Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'I Literally Loved Ralph to Death!' Okonedo and Fiennes Triumph; Shakespeare's Tragic Pair Are Crowned King and Queen at Our Awards as Stars Gather to Celebrate the Best of London Theatre

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'I Literally Loved Ralph to Death!' Okonedo and Fiennes Triumph; Shakespeare's Tragic Pair Are Crowned King and Queen at Our Awards as Stars Gather to Celebrate the Best of London Theatre

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Dex and Alistair Foster

RALPH FIENNES praised his "extraordinary" co-star Sophie Okonedo as they both triumphed at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

The pair, who play Antony and Cleopatra in the National Theatre's production of Shakespeare's play, were crowned best actor and best actress on a glamorous night at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Accepting his award, Fiennes, 55, said: "There is no Antony without Cleopatra. I am blessed beyond measure to share the stage every night with an artist of such extraordinary imagination, vitality, good humour and I would be nowhere without Sophie Okonedo. I love you with all my heart."

He beat Ian McKellen and Bryan Cranston among others to take the title. Okonedo, 50, who saw off competition from stars including Carey Mulligan and Laura Linney, said her highlight was being able to "quite literally love Ralph Fiennes to death every night".

Last night she admitted she had not read the play before taking the part -- and she said she could not have played it until now. Okonedo said: "I hadn't had enough life, you need a lot of life to play Cleopatra."

The ceremony, held in association with platinum partner Michael Kors, kicked off with compere Phoebe Waller-Bridge walking through the audience playing a guitar before launching into a risque monologue poking fun at some of famous faces in attendance.

Marianne Elliott, who won best director for her work on the hit West End musical Company, praised its writer Stephen Sondheim and thanked the show's "glorious cast" including Rosalie Craig, who won best musical performance for her part of Bobbie.

The 38-year-old, whose character was originally written by Sondheim as a single man looking for love, praised Elliott for her "hunch" audiences would "enjoy hearing these insecurities inside a woman's mind".

Hamilton star Jamael Westman won the emerging talent award and thanked the local theatres where he learned his trade, including Ovalhouse in south London.

The 26-year-old, who plays the title character in the hit show, said: "A lot of youth clubs are being cut down. And it takes those kinds of places where young people ROSALIE CRAIG can go and have a confidence instilled in them to come and reach heights that they could never have dreamed of. …

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