Dame Janet Suzman

Dame Janet Suzman – one of the most respected classical stage actresses of our time – has lent her name to a new playwriting prize for Edge Hill University students.

This annual prize will feature Dame Janet herself on the judging panel alongside academic staff and is open to final year undergraduate students on Creative Writing or Performing Arts programmes.

The Dame Janet Suzman Student Playwriting Prize aims to recognise, nurture and develop students’ talents writing for the stage and the inaugural winning script will be announced in June 2017.

The winner will receive a £1,000 prize, and the play will be produced and staged at the University’s Arts Centre by One Hour Theatre Company. The winner will also receive advice on possibilities for touring the play to other venues.

Dame Janet Suzman had a message for students entering the competition: “Writing for drama will become even more vital than Shakespeare made it – for today we have ever hungry TV to feed, as well as a flourishing theatre industry. Nothing is more fascinating than the lives of people made into dramatic form. I look forward to your creativity with eager anticipation.”

Dr John Cater, Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University said: “Dame Janet is one of the foremost Shakespearean actors of this or any generation.  We are delighted to have her as an honorary graduate of the University and even more pleased that she has agreed not only to put her name to this incredibly prestigious prize but also to judge the entries, giving students the benefit of her wealth of experience.”

Janet Suzman has remained one of the most respected classical stage actresses of her time. She spent the 1960s in the Royal Shakespeare Company and built up an impressive classical resumé portraying most of Shakespeare’s illustrious heroines, also appearing in several BBC TV versions of the classics.

Janet and director Trevor Nunn collaborated on some of England’s finest stage productions, notably Antony and Cleopatra, Titus Andronicus and Hello and Goodbye. Later work included notable roles in She Stoops to Conquer, The Good Woman of Setzuan and her Hedda Gabler.

The 1970s also saw Janet branch out into films and, following an auspicious turn in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg she won the coveted role of Czarina Alexandra in the florid historical piece Nicholas and Ale, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, BAFTA and the Golden Globe.

In a reprise of her real life family’s activism, Suzman co-starred in the anti-apartheid film A Dry White Season (1989). In the 1980s Janet was inspired to direct and coach. She was a visiting professor of drama at Westfield College, London, and later returned to South Africa to provide multi-ethnic castings in versions of Shakespearean plays. In 2002 Janet returned to the RSC to perform in The Hollow Crown, and most recently appeared in a London production of Whose Life Is It Anyway? (2005) with Kim Cattrall.

Suzman was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours, is an Honorary Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute, and was awarded the Pragnell Award for lifetime services to Shakespeare in 2012. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Edge Hill University in 2014.

The University will also be awarding The Dame Janet Suzman Scholarship, worth £1,000, to the final year student of performing arts who achieves the highest marks.