Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Brief History of the Olivier Awards

The Laurence Olivier Awards are the most prestigious awards in London theater.

You always hear during award time in Hollywood people saying "it is a privilege to be nominated", but in this case it truly is a privilege to be nominated for an Olivier Award.

Seems a bit like a dream this morning, but it is true, Richard Armitage was nominated yesterday for a Best Actor Olivier.

In 1979  Laurence Olivier himself was given what was then the Society of West End Theatre award. He received a  Special Award in celebration of his contribution to London theatre. It was not until 1984 that Sir Laurence was asked, and he agreed, to have his name associated with the awards and they became the Olivier Awards.

The awards have been a mark of theatrical excellence since they were inaugurated in 1976 as the Society of West End Theatre Awards. The society is now known as Society of London Theatre (SOLT).

How are the awards judged?

"The Awards are judged by four separate panels for theatre, opera, dance, and Affiliate.

The majority of the Olivier Awards are presented in the theatre categories, which cover plays and musicals. The theatre categories are judged by the theatre panel, which has five anonymous specialist members who are chosen for their specialist knowledge and professional experience in addition to eight members of the theatre going public, four of whom judge plays, and four musicals.

The Opera, Dance and Affiliate panels each consist of three anonymous professional members, each judging their specialist area of expertise. Each panel also includes two members of the theatre going public. The Affiliate Panel judges productions in theatres represented by Affiliate members of the Society of London Theatre. The Affiliate category consists of smaller theatres that do not hold full SOLT membership and are often off-West End, for example the Lyric, Hammersmith, the Hampstead Theatre and repertory theatres such as the Old Vic, Young Vic and Royal Court Theatres. Two separate auditoria within the same theatre building may hold different memberships, such as in the case of the Royal Court Theatre.

Any new production that opens between February 16 and February 15 the following year, in a theatre represented in membership of the Society of London Theatre is eligible for entry for the Olivier Awards if it has run for a minimum of 30 performances. After a nomination has been received, it then has to be seconded by members of the Society and if it is successful, it is then seen by the relevant judging panel.

For awards in the Theatre categories, nominations are decided by a postal ballot of all members of the Theatre Panel and all members of the Society of London Theatre. For Affiliate, Opera and Dance categories, the nominations are decided only by members of the relevant panel, by way of a secret ballot."From Wikipedia)

The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) was founded in 1908 by Sir Charles Wyndham. Sir Charles was born in Liverpool and educated at Kings College London.  His father was a doctor, but Charles was so attracted to acting that though he attended the College of Surgeons, he gave up medicine to become an actor. But as happens to most actors, he had a challenging interlude when he wasn't getting any acting jobs. He heard news that there was a shortage of surgeons in the United States. The US was then in the midst of a Civil War and Doctor Wyndham volunteered to become a surgeon in the Union Army. He served at the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. On 17 November 1864 he resigned his contract with the Army and returned to the stage to great success.

 Charles Wyndham

In 1899 he opened the Wyndham Theatre in Charing Cross Road, London and the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circle in 1874.

Society of London Theatre (SOLT) is the organisation that represents the producers, theatre owners and managers of the major commercial and grant-aided theatres in central London. The Society of London Theater does much more than manage the Olivier Awards.  If you want to know more about them you can go to their website at the link below:


(Info thanks to Wikipedia, Olivier Awards website, and SOLT website)


  1. Thank you,Fabo! :)

  2. Thanks for that, Fabo! :) The Olivier award is definitely a prestigious one. I keep hoping RA will win, though the competition is nothing but weak.

    1. I think we have to think positive MargotMat and send good thoughts and positive vibes to the Olivier awards in favor of Richard :)


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