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3 July 2013

Student scoops Olivier bursary

Life changing award for actress

A STUDENT from the Isle of Barra is celebrating after receiving a life-changing acting bursary.

Fiona MacNeil, who has just completed her second year of a BA (Hons) Acting degree at Manchester School of Theatre, was given a £2,500 Laurence Olivier bursary.

She is the fourth MMU student to receive one of the coveted awards in the last five years.

The 22 year-old said that the award will make a huge difference to her future.

“Surprised and shocked”

She said: “Because I live on an island, when I graduate I can’t move home I will have to rent on the mainland. The bursary will really help with that.

“Being from such a remote place means it’s difficult – I need three days’ notice for auditions! This has taken some of the strain off.”

For the audition, which took place in the West End, Fiona performed Lady Macbeth’s monologue and a monologue from Five Kinds of Silence by Shelagh Stephenson, and also sang a Scottish song called Ae Fond Kiss.

She said: “I was really surprised and shocked to hear I had won – I didn’t think the audition went well at all! I’m honoured, and it’s a really good boost of confidence.”

Stepping up the pace

Fiona will enter her third year in September, at which point the students showcase their skills in public productions, held at the university’s Capitol Theatre and elsewhere.

She said: “I’m really looking forward to doing all the shows – it felt like such a long way away when I started my degree but now we’re there with all the training behind us, I feel safe and secure, and confident in the training that the school has given me. I just can’t wait to start getting my teeth into it now!”

As for role models, Fiona believes that there has never been a better time to be a British actress. She said: “Kelly McDonald has done really well and has such a lovely true Scottish voice which I’m really inspired by.

“Hayley Atwell and Olivia Coleman are really good British actresses too, it seems to be a good time to be a Brit actress, now more than ever!”

Warm congratulations

David Shirley, course leader for BA (Hons) Acting, said: “We are delighted that Fiona has been awarded a Laurence Olivier Bursary; it is truly excellent that the panel of industry professionals and practitioners have chosen to acknowledge her ability and to support her training! We offer her warm congratulations.

“In the last five years students from the BA (Hons) Acting programme have won four Laurence Olivier Bursaries! This is a real testament to their passion and dedication as well as to the effectiveness of the training and we are immensely proud.”