Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress

The Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Play is an annual award presented by The Society of London Theatre in recognition of achievements in commercial British theatre. The awards were established as the Society of West End Theatre Awards in 1976 and renamed in 1984 in honour of English actor Lord Olivier.

Laurence Olivier Award
for Best Actress
Awarded forBest Actress in a Play
Location United Kingdom
Presented byThe Society of London Theatre
Currently held bySharon D. Clarke for Death of a Salesman (2020)

The award has been known by its current name of Best Actress since 1993, previously it was known as Actress of the Year. From 1976-1984 and again in 1988, there were two Actress of the Year awards. One for Actress of the Year in a New Play and the other for Actress of the Year in a Revival.

Winners and nomineesEdit


Year Actor Play Character
Yvonne Bryceland The Road to Mecca Miss Helen
Wendy Morgan Martine Martine
Harriet Walter The Castle Skinner
Joanne Whalley Saved Pam
Lindsay Duncan Les Liaisons Dangereuses Marquise de Merteuil
Julia McKenzie Woman in Mind Susan
Juliet Stevenson As You Like It, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Troilus and Cressida Rosalind / Madame de Tourvel / Cressida
Irene Worth The Bay at Nice Valentina Nrovka
Judi Dench Antony and Cleopatra Cleopatra
Miranda Richardson A Lie of the Mind Beth
Maggie Smith Lettice and Lovage and Coming in to Land Lettice Douffet / Halina
Juliet Stevenson Yerma Yerma
Fiona Shaw Electra, As You Like It and The Good Person of Szechwan Electra / Celia / Shen Te
Sheila Hancock Prin Prin
Jane Lapotaire Shadowlands Joy
Prunella Scales Single Spies Elizabeth II


Year Actor Play Character
Kathryn Hunter The Visit Claire Zachanassian
Penny Downie Scenes from a Marriage Marianne
Barbara Jefford Coriolanus Volumnia
Josette Simon After the Fall Maggie
Juliet Stevenson Death and the Maiden Paulina
Janet McTeer Uncle Vanya Yelena
Patricia Routledge Talking Heads Miss Schofield
Fiona Shaw Hedda Gabler Hedda Gabler Tesman
Alison Steadman The Rise and Fall of Little Voice Mari
Stockard Channing Six Degrees of Separation Ouisa Kittredge
Judi Dench The Gift of the Gorgon Helen
Jane Horrocks The Rise and Fall of Little Voice Little Voice
Fiona Shaw Machinal Young Woman
Kathryn Hunter The Skriker Skriker
Diana Rigg Medea Medea
Penelope Wilton The Deep Blue Sea Hester Collyer
Clare Higgins Sweet Bird of Youth Alexandra Del Lago
Frances de la Tour Les Parents terribles Leo
Sheila Gish Les Parents terribles Yvonne
Margot Leicester Broken Glass Sylvia Gellburg
Judi Dench Absolute Hell Christine Foskett
Diana Rigg Mother Courage Mother Courage
Zoë Wanamaker The Glass Menagerie Amanda Wingfield
Lia Williams Skylight Kyra Hollis
Janet McTeer A Doll's House Nora Helmer
Eileen Atkins John Gabriel Borkman Mrs. Gunhild Borkman
Vanessa Redgrave John Gabriel Borkman Ella Rentheim
Diana Rigg Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Martha
Zoë Wanamaker Electra Electra
Judi Dench Amy's View Esme Allen
Sally Dexter Closer Anna
Maggie Smith A Delicate Balance Claire
Eileen Atkins The Unexpected Man Woman
Sinéad Cusack Our Lady of Sligo Mai O'Hara
Judi Dench Filumena Marturano Filumena
Nicole Kidman The Blue Room Various Characters
Diana Rigg Britannicus and Phèdre Agrippina / Phaedra


