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RSC's Gregory Doran announced as Pragnell Award winner for 2023 Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations

Theatre director Gregory Doran will be in good company when he receives the Pragnell Award during the 459th Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations taking place 22nd to 23rd April.

Previous winners include Gregory’s late husband Sir Antony Sher who was honoured in 2017. Sir Antony died in December 2021 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Each year since 1990 Stratford-based company Pragnell the Jeweller has presented the award during the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations lunch.

Gregory Doran pictured in rehearsals in 2021. Photo: Ellie Kurtz/RSC (56227550)
Gregory Doran pictured in rehearsals in 2021. Photo: Ellie Kurtz/RSC (56227550)

The prestigious award recognises “outstanding achievement in extending the appreciation and enjoyment of the works of William Shakespeare and in the general advancement of Shakespearian knowledge and understanding”.

Previous winners have included Sir Ian McKellen (1996), Dame Judi Dench (2000), Sir Kenneth Branagh (2015) and last year’s winner Adrian Lester.

A well-known presence in Stratford, Gregory has been with the RSC for 36 years. He was appointed artistic director in 2012, but stepped down last year and now holds the honorary position of artistic director emeritus.

The Sunday Times described Gregory as “one of the great Shakespearians of his generation”.

Sir Antony Sher and Gregory Doran pictured at Sher's arts exhibition at the RSC in 2018. (51268227)
Sir Antony Sher and Gregory Doran pictured at Sher's arts exhibition at the RSC in 2018. (51268227)

The presentation of this year’s award will coincide with Gregory’s 50th production for the RSC, Cymbeline, which opens in the RST on the day of the award presentation.

Speaking of the Birthday honour, Gregory said: “Donald Sinden once said, ‘Man cannot live by Bard alone’, but I seem to have done pretty much that. So it is very rewarding to find I have been given a prize for doing so.

“I am very grateful to the Pragnell family for their support of this endeavour and delighted to accept such a prestigious award.”

Last year Pragnell hosted the actual lunch itself for the first time. The stylish celebrations took place in a marquee at Avon Bank Gardens overlooking the river and attracted a star-studded guest list.

Dame Judi Dench was among them and she led the toast to ‘The Immortal memory of William Shakespeare’.

This year that honour goes to Professor Nataliya Torkut, head of the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre in Zaporizhzhia – and who has close ties with the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford.

Promising an equally compelling lunch this year, Charlie Pragnell, managing director at the luxury jewellery brand, said: “The luncheon is a highlight of Stratford’s annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations, and we are delighted to have the honour of building on the success of last year’s revival.”

“Shakespearean understanding remains a cornerstone of contemporary culture and the lunch, like the Pragnell Shakespeare Birthday Award, is a way to celebrate his works, ensuring a lasting legacy. “Greg’s career is exemplary, and this award is a tribute to a life dedicated to curating, contextualising, and celebrating the great Bard’s work for today’s world.

“At this year’s lunch we will showcase the best the Bard has to offer, ensuring Stratford and Shakespeare remain firmly in the national conscience and on the international stage, benefiting both the town, and the broader Shakespearean community.”

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