We’ve had the WhatsOnStage Awards, so next on the agenda are the Olivier Awards – I waited optimistically for the 1pm announcement, and my positivity didn’t let me down (for once!). It’s not all perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but on the whole it’s looking very good indeed. It’s nice that I’ve been rather pleased with the shortlist two years in a row!
The top scorers this time are Come From Away (9), Company (9) and The Inheritance (8); the two musicals are up against each other (and themselves!) in the majority of categories, so it’ll be interesting to see if one dominates, if it ends up a fairly even split, or if they both go home disappointed – one award is guaranteed to go to one of them (Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical), but other than that there’s still the outside chance of a surprise… Judging on reputation alone (I couldn’t find a spare day to see both parts!) I’d say The Inheritance should walk away with a few awards, but it has stiff competition.
Let’s start with the nominations that I’m really chuffed to bits about. Straight in with the one I think I’m happiest about: Marc Antolin up for Best Actor in a Musical! It’s been a joy to watch Marc in a variety of (mostly supporting) roles over the past few years, so to see him nominated for his dream role of Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors is absolutely incredible – and so well deserved. Misty was a big show for me last year, and I’m absolutely thrilled about its two nominations (there would be a third if the Oliviers would just introduce a video design category already) – after seeing good dog last week, I’m more certain than ever that Arinzé Kene is an utter genius, so just give him the awards now.
Summer and Smoke was also a big one for me; I may have only seen it once (I genuinely couldn’t bear to put myself through the emotional ringer by watching it again), but it had a profound effect on me. I’m especially pleased that Lee Curran’s lighting design is nominated, as that was definitely the best I saw all year, and Patsy Ferran is a marvel – gutted that Matthew Needham couldn’t be squeezed into the Best Actor list too, as he was as brilliant as ever. The Lieutenant of Inishmore was another great revival, and I’m really pleased Chris Walley got recognised for his supporting role (he’s definitely one to watch for the future). I was surprised by how much I loved Fun Home (and still baffled it didn’t transfer) so I’m glad that’s been nominated, James Graham came up trumps again with Quiz, and I couldn’t get enough of Flesh and Bone. I also adored the puppetry in The Wider Earth, and couldn’t be more pleased that Jonathan Bailey has a nomination – his performance of Getting Married Today alone is enough to earn that recognition!
Who’s missed out? Let me start with the big one: The Jungle. The Oliviers really need to have a clearer eligibility guide – it’s all very well giving a rough idea and then a list of eligible productions, but then on the FAQs it mentions that productions need to have run for certain lengths of time (specified by category) and this information is nowhere to be found. I can’t understand why The Jungle wouldn’t have been nominated in the 2018 awards, unless it wasn’t eligible – in which case, why has the West End run been ignored? I really am baffled by this situation. It has the best set I’ve ever seen (Miriam Buether), beautiful music, stirring performances, and a gripping story. Who in their right mind would ignore all that?
I may not be a fan of Heathers, but to ignore the show completely does seem a little snobbish; at the very least I expected Jamie Muscato’s phenomenal performance to be recognised – either replacing Ken Watanabe in Best Actor in a Musical, or in the supporting category (I can’t quite work out which is the best fit). Which brings me onto my continued gripe of the same show having more than one nominee per category: just pick one for the shortlist, as they can’t all win! Allow another show a bit of representation – it’s not like there’s a dearth of talent to choose from.
I’m also more convinced than ever that a Best Ensemble award needs to be introduced; Six and The Lehman Trilogy follow in the footsteps of The Girls and Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour in having joint nominees – this could so easily be rebranded. Come From Away would definitely also fit in this category (thus freeing up space on the individual lists), as would the Young Vic’s Twelfth Night. While we’re adding categories, let’s recognise the understudies and alternates, and also separate the Best Director award into plays and musicals as they are very different beasts; Roy Alexander Weise could then be nominated for Nine Night, and Maria Aberg (Little Shop of Horrors) and Kwame Kwei-Armah & Oskar Eustis (Twelfth Night) could go on the musicals list. I’d also love the affiliate award to be rethought, as 78 shows being shortlisted to five seems rather unfair.
Best New Comedy continues to be (appropriately, I suppose) the laughing stock of the group – four eligible productions narrowed down to three nominees. What is the point?! Best Musical Revival isn’t much better: five eligible to three nominees. Best Entertainment & Family is a weird category; A Monster Calls seems rather out of place when you look at the other shows on the shortlist – and even more so when you peruse all of the eligible productions.
I think Little Shop of Horrors has been a little hard done by; it should be up for revival, and also could have been included in Best Set Design and Best Theatre Choreographer – for the latter I’d also throw in Strictly Ballroom and Twelfth Night to replace Six (I’m all for female representation, but the choreography definitely isn’t the high point of that show). Wise Children has an absolutely stunning & detailed set, so it’s a shame that’s not been recognised, Measure for Measure (Donmar Warehouse) was really cleverly done and could’ve been up for Best Revival, and I’d have loved it if Christopher Eccleston’s Macbeth had earned him a Best Actor nomination.
Despite my rambling, however, I think we have actually been quite lucky with these nominations – I am mostly nitpicking in this post. But what do you think? Are there any shows/actors/creatives that you can’t believe are absent? And who’s going to win? We have just over a month to decide…
The 2019 Olivier Awards will be held on 7 April at the Royal Albert Hall. Tickets are available online for Mastercard holders, and the ceremony will be broadcast on TV, radio and online.