With the 2016 Olivier Awards now just a month away, we are continuing to showcase the awards and the nominees over the next five weeks. We sat down with Mark Shenton, head of the Critics' Circle and reviewer for LondonTheatre.co.uk to talk through the nominations and find out his top pick in each category, as well as find out who he thinks is most likely to walk away with the coveted awards at the 2016 ceremony.
To kick things off we chose to look at the Best Actress categories which takes in the awards for Best Leading Actress in a Play and Musical as well as Best Supporting Actress in both fields.
This is a great category. My own favourite is the Critics' Circle Award winner Denise Gough who gave an extraordinary performance in People, Places and Things that's about to come into the West End. Equally I think Gemma Arterton is amazing in Nell Gwynn, and Lia Williams is one of my favourite actresses. I love this whole category - everybody deserves a nomination! I didn't spot any omissions, although there's always going to be someone else...
Judi Dench is the clear front runner as she's much beloved and she was wonderful in The Winter's Tale. She's has something like 15 nominations and 6 wins, and it would be nice to see her get a 7th win. Equally, I did think that Michele Dotrice was amazing in Nell Gwynn - a scene stealing performance. I don't remember who Catherine Steadman played and I was slightly puzzled about Oppenheimer just getting that one nomination. I would have thought it would have got a play nomination as it got five star reviews? It's odd that it was remembered for this award...I think they'll probably go with Judi Dench however who can't walk onstage without winning an award!
There's no point in even discussing this - she may as well have engraved the statue last year! Imelda Staunton is obviously going to win this award, she's a clear front runner. Having said that I think Natalie Dew is wonderful, her first time ever on the stage and her West End debut in 'Bend it Like Beckham'. She deserves an award but sadly she won't get it this year. Nice to see Laura Pitt-Pulford who's one of the rank and file hard workers of the West End up there in the leading category.
This is a category which I think is wide open actually, but I think Lara Pulver might get it because she's the other leading role in 'Gypsy'. I adored Emma Williams for her guts if nothing else. Amy Lennox is a popular choice, and Preeya Kalidas is just gorgeous in Bend it Like Beckham.