Laurence Olivier Award
for Best Actor
The 2023 Recipient: Paul Mescal
Awarded forBest Actor in a Play
Location England
Presented bySociety of London Theatre
First awarded1985
Currently held byPaul Mescal for A Streetcar Named Desire (2023) Edit this at Wikidata

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

This award was introduced in 1985, as Actor of the Year, then retitled to its current name for the 1993 ceremony. Prior to this award, from 1976–1984 (and again in 1988), there was a pair of awards given each year for this general category, one for Actor of the Year in a New Play and the other for Actor of the Year in a Revival.

Winners and nominees


Year Actor Play Character
Antony Sher Richard III and Torch Song Trilogy Richard III of England / Arnold Beckoff
Alun Armstrong The Crucible and The Winter's Tale John Proctor / Leontes
Kenneth Branagh Henry V Henry V of England
Anthony Hopkins Pravda Lambert Le Roux
Albert Finney Orphans Harold
Derek Jacobi Breaking the Code Alan Turing
Ian McKellen The Cherry Orchard Lopakhin
Martin Sheen The Normal Heart Ned Weeks
Michael Gambon A View from the Bridge Eddie Carbone
Tokusaburo Arashi Medea Medea
Hugh Quarshie The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Great White Hope and The Rover Arcite / Jack Jefferson / Belville
Nicholas Woodeson Sarcophagus and Flight Bessmertny / Mike Levine
Oliver Ford Davies Racing Demon The Rev. Lionel Espy
Nigel Hawthorne Shadowlands Lewis
Ian McKellen Othello and Bent Iago / Max
Michael Pennington The Wars of the Roses Various Characters


Year Actor Play Character
Ian McKellen Richard III Richard III of England
Richard Harris Henry IV Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor
John Malkovich Burn This Pale
Warren Mitchell The Homecoming Max
Nigel Hawthorne The Madness of George III George III
Marcus D'Amico Angels in America Louis Ironson
Robert Lindsay Becket Henry II of England
Ian McKellen Uncle Vanya Uncle Vanya
Robert Stephens Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 Falstaff
Kenneth Cranham An Inspector Calls Inspector Goole
Paul Eddington No Man's Land Spooner
Paul Scofield Heartbreak House Captain Shotover
Mark Rylance Much Ado About Nothing Benedick
Henry Goodman Hysteria Sigmund Freud
Patrick Stewart A Christmas Carol Various Characters
David Suchet Oleanna John
David Bamber My Night with Reg Guy
James Bolam Glengarry Glen Ross Shelly Levene
Adrian Lester As You Like It Rosalind
Bob Peck Rutherford and Son John Rutherford
Alex Jennings Peer Gynt Peer Gynt
Michael Gambon Skylight Tom Sergeant
Daniel Massey Taking Sides Wilhelm Furtwängler
Donal McCann The Steward of Christendom Thomas Dunne
Antony Sher Stanley Stanley Spencer
Paul Scofield John Gabriel Borkman John Gabriel Borkman
Ken Stott Art Yvan
David Suchet Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? George
Ian Holm King Lear King Lear
Simon Russell Beale Othello Iago
Michael Gambon Tom & Clem Tom Driberg
Rupert Graves Hurlyburly Eddie
John Wood The Invention of Love A. E. Housman
Kevin Spacey The Iceman Cometh Theodore "Hickey" Hickman
Michael Gambon The Unexpected Man Parsky
Iain Glen The Blue Room Various Characters
Jim Norton The Weir Jack
David Suchet Amadeus Salieri


Year Actor Play Character
Henry Goodman The Merchant of Venice Shylock
Roger Allam Summerfolk Bassov
Stephen Dillane The Real Thing Henry
Michael Sheen Look Back in Anger Jimmy Porter
Antony Sher The Winter's Tale Leontes
Conleth Hill Stones in His Pockets Charlie Conlon
Simon Russell Beale Hamlet Prince Hamlet
Sean Campion Stones in His Pockets Jake Quinn
Michael Gambon The Caretaker Davies
Bill Nighy Blue/Orange Professor Smith
Roger Allam Privates on Parade Terri Dennis
Simon Russell Beale Humble Boy Felix Humble
Sean Foley The Play What I Wrote Sean
Hamish McColl The Play What I Wrote Hamish
Alan Rickman Private Lives Elyot
Simon Russell Beale Uncle Vanya Uncle Vanya
Michael Gambon A Number Salter
Mark Rylance Twelfth Night Olivia
David Tennant Lobby Hero Jeff
Matthew Kelly Of Mice and Men Lennie Small
Roger Allam Democracy Willy Brandt
Kenneth Branagh Edmond Edmond Burke
Greg Hicks Coriolanus Coriolanus
Michael Sheen Caligula Caligula
Richard Griffiths The History Boys Douglas Hector
Michael Gambon Endgame Hamm
Jonathan Pryce The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Martin
Ben Whishaw Hamlet Prince Hamlet
Brian Dennehy Death of a Salesman Willy Loman
Richard Griffiths Heroes Henri
Derek Jacobi Don Carlos Philip II of Spain
Con O'Neill Telstar Joe Meek
David Threlfall Someone Who'll Watch Over Me Michael
Rufus Sewell Rock 'n' Roll Jan
Iain Glen The Crucible John Proctor
David Haig Donkeys' Years Christopher Headingley
Frank Langella Frost/Nixon Richard Nixon
Michael Sheen Frost/Nixon David Frost
Chiwetel Ejiofor Othello Othello
Ian McKellen King Lear King Lear
Mark Rylance Boeing Boeing Robert
John Simm Elling Elling
Patrick Stewart Macbeth Macbeth
Derek Jacobi Twelfth Night Malvolio
David Bradley No Man's Land Spooner
Michael Gambon No Man's Land Hirst
Adam Godley Rain Man Raymond Babitt


