Laurence Olivier Award

The Olivier Awards
2016 Laurence Olivier Awards

Laurence Olivier Award, designed by the sculptor Harry Franchetti. It depicts Olivier as Henry V at the Old Vic in 1937.
Awarded for Best in London theatre
Country  United Kingdom
Presented by The Society of London Theatre
First awarded 1976
Official website

The Laurence Olivier Awards, or simply the Olivier Awards, are presented annually by the Society of London Theatre to recognise excellence in professional theatre in London at an annual ceremony in the capital. Originally known as the Society of West End Theatre Awards, they were renamed in honour of the British actor Laurence Olivier in 1984.

The awards are given to individuals involved in West End productions and other leading non-commercial theatres based in London across a range of categories covering plays, musicals, dance, opera and affiliate theatre. The Olivier Awards are recognised internationally as the highest honour in British theatre, equivalent to Broadway's Tony Awards and France's Molière Award.

Since its inception, the awards have been held at various venues and theatres across the capital and, most recently, the Royal Opera House since 2012. The BBC used to broadcast the ceremony on television, but ITV acquired the broadcast rights for the 2013 ceremony onwards. The BBC continues to broadcast radio coverage of the event each year.


The awards were first established in 1976 by the Society of London Theatre as the Society of West End Awards and were designed by artist Tom Merrifield. In 1984, British actor Laurence Olivier gave his consent for the awards to be renamed in his honour and they became known as the Laurence Olivier Awards.[1] The first awards ceremony was held in December 1976 at Café Royal.


The Awards are judged by four separate panels for theatre, opera, dance, and Affiliate.[2]

The majority of the Olivier Awards are presented in the theatre categories, which cover plays and musicals. The theatre categories are judged by the theatre panel, which has five anonymous specialist members who are chosen for their specialist knowledge and professional experience in addition to eight members of the theatre going public, four of whom judge plays, and four musicals.

The Opera, Dance and Affiliate panels each consist of three anonymous professional members, each judging their specialist area of expertise. Each panel also includes two members of the theatre going public. The Affiliate Panel judges productions in theatres represented by Affiliate members of the Society of London Theatre. The Affiliate category consists of smaller theatres that do not hold full SOLT membership and are often off-West End, for example the Lyric, Hammersmith, the Hampstead Theatre and repertory theatres such as the Old Vic, Young Vic and Royal Court Theatres. Two separate auditoria within the same theatre building may hold different memberships, such as in the case of the Royal Court Theatre.

Any new production that opens between February 16 and February 15 the following year, in a theatre represented in membership of the Society of London Theatre is eligible for entry for the Olivier Awards if it has run for a minimum of 30 performances. After a nomination has been received, it then has to be seconded by members of the Society and if it is successful, it is then seen by the relevant judging panel.

For awards in the Theatre categories, nominations are decided by a postal ballot of all members of the Theatre Panel and all members of the Society of London Theatre. For Affiliate, Opera and Dance categories, the nominations are decided only by members of the relevant panel, by way of a secret ballot.



Previous presenters of the Olivier Awards Ceremony include Michael Ball, Imelda Staunton, Anthony Head, James Nesbitt, Richard E. Grant, Richard Wilson, Sue Johnston, Clive Anderson, Angela Lansbury, Barry Norman, Peter Barkworth, Daniel Radcliffe, Anthony Hopkins, Sue Lawley, Diana Rigg, Edward Fox, Tim Rice, Gary Wilmot, Jane Asher, Tom Conti, Denis Quilley and Angela Rippon.[3]

Notable people who have presented an individual Award include Diana, Princess of Wales, Eddie Izzard, Kevin Spacey and Sir Tom Stoppard and, in 2007, Laurence Olivier's son, Richard.[3]


The venue most associated with the Awards is Grosvenor House Hotel, which has housed the after-show reception nine times and hosted the whole event on four further occasions. As well as at the Grosvenor, the presentations have been held at: Victoria Palace, Lyceum, National Theatre Olivier, Albery (now Noël Coward), Shaftesbury, London Palladium, Dominion, Royalty, Theatre Royal Drury Lane,[4] Café Royal, Piccadilly, and The Park Lane Hilton.

Since the 2012 awards ceremony, the event has been held at the Royal Opera House. The 2013 ceremony was the first ceremony to be broadcast on television since 2003.[5] ITV broadcast a highlights version after the ceremony had ended.[6][7]


The first Laurence Olivier Awards to be broadcast on television was the 1981 ceremony, which was broadcast on BBC1, and continued every year until 1992, before switching to BBC2 each year until 2003.[8] The awards ceremony was then only broadcast on radio until 2011, when the BBC broadcast live interactive red-button coverage of the event,[9] while Paul Gambaccini presented a programme on BBC Radio 2 with live coverage and interviews.[4] The same coverage followed in 2012, before ITV secured the broadcast rights which saw the return of the Olivier Awards to mainstream television in 2013.[5] This has continued in recent years.

Award categories

Award milestones

Some notable records and facts about the Laurence Olivier Awards include the following:[10]



See also


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