Helen Mirren crowned best actress at top UK theatre awards

LONDON Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:00am IST

Helen Mirren poses as she arrives for the British Academy of Film and Arts (BAFTA) awards ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London February 10, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/Files

Helen Mirren poses as she arrives for the British Academy of Film and Arts (BAFTA) awards ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London February 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett/Files

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LONDON (Reuters) - Helen Mirren was crowned best actress at Britain's top theatre awards on Sunday for reprising her Oscar-winning portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, while a play about a boy with autism was the night's top winner, taking home seven Olivier prizes.

Mirren, 67, has won stellar reviews for starring in "The Audience", Peter Morgan's play about the private weekly meetings between the queen and the 12 British prime ministers during the six decades of her reign.

Mirren is no stranger to royalty having won an Academy award, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA, one of the UK's most prestigious entertainment honours, for the same role in the 2006 film "The Queen" that was also written by Morgan.

The actress said the monarch deserved an Olivier, Britain's equivalent of Broadway's Tonys, after receiving an honorary BAFTA this month for supporting the film and TV industry.

The queen, 87, demonstrated her support for the film industry last year when she starred with actor Daniel Craig in a James Bond spoof at the opening of the London Olympic Games.

"Each time I (play her) I feel people are really responding to the queen," Mirren told reporters after accepting her award from Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe at British theatre's biggest night at London's Royal Opera house.

"I feel I am rather coasting along on that love and respect," added the actress who had been nominated three times previously for best actress at the Olivier awards.

TIES WITH RECORD

She beat Hattie Morahan in "A Doll's House", singer-turned-actress Billie Piper in "The Effect" and Kristin Scott Thomas in "Old Times" to take home the leading female honour.

Mirren's co-star, Richard McCabe, won the award for best supporting actor for playing the prime minister Harold Wilson.

But the biggest winner of the 37th Olivier awards was "The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time" that opened at the National Theatre in London in 2012 and transferred to London's West End theatre district this year.

The play, based on Mark Haddon's 2003 award-winning novel, won seven of the eight awards for which it was nominated, equalling a record set by "Matilda the Musical" in 2012.

It was named the best new play while Luke Treadaway won the best actor statuette for playing 15-year-old Christopher, a maths prodigy with autism who sets out to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbour's dog.

He beat Rupert Everett in "Judas Kiss", Mark Rylance in "Twelfth Night", Rafe Spall in "Constellations", and James McAvoy in "Macbeth" for the top male prize.

"The book created such an amazing central character who people seem to relate to even though he has behavioural problems and his way of viewing of the world," Treadaway, 28, told Reuters on the red carpet ahead of the glitzy ceremony.

Christopher's mother in the play, actress Nicola Walker, won best supporting actress while the play also won awards for Marianne Elliott for best director as well as for lighting design, set design and sound design.

The prize for best new musical went to "Top Hat", based on the film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, which received seven nominations and took home three prizes. It also won a sound award and best costume design.

Composer Philip Glass's opera "Einstein on the Beach" won the award for best new opera production, a five-hour event in which audiences were invited to enter and exit at their leisure.

The Royal Ballet's production of "Aeternum" won the best new dance production award. (Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Jon Hemming and Stephen Powell)

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