This year, The Society Of London Theatre – the organisers of the Olivier Awards with Mastercard – commended four incredibly influential and highly-respected theatre figures with Special Recognition Awards. Bob West, Meg Johnson, Duncan Weldon and Paul Elliott were presented with their awards at the Rosewood London on Friday 9 March.
The four inspirational industry legends are being celebrated for their outstanding contributions to and achievements in British theatre.
Bob wanted to be a singer. Instead, he helped a countless number of performers realise their dreams. The prolific company manager worked with Cameron Mackintosh for decades. He was part of the original Les Misérables and The Phantom Of The Opera companies, among many other world-renowned productions that would make history. Fondly known as Uncle Bob, he nurtured the then future stars of the world – offering them support when they needed it, and a push when they thought they didn’t. With an eye for talent and determination, Bob helped and encouraged a whole generation of performers – many who owe their success to him.
Meg has worked in theatre since 1958. She started her career as a general manager of catering and advertising under the watchful eye of Vivian Burns – Meg’s mentor and friend. Learning everything she knew from Vivian, Meg went on to work in almost every theatre in the West End. She’s provided jobs to an untold number of young people who loved and wanted to be involved in the theatre, as well as developing the front of house as we know it today. She’s made 60 years of opening nights magical for everyone involved and influenced the industry as a whole. When Meg was told she was a recipient of the Special Recognition Award, she couldn’t believe it and thought she was being asked to cater an event. Meg still loves her work and is hoping to continue her career.
Duncan C Weldon
Starting as a photographer, Duncan “drifted into theatre by mistake”. After being sent to Stratford to shoot portraits, a picture of Sir Laurence Olivier landed him the job of house photographer at the Stratford Memorial Theatre when he was just 19. He quickly met many actors which led him to production. Since he’s brought some of the biggest actors to the most prestigious theatres in the world. Amongst his accolades and achievements, Duncan presented 63 consecutive plays at the Theatre Royal Haymarket as part of Triumph Theatre Productions. He thanks the actors he met at the start of his career for leading him to his standout career, and in turn, thousands of actors, industry professionals, and theatre-goers thank him in return.
Paul started his career as an actor. After landing an understudy role in a production on the West End, he realised acting wasn’t for him and decided to take a role behind the curtain. Though he’s worked in on a variety of shows – including Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story – and theatre genres, he’s known as the King Of Pantomime having produced 487 pantomimes in his career. A lover of fun, joyous productions, Paul finds the thrill of hearing a packed audience cheer and clap at the end of a show most rewarding. And this is in no way the first award he’s received. Over the years he’s produced three Olivier and one Tony-winning shows. He’s now releasing a book, entitled Keeping My Balls Up In The Air, accounting his glittering career and experiences. Paul believes that earning the Special Recognition Olivier Award is the final dot at the end of an incredible career.
Paul and Duncan have worked together many times over the past 60 years and believe that their success is due to their differences. Duncan is the thinker and Paul is the doer. Both have had outstanding and inspiring careers that have helped shape London theatre.
The Olivier Awards with Mastercard are taking place on Sunday 8 April. Tune into ITV1 at 10.20pm to watch the ceremony.