National Theatre co-stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller have been named joint best actors for their performances in director Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein stage play.
Cumberbatch and Miller played the same two roles in the adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic of gothic literature, alternating between Victor Frankenstein and his Creature during a three-month run.
And after both were nominated for the best actor gong at the Evening Standard theatre awards, judges decided choosing between them was too hard a task, saying it would have been “invidious not to recognise both actors” for their memorable performances.
Sherlock star Cumberbatch said: “What a journey this was, I’m so happy we’re sharing this, it would have made no sense otherwise”, while Miller praised the “sheer bloody genius” of Danny Boyle and thanked Cumberbatch for “having no ego” about sharing the roles.
Miller earlier told the BBC that playing two parts had made the production the most challenging of his career, saying: “The roles were so different, and it was wonderful to have the chance to explore two different sides to a play.
“For that reason you couldn’t have a favourite role, but the Creature was more physical and more demanding and you sweated a ton.”
The actor playing the Creature spent two hours in make-up before performances and was required to be naked for the early part of the show.
The UK’s longest-running theatre awards began in 1955 but no two actors have shared the prize before. Cumberbatch and Miller join names such as Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier and Michael Redgrave in being named best actor.
Meanwhile, Sheridan Smith won the best actress award for her performance in Terence Rattigan’s wartime drama Flare Path.
And there was more good news for The National Theatre, with Mike Leigh landing best director for Grief, and Richard Bean claiming the best play gong for his two plays, One Man, Two Guvnors – which was first performed at the National – and The Heretic.
The ceremony was hosted by Dame Edna Everage (aka Barry Humphries) at London’s Savoy Hotel on Sunday night.