April 3, 2016 / 11:17 PM / a year ago

British actress Judi Dench picks up record eighth Olivier Award

British actress Judi Dench poses for photographers as she arrives at the Olivier Awards at the Royal Opera House in London, Britain April 3, 2016.Neil Hall

LONDON (Reuters) - Veteran film, television and stage actress Judi Dench picked up her eight Olivier Award on Sunday, a record tally at Britain's biggest night for theater.

The 81-year-old scooped the Olivier for best actress in a supporting role for "The Winter's Tale".

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am absolutely livid as I had a bet with my grandson, which I've now lost and I'm never going to be allowed to forget it," Dench said in her acceptance speech.

"I know everybody says what a wonderful time they had doing something, I can truly say this time that in 'The Winter's Tale', it was an absolutely memorable time for me."

Asked backstage if she had any plans to slow her workload down, Dench told Reuters: "Who wants to slow down? No, I want to be employed. It's putting the car in the garage that. You will never get it started."

"Gypsy" picked up four prizes, the most awards for a single production on the night, including best musical revival and best actress in a musical for Imelda Staunton, who opened the glitzy London ceremony in character as Momma Rose.

"Gypsy" also picked up awards for best actress in a supporting role in a musical for Lara Pulver and best lighting design.

"Kinky Boots" picked up three awards, including best new musical, best actor in a musical for Matt Henry and best costume design. Pop singer Cyndi Lauper, who collaborated with playwright Harvey Fierstein on bringing the 2005 film first to the Broadway stage before London, also performed on the night.

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom", inspired by the blues singer, won best revival while "Hangmen", about the abolition of hanging in Britain in the 1960s, won best new play.

Kenneth Cranham beat competition from the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance to be named best actor for "The Father", in which he portrays a man with dementia.

In a category including nominees Nicole Kidman and Gemma Arterton, Denise Gough won best actress for "People, Places And Things", a rehab drama in which she plays an addict.

In her acceptance speech, Gough lamented the lack of diversity among nominees - an issue that overshadowed February's Oscars.

"I love this industry so much and to be given an award is fantastic but we have a responsibility," she said backstage.

Robert Icke picked up the best director award for "Oresteia" while long-running musical "The Phantom Of The Opera" won the audience award - the sole prize voted for by the public.

"Nell Gwynn", which stars Arterton, won best new comedy.

The awards, celebrating their 40th anniversary, wrapped up with past winners performing "What I did For Love" from "A Chorus Line", which won best new musical at the 1976 ceremony.

Reporting By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Edward Baran; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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