Sixteen drama school students from across the UK have been awarded £72,500 worth of bursaries by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), to help them complete their training.
Established by SOLT in 1987 to mark the 80th birthday of Lord Olivier, the Laurence Olivier Bursaries aim to provide financial support to exceptional students entering their final year of drama school, and facing financial difficulties which might jeopardise their studies.
Previous bursary winners have included Denise Gough, Bryony Hannah, Paterson Joseph, Ewan McGregor, Daniel Rigby, Vinette Robinson, Juma Sharkah, Michaela Coel and Michael Sheen.
Nominees, put forward by drama school principals across the UK, are auditioned on a West End stage and interviewed by a panel of theatre industry professionals, led by West End producer and Chair of the Laurence Olivier Bursaries Committee, Lee Menzies. This year’s auditions took place at St Martin’s Theatre. The bursaries were formally presented during a ceremony at the SOLT offices on 20 September.
This year’s Laurence Olivier Bursary recipients are Esme Allen, Rosie Clay, Ruby Crepin-Glyne, Amesh Edireweera, Louis Ellis, Jasmine Jones, Mirren Mack, Aidan Nightingale, Melissa Shirley Rose and Samuel Stafford.
The Laurence Olivier Bursary and Doreen Jones & Mary Selway Bursary 2018, donated by Society of London Theatre and the Casting Directors’ Guild, was awarded to Samuel Adebayo. The Behrens Foundation Bursaries 2018 went to Ojan Genc, Aron Julius and Shaofan Wilson. The Carmen Silvera Bursary 2018 (given in conjunction with the Laurence Olivier Bursary, donated by the agent Barry Burnett) went to Beshlie Thorp, while the Clothworkers’ Laurence Olivier Bursary 2018 was awarded to Paul Kennedy
Funds awarded individually through the scheme can range from £500 to a maximum of £7,500, and are given at the discretion of the judges.
Lee Menzies, Chair of the Olivier Bursaries Committee, said: “Each year we are astounded by the talent and dedication of the bursary recipients – individuals who, despite financial hardship, are pushing forward to realize their potential. Many have made sacrifices to continue their studies, and without assistance we risk losing gifted performers to other industries. Drama courses require a huge amount of hard work; these bursaries give performers the freedom to focus on their studies without financial pressure.
“We are grateful to our partners and donors, and I urge the industry to help us secure the future of UK theatre – by supporting schemes like this, and also by continuing to make theatre tickets financially accessible to students, allowing the next generation of acting talent to be inspired by our world-class stages.”
The Clothworkers’ Foundation bursary is worth a total of £37,500 over five years with £7,500 awarded to a student annually as part of the Laurence Olivier Bursaries scheme. Funds donated by The Behrens Foundation, The Casting Directors’ Guild and by leading London theatrical agent Barry Burnett are also given in conjunction with the scheme.
The annual Society of London Theatre Bursary for Musical Theatre Dancers has been awarded to four recipients over the past year. Chosen by Dancers’ Career Development, the bursary was established to provide support for professional musical theatre dancers transitioning into post-performance careers in the creative industries.