Entertainment & Arts

Helen Mirren and Billie Piper on theatre award shortlist

Helen Mirren and Billie Piper
Image caption Helen Mirren and Billie Piper were up against each other this year at the Olivier Awards

Helen Mirren and Billie Piper are going head to head for best actress at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

The pair were previously in competition at this year's Olivier Awards, where Dame Helen took the prize for her portrayal of the Queen in The Audience.

Piper is nominated for her role in clinical drugs trial drama The Effect, which is also up for best play.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester are in contention for best actor.

Lester and Kinnear played Othello and Iago in the National Theatre production of Shakespeare's tragedy, while Ejiofor portrayed Congolese independence campaigner Patrice Lumumba in the Young Vic's A Season in the Congo.

The best actress category also includes Kristin Scott Thomas for her part in a revival of Harold Pinter's Old Times; Linda Bassett, for her performance in Arnold Wesker's Roots; and Lesley Manville, for Ibsen's Ghosts.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony, presented by Homeland star Damian Lewis, at the Savoy Hotel in London on 17 November.

Image caption Rory Kinnear (left), as Iago, and Adrian Lester as Othello at the National Theatre

The past, present and future artistic directors of the National Theatre - Richard Eyre, Nicholas Hytner and Rufus Norris - compete against each other in the best director category.

Current boss Sir Nicholas is up for Othello, the incoming Rufus Norris for his revival of James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, and Sir Richard (in charge from 1988 to 1997) for Ghosts at the Almeida. The fourth director on the shortlist is Lyndsey Turner, for Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica.

Chimerica, which earned a flood of five-star reviews when it opened at the Almeida and transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End, is up for best play alongside Nick Dear's The Dark Earth and the Light Sky (also at the Almeida) and The Effect (National).

Broadway hit The Book of Mormon, by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, goes up against Tori Amos's The Light Princess and a revival of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along for best musical.

This year's awards feature a new category for best musical performance, with Rosalie Craig (The Light Princess), Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple) and Charlotte Wakefield (The Sound of Music) on the shortlist.

As well as his best actor nomination, Kinnear is among the three contenders for most promising playwright for his debut drama, The Herd, at the Bush Theatre.

He is up against Phoebe Waller-Bridge for her one-woman play, Fleabag, and Rachel De-lahay for Routes at the Royal Court.

The outstanding newcomer category features Caoilfhionn Dunne (The Night Alive, Donmar Warehouse), Seth Numrich (Sweet Bird of Youth, Old Vic), Luke Thompson (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare's Globe) and Olivia Vinall (Othello, National).

The best design contenders are Bob Crowley (People, The Audience and Once), Es Devlin (Chimerica), and Tim Hatley and Peter Mumford (Ghosts).

The award winners are decided by a panel of six theatre critics and the London Evening Standard's editor, Sarah Sands.

"This shortlist is one of our strongest in years," Ms Sands said. "The West End is in rude health, established schemes such as NT Live have really come into their own, bringing theatre to a wider audience and inspiring others to come up with new ideas."

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