The Olivier Awards - Hiddleston! Dench! Freeman! ... Theatre People! Culture!

It only seems like a few months ago I was in more or less exactly this space : The Royal Opera House, London; for a large awards ceremony. But this time it’s not the BAFTAs – it’s the OLIVIERS. Actual culture. Actual theatre. Actual talent. And….

… actually I had no idea how I was going to cope with identifying anyone I’d be photographing. Unless these people had bit-parts in Harry Potter or something, I’d be stuck saying “dude in tux” / “lady in dress” for most of it. Or that was my fear.

Here’s how it went down.

It’s a Redcarpet, and my wrist number 124 afforded me a front-row spot just behind the first of the black cubes you can see on the carpet on the left hand side. Not exactly pole position, but it jutted out slightly, geographically. And at least in picking a spot like that, my theatre credentials weren’t writing cheques that a cursory glance at the junk in my DVD collection could never cash.

As Awards Statues go, it’s a bit more intimidating than most. This one kind of glowers at you, daring you to do better. Which is nicely motivational if you don’t have one, but could be a bit aggressively weird if you happen to win one.

So here’s my problem : I’m more likely to recognise somebody who played a minor background or third-tier character in a Marvel superhero movie than somebody who’s won several Oliviers, some Tony Awards and has been a mainstay of British Television for several decades. It’s not that I’m shallow (or not just that) but have no idea who these people are. I wish them well in their endeavours, I’m just not sure whether they’re horticultural, sporting, accounting… or acting.

I may not know anybody from the world of British Theatre, but perhaps my powers of deduction will see me through? For instance, I posit that nobody would ever wear a glittery spangly bodysuit to the Oliviers unless they’re nominated for something. I mean, look at Sir Laurence in Gold in the background. He doesn’t look as shocked as he should if this was a random civilian.

On any other day I’d quip that this is obviously Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones, however I photographed actress Gwendoline Christie at the Baftas back in February and she didn’t look quite as much likely to stab somebody carrying a tray of Hors D’oeuvres than this lady.

If you’re carrying three DSLRs on a red carpet, you’re probably not famous but chances are that whoever you’re taking a photo of is. And yet this lady is carrying her jacket, and that’s generally the role of a Personal Assistant, so I’m not sure.

The ladies next to me are from America and mainly here for Tom Hiddleston (?), while the ladies on the other side of me are not American but also appear to be mainly here for Tom Hiddleston. And this is obviously NOT Tom Hiddleston, but I’ve been reliably informed that this is Barbara Windsor, and the identification of her was forceful enough that I felt guilty asking follow-up questions (like “who is Barbara Windsor?”), so I didn’t. I do note that the guy on her left is a priest though.

According to Wikipedia. Barbara Windsor has been in the TV show Eastenders for 20 years (1500+ episodes), and has had a theatre career that started in 1950. She was also a voice in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland (2010), so on balance it’s probably more my fault that I don’t know who she is than the other way around.

Guy with Hairstyle and Tie. (I assume that’s a theatre awards category, right?)

I need to apologise – the ladies to my left might have been here for Tom Hiddleston but it turned out that they DID know their Theatre. Their excitement revealed that this was somebody Of Note. Maybe somebody from “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”?. (Edited to add : Cynthia Erivo, among other things she’s been in ‘Sister Act’)

I saw both of these two ladies being interviewed moments later, so I know they’re famous (albeit degree of fame subject to discussion), but once again I am uncultured swine and don’t know who they are. Still… I believe that colour dress is properly referred to as “light blue”.

Random hugging!! (You know it’s sincere – at this point nobody has won any awards yet). The girls to my left opined that they were from Book of Mormon. And I DO want to eventually get around to seeing that.

This is why even I, as a guy whose wardrobe is mainly T-shirts, still use fabric softener in every wash. (Edited to add : she’s Leigh Zimmerman, and she won an Olivier award last year for A Chorus Line. …. I don’t know who does her laundry)

I know this person! It’s Kristin Davis! And while I might be able to score some decades-too-late Metrosexual points by claiming I’ve seen any Sex and the City shows or movies or prequels, I have not. I swear it.

