By Alex Kingston
Sunday 3rd March 2023
Yes, it’s that time of the year again – it’s award season! Last week, the Olivier Award nominees were announced, and it was a great set of nominees. My Neighbour Totoro and Standing at the Sky’s Edge emerged triumphant, earning night and eight nominations respectively in various categories. There’s a lot of buzz over who might win on the big night, with the ceremony taking place early next month at the Royal Albert Hall. Some categories have clear frontrunners, with others being pure toss-ups. In the meantime, all we can do is speculate and, on that note, we present our predictions for the production and creative categories!
Rebecca Frecknall for A Streetcar Named Desire
Robert Hastie for Standing at the Sky’s Edge
Justin Martin for Prima Facie
Phelim McDermott for My Neighbour Totoro
Bartlett Sher for To Kill a Mockingbird
Prediction: Phelim McDermott for My Neighbour Totoro
Though McDermott looks set to be the frontrunner, she faces some stiff competition. The Oliviers tend to reward directors who have helmed flashy productions with impressive creativity, as shown by Rebecca Frecknall’s win for Cabaret at last year’s ceremony. Totoro was nominated in every single creative category, so it’s easy to imagine that the Oliviers will want to recognise McDermott’s efforts in overseeing this sensational production. Having said that, Frecknall too has been nominated in this category, and it is clear that the Oliviers are big fans of her work, having nominated her three times over the past five years. Frecknall has completely transformed the Tennessee Williams classic, and the award panel may wish to acknowledge her efforts. Furthermore, we shouldn’t overlook Robert Hastie either; after all, Standing at the Sky’s Edge is the most nominated musical! Neither production however is quite as flashy as My Neighbour Totoro, which may swing things in McDermott’s favour.
Best Theatre Choreographer
Matt Cole for Newsies
Lynne Page for Standing at the Sky’s Edge
Kate Prince for Sylvia
Basil Twist for puppetry directing My Neighbour Totoro
Prediction: Matt Cole for Newsies
Though Newsies failed to earn a nomination in any other category, it appears that the show’s one nomination may be enough to secure an Olivier Award. The show’s choreography, featuring tap dancing and acrobatics, is quite a sight to behold and is very much worthy of this prize. As of right now, it seems as if Newsies is the one to beat. Having said that, My Neighbour Totoro has been thrown into the mix here for its puppetry direction, and that too received critical acclaim. It’s difficult to compare the process of creating planned dance movements with puppetry direction, which means that the competition isn’t as clear-cut as other categories. It does seem like Newsies has the upper hand however considering just how integral the choreography is to the production as a whole. On a slightly different note, while it wasn’t nominated, we felt a special mention should be given to Arlene Phillips’s dazzling choreography in Grease, which has unfortunately been snubbed this time around.
Best Set Design
Miriam Buether for To Kill a Mockingbird
Tom Pye for My Neighbour Totoro
Ben Stones for Standing at the Sky’s Edge
Mark Walters for Jack and the Beanstalk
Prediction: Tom Pye for My Neighbour Totoro
As previously mentioned, My Neighbour Totoro is a big and flashy production, and with that comes a big and flashy set design. As a result, the Oliviers are likely to award Pye with this prestigious award. This would not be dissimilar to previous years, where lavish sets such as those seen in Life of Pi were given the award. The other possibility here is that Ben Stones will win for Standing at the Sky’s Edge, with that particular design having been lauded for its versatility. It is not as intricate as the set for My Neighbour Totoro, which means that the Oliviers will have to choose whether they wish to reward an elaborate set or a more subtle one. I personally imagine they will go with the former, but stranger things have happened!
Best Costume Design
Frankie Bradshaw for Blues for an Alabama Sky
Hugh Durrant for Jack and the Beanstalk
Jean Paul Gaultier for Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show
Kimie Nakano for My Neighbour Totoro
Prediction: Frankie Bradshaw for Blues for an Alabama Sky
Featuring orange satin dresses and white frocks, the costume designs for Blues for an Alabama Sky received rave reviews. The impressive costumes were discussed in numerous publications, so it is easy to see them being recognised here too. We mustn’t count out Hugh Durrant either though, whose work on Jack and the Beanstalk has earned him his fifth Olivier Award nomination. In spite of several nominations over the past several years, Durrant has always come up short of winning; could this be his lucky year? It must be noted that there was a surprising omission in this category, with Catherine Zuber going unrecognised for her Tony Award-winning work on My Fair Lady. With Zuber out of the race, however, it seems likely that Bradshaw will win the coveted prize.
Best Lighting Design
Natasha Chivers for Prima Facie
Lee Curran for A Streetcar Named Desire
Jessica Hung Han Yun for My Neighbour Totoro
Tim Lutkin for The Crucible
Prediction: Natasha Chivers for Prima Facie
Lighting is an exceptionally hard category to call, and it’s not impossible to imagine any four of these nominees winning. The lighting in Prima Facie however is integral to the overall production, which will likely make it stand out. Chivers’ lighting really added to the play’s most dramatic moments and was particularly pivotal to the final scene, which in turn highlights its grandeur. Chivers’ biggest rival is arguably Lee Curran, whose purposeful designs in A Streetcar Named Desire were a standout feature. Both are excellent examples of what effective lighting can achieve and either would be a worthy winner, as would the other two nominees. It would also have been nice to see Scott Zielinsky nominated for his work on Oklahoma, though he, unfortunately, did not make the cut this time around.
Best Sound Design
Bobby Aitken for Standing at the Sky’s Edge
Tony Gayle for My Neighbour Totoro
Drew Levy for Oklahoma
Ben Ringham and Max Ringham for Prima Facie
Prediction: Bobby Aitken for Standing at the Sky’s Edge
The sound design of a theatrical production is often overlooked, though it is an essential part of any show. A sound designer has the responsibility of creating the audio for a production, including things such as sound effects, music, and building atmosphere. The sound design for Standing at the Sky’s Edge has been singled out by numerous reviewers for particular praise and is said to enhance the music featured in the production. If Aitken does not win the award, then the next likely winner is Tony Gayle for his work on My Neighbour Totoro. As previously established, Totoro is likely to win in numerous other production categories, so it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if it picked up the award for sound design too. Aitken however may very well be the favourite, as he is the individual responsible for the impressive amplification of the musical score featured in Standing at the Sky’s Edge.