Spotlight Prize 2019: Directors and Panellists Announced

This year's Spotlight Prize directors for stage and screen, alongside our panel of judges.

The annual Spotlight Showcase judges and directors have been announced today, as follows:


Natalie Abrahami (Stage Director)
Natalie Abrahami was Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill from 2007-2012 and Associate Director at the Young Vic 2013-2016. She has also been Associate Artist at the Nuffield Theatre and at Hull Truck. Recent theatre and opera include: Anna at the National Theatre, The Meeting at Chichester Festival Theatre, Machinal at the Almeida, Wings, Happy Days, After Miss Julie and Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic, Queen Anne at Royal Shakespeare Company and Theatre Royal Haymarket, How the Whale Became and Other Tales at the Linbury Studio and Royal Opera House. Her film credits include Mayday, The Roof and Life’s a Pitch.

Adeel Akhtar (Stage Judge)
BAFTA award-winning actor Adeel Akhtar can currently be seen in Netflix original film Murder Mystery, starring opposite Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, and in The Nest opposite Jude Law. Most recently, Adeel starred in the BBC’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic Les Misérables opposite Olivia Colman and Lily Collins. For his performance as ‘Monsieur Thénardier’ he received high praise. This year, Adeel has also starred in comedy Back To Life opposite Daisy Haggard on BBC3, and had a guest starring role in the second season of the critically acclaimed thriller Killing Eve (BBC America).

In 2017, Adeel starred in the Academy Award nominated comedy The  Big Sick and also became the first non-white actor to win a BAFTA TV Award in the Leading Actor category for his portrayal of ‘Shazad’ in Murdered By My Father. His further credits include Swimming With Men, Victoria & Abdul, The Night Manager, Apple Tree Yard, Capital, Unforgotten, US series Ghosted and Utopia, for which he received a BAFTA nomination.

Sheila Atim (MBE) (Stage Judge)

Olivier award-winner and Evening Standard award nominee Sheila Atim is well known for the projects she has undertaken in the past few years, so much so that she was recently recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for her services to drama. Her impressive stage CV includes Girl From The North Country (for which she won the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical), Emilia in Othello at the Globe and Phyllida Lloyd’s Shakespeare Trilogy at the Donmar Warehouse. Her television credits include Harlots (Hulu), The Feed (Amazon) and Bounty Hunters (Sky). Sheila’s next screen role will be in the untitled Game of Thrones prequel. 

Shelley Conn (Stage Judge)
Shelley Conn’s work is recognised both here in the UK and internationally. She can currently be seen in the Fox series Deep State and The Rook for Starz. She will also be reprising her role as Vanessa in Liar.  Her other UK television credits include Mistresses, Strike Back, W1A, Marchlands (The Oaks), Party Animals, Dead Set, Back and Raw. Her US television work includes the NBC series Heartbeat, Lifetime’s The Lottery, and Fox’s Terra Nova for Steven Spielberg. Conn will soon be seen in the feature film Love Sarah. Other film credits include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James L. Brooks’ film How Do You Know and Nina’s Heavenly Delights. Her theatre credits include Royal Shakespeare Company productions of All’s Well That Ends Well and The Island Princess. 

Romola Garai (Stage Judge)
BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated performer Romola Garai’s extensive theatre credits include: The Writer, Queen Anne, Measure for Measure, Indian Ink, The Village Bike and King Lear/The Seagull. Her television work includes The Miniaturist, Born To Kill, Mary Bryant, The Hour, Emma, Crimson Petal and the White and Daniel Deronda. For film, her credits include Suffragette, Dominion, The Last Days on Mars, One Day, Atonement, Amazing Grace, Inside I’m Dancing, Vanity Fair and Nicholas Nickleby. As well as her extensive performing credits, Romola is also known for her writing and directing work including Sundance Best Short Film nominated Scrubber, and the soon to be released feature film, Amulet.

Celia Imrie (Stage Judge)Celia Imrie is an Olivier award-winning and Screen Actors Guild-nominated actress, a Variety magazine ‘Icon’ and Women in Film and Television ‘Lifetime Achievement award’ winner. Celia’s film roles include: The Best and Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Calendar Girls, Absolutely Fabulous, Finding Your Feet, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Malevolent. Her most recent television role is in FX’s Better Things. In the theatre, Celia has performed in Party Time and Celebration, the sixth part of The Pinter Season. She is also a Sunday Times bestselling author of Not Quite Nice, Nice Work, Sail Away and A Nice Cup of Tea.


