Kevin Spacey and the Donmar Warehouse were the major winners at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

The American Beauty star received a special prize for his efforts in reviving London's Old Vic theatre and was commended for his performance alongside Jeff Goldblum in David Mamet's Speed the Plow.

"His energy is paramount He's a totally committed man of the theatre, I think," said Dame Judi Dench.

Sir Peter Hall added: "It's wonderful that he's here - great actor, great director and, I think, now a great theatre-runner."

But it was the Donmar Warehouse which swept the board, taking the top acting awards while Michael Grandage was named best director for his productions of Othello, The Chalk Garden and Ivanov.

Margaret Tyzack, 77, and Penelope Wilton, 62, shared the best actress award for their roles in The Chalk Garden and Chiwetel Ejiofor won best actor for the lead role in Othello.

Kenneth Branagh, currently starring in Grandage's Ivanov in London's West End, said he was "thrilled" at the director's to make theatre more accessible.

"The determination to continue to provide good work for people and entertainment for people is as important as ever, perhaps more so in a time of relative hardship and adversity," he was quoted by This Is London as saying.

Ella Smith took the best newcomer award for her performance in Neil LaBute's Fat Pig while Neil Murray won the best design prize for the Kneehigh production of Brief Encounter.

Evening Standard theatre critic Nicholas de Jongh, part of the judging panel, said: "In my 17 years on the judges' panel I cannot recall many occasions when there was a more exciting and diverse collection of candidates in most of the categories.

"And I think our choices reflect the fact that even though the West End remains far too short of plays and too full of musicals, the London theatre now offers a tremendous variety of choices for the theatre-goers."

24/11/2008 16:44:21