Young stars steal the show as Matilda sets Olivier records
The four young stars who share the title role in Matilda the Musical were the toast of the West End, after being named joint best actresses at the Olivier Awards.
Matilda stars Eleanor Worthington Cox, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram and Sophia Kiely together won Best Actress at the 2012 Olivier Awards.
They have Pop-Tarts in their dressing room instead of champagne and never attend celebrity parties because they are past their bedtime.
Their most junior member, 10-year-old Eleanor Worthington Cox from Merseyside, is the youngest Olivier winner in history - and now has a CV that most established performers could only dream of.
Fellow winner Cleo Demetriou is also 10 but older than Eleanor by a matter of weeks. The two other Matildas - Kerry Ingram and Sophia Kiely - are both 12.
The Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic tale about a bookish little girl with special powers won seven awards in total - beating the record haul for a single show previously held by The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, which won six categories in 1980.
Tim Minchin, who adapted the book for the stage, accepted the award for Best New Musical. The other wins were Best Actor in a Musical for Bertie Carvel as the headmistress Miss Trunchbull, Best Director for Matthew Warchus, and awards for choreography, set design and sound.
The four Matildas performed on stage at the ceremony, held at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and were the evening’s most popular winners.
They broke the record for the youngest Olivier Award-holders which was held by the boys from Billy Elliot, who were aged 13-15 when they shared the Best Actor prize in 2006.
Eleanor is the youngest of the four and exhibited star quality as a toddler, according to her old drama teacher.
Aged two-and-a-half, she became the youngest class member at the Formby School of Performing Arts in her native Liverpool.
“Eleanor’s brothers were doing drama here and one day her mum said, ‘She’s desperate to start, can she join?’” the school’s principal, Hayley Batchelor-Hannah, said yesterday.
“So she came along to the baby class and just took to it like a duck to water. It was a little music and movement class for pre-schoolers and early on you could see she had something about her.
“It’s not just talent - lots of children are talented but she also had the right approach to everything. She listens and gets on with it. And you could tell it was her choice to be there, it wasn’t something her mum had pushed her into. She was a pleasure to teach.”
Eleanor appeared in the chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Liverpool Empire when she was eight. Matilda is only her second professional role.
Mrs Batchelor-Hannah said: “She still comes to class when she’s back home and all this success hasn’t changed her at all. She’s very grounded.”
Eleanor is also willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for a little girl with a sweet tooth: giving up ice cream, which is banned for the Matilda girls because it affects their singing voices.
Child labour laws mean the girls take it in turns to play Matilda and perform in two shows each week. The two older girls will leave the production this year to concentrate on schoolwork.
The other shared award of the night was for Best Actor, which went to Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller for their alternating roles in Frankenstein at the National Theatre.
Ruth Wilson was named Best Actress for her role in Anna Christie at the Donmar Warehouse, and the Best Supporting Actress award went to Sheridan Smith for Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Sir Tim Rice received the Olivier Special Award for his contribution to musical theatre, while Les Miserables won the BBC Radio 2 Olivier Audience Award.
The surprise of the night was the failure of One Man, Two Guvnors to win a single award despite five nominations and an avalanche of critical praise.
Backstage, the four Matildas bubbled over with excitement as they declared themselves "ecstatic", "amazed" and "shocked beyond belief" to have won.
The quartet wore new party dresses and ballet shoes for the occasion. Eleanor said being the youngest ever winner was "pretty cool and scary" but added solemnly: "I just hope that the person who follows in my footsteps feels as honoured as I do."
Asked how it felt to hold her own Olivier Award, she replied: "Very heavy."