THE OLIVIER AWARDS WITH MASTERCARD
British theatre’s most sought-after awards have been a mark of theatrical greatness 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) and its glittering awards are now the Olivier Awards in honour of a theatrical legend.
That first 1976 awards ceremony was held at the Café Royal on a wintry Sunday in December. The winners - who included Alan Howard, Peggy Ashcroft, Penelope Keith and Jonathan Miller - did not receive the iconic bronze statuette we know today. Instead the prize was a specially commissioned blue Wedgwood urn.
The first ceremony featured just 12 awards, a tally which has grown through the years as the awards have become increasingly more prominent. The following year - in which Judi Dench and Ian McKellen were among the winners - included 16 categories and introduced awards for ballet and opera for the first time.
In 1979, Lord Olivier was given the Society’s Special Award in celebration of his contribution to London theatre, but it was not until 1984 that the hugely acclaimed theatrical peer agreed to his name being associated with the awards and they became the Olivier Awards.
The Olivier Awards ceremony has had a nomadic existence, being presented both in theatres and ballrooms across London. The Olivier Awards were staged at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden from 2012 to 2016, before moving to the spectacular splendour of the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in 2017. They return there in 2020 for their 44th year.