Award-winning actor Suranne Jones has been announced as the new president of Sheringham Little Theatre. And she is keen to support the kind of community theatre where she cut her acting teeth
Stage and screen star Suranne Jones has stepped into a new role – as president of Sheringham Little Theatre. The multi award-winning actor best known for Vigil, Gentleman Jack and Dr Foster, was unveiled at the annual meeting of the charity trust which runs the community arts venue. She takes over the honorary title from Lady Walpole who succeeded her late husband Lord Robin Walpole in 2022. Lady Walpole steps down after the couple completed a total of 50 years in the role.
Suranne, who is a frequent visitor to North Norfolk and the theatre with her family, says: ‘When we first visited the area I was excited to see Sheringham still had The Little Theatre and it wasn’t long before we started coming along.
‘Theatre in rural areas is so important, not only for audiences to see shows they may not be able to easily see, but also for young people who may not have an outlet for their creativity and have no idea how to get into the business.’
Her early years in her own local theatres instilled discipline, a sense of belonging, and developed social skills which were integral to becoming a successful stage and screen actress, she explained.
Suranne Jones was born in Oldham and grew up in Greater Manchester. She started acting at eight years old, took her first steps into making it her career at the Oldham Theatre Workshop, and later completed a Diploma in Performing Arts.
After various stage acting roles which saw her tour the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, she found fame as Karen McDonald in Coronation Street, twice winning the NTA Best Actress award.
Suranne’s break-out role was as police killer Ruth Slater in Sally Wainwright’s critically-acclaimed Unforgiven. It cemented her status as one of the UK’s most exciting young actors and led to a diverse range of roles, including: detective Rachel Bailey in ITV’s crime drama Scott and Bailey; the spirit of the Tardis in Doctor Who; Doctor Foster (for which she won the BAFTA Best Actress award in 2016); Anne Lister in the ground-breaking Gentleman Jack, and detective Amy Silva in the latest series of Vigil.
She runs a production company called TeamAkers with her husband, the producer/ writer Laurence Akers. They have co-produced the drama Maryland for ITV, documentary series Suranne Jones: Witches for Channel 4, the Kieron Barry play SpyforSpy at The Riverside Theatre in London and have numerous projects shooting in 2024. TeamAkers has also become a patron of The Little Theatre.
Suranne said she and her family loved visiting the 160-seat Little Theatre, adding, ‘there’s nothing like seeing a show up close as you really feel like you’re in it.’
Personal favourites have been The Hound of the Baskervilles last summer, and the “brilliant” pantomime, Cinderella, but the highlight was watching the movie Elf with her son for the first time.
Suranne hoped her presidency would ‘not only raise awareness for the SLT, but small theatres and arts centres across the country. They’re an important part of the community for so many reasons and shouldn’t be undervalued.’
Theatre director Debbie Thompson said having a high-profile star and household name as President was a huge boost for the seaside venue.
‘We are very honoured Suranne has agreed to take on this role and excited to be working with an actress who started off in the youth group of her local theatre in Oldham, so understands the importance of community arts venues,’ she added.
Debbie also praised the presidential support of the Walpoles during the previous half century, which had included some tough times for local theatres.
Theatre chairman Jonathan Beak says: ‘A lot of hard work goes into funding our charity-run theatre, so it is wonderful to have someone of Suranne’s stature support us as president. We hope it will raise our profile in the community and maybe nationally, and help us grow the theatre for the future. With her origins in local theatre, she is also an inspirational role model for young actors passing through our theatre.’
Featured images by Andi Sapey/SLT