The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time dominated the UK's most prestigious theatre awards on Sunday night, equalling the record by picking up seven Oliviers, including best actor for its star, Luke Treadaway.
The 28-year-old, who gives an astonishing performance as 15-year-old maths genius Christopher Boone, beat off heavyweight competition in the shape of Rupert Everett, James McAvoy, Mark Rylance and Rafe Spall to pick up the prize at the Royal Opera House ceremony.
The awards, now in their 37th year, also saw Helen Mirren win her first Olivier, for her performance as the Queen in The Audience. The musical honours were shared by Top Hat and Sweeney Todd, which won three apiece.
Accepting her award, Mirren said she thought the Queen would be thrilled and deserved an award herself for "the most consistent, committed performance of the 20th century and probably the 21st too."
But it was Curious Incident that dominated the night. It was nominated in eight categories and won in seven, equalling the record set by the Royal Shakespeare Company's Matilda the Musical last year.
The play, an adaptation of Mark Haddon's bestselling novel from 2003, began life on the National Theatre's smallest stage, the Cottesloe, and continues the theatre's impressive form in successfully transferring shows such as War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors to the West End.
As well as the award for Treadaway, the show was named best new play, while Marianne Elliott won best director and Spooks actor Nicola Walker, who played the teenager's mother in the original production, won best supporting actress.
Elliott said: "We took risks and we thought we would fail and it is a testament to subsidised theatre that we were allowed to think we might fail."
Treadaway said his immediate plan was to get "incredibly drunk". Before that, though, he stressed the importance of public subsidy in getting the play started. "It is a story about a child with a lot of differences who sees the world in a different way, and people could connect to him, they could see themselves in him at times."
Walker, who said the last prize she won was a swimming badge at school, admitted that the early workshopping of the play had been "absolutely terrifying". She added: "We all felt that we were doing something really important, which sounds like a cliche but is true. It was something we really, really cared about. We were part of a proper company in the old-fashioned sense."
The show's inventive set, with a graph-paper stage and props appearing from trapdoors, won the best design award for Bunny Christie and Finn Ross, and there were wins too for Ian Dickinson and Adrian Sutton for sound and Paule Constable for light design.
The play tells the story of 15-year-old Christopher – who has an autistic spectrum condition, or behavioural problems, as he puts it – as he sets out to investigate who killed his neighbour's dog, opening in the process all sorts of cans of worms. The book, adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens, was a huge success with both young and adult readers and that is reflected in the West End audiences, where elderly couples and groups of teenagers are equally likely to join the standing ovation it regularly receives.
In her fourth Olivier nomination and her first win, Mirren picked up the prize for her performance as the Queen at various ages in her regular meetings – "audiences" – with prime ministers from Winston Churchill to David Cameron, as imagined by writer Peter Morgan. Richard McCabe, who plays Harold Wilson, was named best supporting actor.
McCabe later revealed that members of the royal household had been reported sneaking into the play incognito – "They must be reporting back!"
He added: "It is a very sympathetic portrayal and there is something rather celebratory about it. That's what I like about the play, at the end of it you do sort of think 'well us Brits are not bad, actually'."
By common consent the musical categories this year were not the strongest, with many producers delaying shows because of the Olympics, and heavyweights such as The Book of Mormon and Once arriving after the deadline.
Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton, presenters of the awards in 2011 and 2012, were named best actor and actress in a musical for Sweeney Todd, which ran at the Adelphi from March to September last year, and Leigh Zimmerman won best supporting musical performance for her role in A Chorus Line.
Top Hat, based on the 1935 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie, won best new musical as well as awards for its choreography and costume design.
Robert Wilson and Philip Glass's epic Einstein on the Beach, staged at the Barbican as part of the London 2012 Festival, was named best new opera production, while US tenor Bryan Hymel won an outstanding achievement award for performances at the Royal Opera House in Les Troyens, Robert le Diable and Rusalka.
The ROH's success continued in the dance categories with the Royal Ballet's Argentinian principal dancer, Marianela Núñez, winning an outstanding achievement award and Christopher Wheeldon's Aeternum winning best new dance production.
The only prize chosen by public vote, the Radio 2 audience award, which rewards long-running musicals, went to Billy Elliot, which has been in the West End since 2005.
Other drama wins were Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, which won best revival; Goodnight Mister Tom, which won best entertainment and family show; and the Royal Court theatre, which won outstanding achievement in an affiliate theatre for its season of new writing in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.
Special awards were given to choreographer and director Gillian Lynne and playwright Michael Frayn.
The awards were hosted by Hugh Bonneville and Sheridan Smith, who opened the show with a performance of Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.
The Oliviers have become notably starrier and more razzle-dazzle in recent years – an attempt to emulate Broadway's Tony awards – and this year also brought changes in the judging, with West End producers and theatre operators voting alongside dedicated panels.
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