Year Actor Play Character
Janie Dee Comic Potential Jacie Triplethree
Jennifer Ehle The Real Thing Annie
Maggie Smith The Lady in the Van Miss Shepherd
Alison Steadman The Memory of Water Teresa
Julie Walters All My Sons Kate Keller
Jessica Lange Long Day's Journey Into Night Mary Tyrone
Helen Mirren Orpheus Descending Lady Torrance
Julia Ormond My Zinc Bed Elsa
Harriet Walter Life x 3 Sonia
Lindsay Duncan Private Lives Amanda Prynne
Lindsay Duncan Mouth to Mouth Laura
Victoria Hamilton A Day in the Death of Joe Egg Sheila
Zoë Wanamaker Boston Marriage Anna
Clare Higgins Vincent in Brixton Ursula Loyer
Anita Dobson Frozen Nancy
Gwyneth Paltrow Proof Catherine
Emily Watson Uncle Vanya Sonya
Eileen Atkins Honour Honor
Helen Mirren Mourning Becomes Electra Christine Mannon
Ann Mitchell Through the Leaves Martha
Kelly Reilly After Miss Julie Miss Julie
Kristin Scott Thomas Three Sisters Masha
Clare Higgins Hecuba Hecuba
Victoria Hamilton Suddenly, Last Summer Catharine
Anna Maxwell Martin His Dark Materials Lyra
Caroline O'Connor Bombshells Performer
Eve Best Hedda Gabler Hedda Gabler Tesman
Clare Higgins Death of a Salesman Linda Loman
Helen McCrory As You Like It Rosalind
Janet McTeer Mary Stuart Mary, Queen of Scots
Harriet Walter Mary Stuart Elizabeth I of England
Tamsin Greig Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice
Eve Best A Moon for the Misbegotten Josie
Sinéad Cusack Rock 'n' Roll Eleanor / Esme
Kathleen Turner Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Martha
Kristin Scott Thomas The Seagull Arkadina
Anne-Marie Duff Saint Joan Joan of Arc
Kelly Reilly Othello Desdemona
Fiona Shaw Happy Days Winnie
Penelope Wilton John Gabriel Borkman Ella Rentheim
Margaret Tyzack The Chalk Garden Mrs St. Maugham
Deanna Dunagan August: Osage County Violet Weston
Lindsay Duncan That Face Martha
Penelope Wilton The Chalk Garden Miss Madrigal


Year Actor Play Character
Rachel Weisz A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche DuBois
Gillian Anderson A Doll's House Nora Helmer
Lorraine Burroughs The Mountaintop Camae
Imelda Staunton Entertaining Mr Sloane Kath
Juliet Stevenson Duet for One Stephanie Anderson
Nancy Carroll After the Dance Joan
Tracie Bennett End of the Rainbow Judy Garland
Tamsin Greig The Little Dog Laughed Diane
Sophie Thompson Clybourne Park Bev
Ruth Wilson Anna Christie Anna Christie
Celia Imrie Noises Off Dotty Otley
Lesley Manville Grief Dorothy
Kristin Scott Thomas Betrayal Emma
Marcia Warren The Ladykillers Mrs Wilberforce
Helen Mirren The Audience Queen Elizabeth II
Hattie Morahan A Doll's House Nora Helmer
Billie Piper The Effect Connie
Kristin Scott Thomas Old Times Kate / Anna
Lesley Manville Ghosts Mrs. Helene Alving
Hayley Atwell The Pride Sylvia
Anna Chancellor Private Lives Amanda Prynne
Judi Dench Peter and Alice Alice Liddell
Penelope Wilton Taken at Midnight Irmgard Litten
Gillian Anderson A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche DuBois
Kristin Scott Thomas Electra Electra
Imelda Staunton Good People Margie Walsh
Denise Gough People, Places and Things Emma
Gemma Arterton Nell Gwynn Nell Gwynn
Nicole Kidman Photograph 51 Rosalind Franklin
Janet McTeer Les Liaisons dangereuses Marquise de Merteuil
Lia Williams Oresteia Clytemnestra
Billie Piper Yerma Yerma
Glenda Jackson King Lear King Lear
Cherry Jones The Glass Menagerie Amanda Wingfield
Ruth Wilson Hedda Gabler Hedda Gabler Tesman
Laura Donnelly The Ferryman Caitlin Carney
Lesley Manville Long Day's Journey into Night Mary Tyrone
Audra McDonald Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill Billie Holiday
Imelda Staunton Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Martha
Patsy Ferran Summer and Smoke Alma Winemiller
Gillian Anderson All About Eve Margo Channing
Eileen Atkins The Height of the Storm Madeleine
Sophie Okonedo Antony and Cleopatra Cleopatra
Katherine Parkinson Home, I'm Darling Judy


Year Actor Play Character
Sharon D. Clarke Death of a Salesman Linda Loman
Hayley Atwell Rosmersholm Rebecca West
Juliet Stevenson The Doctor The Doctor
Phoebe Waller-Bridge Fleabag Fleabag

Multiple awards and nominations for Best ActressEdit

Note: The below awards and nominations include individuals awarded and nominated under the now-defunct categories Actress of the Year in a New Play and Actress of the Year in a Revival as well as the current combined Best Actress category.


Four awards
Three awards
Two awards


Nine nominations
Six nominations
Five nominations
Four nominations
Three nominations
Two nominations

See alsoEdit


  • London Theatre Guide (2008). "The Laurence Olivier Awards: Full List of Winners, 1976-2008" (.PDF). 1976-2008. The Society of London Theatre: 20. Retrieved 2008-08-30. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External linksEdit