A young Wolverhampton actress Anya Chalotra, whose talent blossomed at a leading Staffordshire independent school, is wowing audiences in the leading heroine’s role in a play at London’s iconic Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – and now she is nominated for an award.
Fresh out of drama school, Anya, aged 21, has been cast as “Hero” in The Globe associate director Matthew Dunster’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing”, which runs until October 15.
Reviews have described her, variously, as “excellent”, “appealing” and “captivating” in the role.
She is now one of four nominations shortlisted for “best actress in a play” in the “Debut” awards run by The Stage newspaper, which recognise fresh talent.
“I was incredibly excited to work with Matthew on such a wonderful play,” said Anya, who was brought up in Lower Penn, where she lived with her parents, Madan and April Chalotra, sister Reeya, aged 25, and brother Arun, 19.
“I’m loving every second of being in ‘Much Ado’. I’ve not read the reviews but the audience feedback has been so supportive. It’s such a joyous show.”
Her talent was spotted and nurtured as a pupil at St Dominic’s Brewood, recently rated by the Department of Education as the top school in Staffordshire for its GCSE and EBacc performance. This term it has become St Dominic’s Grammar School and has introduced the 11-plus exam for its preparatory pupils.
There she honed her skills with the help of Carol Molin, the school’s head of expressive arts, and starred on stage in many of St Dominic’s productions.
She also gained a gold medal in LAMDA acting with the MOMO Academy of Drama which was founded by and named after the alliance between Mrs Molin and Mrs Nicola Morris, an after-hours group based at St Dominic’s and run by Mrs Molin.
After leaving St Dominic’s sixth form with Theatre Studies among her three A Levels, Anya trained in acting, first at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) on the foundation course and then at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
News of her latest role in the Shakespeare comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” has delighted staff and pupils at St Dominic’s and in the MOMO Academy, where the next generation of young hopefuls dream of following in her footsteps.
“Hero is a huge role in this prestigious Shakespeare production and it is a stunning achievement for Anya, straight out of drama school and at an amazing venue,” said Mrs Molin.
“Students at our MOMO Academy are abuzz with excitement that one of our own has earned such a big national part.
“We are also celebrating the success of one of our current pupils, Sadie Phillips, aged 12, of Newport, Shropshire, also a member of MOMO, who has been filming for ITV in ‘The Worst Witch’ as well as winning a lead role in ‘A Christmas Carol’ to be performed at The Grand Theatre Wolverhampton in the autumn.”
Anya confided that she “lacked in confidence” until she began to get involved in drama at St Dominic’s.
“Acting encouraged me to be brave and gave me confidence to trust myself” she said.
“We did a musical every year at St Dominic’s. Mrs Molin was a huge support to me and always encouraged me in acting. I am still in touch with her.”
Other former St Dominic’s students now carving careers on stage, screen and film after training at top London drama schools include Bethany Clews, Amy Spinks and Emma Clover. Bethany has just finished a run at the famous Minak Theatre in Cornwall on tour with Illyria Theatre Company.
While at the Guildhall, Anya’s roles included Miss Havisham in “Great Expectations” and Tituba in “The Crucible”.
She is also credited with being a talented soprano singer and accomplished at dancing, stage combat and acrobatics.
Twists and turns
Audiences at The Globe are now seeing her in Shakespeare’s raucous comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing”, which director Matthew Dunster has transported to revolutionary Mexico in 1910.
Anya’s part as Hero, the sweet daughter of Leonato, sees her jilted at the altar by her soldier fiancé Claudio, who has been told a lie that she has been unfaithful.
After many twists and turns though, the play has a happy ending.
Dominic Maxwell, reviewing the play in “The Times”, said Anya was an “excellent” Hero, while in “The Stage” she was described as “appealing”. The “Culture Whisper” website says Anya as Hero is “captivating”, using her voice to sing a “beautiful” lullaby and “tragically wail” at her wedding.
The Stage Debut awards ceremony is due to be held on Sunday September 17 in London.