DAME Helen Mirren reigned at London’s Olivier theatre awards taking the best actress prize for her performance as the Queen in The Audience.
Mirren had been favourite for the trophy for her regal yet vulnerable turn in Peter Morgan’s play about the private weekly meetings between the monarch and Britain’s prime ministers over the her 61-year reign.
Mirren is no stranger to royal roles – she won an Academy Award in 2007 for playing the monarch in the film The Queen.
Accepting the award from Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, she joked that it was the Queen herself who deserved an award, “for the most consistent and committed performance of the 20th century, and probably the 21st century.”
Speaking backstage, Dame Helen said winning did not mean she was “the best actor”.
She said: “It really doesn’t mean that, because there are so many incredible performances out there, including many that weren’t even nominated.
“I was making a joke about the Queen winning, but it is a reflection of the kind of respect the Queen is held in.”
Her co-star, Richard McCabe, who won the award for best supporting actor for playing the prime minister Harold Wilson, said Mirren was a joy to work with.
“It’s important as an actor to be absolutely fearless, and she is,” he said.
Speaking backstage, McCabe also said the production had given him a respect for politicians.
He said: “They are decent people trying to do the best they can.”
Luke Treadaway was named best actor for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The play, based on Mark Haddon’s 2003 award-winning novel of the same name, was nominated for eight awards.
Treadaway, who played 15-year-old Christopher, a maths prodigy with autism who sets out to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog, said his win was “not even necessary”.
He said: “I love doing it so much anyway, my mind has been blown, I’m so happy.”
The actor said a lot of the success of the play was down to the novel it was based on.
He said: “I think it’s a beautiful book about family and about love, about differences and people trying to cope with situations they find themselves in that are hard.
“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.”
Curious Incident also took awards for set, lighting and sound, and for supporting actress Nicola Walker.
“Every rehearsal and every single performance was a prize, so this is completely overwhelming,” Walker said.
Goodnight Mister Tom won the award for entertainment and family show, while the musical Billy Elliot won the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award.
The winners were being announced during a song-and-dance-filled ceremony at London’s Royal Opera House hosted by Downton Abbey actor Hugh Bonneville and stage star Sheridan Smith – who kicked things off by belting out Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.
The award for outstanding achievement in dance went to Marianela Nunez for her performances with the the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House.
One of those performances, Aeternum, was named best new dance production and the production of American playwright Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Apollo Theatre picked up the award for best revival.
Before the ceremony started, stars including Daniel Radcliffe, Damian Lewis and Myleene Klass posed for photographers and signed autographs for fans on the red carpet outside the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, central London.
Other celebrities at the ceremony included Will Young and Sherlock star Lara Pulver.
The winners in full:
• Best actress: Dame Helen Mirren, The Audience
• Best actor: Luke Treadway, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
• Best director: Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
• Best musical revival: Sweeney Todd
• Best actor in a musical: Michael Ball, Sweeny Todd
• Best actress in a musical: Imelda Staunton, Sweeny Todd
• Best revival: Long Day’s Journey Into Night
• Best supporting actor: Richard McCabe, The Audience
• Best supporting actress: Nicola Walker, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
• Outstanding achievement in dance: Marianela Nunez
• Special award: Playwright and novelist Michael Frayn
• BBC Radio 2 Audience Award: Billy Elliot