John Cannon (CDG) (Stage Judge)
John has been working in casting since 1989; first as an assistant at the National Theatre. In 1992, John left the National Theatre to freelance and worked for three years with many of the UK’s independent theatre companies before joining The Royal Shakespeare Company as Deputy Head of Casting in 1995 and latterly Head of Casting.

With the BBC in house Casting Department since 2006, he has been responsible for casting many episodes of Holby City, WPC56, Father Brown, The Coroner, Silent Witness, Shakespeare and Hathaway and several David Walliams adaptations (Mr Stink, The Boy In The Dress, Billionaire Boy and Gangsta Granny.)

Andy Brierley (CDG) (Stage Judge)
Andy Brierley is a casting director whose forthcoming projects include Crawl for Alexandre Aja (Paramount Pictures), Deep Water (Kudos/ITV), The Watch (BBC Studios/BBC America, co-credit with Victor Jenkins CDG), Get Even (Netflix/CBBC), Worzel Gummidge (BBC1) and his 4th series of BBC1’s Silent Witness. 

Tracey Gillham (CDG) (Stage Judge)
Tracey trained in production at the BBC, realising her ambition to work in the comedy department where she was lucky enough to join the teams of many great shows, including Only Fools and Horses. Eventually becoming the casting director for BBC Comedy, Tracey cast shows including: Jonathan Creek, Miranda, The Office, Extras, Little Britain and Psychoville. Setting up Tracey Gillham Casting in 2012, she has continued to work with great teams on shows like Inside No 9, After Life, Sally4Ever, Back to Life, Catastrophe, Back, Not Going Out, Benidorm and the Murder on The Blackpool Express series. Tracey has also cast several films, including David Brent: Life on the Road.

Gillian Hawser (CDG, CSA) (Stage Judge)
Gillian Hawser is an internationally renowned casting director who has worked for over twenty five years across film, television and theatre in the UK, Europe and the US. Recent projects include What Happened to Monday starring Noomi Rapace, Glenn Close and Willem Dafoe and Mum’s List starring Rafe Spall and Emilia Fox. 

Gillian mentors a number of emerging directors and producers, working pro bono on various projects each year to support the next generation of British filmmaking talent. Another priority for Gillian, as a member of the BAFTA Film Committee, is to raise awareness of how casting can positively transform the image of our industry.

Ben Seale (Chair) (Stage Judge)
Ben Seale has been part of the Spotlight team for almost nineteen years. He has a great passion for the arts and the welfare of actors. Ben sits on the committees of the King George V Fund for Actors and Acting for Others. He also established the ArtsMinds website, a collaborative initiative with BAPAM, Equity, and The Stage, providing a raft of resources for performers and creative practitioners facing mental health issues. Ben was also responsible for reviving the Spotlight Prize thirteen years ago after a twenty year hiatus, and considers it the highlight of Spotlight’s event calendar.


Alexandra Boyd (Screen Director) 
Alexandra’s varied career in theatre, film and television as an actress, singer, voice over and now screenwriter and director, spans over thirty five years. She lived in Los Angeles for ten years. During her time there her credits include Mr Holland’s Opus, James Cameron’s Titanic and From Paris with Love with John Travolta. After returning to the UK in 2006 and a stint on Coronation Street, she transitioned to writing and directing. Her debut feature film is a ghost story set on the Suffolk coast called Widow’s Walk and stars Miranda Raison, David Caves and Virginia McKenna.

Lucy Bevan (CDG) (Screen Judge)
Casting director Lucy Bevan’s work spans the breadth of television, theatre and film projects. Her film projects include: Beauty and The Beast, Cinderella, An Education and Murder On The Orient Express whilst her television credits include The Casual Vacancy, Birdsong and Collateral. Lucy has also previously cast for Kenneth Branagh’s theatre company which included The Winter’s Tale, Romeo & Juliet and The Entertainer.

Jenny Duffy (CDG) (Screen Judge)
Jenny casts for both television and film. Her most recent casting credits are: Loving Vincent for film, the BAFTA-winning Murdered strand of films for BBC3 (including Killed by my Debt), and, for light relief, Moominvalley for Sky/YLE.

Lauren Evans (Screen Judge)
Lauren began her casting career working for Kate Dowd. From there she spent six years working with Nina Gold on various feature films and television series. Notable projects include: Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, King Lear, Mr Turner and The Danish Girl. Lauren’s co-casting director credits with Nina Gold are Paddington 2 and Taboo. More recently Lauren has independently cast Sex Education for Netflix and The Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special for BBC.

