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Hazel Sharples Memorial Prize

The Hazel Sharples Memorial Prize is awarded each year to a graduating Technical Theatre student, voted for by his or her peers. The prize was established in 1999, in memory of a much- loved stage manager and arts officer who died suddenly in 1995 after a short illness.

Hazel’s friends gather each year for a performance of the Guildhall School musical to remember her and to award the prize, which is given to a student who most embodies Hazel’s characteristics: a bit of a maverick, firm and efficient, with a wicked sense of humour.

This year’s prize winner was Jennifer Ramsay.

The Michael Bryant Verse Speaking Award

I decided to set up an award in Michael’s name shortly after he died in 2002. I wanted it to be for verse-speaking because that was one of his greatest skills and one which he passed on to many young actors in the National Theatre (NT) company over the years. At the time, Patsy Rodenburg was Head of Voice at the NT as well as the Guildhall, and I thought that this was the link I needed. Patsy and Michael had a great mutual respect and, of course, I’d worked with Patsy many times at the NT.

The NT is close to my heart because it was there that I met and married Michael, and our whole married life took place within its walls. Three portions of his ashes are buried under the three stages. Every summer the eight finalists visit him and, in the case of the Olivier, stand directly above him and I know he watches benevolently. Each year some of the finalists end up in the NT company, which is exactly what I’d hoped for. I think that a real link has been established between the two institutions, which pleases me more than I can say because, of course, I’m ex-Guildhall myself and I suppose you could say that it’s the other place in my life which means a great deal.

One duty which a finalist who subsequently finds himself or herself in the NT company has to fulfil, is polishing the brass plaque on Michael’s dressing-room door. The duster and the Brasso are passed on and have been wielded by Tim Lewis, Tim Allsop, Gwilym Lee and Rhys Rusbatch, among others. Currently I think it’s with Jake Fairbrother.

The real aim of the award is essentially a practical one: to enable eight young actors about to graduate to be seen by people who matter in classical theatre, and to do what amounts to a private audition on the Olivier stage for Nick Hytner and the NT Casting Department. One person ends

up with a cheque and the right to put Winner on their CV, but I think of all eight being winners, because it’s all about generating work. Michael was a very practical man and would have liked the idea of jobs coming out of it. So that’s why there’s no cup or medal, just a bit of cash for the winner and the first step on the ladder for a good few.

v Judith Coke (AGSM)

The 2010 winner was Paloma Oakenfold, pictured above with Judith Coke. Special commendations went to Ashley Zhanghaza and Marene Vanholk.


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