The RTST funds the Buzz Goodbody Director Award at the annual National Student Drama Festival (“NSDF”).

This year, at NSDF23, Jessica Meade was awarded the Buzz Goodbody Director Award for exceptional potential as a theatre director, judged by Artistic Director Nathan Powell and two regional Associates. Jess will receive a £1000 cash prize to be used to develop her practice and/or knowledge, experience and appreciation of theatre and drama, and will be offered ongoing mentorship from NSDF. The prize is funded by The Royal Theatrical Support Trust.

The Grant memorialises Mary Ann – nick-named “Buzz” – Goodbody. Buzz was the celebrated first female director of the RSC and the driving force behind the establishment of its studio theatre, The Other Place at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the early 1970s, which later spawned the Warehouse in London: the Donmar today. Buzz died tragically in 1975, aged 28. Visit the NSDF website to find out more.

About Buzz and the history of the Buzz Goodbody Award

Mary Ann Goodbody (25 June 1948 – 12 April 1975) was given the nick- name Buzz by her brother, John, because that, as a child, is what she did. She was adventurous and inquisitive, wanting knowledge, buzzing around. It stuck. She was brought up in and around central London, studied at Roedean and at Sussex University where she read English Literature. She was not enamoured of acting as a student as all the best roles, the ones she would have wished for, were for men. Her love of theatre was, therefore, channelled into directing. She won the National Student Drama Festival award with Dostoyevski`s Notes from the Underground, seen briefly in the West End.

Buzz was outspoken, opinionated, fascinating and a passionate advocate for all in which she believed, be it theatre or politics. She was a natural enthusiast and inspired all who had the luck to work with her. She was active in the Women`s Movement, married in 1967 and divorced in 1971.

The Royal Shakespeare Company became her artistic home in 1967, and she remained a much loved member of the Company for the rest of her life. She quickly graduated from Assistant to John Barton, a founder director of the RSC, via Dramaturg to Terry Hands, and in 1969 to the job of an Assistant Director. She was the first female director in the RSC and paved the way for many more.

In 1972, Sir Trevor Nunn, then Artistic Director of the RSC, directed the four Roman plays by Shakespeare; his assistant was Buzz. She earned everyone’s admiration and respect when Trevor was taken ill in the final two weeks of rehearsal of Julius Caesar and Buzz delivered the production fully realised and to everyone’s acclaim. She had claimed her place.

Buzz`s most memorable achievement at the RSC was The Other Place (a title chosen in default of any better idea). It responded to the times and Buzz was a leader of the pack in seeing the importance of the simplicity and directness and power of studio theatre. The idea was enthusiastically embraced by all her colleagues and driven forward at a pace. It was demonstrated to be a cost-neutral activity for the RSC and required no specific appeal to the public purse of arts funding. It is alive and kicking nearly fifty years later and spawned the Warehouse in London (the Donmar today).

She directed two landmark productions at TOP (as it became known), and produced a series of memorable and original pieces of work in that legendary small theatre, cast always at the optimum level of talent. Actors wanted to work in that intimate space. Buzz`s instincts were proven right. It was said of her work, ‘Actors meant what they said’.

Titles in her list of directorial credits, main house and TOP:

Main house: King John; Arden of Faversham; Occupations; The Oz Trial; As You Like It; And then in TOP from 1973: King Lear (and New York) and Hamlet (and Roundhouse in London).

Buzz committed suicide after the first preview of Hamlet and before its formal opening. It sent a shockwave throughout the RSC. The production was a triumph, but for all involved, a searing experience.

In 1980, Buzz’s mother and brother and a number of her close RSC colleagues, thought it a fitting tribute to Buzz to set up the Buzz Goodbody Award Fund to present an annual award to the winner of the National Student Drama Festival.

Past Award winners

Past Award winners who went on to make a notable contribution to the profession for which Buzz was a passionate advocate include: Laurence Boswell: 1981; Simon Curtis: 1982; Jamie Lloyd: 2001; Caitlin McLeod: 2009.

Other past winners include Peter Jukes: 1983; Julia Bardsley: 1985; David O`Shea: 1987; Andrew John Wilford: 1993; Richard Hurst: 1995; Paul Cooke: 1997; Roland Smith: 1999; Owen Lewis: 2000; Joem-Udo Kortmann: 2002; Alex Ferguson: 2003; Fiona Clift: 2004; Emily Westwood: 2006; Jeremy Bigwood: 2007; Alexander Wright: 2008; Sarah Davies: 2010; Nicola Moss: 2011; Nazomi Matsomori: 2012; Peter Bradley: 2013; Joe Bunce: 2015; Modupe Salu: 2016; Eleanor L. Gauge: 2017; Simon Penayi: 2018; Matt Owen: 2019.

Award Funding

The RTST took over the funding of the Buzz Goodbody Director Award in 2020. At NSDF 2022, a grant was made by the RTST in honour of the memory of Buzz Goodbody to support the production costs of five works-in-progress at NSDF Hub.  But at NSDF in 2020 and subsequently, the disruptive effects of the pandemic precluded live finished productions that could fairly be judged for the purposes of conferring the Buzz Goodbody Director Award itself  – until now, at NSDF 2023.    

2023 Award winner

Jessica Meade was the recipient of the Buzz Goodbody Director Award 2023. Nathan Powell, Artistic Director said “NSDF is thrilled to make this Award, which recognises Jess’s exceptional potential as a theatre director on the basis of her wonderful production of Touch, which she brought to NSDF 2023 with her brilliant company, FLOOD. Jess wins a £1000 cash prize, funded by The Royal Theatrical Support Trust (RTST) – to be used to develop her practice and/or knowledge, experience and appreciation of theatre and drama. Jess will also be offered mentoring from NSDF. NSDF is grateful to Mark Hawes and all at the RTST for their kind and vital support of NSDF and the young artists we work with.”