the stage.

“Caroline’s strength, dignity and love comes from my mum,” she added, before dedicating the trophy “to every mother who is out there doing the best for her child”.

5. Monica Dolan’s W1A character was with her in spirit

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Jade Anouka (left) and Art Malik (right) presented Monica Dolan with her trophy

Monica Dolan took home the prize for best supporting actress for her role in All About Eve, in which she starred alongside Gillian Anderson and Lily James.

But TV audiences might know her better for roles like Rose West in Appropriate Adult and the BBC press officer Tracey Pritchard in W1A (“I’m not being funny or anything…”)

What would Tracey make of her win at the Oliviers?

“I think she’d be pleased for me, but that wouldn’t last very long,” laughs Dolan of her usually-panicking alter-ego.

“She’d be thinking of the best statement to put out to the press straightaway, and if she was here she’d be managing me and pushing me along to the next journalist, but in a very amenable way.

“And if there were any crises she’d deal with them straight away as only she can.”

6. Patti LuPone is finally embracing social media

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LuPone may have won best supporting actress on Sunday, but surely a far more significant milestone for her this week was deciding to join Twitter.

“Ha! Yes, Staci Levine convinced me to join Twitter,” the actress explains, referring to the theatre producer she’s worked with several times.

But despite attracting 18,000 followers in her first week, LuPone has yet to follow anyone back. Is she planning to change that anytime soon?

“Don’t know yet! But I’m enjoying it, I’m having fun,” she says, before promptly tweeting a picture of her Olivier Award from her new account.

The double Tony-winning actress adds she plans to keep her Olivier trophy in her husband’s “man cave”.

“Tony’s in there, now Larry is going to be in there too!” she laughs.

7. Chris Walley might now retire (despite being born in 1995)

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Incredibly, the young actor landed the role that won him this year’s Olivier for best supporting actor shortly after leaving drama school.

Walley starred opposite Aidan Turner last year in The Lieutenant of Inishmore – a play by Three Billboards writer Martin McDonagh.

Is this setting a dangerously high standard for the rest of his career?

“I probably have peaked! Maybe I’ll just retire now, never do a play again – one hit wonder,” he laughs backstage.

“I feel so lucky to have gotten this. I can’t imagine I’ll be in this position again so I’m going to cherish this, I’m just so grateful.”

8. Danny Dyer is descended from royalty, just in case you’d forgotten

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Dyer rubbed shoulders with Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton backstage

You could easily have missed this because he’s tried to keep it on the down-low, but EastEnders actor Danny Dyer is part of a Royal blood-line.

The star found out he was related to Edward III in 2016 after taking part in the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are.

Manford referred to this early in the show, joking that the “Regal presence” at the Royal Albert Hall was Dyer rather than the Duchess of Cornwall.

When he took to the stage later in the night to present an award, Dyer took the opportunity to say hello to her as well.

“Shout out to the Duchess up there,” he shouted. “No Charlie tonight I see. I’ll pop up and see you later.”

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