Not unusual at all. I greet my train driver this way every morning.

Women holding hands. Theatre, no?

The woman in the green dress caused momentary excitement in our area but as usually I had no idea why. The dress was fairly amazing, and I say that because the lacework kind of merged elegant lace with that strange fabric they’re using on all superhero and star trek uniforms these days.

… it’s lacework. I’ve been to Belgium so I’ve seen better. It’s the Oliviers and even I’m trying to appear cultured and snooty. (.. I’m not wearing a beanie.).
(edited to add : she’s Lesley Garrett, opera singer, who has released no less than 15 studio albums in her time) (in my defense, I’m more into instrumental soundtrack scores, but I do like the dress)

Outstanding news : I recognise Dame Judi Dench because she’s been in James Bond, and also her frown could melt Sir Laurence Olivier Statues at ninety paces.

Four hundred paces.

As I’ve begun writing this journal, wireimage has started updating and tagging their uploaded photos of this event. I can therefore piggyback on their identification of this as Katherine Kingsley. (And now I guess I’m going to have to figure out who that is. All I know up to now is that her dress was blue).

I have no idea who this is either, so I’m going to have to put my traditional “owes me $5” caption on hold for this entire event. (Thanks wireimage : Stephen Mangan) (Thanks wikipedia : currently playing “Wooster” in “Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense” in London)

I’m making an executive call : anyone in a green dress = famous.

I do know that the lady in the mauve dress is Samantha Barks. Not because she was in the West End production of Les Miserables from 2010-2011, but because she played the same character in Les Miserables …as in the Tom Hooper movie of the same musical.

“I don’t care what it is, I’m not signing that” Lady, you have no idea how hard it is to get a llama onto the tube…

I will deny that the 1970s is in any way a formative part of my upbringing, but I am aware of the Swedish band ABBA, and thus I can say with certainty (plus online research) that these are Benny and Bjorn, two fourths of that band.

“Dude, I was there, and there is NO WAY the song Super Trouper is about that”

Brian May, meanwhile, was in the band Queen. His hair is even more famous, and is currently foreign minister for a tiny Caribbean nation.

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that Blue Suit = Famous. And More Blue = More Famous. And if I’m wrong, I don’t want to be right.
(edited to add : I’M RIGHT! He’s Gavin Creel, and he won an Olivier as Best Actor in a musical, Book of Mormon)

“Somebody wants me to sign a Shakespeare play. Do I decline because I’m not William Shakespeare or because I wasn’t in that play?” Mark Strong was, however, the villain in no less than three movies I can think of : Kick Ass, Sherlock Holmes and John Carter of Mars (But can a man who wears a bow tie so well truly be evil?)

“Hold on. Somebody wants me to sign a book of W B Yeats poetry and I’m gonna do it…”

I’m starting to hit my stride here, as the event goes on and some of the larger names end up being big in the worlds of both theatre and movies. This is Martin Freeman, who is Bilbo Baggins in the Peter Jackson Hobbit films. He’s both simultaneously shorter and much much taller than you’d expect in real life.

My “Stride” is short-lived, as I have no idea who this is. She appears to be in a state of semi-undress and security are making no moves to stop her, so on that basis I proclaim her “famous” because I’m pretty sure from where I stand I couldn’t get away with that. (edited to add : she’s Bernadette Peters, and has been nominated for 7 Tony Awards (won 2), 3 Emmy Awards, and 3 Golden Globes (winning 1) in a career that spans 50 years. So.. call me suitably chastised)

“Yes, that’s a very impressive App all right, but are you going to take a photo of me or what?” James McAvoy is probably best known for playing the Patrick Stewart / younger role of Professor X in the X-Men prequels, but is apparently fantastic in the movie Filth which I haven’t seen. His sunglasses, though, are Ray-Bans. As are mine.

“I can’t look at ALL of your holiday snaps. Oh, fine….. let’s see Singapore” Wikipedia informs me (us all, really. You should totally donate to them) that he played in the title role of Macbeth in the West End in early 2013.

