Theatre stars' big night

Deanne Blaylock wrote in the Brentwood Gazette:

More than 100 guests gathered at the black tie event to see who would walk away with the coveted gongs.

A total of 14 awards were presented at the glittering ceremony against the backdrop of the town's newly-refurbished theatre.

The event, which rewards the best in local theatre in Brentwood, was co-hosted by Brentwood Theatre president Lord Petre and arts critic and chief awards adjudicator Mary Redman.

Special guest presenters included actor Chris Southgate, singer Michelle Ward, and Brentwood Mayor Cllr David Tee.

A shocked Emma Feeney, who walked away with this year's Best Performance by an Actress in a Play accolade, said: "I don't know what to say. This is for all the girls."

Paul Sparrowham, who collected the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Play, said: "Every year I've come here thinking I was a dead cert and walked away with nothing. This year I thought 'I haven't got a chance' and prepared nothing!"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical went to Lisa Harris. As her name was revealed to a whooping audience, she screamed: "Oh My God".

A poignant moment in the night's events came when tribute was paid to talented and budding actor Lewis Fraser, who died earlier in the year from complications arising from his diabetes. Lewis, 17, had been a member ofBrentwood Operatic Society's youth group and Theatretrain and an award was presented in his memory.

Lighting guru Guy Lee, who has been involved with the theatre for 15 years including its first production, was awarded The Jo Stoneham Unsung Backstage Hero Award.

Presenting his award, long-time friend of the theatre Jacqueline Bier said: "Nothing is too much trouble for Guy. He is always the first in and last to leave."

The Jackson Cup for Outstanding Contribution to Non-professional Theatre in Brentwood went to costumier Joy Dunn, who is putting together the costumes for the theatre's Christmas show.

The mayor praised all those involved in the theatre.

He said. "I am very proud to be here. This theatre is one of the great successes of Brentwood.

"I'm not a great actor myself but a lot of us politicians are indeed actors. There are a lot of similarities between your performances and that of politicians in the town hall."

Addressing a jovial audience, Brentwood Theatre president Lord Petre said: "Last week the Pope, tonight the theatre awards, next week the Dagenham Girl Pipers. There's only so much glamour a man can take."

Theatre manager Mark Reed, who organised the ceremony at the Shenfield Road venue, said: "Probably the abiding memory of the night was every winner being completely shocked when they won."

Read Mary Redman's full speech here