Lucy Hellier (CDG) (Screen Judge)
Lucy Hellier started her casting career assisting Debbie McWilliams (later becoming an associate) on Skyfall, Spectre, Borgia (Netflix), One Child (BBC), Knightfall (History Channel), The Confessions, Stratton, Billionaire Ransom and The Foreigner. As a casting director, Lucy has worked on All The Devil’s Men, Medusa’s Ankles, Tianhuo, Fatima, The Phlebotomist, Glengarry Glen Ross 2019 tour and is currently casting in the UK for The Vineyard for Amazon Prime Video.

Kelly Valentine Hendry (CDG, CSA) (Screen Judge)
Kelly Valentine Hendry is the director of KVH Casting, based in London. With her team Alex Irwin, Lilly Hanbury and Cole Edwards, she mostly works in television and film. Currently they are working on The Wheel of Time (Amazon/Sony), an Untitled Bridgerton Project (Netflix/Shondaland), Brave New World (NBCU/Amblin), Gareth Evan’s epic Gangs of London (Sky Atlantic/HBO) and the fourth season of Netflix’s The Last Kingdom.

Rich Mento (CSA) (Screen Judge)
Rich is an award-winning casting director and producer, who counts himself fortunate to have successfully worked in theatre, television, film and new media in both New York City and Los Angeles.

Select film and television/digital casting credits include: Remember Me, Warm Bodies, The Wackness, The Step Up Movie Franchise, Dear John, Chloe, Safe Haven, Youth in Revolt, Cedar Rapids, Take Me Home Tonight, and No Strings Attached.

Rich has cast for Blumhouse Productions, Electronic Arts, Bad Robot, WWE Studios, Bazelevs Productions, Film Independent and Universal Pictures, as well as for The Park Avenue Armory in NYC. Rich lives in Los Angeles with his partner, filmmaker Josh Levy, and is currently serving as Vice President for the Casting Society of America.

Theo Park (Screen Judge)
Theo comes from a background in production (Black Books, Spaced) and within a talent agency. Once an associate of Nina Gold, Theo has cast wide and varied projects such as Sightseers (directed by Ben Wheatley) Cuban Fury, Paddington and Thomas Vinterberg’s Far From The Madding Crowd. Recent credits include Vanity Fair (ITV/Amazon), The Hustle (MGM), Overlord (Paramount) and the Netflix original, Calibre.

Manuel Puro (Screen Judge)
Manuel has over twenty years’ casting experience working across feature films, television, games, promos, commercials and shorts. Projects include: Moon and Mute directed by Duncan Jones, Shaun The Sheep: Farmageddon for Aardman Animations and Planet of The Apes: The Last Frontier, the first in-house video game from Andy Serkis’ The Imaginarium. Manuel has hosted mentoring sessions with organisations such as the NFTS, iFeatures and the Directors’ Guild, and has held casting workshops globally. In 2017 Manuel created The Acting Habit, an innovative online platform where actors from all over the world can share their work, receive and give feedback, experiment creatively and learn new technical skills.

Andy Pryor (CDG, CSA) (Screen Judge)
Andy started his career as a stage manager. Since setting up Andy Pryor Casting in 1998, Andy has cast a diverse range of projects, including Life on Mars, I’m Alan Partridge, Call the Midwife, Cucumber, Banana, The A Word, Doctor Foster, Gentleman Jack and Years and Years.

Andy has also cast several feature films, including the recent Stan & Ollie and has worked on Doctor Who since its return in 2005 and to date, has cast over 130 episodes and six Doctors. He has also cast all of Stephen Poliakoff’s work since Shooting the Past.

Lucinda Syson (CSA, CDG, ICDN) (Screen Judge)
Lucinda Syson began her career working under Priscilla John on David Fincher’s Alien 3, followed by City of Joy, 1492 and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Her debut as a casting director was Brothers in Trouble followed by Fifth Element and Seven Years in Tibet on location in Argentina.  

Further highlights of her career include Snatch, Children of Men, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception, Edge of Tomorrow, Blade Runner 2049, Wonder Woman and Aladdin.  

Lucinda has recently branched out into television work with projects such as River, The Alienist and the untitled Game of Thrones prequel.

She was awarded a CSA prize for Excellence in Casting and also received an Artios nomination for her work on Kick-Ass.

Congratulations again to all the nominees for this year's showcase.