Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Comedian Lenny Henry wins best stage newcomer prize

Lenny Henry as Shakespeare's Othello
Henry made his Shakespearean debut in the Northern Broadsides production

Comedian Lenny Henry has been named outstanding newcomer at the London Evening Standard theatre awards.

The 51-year-old was recognised for his portrayal of Othello in a production of Shakespeare's tragedy currently running at London's Trafalgar Studios.

"I must be the oldest newcomer there has ever been - which means there is hope for Bruce Forsyth's King Lear," joked Henry at the awards ceremony.

He added his late mother would have enjoyed the occasion.

"My mum would have been there in a big church hat, sat in front of Kevin Spacey," said the star.

Rachel Weisz was named best actress for A Streetcar Named Desire.

Unable to attend in person, she said from the Romanian set of her latest movie project that she was "thrilled and honoured" to receive the accolade.


"It is even more of an honour because this is the first year that the award has been named after the great and much, much-loved Natasha Richardson," she added.

The award was presented by Vanessa Redgrave, mother of the acclaimed star of stage and screen who died in a skiing accident earlier this year.

Sir Ian McKellen was presented with a special honour for his contribution to theatre at this year's ceremony, held at the Royal Opera House in London.

Anna Friel at the Evening Standard theatre awards
Anna Friel was among the presenters at Monday's lunchtime ceremony

Mark Rylance was named best actor at the event for his work in Jez Butterworth's rural comedy Jerusalem, recipient of the best play award.

The Open Air theatre in Regent's Park took home the best musical prize for its revival of Hello, Dolly!

Presenters at the ceremony included former Brookside star Anna Friel and Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian's co-star in a recent West End production of Waiting for Godot.

Alexander Lebedev, the former Soviet spy who bought the Evening Standard earlier this year, said it was "wonderful" to celebrate "all that is best on the stage".

"What we have seen in the past year in London's theatres is innovative [and] inspiring," he continued.

"It has been a huge privilege to be involved in the judging process with our finest drama critics."

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