Laurence Olivier Awards

Last updated
Olivier Awards
Current: 2022 Laurence Olivier Awards
Laurence Olivier Award Statue.jpeg
Laurence Olivier Award, designed by the sculptor Harry Franchetti. It depicts Olivier as Henry V at the Old Vic in 1937.
Awarded forBest in London theatre
Country United Kingdom
Presented by Society of London Theatre
First awarded1976;47 years ago (1976)

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 of the same name 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 inception, the awards have been held at various venues and theatres across London, from 2012 to 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 established in 1976 by the Society of London Theatre as the Society of West End Theatre Awards and were designed by artist Tom Merrifield. The first ceremony was in December 1976 at the Café Royal. 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]


Every year, judging panels for theatre, opera, dance and affiliate shows are put together by the Society of London Theatre. [2]

For opera, dance and affiliates, each panel is made up of a mix of professional panellists (journalists, casting directors, arts administrators, publishers and other industry professionals chosen for their knowledge in the field) and members of the public who are passionate about London theatre. The panels first select the shows they consider most worthy of an Olivier Award nomination, then vote on a winner at the end of the judging period. [2]

For the theatre awards, a longlist is compiled by a panel made up of members of the public, and submitted to SOLT members to vote on. Members may still vote outside of the 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. The nominees list is then voted on by both members and panellists to produce the winners. [2]



Past hosts of the Olivier Awards ceremony include Michael Ball, Imelda Staunton, Clive Anderson, Gemma Arterton, Stephen Mangan, Hugh Bonneville, Sheridan Smith, Lenny Henry, Catherine Tate, and Jason Manford.


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 the Albery Theatre (now Noël Coward), Café Royal, Dominion Theatre, London Palladium, Lyceum Theatre, Park Lane Hilton, Piccadilly Theatre, Royal National Theatre Olivier, Royalty Theatre (now Peacock), Shaftesbury Theatre, Theatre Royal Drury Lane and Victoria Palace Theatre. [3]

The awards ceremony was held at the Royal Opera House from 2012 to 2016, moving to the Royal Albert Hall in 2017. [4] [5]


The first Laurence Olivier Awards to be broadcast on television was the 1981 ceremony, which was broadcast on BBC1. This continued until 1992, before a switch to BBC2 until 2003. [6] The awards ceremony was then only broadcast on radio until 2011, when the BBC broadcast live interactive red-button coverage of the event, [7] while Paul Gambaccini presented a programme on BBC Radio 2 with live coverage and interviews. [3] 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. [8] 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: [9]



Judi Dench has a record seven competitive Oliviers, and also won a Special Olivier in 2004 Judi Dench 2015.jpg
Judi Dench has a record seven competitive Oliviers, and also won a Special Olivier in 2004

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  1. "10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Olivier Awards"., accessed 30 January 2018
  2. 1 2 3 "How the Olivier Award winners are chosen - Olivier Awards". Official London Theatre. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  3. 1 2 Jones, Kenneth. "Love Never Dies, Legally Blonde, Rylance, Jacobi, Boggess, Bennett, End of the Rainbow Are Olivier Nominees"., February 7, 2011
  4. Alvarez, Joe; Orlova-Alvarez, Tamara (10 April 2017). "Who Won at The Olivier Awards 2017". Ikon London Magazine. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  5. "Olivier Awards - How It All Began". Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  6. "Olivier Awards – HistoryLondon theatre tickets - London theatre tickets".
  7. Dunn, Carrie (14 March 2011). "Olivier theatre awards: the BBC should be red-faced over its red-button coverage". the Guardian.
  8. Trueman, Matt (29 January 2013). "Olivier awards make triumphant return to TV". the Guardian.
  9. Olivier Awards: 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know., accessed Jan 30, 2018
  10. "Andrew Lloyd Webber Receives Seventh Olivier" Archived 2012-02-13 at the Wayback Machine . Really Useful Group
  11. Karla Burns, music theater trailblazer who won coveted Olivier award, dies at 66. The Wichita Eagle . June 4, 2021.
  12. "Olivier Winners 2017". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  13. "About Billie Piper".