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Fenella Woolgar and Paul Chahidi win Clarence Derwent awards

Fenella Woolgar and Paul Chahidi.
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Fenella Woolgar and Paul Chahidi have won this year’s Clarence Derwent awards for their performances in Hedda Gabler and Twelfth Night respectively.

The awards are presented annually by union Equity, in recognition of actors in supporting roles.

Woolgar won for her turn as Thea Elvsted in Brian Friel’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic, while Chahidi’s award was presented for his role as Maria in the all-male production of Twelfth Night, which ran at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Equity president Malcolm Sinclair, presenting the awards, said: “Fenella and Paul are great comic actors. And as Edmund Kean said, ‘You can fool the town with tragedy but comedy will find you out’. Fenella, being a marvellous comedy actor, is now winning awards for being in an Ibsen play. I think that is a huge achievement. I’ve gone through the past award winners and not one winner has won for being in an Ibsen play.”

He added: “The other first is for Paul, because no drag performance has won a Clarence Derwent award before.”

Accepting her award, Woolgar said she had previously been nominated for various prizes but had never won any until now.

“I am over the moon – as I’m usually always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Thank you to the panel, Equity and Brian Friel, who fleshed out Thea and made her into a real person, rather than just a foil,” she said, adding: “I am so proud to join the list of previous winners as they are my favourite actors and actresses of all time.”

Chahidi, who is about to reprise the role of Maria on Broadway, said he felt “humbled” to win the award.

He added: “It’s a huge privilege to be sharing the prize with Fenella, who is such a fine actress.”

The awards were judged by a panel including critic Michael Billington, actor Peter Barnes, director Richard Digby Day and producer Thelma Holt.

Clarence Derwent was a London-born director and actor who was president of American Actors’ Equity from 1946 to 1952. He established the awards for supporting actors in both the West End and on Broadway, with the UK’s ceremony having run since 1948.

Previous winners include Judi Dench, Gemma Jones, Phil Davis and Roger Allam.

Winners receive £500, a certificate and a year’s membership of Equity.

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