By Alex Kingston
Thursday 16th March 2023
This year was an exciting year for drama, with some fantastic new plays premiering on the West End stage. Among these were My Neighbour Totoro by Tom Morton-Smith, a production which has become one of the most nominated shows in Olivier Award history. We were also graced with an exciting import from Broadway in the form of Aaron Sorkin’s new adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, which has been a mega-hit on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. This was also a great year for revivals, including critically acclaimed productions such as A Streetcar Named Desire starring Academy Award nominee Paul Mescal. There’s a lot to discuss with these nominations so, without further ado, here are our predictions for the drama categories!
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Rose Ayling-Ellis as Celia in As You Like It
Pamela Nomvete as Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird
Caroline Quentin as Mrs Malaprop in Jack Absolute Flies Again
Sharon Small as Helen in Good
Anjana Vasan as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire
Prediction: Anjana Vasan as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire
My initial prediction for a frontrunner in this category would have been Gwenyth Keyworth for her outstanding performance in To Kill a Mockingbird, though she was surprisingly omitted from the list of nominees. In her absence, it is probable that Anjana Vasan will win the big prize. Vasan really held her own against the two co-leads in A Streetcar Named Desire, making it feel as if she were part of a leading trio, in spite of her reduced stage time. She delivers a remarkable performance in what is already an excellent production, so there is no doubt that the Olivier Awards would be eager to recognise her efforts. Sharon Small may also be in with a shot of winning for her ability to convey multiple characters in Good, though the emotional depth found within Vasan’s portrayal of Stella makes her the one to beat.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mark Akintimehin as Onyx, Emmanuel Akwafo as Pitch, Nnabiko Ejimofor as Jet, Darragh Hand as Sable, Aruna Jalloh as Obsidian and Kaine Lawrence as Midnight in For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy
Will Keen as Vladimir Putin in Patriots
Elliot Levey as Maurice in Good
David Moorst as Dill Harris in To Kill a Mockingbird
Sule Rimi as Sam Thomas in Blues for an Alabama Sky
Prediction: Mark Akintimehin as Onyx, Emmanuel Akwafo as Pitch, Nnabiko Ejimofor as Jet, Darragh Hand as Sable, Aruna Jalloh as Obsidian and Kaine Lawrence as Midnight in For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy
Last year’s trophy for Best Supporting Actor was a shared win, being given to all seven actors who played the role of the Tiger in Life of Pi. This year we can expect another shared win, this time for an acting ensemble. The six actors listed here have already won a Stage Debut Award, and it would be no great surprise if they added an Olivier Award to their collection too. Their greatest competition arguably comes from Will Keen, who received positive reviews for successfully conveying Vladimir Putin’s persona through multiple decades. One may also consider Elliot Levey to be a dark horse candidate for his performance in Good, having previously won an Olivier Award at last year’s ceremony for Cabaret. While it wouldn’t be a shock for any of these to win, the ensemble from For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy are still the favourites, judged by a combination of Olivier history and acclaim.
Jodie Comer as Tessa in Prima Facie
Patsy Ferran as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire
Mei Mac as Mei Kusakabe in My Neighbour Totoro
Janet McTeer as Helen in Pheadra
Nicola Walker as Ms Moffat in The Corn Is Green
Prediction: Jodie Comer as Tessa in Prima Facie
Jodie Comer has gone from strength to strength in recent years, landing a Primetime Emmy Award for her role in Killing Eve, before being cast in numerous blockbuster movies, such as Free Guy and The Last Duel. Her stardom continued to rise with her West End debut in Prima Facie this time last year, and she subsequently won both an Evening Standard and a WhatsOnStage Award. In fact, her performance generated such high levels of excitement that it warranted a Broadway transfer, and she will be reprising her role in Prima Facie on the Great White Way beginning next month. As a result of the above, it would be considered a major surprise if Comer did not win the Olivier Award for Best Actress. The potential spoiler here is Patsy Ferran, who may win if the Oliviers have a particular desire to reward Streetcar in as many categories as possible. It does seem like Comer has it in the bag, though nothing is ever 100% certain!
Tom Hollander as Boris Berezovsky in Patriots
Paul Mescal as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire
Rafe Spall as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird
David Tennant as John Halder in Good
Giles Terera as Guy Jacobs in Blues for an Alabama Sky
Prediction: Paul Mescal as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire
This may very well be the strongest acting category at this year’s Oliviers, making it a difficult race to call. Any of the five nominees would be a deserving winner, though I believe Paul Mescal will ultimately prevail. Mescal has been receiving a lot of attention as of late, having recently been nominated for an Academy Award. Through a combination of his increasing popularity and the critical acclaim he received for his portrayal of Stanley, it seems likely that he will emerge victorious. We mustn’t count out Rafe Spall or David Tennant however, both of whom have been nominated in previous years, though have not yet won the top prize. If the Oliviers wish to recognise a more seasoned actor as opposed to a relative newcomer, then they may wish to award one of these two. Having said that, the momentum is with Mescal right now, so he will be hard to topple.
Best Entertainment or Comedy Play
Jack and the Beanstalk by Michael Harrison
My Neighbour Totoro by Tom Morton-Smith
One Woman Show by Liz Kingsman
Prediction: My Neighbour Totoro by Tom Morton-Smith
This category has a clear frontrunner in the form of My Neighbour Totoro. The production received more nominations than any other show, meaning it has somewhat dominated this year’s award season. My Neighbour Totoro received numerous 5-star reviews and enjoyed a sold-out run at the Barbican Centre, which means it has garnered support from critics and audiences alike. While My Son’s a Queer also received very positive reviews and may have had more luck in previous years, this time around My Neighbour Totoro is near unstoppable. It is worth noting that there was a surprise snub in this category, with the pantomime Mother Goose starring Ian McKellen going unrecognised. It would seem that the Oliviers wished to nominate only one pantomime this year, and ultimately decided to give that slot to the flashier option of Jack and the Beanstalk.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Good by Cecil Philip Taylor
Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Prediction: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
The acclaimed and commercially successful production of A Streetcar Named Desire seems well-placed to win this prize, having enjoyed a sold-out run at the Almeida Theatre ahead of a West End transfer that starts next week. This production has breathed new life into the original text and has introduced a whole new generation to the writings of Tennessee Williams. This, combined with the fact that it was the most nominated revival, means it is likely to win the award. On the other hand, there is the possibility for an upset, with Jerusalem also a contender. This production of Jerusalem is more of a remount than a revival, meaning it is arguably less worthy of the award than Streetcar. Having said that, the shear acclaim directed toward Jerusalem may mean that the Oliviers overlook this particular fact, thus giving it the award for Best Revival. The prediction remains that Streetcar will in fact prevail, but Jerusalem shouldn’t be disregarded either.
Best New Play
For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy by Ryan Calais Cameron
Patriots by Peter Morgan
Prima Facie by Suzie Miller
To Kill a Mockingbird by Aaron Sorkin
Prediction: To Kill a Mockingbird by Aaron Sorkin
This particular category is a lot harder to call than the previous one, and the race is arguably a tossup between To Kill a Mockingbird and Prima Facie. On the one hand, To Kill a Mockingbird received a greater number of nominations than Prima Facie, which may cause one to assume that the former is favoured here. Additionally, To Kill a Mockingbird has had a prolonged run in London’s West End, having first opened in March 2022. This means it has had a large presence in theatreland for the entire year, while Prima Facie only had a two-month stint. A combination of these factors means that To Kill a Mockingbird is in fact the favourite, albeit narrowly. The two shows were both very popular and received similar commendation though, so it could very much go either way.