Katori Hall wins Best New Play title at Olivier Awards
The theatre world ought to be accustomed to sudden plot twists and reversals of fate, but the most celebrated stars of the British stage were still caught by surprise at the Olivier Awards last night as they watched a series of unexpected winners walk past them to the podium.
Not only did actors such as Jude Law and Keira Knightley have to remain seated while fellow nominees gave gleeful speeches, but the Royal Court, which seemed all but certain to triumph in the Best New Play category, was upstaged by a pub theatre in Battersea.
The Mountaintop, Katori Hall’s fanciful reconstruction of Martin Luther King’s last night in an hotel room before his murder on April 4, 1968, beat both Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem and Lucy Prebble’s Enron, the favourites. The play, which transferred from the 65-seat Theatre503 to Trafalgar Studios, is Hall’s second play to be performed and her first to reach the West End.
Hall, 28, is the first black woman to receive the prize since the awards began in 1976, and only the fourth female. August Wilson became the first black male writer to win the award in 2002. Hall’s triumph will propel her from being an unknown — who “did not have a Wikipedia entry before this” — to a playwright whose work will command international attention.