Michael Ross Award 2021: Aiden Strickland

Aiden Strickland performing.

Aiden is a theatre maker who grew up in Berkshire, before moving to Bristol to work for Theatre Bristol, an umbrella group that supports performers and producers. He read Performing Arts at Bath Spa University, where he found his voice as a solo performer, and is also an alumnus of both The Watershed’s Future Producers program and Marisa Carnesky’s Radical Cabaret School. As a writer and performer, Aiden has toured shows at UK theatre festivals based on Great Expectations, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, and Katie Hopkins.

During his time on Birkbeck’s MA Text and Performance course, Aiden discovered that he can write earnest and personal work that is still provocative and worthwhile. His final dissertation piece, The Sodomite, for which he receives the Michael Ross Award, is both a tongue-in-cheek retelling of the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and an earnest reflection on Catholicism’s relationship to the LGBTQIA+ community. Aiden is passionate about gender and performance, including how queer aesthetics such as drag and cabaret can tackle cultural accessibility.

Because he tends to make solo performances, Aiden splits his time between producing and writing and devising in the studio. The support and advice Aiden has received from the staff and his peers, both at Birkbeck and RADA, has supported him in these endeavours, but due to the pandemic, his experience of developing The Sodomite has felt solitary at times. With the help of the Michael Ross Award, Aiden will be able to give The Sodomite the attention it deserves, while also exploiting his classmates’ creativity and tenacity more equitably.

Birkbeck, University of London and RADA: Text and Performance MA – Michael Ross Award.

Birkbeck University and RADA have kindly joined forces with the Michael Ross Estate to create a yearly award for aspiring students in the Text and Performance MA course.

The winner of the Michael Ross Award this year is Emma-Louise Howell.

I would like to pass on my sincere thanks to the Ross family for this prize. I really am honoured to be the first recipient of the award which provides invaluable support, not just in the future development of Patterns, but for the initial steps into my directing career. It is an especially difficult time to be breaking into the industry but this award, and the support of RADA, Birkbeck and the Ross family, offers timely and much-appreciated encouragement, hope and confidence for my ongoing development. ” 

– Emma-Louise Howell

 Emma is an emerging writer and director from Lincolnshire. Committed to pursuing a career in the arts, she read English at Durham University and performed regularly in productions with Durham Student Theatre. In her final year, Emma was elected as the society’s President where she was responsible for taking productions to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, National Student Drama Festival and on both national and international tours. 

Upon graduating from Durham, Emma began her studies at RADA and Birkbeck, where she continued to develop her skills and passion for directing on the MA Text and Performance course. As a director, her work aims to investigate the thin line between humour and stark social truths; she enjoys exploring these boundaries in both existing and new writing alike. 

Alongside her studies, Emma has been fortunate to develop her skills by assisting directors at a number of venues such as the Arcola Theatre and VAULT Festival. Her credits include: 

Directing: Patterns (RADA and Birkbeck) The Last Straw (Arcola Theatre), Honest (E-Merge Festival) 

Assistant Directing: 21 for Lunch (Hope Theatre), Days of Significance (Arcola Theatre), Who Cares (VAULT Festival) 

Acting: Jessie in Screen 9 (Pleasance Theatre), Ophelia in The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (Greenwich Theatre), Viola in Twelfth Night (UK/US Tour), Louise in After the End (Durham Student Theatre, Special Commendation for the National Student Drama Festival). 

 Her final dissertation project, Patterns, for which she receives the Michael Ross Award, explores the psychological impact of coercive and controlling behaviour. It was was short-listed for the Royal Court’s Introduction to Playwriting Programme and the award will be fundamental in supporting its future development in 2021.