Hayley Atwell plays Agent Peggy Carter in the original Captain America movie, and I was too disturbed by the character in age makeup in the sequel that I didn’t want to check, but she was at the premiere so she might have been.

Fans of the character Peggy Carter will be pleased to know that apparently she’ll be getting her own TV show. Fans of the actress and her career in London Theater (and what are the odds THOSE people are hanging around the Olivier Awards?) will probably not need to slink off to Wikipedia yet again to find out that she’s been performing in “The Pride” at London’s Trafalgar Studios.

“That’s your best attempt at a smile yet. Keep at it – you’ll be hitting the dating scene in no time”

If actress Ruth Wilson could just turn left, I could get my first unobstructed photo of her in about four or five attempts (offhand I’d cite The Lone Ranger , Saving Mr Banks , This Year’s Baftas and The Pre-Baftas Asprey event )

And as the carpet begins to clear and guests and nominees start enjoying the free champagne and canapes inside the Royal Opera House a giant cheer erupts as a car dispenses Tom Hiddleston. I’ve almost never been so happy to see a guy before : the 90% of the crowd who appeared to be there to see him alone would have started crying if he didn’t come, and it would have made for a very unusual red carpet wrap-up for the media to deal with)

“I’ve been signing for fifteen minutes. What do you mean ’there’s still more crowd’??” Tom Hiddleston made a valiant effort to sign for everyone, but I suppose even the ghost of Sir Laurence Olivier has only so much patience.

“The media cordon runs for almost fifty meters, and you only have enough time to answer a maximum half dozen questions as long as they’re yes/no or multiple choice. I don’t know how you’re going to manage this”

“Yes, Yes, No, No, 1968, Yes, Fifteen, After six o’clock and Hello Belfast. That’s all I’ve got time for – you can edit in the questions, right?”

“Right. Three dozen interviews to go”

“We’ve checked our interview archives and if you could just stare enigmatically for twelve seconds that’ll do perfectly” Tom Hiddleston, incidentally, isn’t gatecrashing the Olivier Awards – he played the title role in Coriolanus. And I didn’t have to go to wikipedia to find that out.

I’m writing this commentary about three hours after the event, so short of time travel there’s no way I could be distracting Tom Hiddleston three hours in the past from where he stands. Not even with all the powers attributed to him by his fans. I think.

In my defense, the red carpet is basically empty at this point and I can’t leave until it’s clear, so I might as well keep taking photos. I can’t say I wouldn’t have preferred Charlize Theron under those circumstances, but Tom Hiddleston is fairly nice.

In all the excitment, somebody snuck past Tom Hiddleston. I might have been the only person to notice.

“Peace out guys”


And then it was time to head home. I’ll admit, this was a tricky event to photograph – it’s a little bit easier when you know who’s important and who isn’t. I have no doubt that half a million Tony Award and prior Olivier Award alumni cheerfully marched past my camera while I was all “Ooh! Hayley Atwell!”.

But it was a pleasant afternoon, the weather was nice, the crowd was nice, the people around me were nice, and it was civilised all round. Apologies if you’re deep (or even merely ‘less shallowly than me’) into the world of theatre – I’m not the person to represent your interests at the Oliviers. I’ve actually watched more Twilight films than Theatre productions…. or at the least it’s a close call.

Oh, and a quick addition : Lesley Mannville, who won Best Actress for her performance as Helene Alving in ‘Ghosts’. She breezed past as effortlessly as you might have expected prior to the ceremony. I’m surprised I photographed her in passing, as her dress is certainly not green…

Additionally, seen later in the evening proudly clutching a glowering Olivier statue, is Nick Allott who wandered past my camera, like one of those deep sea fishes swimming past an impassive bathyscape camera deep at the bottom of an oceanic trench. (Which is to say : he fell under the category of “photograph first, study and classify later”).

So, for want of a better place to put it, it’s another entry for my Archive of Movie Premieres where I’ll put it next to four Baftas, three GQs, two Brits, an Empire and a Pride of Britain as well as a random Australian ARIA award.

Until next time!

Twitter : @berndt2_photo

Journal Comments

  • Rhana Griffin
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