Sarah Snook wins Olivier Award for best actress for Sydney Theatre Company’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

Sarah Snook wins Olivier Award for best actress for Sydney Theatre Company’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • PublishedApril 15, 2024

Australian actor Sarah Snook has won best actress at the Olivier Awards in London overnight for her performance in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning Succession star Snook plays 26 characters over two hours in the one-woman “cine-theatre” epic, combining live performance with live and prerecorded video.

Adapted and directed by outgoing Sydney Theatre Company (STC) artistic director Kip Williams from the 19th-century Oscar Wilde novel, the original production starring Eryn Jean Norvill premiered in Sydney in 2020.

Snook, last seen on Australian stages in STC’s Saint Joan in 2018, learned her lines while breastfeeding her newborn. In her speech she recalled asking herself: “Why am I doing a 60,000-word monologue with an eight-month-old baby?”

A highly awarded piece of cine-theatre

Receiving her award, Snook said: “It’s an incredible honour to be on the stage in the West End and this is not something that I thought would come along with that.

“It’s billed as a one-woman show but it’s not. It’s the crew who are on stage with me all the time every night and they are a vital and constant support and inspirational. So thank you to the crew for being there in this show with me.

“A huge immeasurable thank you to Kip Williams and your very big brain and your specificity and precision and your inspiration, and I just thank my lucky stars I get to play inside that mad world you’ve created every night.”

Sarah Snook, dressed in an ornate coat and wig, sits on a chair adorned by flowers, looking off to the side.
In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Gray sells his soul for eternal youth.(Supplied: Michael Cassel Group/Marc Brenner)

Dorian Gray designer Marg Howell won the Olivier for best costume design. Accepting her award, she said: “I’d like to thank the creative team of the show. I think we’ll all know each other when we’re very old.

“It makes your job incredibly easy when every single character is played by Sarah Snook. It’s been a joy making the show with you. To writer and director and my friend Kip Williams, thank you for your trust, your ambition, and your brain.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray, which opened in London in February, was described by The Guardian as “tinglingly virtuoso and startlingly dangerous” and “beautiful, brilliant, maniacally unmissable” in its five-star review.

The original production won best production, best director, best actor, and best stage design at the 2021 Sydney Theatre Awards.

In 2023, the play also won best production, best director, best costume design and best actor at Melbourne’s performing arts awards, the Green Room Awards, for its Melbourne transfer.

The Olivier win for Dorian Gray comes as STC struggles with budgetary pressures following the end of COVID-19 emergency funding and the loss of several philanthropic donors after three actors wore Palestinian keffiyehs at a curtain call in November.

What is cine-theatre?

Speaking to ABC Arts in 2022, Williams explained why he’s so interested in the combination of theatre and cinema. “They are such different art forms, they sit in tension with one another. But there’s also these parallels that you can use to either extend the audience act of watching in theatre through cinema, or to invert the rules,” he said.

But cine-theatre was distinct from filmmaking or filmed theatre, he said. “The theatre always takes precedence in these works. It’s never cinema first. It’s always theatre first. And it’s always the connection between the audience and the performer that underpins every moment of the show.”

Following Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 2022, Williams debuts the third in his cine-theatre trilogy, Dracula, starring Zahra Newman, at STC in July. The Picture of Dorian Gray starring Snook is expected to transfer to Broadway in 2025.

Australians on the global stage

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the latest Australian production to be recognised at the prestigious London theatre awards, following Suzie Miller’s courtroom drama Prima Facie, starring Jodie Comer, which won best new play and best actress in 2023.

On stage, camerapeople dressed in black surround Sarah Snook. She's seen in close-up on five screens hanging from the roof.
Williams has been working with the cine-theatre form since 2015, on productions including Suddenly Last Summer and Julius Caesar.(Supplied: Michael Cassel Group/Marc Brenner)

Other winners at this year’s Olivier Awards included former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger for her starring role in the musical Sunset Boulevard. The musical was the major winner on the night, taking out a total of seven awards, including best director and best actor.

The Picture of Dorian Gray wasn’t the only Australian production up for an Olivier. Bluey’s Big Play by Joe Brumm was nominated for best family show, and Groundhog Day by Tim Minchin and Danny Rubin was up for best musical revival.

The Picture of Dorian Gray from STC and Michael Cassel Group continues at Theatre Royal in London’s West End until May 11.


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