The Duchess of Cornwall has presented lyricist, Don Black, with the Special Olivier Award at this year’s Virtual Awards Ceremony.
Due to the pandemic, a live ceremony was eschewed for a mostly pre-recorded programme, which will be broadcast tomorrow. The event will celebrate the winners and nominees as well as honouring some very special figures who have made significant contributions to the industry. Camilla attended the recording on Tuesday, at The London Palladium.
The Duchess, wearing purple, was greeted by Julian Bird, Chief Executive, Society of London Theatre and proceeded to the studio area where she met The Lord Lloyd-Webber, famed musical writer and owner of the LW Theatre Group, Jason Manford, who hosted the Olivier Awards, and prize winner Don Black.
Both The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are lovers of the arts, from ballet to orchestras, museums to musicals, they regularly attend performances, often in support of their charities and patronages but for personal pleasure too.
When presenting Mr Black with the statuette, the Royal praised his work: “Don, of course, has lived and breathed the theatre for decades; and his wonderful lyrics have become part of the fabric of our lives. I said just now that the theatre is a builder of community. Don, as always, captures this sentiment perfectly – in “Mrs Henderson presents” with the brilliant line: When we’re together, all our woes are gone. Don, you are a great dispeller of woes. Many congratulations on this thoroughly well-deserved Award.
Black has worked on numerous scores on the stage and screen including Dracula, the Musical, ‘The Italian Job’ and ‘Diamonds are Forever’.
Her speech also mentioned the place the theatre and arts more generally play in society and drew on Lawrence Olivier’s words, after whom the award is named.
“It is a huge pleasure to be with you at the Olivier Awards – and it is such a treat to be in a theatre again, even if we haven’t quite made it as far as the stage…
“The Awards were named, of course, after one of the finest actors this country has ever seen. As many of you will know, in 1971, Laurence Olivier gave his maiden speech in the House of Lords, describing himself as “the coyest maiden of 64”.
“He was the first actor to be granted a life peerage and he spoke, naturally enough, of his love for the theatre. These words of his have, I think, a particular resonance in the current, challenging climate: ‘I believe in the theatre… I believe that in a great city, or even in a small city or a village, a great theatre is the outward and visible sign of an inward and probable culture.’
“Surely we would all echo Olivier: I believe in the theatre. It is a cornerstone of a fertile cultural life; a forum for debate; and a powerful means of building community. After all, a play can be many things: funny, heart-breaking, cathartic, comforting. It can entertain us for an evening; or enrich the soul forever. But whatever form a performance takes, it allows us to deepen our understanding of ourselves, others and the world around us.
Speaking of theatre artists, Camilla commented: “I should like to thank those of you whose profession is in the theatre for your determination and your flexibility. Please remain resilient – we need you and we have missed you.”
The Duchess also spent time in ‘The Hall of Fame’, where she learnt of the Theatre Artists’ Fund from Co-Founders, Sir Sam Mendes and Julian Bird. Camilla got to meet three recipients of the fund, which has raised almost £4 million to date and helped over 2,600 people.
The Theatre Artists’ Fund was set up in July for theatre professionals, including freelancers, who are in need of urgent and critical financial support, having been affected by a lack of work and income during the public health crisis.
The Duchess returned to the ‘Cinderella Bar’ for a discussion between Lord Lloyd-Webber and Mr Black before bidding farewell.