TV star revisits Norfolk roots for Norwich Film Festival

PUBLISHED: 11:00 01 May 2013 | UPDATED: 15:02 14 May 2013

Olivia Colman alongside David Tennant in ITV1 detective series Broadchurch.

Olivia Colman alongside David Tennant in ITV1 detective series Broadchurch.


One of the rising stars of British acting will be returning to her Norfolk roots this weekend.

Olivia Colman, who recently starred alongside David Tennant in ITV detective series Broadchurch, will be judging the Norwich Film Festival.

Colman has been a regular face on British TV comedies Peep Show and Green Wing for around 10 years but recently she has made the step up to the silver screen in more serious roles.

The 39-year-old played Carol Thatcher in the successful 2011 film about Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady, and there was industry outrage when she was not nominated for a BAFTA award for her harrowing role in gritty British drama Tyrannosaur in the same year.

Those acting skills were first honed in Norfolk where Colman, whose real name is Sarah, attended Norwich High School for Girls between 1982 and 1990 and Gresham’s School, in Holt, for her sixth-form years, between 1990 and 1992.

Gresham’s memories

Liz Larby, school archivist at Gresham’s, had a search for mentions of Olivia Colman in the Holt school’s archive for us.

The records all refer to her as Sarah Colman, her real name, as she took on Olivia as a stage name when entering the world of acting.

There include:

- 1990-91 drama report – Sarah Colman as Rose in The Room brought “gasps of admiration” from GCSE examiners, who commented “make no mistake, here is a career in the making”.

- 1991-92 drama report – Photo of Sarah Colman starring in Oakeley’s production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, winter term, comments that pupils still talking about her performance the following summer.

- 1992-93 – Photo of Sarah Colman in upper sixth theatre studies group – mentions her “memorable” performance in an extract from The Glass Menagerie at Speech Day.

Norwich High’s headmaster, Jason Morrow, said: “It is a tremendous inspiration for current pupils who are perhaps thinking about a career in acting or similar creative fields to see a former student of the school achieve such success and produce such compelling performances.

“We are all naturally very proud of Olivia Colman’s success.”

Last year Colman was nominated for her first BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award, for Best Female Performance in a Comedy Programme for her role in Twenty Twelve, alongside Downtown Abbey star Hugh Bonneville.

Her performance in Tyrannosaur was recognised at the 2011 British Independent Film Awards, handing her the award for Best Actress.

She also won Best Supporting Actress at the 2012 British Independent Film Awards for her role in comedy-drama Hyde Park on Hudson.

Colman is also set to star in another ITV drama later this month, starring alongside Paddy Considine in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

Her recent starring role in Broadchurch seems to have really brought her to the fore of the British acting world though and Frankie Tidy, Norwich High School’s drama captain, said Colman’s success is an inspiration her and other current drama pupils at the Newmarket Road school.

“Many people believe that in order to become a successful actress, training in a theatre school at a young age is key; Olivia Colman is proof that it is not necessary,” said Miss Tidy.

“Her achievements in television and film are hugely inspiring, and I am proud to be a pupil studying Drama at the school she once attended.”

Norwich Film Festival, which is being hosted at Cinema City, started on Sunday with an evening of BAFTA nominated short films.

It continues this Friday and Saturday night, with 18 short films, entered from 13 countries, being screened on each night.

Colman is one of a group of judges with impressive credentials.

She is joined by up-and-coming British film director Jim Field Smith, whose 2010 US romantic-comedy She’s Out of My League grossed over $50m at the box office.

Comedian Steve Furst, famous from the Orange Wednesday cinema adverts and Little Britain, and BBC broadcaster Edith Bowman are also lending their knowledge.

The panel is concluded by Jane Gull, director of last year’s winning film at the Norwich Film Festival, Sunny Boy, as well as University of East Anglia lecturer in Film and Television Studies, Sarah Godfrey, and editor Jon Harris, who has worked on films such as Stardust and The Woman in Black.

For more information about the film festival, and to buy tickets for the screenings, go to

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