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The Pragnell Prize winner for 2018 is. . .





Royal Shakespeare Company production of HENRY V by William Shakespeare directed by Gregory Doran
Royal Shakespeare Company production of HENRY V by William Shakespeare directed by Gregory Doran

ACTRESS Jane Lapotaire, who suffered a brain haemorrhage almost 20 years ago, has been named as the 29th recipient of the Pragnell Shakespeare Birthday Award.

The 73-year-old is best known for her Tony and Olivier Award-winning portrayal of Edith Piaf at the RSC in Stratford in 1978. But she has appeared more recently in Henry V in 2015 and Richard II in 2013 — the first play directed by Gregory Doran after his appointment as artistic director. She is the ninth woman to win the award, which was first presented in 1990 to Dame Peggy Ashcroft.

“It is beyond words to be the recipient of the same award as Peggy Ashcroft,” she said. “Thank you Pragnell committee for restoring the confidence I have lost since my brain injury.”

Miss Lapotaire was born on Boxing Day in 1944 in Ipswich and studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the 1960s. She came to national prominence for her performance in the title role of the 1977 film Marie Curie.

But her distinguished career on stage and screen was tragically cut short in 2000, after collapsing with a brain haemorrhage while giving a Shakespearian masterclass in Paris. It was triggered by a burst aneurysm in the middle cerebral artery, and she spent three-and-a-half-weeks in intensive care following six hours of lifesaving surgery.

Miss Lapotaire returned as the mourning Duchess of Gloucester in the RSC’s Richard II, opposite David Tennant. The Pragnell Shakespeare Birthday Award is given every year at the annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations in April to an artist who has made significant contribution to the Bard’s celebrated works. It is funded by the Pragnell family, which runs the jewellers of the same name on Wood Street in Stratford town centre.

Last year’s winner was Antony Sher, with previous recipients including Kenneth Branagh, Trevor Nunn, the late Donald Sinden, Patrick Stewart, Professor Stanley Wells and Judi Dench.

Pragnell’s managing director, Charlie Pragnell, said: “Jane Lapotaire is a worthy winner of this year’s award because she is one of the most acclaimed classical actresses of her generation, as well as one of the most tenacious. “Her love of her craft, and for the works of Shakespeare in particular, proved to be the driving force behind her triumphant return to the stage.”

This year’s Birthday Luncheon will take place on Saturday, 21st April, beginning with a sparkling wine reception at 1pm, with lunch at 1.30pm. There will be boat transfers from the Holy Trinity Church to the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Tickets go on sale at the RSC on Friday, 16th February, priced at £44 for just the lunch, or £49 for lunch plus the boat transfer Alan Haigh, who organises the event with his wife Ros, said: “The award gives a very special focus to the occasion, and we are most grateful to the Pragnell family for supporting the award and, indirectly, the lunch so generously.”

Guest speakers for the luncheon revealed in Thursday's Herald.



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