THE Times Readers' Accolade for best actor or actress in the West End last year has been awarded to Diana Rigg for her performance in Medea by Euripides at Wyndham's Theatre.
More than 2,500 readers telephoned to nominate their favourite performer from a shortlist of 20. The award was established to mark The Times's association with the Olivier Awards, announced on Sunday night.
Ms Rigg was the clear winner with 314 votes. Julia McKenzie came second with 194 votes for her performance in Sweeney Todd at the Royal National Theatre and Elaine Paige was third, polling 186 votes for her role in Piaf.
Ms Rigg was said to be thrilled with the award. Medea is playing on Broadway until June. Ms Rigg's agent in New York said that the actress was "very happy to be honoured in this way and pleased that theatre-goers in London enjoy her work so much".
All those who nominated Ms Rigg were entered into a prize draw. A trip to New York for two has been won by Elspeth Foster of Bushey, Hertfordshire; and a year's supply of free theatre tickets has been won by Veronica Shaw of north London. Both prizes are awarded courtesy of The Times.
Ms Foster is an avid theatre-goer and had seen 11 of the 20 nominees for The Times' award during the year. For her, Ms Rigg's performance had stood out. "Diana Rigg's voice is marvellous and her range is very good," Ms Foster said. "It was a very physical performance and she was very graceful about the stage. It was absolutely riveting."
Mrs. Shaw is thrilled with her theatre tickets. A modern jewellery designer, she and her husband visit the West End and the London fringe regularly.
"Diana Rigg is a fantastic actress. She can get into a character so that you forget that she is not actually that person," Mrs. Shaw said.