Oliviers 2022: Cabaret and Life of Pi sweep theatre awards

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter at the Olivier Awards

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Jessie Buckley and Eddie Redmayne were named best actress and actor in a musical for Cabaret

A stage adaptation of Life of Pi and a revival of the musical Cabaret were the big winners at Sunday's Olivier Awards.

It was a jubilant night for theatre at the Royal Albert Hall as the stage industry celebrated a year in which performances resumed after lockdown.

Cabaret stars Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley won acting prizes while the show was named best musical revival.

Life of Pi, based on the Booker Prize-winning novel, was named best new play and scooped several technical prizes.

The play's lead, Hiran Abeysekera, also won best actor, while the seven performers who play the tiger shared the best supporting actor prize.

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Hiran Abeysekera said he was "overwhelemed" to be named best actor for Life of Pi

Cabaret's success at the first Olivier ceremony since 2020 follows a critically-acclaimed sell-out run for the show which saw London's Playhouse Theatre transformed into the Kit Kat Club.

The production scooped seven of the 11 prizes it was nominated for, including all four of the musical acting prizes for Redmayne, Buckley, Elliot Levey and Liza Sadovy.

Accepting his prize for his performance as the famous Emcee in the show, Redmayne said: "This is the dream. For me, this is the one.

"This was the part that I played when I was a kid in school. It was the thing that got my passion for theatre really fuelled."

Buckley, who played Sally Bowles, said in her acceptance speech: "It's such a huge privilege to be part of this community which I consider my family. Thank you for welcoming me in all those years ago. This is just so lovely."

Rebecca Frecknall was also named best director, and she dedicated the prize to her late father, who she explained had played Emcee as a student in 1975.

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Best actress winner Sheila Atim praised the theatre industry for "facing adversity" during the pandemic

Life of Pi, a philosophical novel by Yann Martel, was also adapted into a film in 2012 which starred Suraj Sharma and won four Oscars.

Playwright Lolita Chakrabarti thanked Martel for giving her the "complete freedom to do what I wanted with his story" as she accepted one of the five prizes to be won by the stage adaptation.

She also thanked her husband, actor Adrian Lester. "When I started writing, he was my biggest fan and encouraged me completely. When all the doors were shut, he said 'keep knocking, because they'll open'," she recalled.

In a touching speech, the show's star Abeysekera said he was "overwhelmed" to win best actor. He paid tribute to his home country of Sri Lanka, which he said was going through a "tough time now... I think of you and wish I was there with you".

Sri Lanka is facing a serious financial crisis and there have been protests in recent days calling for the resignation of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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The DeLorean from Back to the Future was seen outside the Royal Albert Hall ahead of the musical's wins

Back To The Future was named best new musical - one of the night's most competitive categories.

"Oh my goodness, I was not expecting this," said producer Colin Ingram as he accepted the prize. "This has been eight years of development. To all the nominees, congratulations, it's been a hell of a year."

Sheila Atim won best actress for her performance in a revival of Constellations, a production which saw four different two-person casts alternating throughout its run.

"I'm so proud to be part of the theatre community, I'm so proud of all you guys for still being here," she said. "This play is about facing adversity together, and we all did that."

There were live performances throughout the night from the casts of shows including Moulin Rouge, Back To The Future, Drifters Girl, Frozen, Life of Pi, Anything Goes and Get Up Stand Up.

The ceremony also paid tribute to those within the industry who have died in the past two years, including actors Christopher Plummer, Dame Barbara Windsor, Paul Ritter, Geoffrey Palmer, Sir Antony Sher, Una Stubbs, Des O'Connor and composer Stephen Sondheim.

The winners in full

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Image caption,
The best supporting actor prize was shared between the seven actors who operate Life of Pi's tiger
  • Best new play - Life of Pi
  • Best new musical - Back to the Future: The Musical
  • Best entertainment or comedy play - Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of)
  • Best revival - Constellations
  • Best musical revival - Cabaret
  • Best family show - Wolf Witch Giant Fairy
  • Best director - Rebecca Frecknall for Cabaret
  • Best actor - Hiran Abeysekera for Life of Pi
  • Best actress - Sheila Atim for Constellations
  • Best supporting actor - The seven actors who play the Tiger for Life of Pi
  • Best supporting actress - Liz Carr for The Normal Heart
  • Best actor in a musical - Eddie Redmayne for Cabaret
  • Best actress in a musical - Jessie Buckley for Cabaret
  • Best supporting actor in a musical - Elliot Levey for Cabaret
  • Best supporting actress in a musical - Liza Sadovy for Cabaret
  • Best set design - Tim Hatley for Design and Nick Barnes & Finn Caldwell for the puppets for Life of Pi
  • Best lighting design - Tim Lutkin and Andrzej Goulding for Life of Pi
  • Best new dance production - Revisor by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young
  • Best new opera - Jenůfa
  • Best costume design - Catherine Zuber for Moulin Rouge! The Musical
  • Best sound design - Nick Lidster for Cabaret
  • Best original score or orchestration - Simon Hale for Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical
  • Best theatre choreographer - Kathleen Marshall for Anything Goes
  • Outstanding achievement in dance - Arielle Smith for her choreography of Jolly Folly in Reunion by English National Ballet
  • Outstanding achievement in opera - Peter Whelan and the Irish Baroque Orchestra for Bajazet
  • Outstanding achievement in affiliate theatre - Old Bridge - Bush theatre
  • Special award - Sylvia Young, Lisa Burger, Bob King, Gloria Louis, Susie Sainsbury

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