Year Actor Play Character
Mark Rylance Jerusalem Johnny
James Earl Jones Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Big Daddy
Jude Law Hamlet Prince Hamlet
James McAvoy Three Days of Rain Walker / Ned
Ken Stott A View from the Bridge Eddie Carbone
Samuel West ENRON Jeffrey Skilling
Roger Allam Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 Falstaff
Derek Jacobi King Lear King Lear
Rory Kinnear Hamlet Prince Hamlet
Mark Rylance La Bête Valere
David Suchet All My Sons Joe Keller
Benedict Cumberbatch
& Jonny Lee Miller
Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein
/ The Creature
James Corden One Man, Two Guvnors Francis Henshall
David Haig The Madness of George III George III
Douglas Hodge Inadmissible Evidence William Maitland
Jude Law Anna Christie Mat Burke
Luke Treadaway The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Christopher Boone
Rupert Everett The Judas Kiss Oscar Wilde
James McAvoy Macbeth Macbeth
Mark Rylance Twelfth Night Olivia
Rafe Spall Constellations Roland
Rory Kinnear Othello Iago
Henry Goodman The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Arturo Ui
Tom Hiddleston Coriolanus Coriolanus
Jude Law Henry V Henry V of England
Mark Strong A View from the Bridge Eddie Carbone
Richard Armitage The Crucible John Procter
James McAvoy The Ruling Class Jack Gurney
Tim Pigott-Smith King Charles III King Charles lll
Kenneth Cranham The Father Andre
Kenneth Branagh The Winter's Tale Leontes
Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet Prince Hamlet
Adrian Lester Red Velvet Ira Aldridge
Mark Rylance Farinelli and the King King Philippe V of Spain
Jamie Parker Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Harry Potter
Ed Harris Buried Child Dodge
Tom Hollander Travesties Henry Carr
Ian McKellen No Man's Land Spooner
Bryan Cranston Network Howard Beale
Paddy Considine The Ferryman Quinn Carney
Andrew Garfield Angels in America Prior Walter
Andrew Scott Hamlet Prince Hamlet
Kyle Soller The Inheritance Eric Glass
Simon Russell Beale
Adam Godley
Ben Miles
The Lehman Trilogy Henry Lehman
Emanuel Lehman
Mayer Lehman
Arinzé Kene Misty Arinzé
Ian McKellen King Lear King Lear
David Suchet The Price Gregory Solomon


Year Actor Play Character
Andrew Scott Present Laughter Garry Essendine
Toby Jones Uncle Vanya Uncle Vanya
James McAvoy Cyrano de Bergerac Cyrano de Bergerac
Wendell Pierce Death of a Salesman Willy Loman
2021 Not presented due to extended closing of theatre productions during COVID-19 pandemic[A]
Hiran Abeysekera Life of Pi Pi Patel
Ben Daniels The Normal Heart Ned Weeks
Omari Douglas Constellations Manuel
Charles Edwards Best of Enemies Gore Vidal
Paul Mescal A Streetcar Named Desire Stanley Kowalski
Tom Hollander Patriots Berezovsky
Rafe Spall To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus Finch
David Tennant Good John Halder
Giles Terera Blues for an Alabama Sky Guy Jacobs
  1. ^ a b Due to late March 2020[1] to late July 2021[2] closing of London theatre productions during the COVID-19 pandemic in England, the 2022 awards recognise productions that launched anytime from February 2020 to February 2022[3]

Multiple awards and nominations for Best Actor

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


Four awards
Two awards


Eleven nominations
Ten nominations
Seven nominations
Five nominations
Four nominations
Three nominations
Two nominations

Multiple awards and nominations for a character


Two awards


Six nominations
Four nominations
Three nominations
Two nominations

See also


  1. ^ Johnson, The Rt Hon Boris, MP (2020-03-23). Prime Minister's statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 23 March 2020 [transcript] (Speech). Prime Minister's Televised Speech to the United Kingdom. London, UK. Archived from the original on 2020-06-09. Retrieved 2022-04-25. From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction — you must stay at home.((cite speech)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ McPhee, Ryan (2021-06-14). "U.K. Postpones Reopening Roadmap; West End Theatres Will No Longer Reopen in Full in June". Playbill. Archived from the original on 2021-06-14. Retrieved 2022-04-25. Step 4 of the roadmap will allow productions to play without capacity restrictions. June 21 was the goal; now, the government is eyeing July 19.
  3. ^ Thomas, Sophie (2022-03-08). "Everything you need to know about the Olivier Awards". Archived from the original on 2022-04-11. Retrieved 2022-04-25. Any new production that opened between 19 Feb. 2020 to 22 Feb. 2022 are eligible for categories in the 2022 Olivier Awards. With two years worth of shows set for honours in one year's ceremony, the 2022 Olivier Awards will prove tougher competition than before.