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16 Apr 2012

Musical hit Matilda was the toast of this year's Laurence Olivier Awards, winning seven prizes at a ceremony held at the Royal Opera House in London.

They included one for best actress in a musical, presented jointly to the four child stars who share the title role.

Songwriter Tim Minchin paid tribute to "the little twerps" as he collected the production's best new musical prize.

Matilda's record-breaking tally topped that of Nicholas Nickleby - another RSC show - which won six awards in 1980.

Other recipients included Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, jointly crowned best actor for their dual performances in Danny Boyle's staging of Frankenstein.

Sherlock star Cumberbatch could not attend the event, leaving his co-star to pay tribute to Boyle for "bringing together so many elements" and his "weird way of doing stuff".

Speaking to the BBC's Will Gompertz before the ceremony, the actor said the National Theatre show - also recognised for its lighting - had been "an extraordinary experience" and "very, very demanding".

Ruth Wilson was named best actress for playing the title role in Anna Christie, a Donmar Warehouse production that collected the best revival prize.

Les Miserables picked up the Radio 2 audience award, given to long-running productions, while Derren Brown received the best entertainment accolade for his show Svengali.

The illusionist said the award was "really lovely and very kind", adding that he felt "a bit of a fraud up here accepting anything in front of so many heroes and giants".

Special awards were presented to lyricist Sir Tim Rice and to Dame Monica Mason, who is shortly to leave her post as director of the Royal Ballet after 54 years with the company.

On the red carpet ahead of the awards, Sir Tim attributed the longevity of his career to "good stories and good tunes" and said "an awful lot of it was [down to] luck".

Matilda's other awards included the best actor in a musical prize, presented to Bertie Carvel for his cross-dressing performance as its tyrannical headmistress Agatha Trunchbull.
'Little miracles'

The show, currently running at London's Cambridge Theatre, was also recognised for its choreography, set design and sound design.

At 10 years old, Eleanor Worthington-Cox - recognised alongside fellow Matildas Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram and Sophia Kiely - becomes the youngest ever Olivier winner.

"That's a popular win for sure," said host Michael Ball after the four young stars collected their awards.

Director Matthew Warchus, who was not at this year's ceremony, received his best director award from actor James Earl Jones via a live link to a reception in New York.

The director paid tribute to his leading ladies, describing them as "four little miracles", and said the show was testament to the "healing power of the creative imagination".

Speaking to the BBC backstage, Minchin praised the Royal Shakespeare Company for taking "a couple of risks" and backing a musical that was "a little off-piste".

Supporting actor honours went to Sheridan Smith for Flare Path - accepted in her absence by Sir Trevor Nunn - and former EastEnders star Nigel Harman for his villainous turn in Shrek the Musical.

John Hodge, whose screenwriting credits include Boyle's film Trainspotting, saw his first play Collaborators named best new play ahead of hit comedy One Man, Two Guvnors.

"As someone who spends most of his time in the film industry, it was a great pleasure to find that in the theatre the writer doesn't get fired," said the Scottish writer as he collected his prize.
'Depth of talent'

The ENO had two reasons to celebrate, winning best new opera production and outstanding achievement in opera in quick succession.

Actor Sir Patrick Stewart, singer Will Young and US TV star Zach Braff were among the audience at the ceremony, broadcast live on Radio 2 and on BBC TV via the red button.

Speaking on the red carpet, Sir Patrick said the success of British theatre internationally showed "the depth of talent that we have - directors, designers, composers, choreographers [and] one or two actors".

This year's show opened with a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody by the cast of Queen musical We Will Rock You that featured Brian May on guitar.

Ball and Imelda Staunton co-hosted the ceremony, which also included numbers from Matilda, Shrek and Crazy for You - later named the winner of the best musical revival prize.

Named after theatrical giant Lord Olivier and first held in 1976, the prestigious awards are presented annually by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT).

Source: bbc.co.uk

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