Mendes is the toast of the West End after Oliviers hat-trick

Story by Jack Foley

HE'S already won an Oscar for his feature film debut, American Beauty, but now Sam Mendes has become the first triple winner of the Laurence Olivier Awards, announced on Friday, February 14 (2003).

The supremely-talented director won the best director and best revival awards for Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya, as well as a special award in recognition of his 10 years as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse in London.

However, Mendes was unable to pick up his awards in person, as he is currently in New York directing the Broadway versions of the two plays. But a surprise presentation in the Big Apple was screened at the Oliviers ceremony at the Lyceum Theatre, during which he put his newfound inspiration down to his love for Kate Winslet, his partner.

Another of the night's winners, Simon Russell Beale, who took the best actor accolade for his performance in Uncle Vanya, was also in New York, where he has been pulling in rave reviews as 'perhaps the greatest stage actor of his generation'.

Of the other major award winners at the glittering ceremony, the best actress prize went to Clare Higgins, for her performance in Vincent in Brixton - no mean feat, given that she was pitted against Hollywood heavyweights Gwyneth Paltrow (Proof) and Emily Watson (Uncle Vanya), as well as Anita Dobson (Frozen).

The play itself was another of the big winners, scooping the BBC award for best new play.

Outgoing National Theatre director, Sir Trevor Nunn, was on hand to collect an award for Anything Goes, which won for outstanding musical production, and chose the occasion to reflect favourably upon his time with the theatre, while Madness musical, Our House, took the Hilton award for best new musical, beating off a strong challenge from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bollywood spectacular, Bombay Dreams, and Adrian Noble's audience favourite, Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang.

The critically acclaimed, Lieutenant of Inishmore won best new comedy for the Royal Shakespeare Company, while Gregory Doran and the acting ensemble for the Jacobean season at the Gielgud won outstanding achievement of the year.

Joanna Riding, meanwhile, won the top prize for best actress in a musical or entertainment for My Fair Lady, while her leading man, Alex Jennings, won in the male category for his performance as Professor Henry Higgins, a role made famous by Rex Harrison.

But the night truly belonged to Mendes who, in his final year at the Donmar Warehouse, has become the toast of London's theatrical West End once more...

The award winners in full:

Best Actress
- Clare Higgins (Vincent in Brixton)
Nominees: Anita Dobson (Frozen); Gwyneth Paltrow (Proof); Emily Watson (Uncle Vanya)

Best Actor - Simon Russell Beale (Uncle Vanya)
Nominees: Michael Gambon (A Number); Mark Rylance (Twelfth Night); David Tennant (Lobby Hero)

Best New Play - Vincent in Brixton, Nicholas Wright
Nominees: Jesus Hopped The A Train, Stephen Adly Guirgis; The Coast of Utopia - Voyage, Shipwreck, Salvage, Tom Stoppard; The York Realist, Peter Gill

Best New Comedy - The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Martin McDonagh
Nominees: Damsels in Distress - Roleplay, Alan Aychbourn; Dinner, Moira Buffini; Lobby Hero, Kenneth Lonergan

Best Revival - Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya at the Donmar
Nominees: Abigail's Party at The New Ambassadors; A Streetcar Named Desire at the National; Twelfth Night at The Globe

Best New Musical - Our House
Nominees: Bombay Dreams; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Our House; Taboo

Outstanding Musical Production - Anything Goes
Also nominated: Oh What A Lovely War

Best Entertainment
- Play Without Words at the National Theatre
Nominees: Contact at the Queen's Theatre; Elaine Stritch At Liberty at The Old Vic; Rory Bremner with John Bird and John Fortune at the Albery

Best Actress in a Musical or Entertainment - Joanna Riding (My Fair Lady)
Nominees: Janie Dee (My One And Only); Elaine Stritch (Elaine Strich at Liberty); Sarah Wildor (Contact)

Best Actor in a Musical or Entertainment - Alex Jennings (My Fair Lady)
Nominees: Tim Flavin (My One And Only); Michael Jibson (Our House); Euan Morton (Taboo)

Best Director - Sam Mendes (Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya)
Nominees: Matthew Bourne (Play Without Words); Richard Eyre (Vincent in Brixton); Edward Hall (Rose Rage)

Best Supporting Actor/Actress - Essie Davis (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Nominees: Jessica Stevenson (The Night Heron); Mark Strong (Twelfth Night); Sian Thomas (Up For Grabs)

Best New Opera Production - Royal Opera's Wozzeck
Nominees: Royal Opera's Ariadne Auf Naxos; Royal Opera's Duke Bluebeard's Castle/Erwartung; English National Opera's Lulu, London Coliseum

Most Promising Playwright - Charlotte Eilenberg (The Lucky Ones)
Also nominated: Christopher Shinn (Where Do We Live)

Best Costume Design - Twelfth Night (Shakespeare's Globe)

Best Theatre Choreographer
- Matthew Bourne and company (Play Without Words, Lyttleton)

Outstanding Achievement in Opera - Antonio Pappano (for opening season as music director of Royal Opera House)

Best performance in a supporting role in a musical or entertainment - Paul Baker (Taboo, The Venue)

Outstanding Achievement in Dance
- Robyn Orlin (Daddy, I've Seen This Piece Six Times And I Still Don't Know Why They're Hurting Each Other, The Pit)

Best New Dance Production - Danses Concertantes' Polyphonia (Sadler's Wells)

Outstanding Achievement of the Year - Gregory Doran and cast of Jacobean Season (Gielgud Theatre)

BBC Award for Best New Play - Vincent in Brixton (Cottesloe and Wyndham's Theatre)

Best Lighting Design - The Bacchai (Olivier Theatre)

Best set Design - A Streetcar Named Desire (Lyttleton Theatre)

Most Promising Performer - Noel Clarke (Where Do We Live, Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Roayl Court)

Special Award
- Sam Mendes (for his 10 years as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse)

RELATED LINKS: Click here for The Olivier Awards website...

RELATED STORIES: Click here for Paul Nelson's round-up of 2002...
Click here for last year's Olivier winners..
Click here for our verdict on award winner, My Fair Lady...