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Everything we know so far about the Stage Debut Awards 2023

By Erin Croasdale First Published 16 May 2023, Last Updated 20 September 2023

The Stage Debut Awards are the only UK theatre awards dedicated solely to recognising new and breakthrough talent on the British stage.

It has been announced that legendary drag artist, songstress and performer Divina De Campo will be the host of The Stage Debut Awards 2023, in association with Ambassador Theatre Group.

Taking place on Sunday 1 October 2023 at 8 Northumberland Avenue, the previous 12 months’ newcomers will be eligible for awards in a ceremony celebrating up-and-coming performers and creatives and their professional debuts.

This year marks the seventh annual Stage Debut Awards, and the second year in association with headline sponsor the Ambassador Theatre Group.

Presenting the award will be Olivier Award winning director Rebecca Frecknall, Bertie Carvel, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Prema Mehta, John Partridge and West End LIVE 2022 presenter Faye Tozer.

There will be an exciting range of performances, including Rachel Wooding who will perform After The Rain from Standing At The Sky’s Edge, winner of Mastercard Best New Musical at the Olivier Award 2023. Emily Benjamin will perform Maybe This Time from Cabaret and Jack Wolfe will perform a number from Next To Normal.

Emily Benjamin at West End LIVE 2022 (c) Pamela Raith

The nominees were revealed in August, with 45 nominees across the eight categories which include Best Performer in a Play; Best Performer in a Musical; Best West End Creative Debut; Best Director; Best Designer; Best Writer and Best Composer/Lyricist or Book Writer. The final award, Best West End Debut Performer, is the only category put to a public vote. Following in the footsteps of last year’s winner Jodie Comer, the nominees include Paul Mescal, who won the Olivier Award for Best Actor earlier in the year for his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire and Rose Ayling-Ellis, whose performance in As You Like It at @sohoplace was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Paul Mescal and Jodie Comer at the Olivier Awards 2023 (c) David Levene

The full list of nominees are:

Best Performer in a Play (Sponsored by Cabbells):

  • Bukky Bakray for Sleepova at Bush Theatre, London
  • Rita Bernard-Shaw for Trouble in Butetown at Donmar Warehouse, London
  • Natalie Blair for Spring and Port Wine at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
  • Rhian Blundell for Let the Right One In at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
  • Elan Davies for Imrie at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
  • Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran for The Importance of Being Earnest at Leeds Playhouse and touring
  • Daniel Rock for Richard the Second at Omnibus Theatre, London and touring
  • Isobel Thom for I, Joan at Shakespeare’s Globe, London

Best Performer in a Musical (Sponsored by Carnival Cruise Line):

  • Liv Andrusier for Ride at Charing Cross Theatre, London
  • Josh Barnett for Newsies at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, London
  • Arcangelo Ciulla for Newsies at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, London
  • Carla Dixon-Hernandez for Mrs Doubtfire at Shaftesbury Theatre, London
  • Drew Hylton for Unexpected Twist: An Oliver Twisted Tale at Royal and Derngate, Northampton and touring
  • Jessica Lee for Miss Saigon at Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
  • Maisie Smith for Strictly Ballroom the Musical, Churchill Theatre, Bromley and touring

Best Director (Sponsored by Arts Council England):

  • Daniel Blake for Bones at Park Theatre, London
  • Indiana Lown-Collins for The Solid Life of Sugar Water at Orange Tree Theatre, London
  • Denzel Westley-Sanderson for The Importance of Being Earnest at Leeds Playhouse and touring
  • Emily Ling Williams for A Playlist for the Revolution at Bush Theatre, London

Best Designer (Sponsored by Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL):

  • Carly Brownbridge (set & costume) for Agatha at Theatre503, London
  • Peter Butler (set & costume) for The Shape of Things at Park Theatre, London
  • Andrea Scott (video) for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre, London

Best Writer (Sponsored by Sonia Friedman Productions):

  • Sasha Hails for Possession at Arcola Theatre, London
  • Lenny Henry for August in England at Bush Theatre, London
  • Anoushka Lucas for Elephant at Bush Theatre, London
  • Jennifer Lunn for Es & Flo at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
  • Richard Mylan for Sorter at Swansea Grand Theatre
  • Zak Zarafshan for The Boys Are Kissing at Theatre503, London

Best Composer, Lyricist or Book Writer (Sponsored by Crossroads Live):

  • Gerel Falconer for Alice in Wonderland at Brixton House, London
  • Michael R Jackson for A Strange Loop at Barbican Theatre, London
  • Jenny Moore for Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-written at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
  • Lilly Pollard for Sugar Coat at Southwark Playhouse, London

Best West End Debut Performer:

  • Rose Ayling-Ellis for As You Like It at @sohoplace
  • Emily Fairn for Brokeback Mountain at @sohoplace
  • Mike Faist for Brokeback Mountain at @sohoplace
  • Kyle Ramar Freeman for A Strange Loop at Barbican Theatre
  • Gabriel Howell for The Unfriend at Criterion Theatre
  • Paul Mescal for A Streetcar Named Desire at Phoenix Theatre
  • Zachary Quinto for Best of Enemies at Noël Coward Theatre
  • Samira Wiley for Blues for an Alabama Sky at National Theatre

Best Creative West End Debut (Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment):

  • Joe Bunker (Musical Director) for Operation Mincemeat at Fortune Theatre
  • SpitLip (David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts) for Operation Mincemeat at Fortune Theatre
  • Tingying Dong for The Crucible at National Theatre and Gielgud Theatre
  • Michael R Jackson for A Strange Loop at Barbican Theatre
  • Scott Le Crass for Rose at Ambassadors Theatre
  • Rob Madge for My Son’s a Queer, (But What Can You Do?) at Garrick Theatre and Ambassadors Theatre

Commenting on his ambitions for this year’s Debut Awards, The Stage editor Alistair Smith, says:

“It’s hugely exciting to celebrate the return of The Stage Debut Awards with the continued support of ATG. These awards hold a very special place within UK theatre, serving as a crucial launchpad for the most promising talent, right at the start of their careers. The ceremony is a celebration of dreams realised and careers launched, and a beacon of hope for aspiring artists from all backgrounds who seek to make their mark in the world of theatre.

“Already, since launching in 2017, winners from previous years have gone on to win Olivier Awards, run theatre companies and create hit West End shows. If you are looking for the next big star in British theatre, this is where you will find them.

“Mark your calendars for a spectacular evening of talent, passion, and hope. If you want to support the next generation of theatre talent, please make your submissions of debut talent for our judges to consider, or buy a ticket to celebrate with us on the night.”

Ambassador Theatre Group Chief Executive Mark Cornell, adds: “Everyone at ATG understands that it is our people, with their passion and collaborative approach, that is the foundation of our success as we bring great live experiences to audiences every day. We’re very proud to be supporting The Stage Debut Awards for the second year running. We’re looking forward to being part of another exceptional night celebrating actors, directors, designers, writers, composers and lyricists that have made their debut over the past 12 months.”


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