Former Gresham’s pupil Olivia Colman (O) has won the 2019 Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. This win is a fantastic achievement for Olivia and one that north Norfolk and in particular her former school Gresham’s takes enormous pride in.
“Gresham’s, in many ways made me the person I am today. It was the first place I ever acted. Crucially, it was the first place I wanted to act. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been an actor at all if it weren’t for Gresham’s.” – Olivia Colman, Academy Award winner and former Gresham’s School pupil.
Olivia first trod the boards at Gresham’s having done little acting prior to her arrival here for Sixth Form. She first got the acting bug playing Miss Jean Brodie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at Gresham’s, aged 16.
She said: “I was on stage, and I suddenly felt really at ease, and at home. Of course, at that age you keep it to yourself, you say, ‘I want to be a nurse or a teacher’.”
Mr Paul Hands, whose inspirational teaching she mentioned in a BAFTA acceptance speech, was Director of Drama when Olivia studied at Gresham’s, said: “Even when I taught her at 18 I knew this was going to be the likely future for her. She is a very special actor and she was a very special student, too. She was never difficult — when you see her being interviewed now, that funny, sensitive and delightful person was the person she was to work with when she was a teenager.”
Olivia is remembered at the school for being ‘popular and kind’ and has reminisced how she used to revise for her A Levels on Holkham beach. She returned to Gresham’s in Holt recently to unveil a plaque in the common room of her old house, which read, ‘Olivia Colman, Old Greshamian, who played Miss Jean Brodie at an impressionable age and never looked back’.
Mr Hands adds that he believes she will be counted as ‘one of the great British actors of her generation’.