The judges for the award, which is given annually to a best supporting male and female performer, were critics Kate Bassett of the Independent on Sunday and Michael Billington from the Guardian, theatre director Richard Digby Day, theatre producer Thelma Holt, actor Peter Barnes and Equity President Malcolm Sinclair.
Michael Billington said: “Sheridan Smith got the prize because she was so truthful and moving as the wartime Countess. The scene where she learns of her husband’s supposed death was played with a resilience that broke one’s heart.
"William Gaunt was given the award because we all felt that he provides a model of how to speak Shakespearean verse and exuded his customary integrity in one particular Globe production. But we were also recognising a long career that has been exemplary in its honesty and truth.”
The awards ceremony took place today (18 November) at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London, where Equity also presented the 2011 young member and student bursaries.