07 August 2008

Sheffield graduate receives accolade from Judi Dench

Claire Atha and Judi Dench: Photo Courtesy of Pierre Marcar

A law graduate from the University of Sheffield has won a prestigious theatre prize after being recognised as one of the most promising theatre students in London. Claire Atha was one of ten students to receive a Lilian Baylis Award from actress Judi Dench at a ceremony in London.

The awards, which are made to help promising students complete their course without undue financial stress, are dedicated to the memory of Lilian Baylis (1874–1837) who ran the Old Vic Theatre from 1912 until her death. Lilian Baylis committed herself to ensuring that the Old Vic productions, most famously of Shakespeare, were of the highest quality and that the doors were open to many who could not afford the more established theatres.

Claire, 24, who is currently studying Technical Theatre and Stage Management at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, spent a lot of time during her studies at Sheffield working for the Sheffield University Theatre Company (SuTCo). She is passionate about theatre production and has been struggling to finance her studies. The £1,500 award will mean that she can pay for some of her tuition fees and hopefully achieve her dream of working as a stage manager on a West End musical.

She said: “I am delighted to have won this award and to have had the opportunity to meet such an acclaimed actress like Judi Dench.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today though without the help and support I received from the staff at the University of Sheffield’s Drama Studio and my fellow students from SuTCo. SuTCo allowed me to develop my passion for stage and theatre and gave me an expansive portfolio that eventually helped me get my place at RADA. I think something many students forget when choosing a university is that the extra curricular activities offered are also extremely important and in my case helped me get where I am today.”

Scott McMullin, Assistant Theatre Manager at the University of Sheffield Drama Studio, said, “During the time Claire spent working at the Drama Studio as a member of SuTCo, both my colleague Reuben and I recognised she had a lot of potential and would make a great theatre professional. Claire has excellent organisational skills and the ability to quickly problem solve in practical situations. Theatre is an industry where if there’s a slight chance of something going wrong, you can bet it will, and being able to deal with these situations is paramount.

“We are delighted that her talent has been recognised with a Lilian Baylis Award and we wish her all the best in her future career.”