theat%3AArticle%3A1308858&ch=Stage&c3=GU.co.uk&c4=Theatre%2CUK+news%2CLondon+%28News%29%2CLondon+Evening+Standard%2CNatasha+Richardson+%28Culture%29%2CStage%2CCulture+section&c6=Mark+Brown&c7=09-Nov-23&c8=1308858&c9=Article&c10=News&c11=Stage&c13=&c25=&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2FTheatre[/img]51-year-old comedian turned actor collects London Evening Standard theatre award for debut Shakespearean role as Othello
He might be 51 and recognised by just about everybody in Britain but, in theatrical terms, Lenny Henry is something of a novice which is why he today picked up the rather incongruous prize of best newcomer.
Henry, who won for Othello, was given the prize at a ceremony in central London for the London Evening Standard theatre awards, now in their 55th year.
He was persuaded to take on the role, one of the most difficult of all Shakespearean characters, by Barrie Rutter, artistic director of the theatre company Northern Broadsides, after the pair met as Henry recorded a Radio 4 series on Shakespeare. After a successful run in Leeds and on tour, it arrived to much acclaim in London.
Today's award ceremony saw Rachel Weisz win best actress award for her electrifying portrayal of southern belle Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. The play became one of the most sought after tickets in London, performed in one of the west end's tiniest theatres, the Donmar Warehouse.
The award is now known as the Natasha Richardson best actress award to honour the late actor who had many London stage roles. There was a poignant moment as her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, presented the award and it was accepted by Weisz in Romania – where she is filming The Whistleblowers. She said: "I'm so thrilled and honoured to receive this tremendous award. It is even more of an honour because this is the first year that the award has been named after the great and much, much-loved Natasha Richardson."
The head and shoulders winner at this year's awards was the Royal Court theatre – it dominated the shortlists with 11 nominations and won four with awards for two of the most-talked about plays of the year, Jerusalem and Enron.
Mark Rylance won best actor for his barnstorming portrayal of charismatic waster Rooster Byron in Jerusalem which will next year be revived in the west end. He won from a particularly strong shortlist that also included Sam West (Enron), Ken Stott (A View From the Bridge) and Simon Russell Beale (The Winter's Tale)
Jerusalem, Jez Butterworth's "state of the English shires" play, also won best play, beating August: Osage County, Enron and Punk Rock.
Rupert Goold was named best director for Enron, Lucy Prebble's gripping and detailed account of the US corporate scandal also west end bound, from a shortlist that included Jeremy Herrin (Tusk Tusk at the Royal Court), Ian Rickson (Jerusalem) and Anna D Shapiro (August: Osage County).
Unusually, there were no wins for west end commercial theatre or the National Theatre. The prize for best musical went to the Open Air production, in Regent's Park, of Hello, Dolly! It beat Spring Awakening, A Little Night Music and Been So Long.
The most promising playwright award, which is dedicated to the former Standard editor Charles Wintour and part funded by his daughter, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, went to Alia Bano for Shades. Her play, an irreverent depiction of a young Muslim woman's life in Britain, was staged at – once again – the Royal Court.
Mamoru Iriguchi won the award for best design for Mincemeat at Cordy House in Shoreditch. And Sir Ian McKellen was given a special award for his contribution to British theatre which this year saw him return to the west end in Waiting for Godot with Patrick Stewart.
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Guardian: Lenny Henry wins best newcomer accolade in London Evening Standard theatre awards
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