Sitcom actor appointed


Jonathan Mayo

British comedian Meera Syal has been appointed as the new Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre.

The position, based at St Catherine’s College, will see Syal take over from Sir Trevor Nunn who held the Visiting Professorship last year. The post is for one academic year, and involves no teaching obligations.

Syal is most famous for her role in creating the television and radio comedy show Goodness Gracious Me. She went on to play Sanjeev’s grandmother in the hugely popular The Kumars at No. 42. In 2010, she also guest-starred in Doctor Who, playing a geologist determined to drill to the centre of the Earth.

Professor Roger Ainsworth, Master of St Catherine’s College, said: “Our students I know will be thrilled to have the opportunity of interacting and learning from someone with such a range of talent in so many different genres.”

“We are thrilled that she has agreed to give us some of her precious time this year.”

Despite her impressive credentials, however, some students seem dubious about the relevance of the position to their everyday lives in Oxford. One St Catz student commented: “Having a professor of theatre doesn’t really affect us at all.”

He went on to say that “whilst it’s quite cool to have a famous figure from the arts associated with your college… it really isn’t that big a deal.”

Syal’s inaugural lecture will be on Monday 14th November at the Bernard Sunley Theatre in St Catherine’s College.

Other figures that have previously held the position include Arthur Miller, the American playwright who wrote A View from the Bridge, and Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart.