The Info List - Laurence Olivier Theatre Award

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. The awards were originally known as the Society of West End Theatre Awards, but 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. A discretionary non-competitive Special Olivier Award is also given each year. The Olivier Awards are recognised internationally as the highest honour in British theatre, equivalent to the BAFTA Awards for film and television, and the BRIT Awards for music. The Olivier Awards are considered 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 London, from 2012-2016 at the Royal Opera House, before moving to the Royal Albert Hall in 2017. Television coverage is broadcast in prime time on ITV, who acquired the rights from 2013 onwards with radio coverage by Magic Radio.


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.


Each year, the Olivier Award winners are decided by a group of distinguished industry professionals, theatre luminaries and members of the public specifically chosen for their passion for London theatre.[2]

Lively and intense debates are conducted by four panels – theatre, opera, dance and affiliates – each overseen by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT). The professional panellists are chosen for their knowledge in the selected field and each panel is made up of various members including journalists, casting directors, arts administrators and publishers. Each person is chosen by the Chief Executive of SOLT following advice from the SOLT Awards Office and external advisors.[2]

For Affiliates, Dance and Opera, panellists select the shows they consider most worthy of an Olivier Award (to create the nominations in the relevant categories) and vote on a winner at the end of the judging period.

For the Theatre awards, the process happens in two stages. Firstly, a long list is compiled by the Theatre panel, which indicates productions or individuals in a category which the panel deem worthy of particular attention. This long list is then submitted to SOLT members to vote upon; members may still vote outside of this list at this stage, except for in the four Supporting Actor/Actress categories (as these each contain thousands of eligible performers). The members’ votes are collated with those of the panellists to create the list of nominees.[2]

In the second stage, the overall shortlist of nominees is voted on by both members and panellists to produce the winners.[2]



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, Angela Rippon and Jason Manford.[3]

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


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.

From 2012 to 2016 the awards ceremony was held at the Royal Opera House, moving to the Royal Albert Hall in 2017.[5][6] The 2013 ceremony was the first ceremony to be broadcast on television since 2003.[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.[7] This has continued in recent years, and the ceremony has also been broadcast on Magic Radio.

Award categories

Award milestones

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



See also


  1. ^ "10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Olivier Awards". OfficialLondonTheatre.com, accessed 30 January 2018
  2. ^ a b c d "How the Olivier Award winners are chosen - Olivier Awards". Official London Theatre. Retrieved 2018-03-07. 
  3. ^ "Olivier Awards Facts". Olivierawards.com, accessed 7 February 2011
  4. ^ a b Jones, Kenneth. "Love Never Dies, Legally Blonde, Rylance, Jacobi, Boggess, Bennett, End of the Rainbow Are Olivier Nominees". Playbill.com, February 7, 2011
  5. ^ Alvarez, Joe; Orlova-Alvarez, Tamara (10 April 2017). "Who Won at The Olivier Awards 2017". Ikon London Magazine. Retrieved 18 January 2018. 
  6. ^ "Olivier Awards - How It All Began". OfficialLondonTheatre.com. Retrieved 30 January 2018. 
  7. ^ a b Trueman, Matt (29 January 2013). "Olivier awards make triumphant return to TV". the Guardian. 
  8. ^ "Olivier Awards – HistoryLondon theatre tickets - London theatre tickets". www.westendtheatre.com. 
  9. ^ Dunn, Carrie (14 March 2011). "Olivier theatre awards: the BBC should be red-faced over its red-button coverage". the Guardian. 
  10. ^ Olivier Awards: 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know. OfficialLondonTheatre.com, accessed Jan 30, 2018
  11. ^ "Andrew Lloyd Webber Receives Seventh Olivier". Really Useful Group
  12. ^ "Olivier Winners 2017". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 2018-01-30. 

External links