Brits like to ‘Spend’

New tuner upstages 'King' at U.K. legit awards

LONDON — No award was bestowed for best play at the 45th annual Evening Standard Drama Awards Monday while new British tuner “Spend Spend Spend” surprisingly trumped “The Lion King” for best tuner.

The Disney screen-to-stage spectacular did not go unrewarded: Director Julie Taymor’s extravagant vision took the ultimate prize as theatrical event of the year, enabling the British judging panel to go the chauvinistic route in honoring dark-horse candidate “Spend Spend Spend.”

“This makes an enormous difference to us,” said Barbara Dickson, the show’s star, in accepting the prize at the lunchtime ceremony at the Savoy Hotel. “We haven’t actually had full houses up to now.”

“This will actually mean something,” Dickson added — though whether it will or not is up for grabs in a country where awards matter far less than they do in the U.S.

The best actor win for “The Real Thing” leading man Stephen Dillane will no doubt help that show’s imminent stand on Broadway, where the Tom Stoppard revival opens April 17.

Dillane accepted his prize via pre-recorded video, since he is in Poland filming a TV version of “Anna Karenina” for Britain’s Channel 4.

The best actress prize went to Janie Dee, whose show-stopping turn as a humanized robot in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Comic Potential” has been drawing thin crowds.

Best director went to Trevor Nunn for two National Theater revivals, “Summerfolk” and “The Merchant of Venice,” while Tim Hatley was named best designer for three plays: “Suddenly Last Summer,” “Sleep With Me” and “The Darker Face of the Earth.”

For the first time ever, an American writer — Rebecca Gilman, for the Royal Court’s “The Glory of Living” — was named most promising playwright. Martin McDonagh, Conor McPherson and David Hare are among the previous recipients of the prize.

In a new category, recent drama school grad Eve Best was named outstanding newcomer for her performance as Jude Law’s incestuous sister in the Young Vic revival of “‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.”

Belfast native Martin Rea, 20, received the special Patricia Rothermere Award, which provides tuition and subsistence for a student’s three years at drama school.

“I hope (my parents) realize now it’s not too bad being an actor,” said Rea, who is in his tenth week of classes at RADA, London’s most prestigious drama school.

Among the presenters, a poignant note was sounded by John Hurt in his tribute to Quentin Crisp, the New York-based eccentric and raconteur who died Sunday at age 90. (Hurt famously played Crisp onscreen in “The Naked Civil Servant.”)

Extolling “a man to whom in many ways I owe my career,” Hurt called English expatriate Crisp “one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived.”