Dame Judi Dench makes history at Olivier Awards


Dame Judi Dench has made history at the Olivier Awards as she has now won more Oliviers for acting than any other performer.

The veteran actress was named best actress in a supporting role for The Winter's Tale at the ceremony being held at London's Royal Opera House.

Her win for her role as Paulina in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company's production takes her total win of Olivier Awards to eight.

As she collected her award, she joked she was "livid" as her win meant she had lost a bet with her grandson.

She said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm absolutely livid as I had a bet with my grandson ... and I'm never going to be able to forget it."

She praised "a really fantastic company and crew and stage management", saying of the award: "It's lovely to have, but in actual fact it belongs to all those people just as much as it belongs to me."

Sherlock creator Mark Gatiss joined the prestigious winners' list as he was named best actor in a supporting role for Three Days In The Country.

Gatiss said: "I'm absolutely overwhelmed, I can't tell you what this means to me. It was an amazing performance and a gift of a part. I'm thrilled to bits, thank you very much."

The first award - for best revival - was presented by Downton Abbey star Jim Carter and Julia McKenzie to Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Sir Lenny Henry presented the best entertainment and family award to Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.

The evening's host Michael Ball delighted the audience as he took to the stage in a pair of red, patent leather high heel boots.

He joked: "Why wasn't I cast in Kinky Boots, Nell Gwynn or Gypsy? Tonight I think I've got to prove I've been overlooked."

He then joined best actor in a musical nominees Matt Henry and Killian Donnelly and the cast of Kinky Boots as they kicked off a performance from the show.

Gypsy scooped its first award of the evening for best lighting design, which was awarded to Mark Henderson and was presented by Harry Potter And The Cursed Child actress Noma Dumezweni and The History Boys star Stephen Campbell Moore.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa presented the award for best new opera production to Kasper Holten for Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci.

Holten said: "When you take risks you sometimes fail, but maybe now it is the time to remember when you take risks you can sometimes succeed."

Dame Kiri then presented Martin Fitzpatrick from ENO Chorus and Orchestra with the award for outstanding achievement in opera.

Fitzpatrick said: "The chorus and orchestra of a company are a vital part of their lifeblood, it's imperative we create an environment in which they are cherished and supported."

Oscar-winner Mark Rylance lost out on winning another big award as Kenneth Cranham took home the best actor award for The Father.

A tearful Cranham thanked his fellow cast members and the play's director James Macdonald.

"He's a wonderful director, very kind, he's very perceptive and he lets you find your performance and he directs further on down the line."

He teared up as he thanked his agent, Stephanie Randall, saying "the things that's happened to her and the way she's been on this play has been fantastic".

Denise Gough used her best actress win for People, Places And Things to register her concern that all actresses nominated in her category are white.

After accepting the award from James Norton, she said: "Okay I've got 40 seconds so I've got to be quick. This is for my people, you all know who you are."

She then said she she was "just a bit disappointed" that, in a year marked by widespread uproar about the lack of diversity at awards shows, she was "sad" about the lack of diversity among the nominees in her own category.

She added: "I'm taking Noma Dumezweni and Marianne Jean-Baptiste with me."

The Magic Radio audience award was won by The Phantom Of The Opera.

Accepting the award, Phantom actor Ben Forster said: "This is absolutely incredible ... thank you so much for 30 years, here's to the next 30."

Comedian and TV personality Eddie Izzard took to the stage to present the award for best new comedy to playwright Jessica Swale for Nell Gwynn.

Izzard joked about his latest charity challenge, which saw him completing a staggering 27 marathons in 27 days and raising more than £1.35 million for Sport Relief following his gruelling challenge across South Africa.

He said: "A lot of it was green screen, actually it was all real, they cut out a lot of the swearing. If you do something like that it sounds glib, but it gets easier after 10 marathons, your brain gets used to it...".

Choreographer and dancer Adam Cooper presented best new dance production to Wayne McGregor's Woolf Works, while outstanding achievement in dance was won by Italian prima ballerina Alessandra Ferri for Cheri and Woolf Works.