The winners of The Stage Debut Awards, in association with ATG, have been announced at the annual awards ceremony in a star-studded bash at 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, hosted by legendary drag artist, performer and songstress Divina De Campo.
This year the spotlight fell on a total of 45 nominees across 8 categories, ranging from performers to composers and designers through to writers, lyricists and directors, whose work debuted on stages across the country. For the first time, this year’s winners also took home a share of a £10,000 prize fund.
The former winner of 2021’s Strictly Come Dancing, Rose Ayling-Ellis scooped up the Best West End Debut award for her standout performance in As You Like It at @sohoplace. The category, the only one voted by the public, is hotly contested and Ayling-Ellis proved the favourite out of a strong shortlist that included A Streetcar Named Desire’s Paul Mescal, Emily Fairn and Mike Faist in Brokeback Mountain, Kyle Ramar Freeman in A Strange Loop, Gabriel Howell for The Unfriend, Zachary Quinto for Best of Enemies and Samira Wiley for Blues for an Alabama Sky.
The night also saw two categories with joint winners. Best Performer in a Play was awarded to both Isobel Thom for Shakespeare’s Globe’s I, Joan and Elan Davies for Imrie at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff, the latter marked the first win at The Stage Debut Awards for a performer in a Welsh-language production. The Best Creative West End Debut award was also shared between two winners: Rob Madge, for writing their West End hit show My Son’s a Queer, (But What Can You Do?) at the Garrick Theatre and Ambassadors Theatre and Tingying Dong for her sound design that created an eerie atmosphere for The Crucible at the National Theatre and Gielgud Theatre.
Jessica Lee took home the Best Performer in a Musical award for Miss Saigon at Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, while productions staged at the Bush Theatre, London had two winners in the creative categories: Anoushka Lucas was honoured for Best Writer for Elephant and Emily Ling Williams received the Best Director award for A Playlist for The Revolution.
Hit productions staged at the Barbican Theatre also made their mark at the awards with a win for Andrea Scott for her video design for My Neighbour Totoro in the Best Designer category. Meanwhile, Broadway musical sensation Michael R Jackson showed his influence on both sides of the Atlantic, as he scooped the Best Composer, Lyricist or Book Writer award for his stunning show A Strange Loop.
The Stage editor Alistair Smith, said: “Our wonderful winners highlight just how much emerging talent there is across British theatre. I’m particularly pleased that this year we were able to recognise our first ever winner in a Welsh-language performance.
“Meanwhile, also for the first time this year, I’m delighted to reveal that, in partnership with ATG, we are offering a £10,000 prize fund split among our winners. Along with the exposure these awards bring, we hope this will be a real tangible help to them as they embark on what we have no doubt will be stellar careers.”
The winners were announced at The Stage Debut Awards, hosted by legendary drag artist, performer and singer Divina De Campo on October 1 2023 at 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, in association with headline sponsor Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG). The ceremony also featured live performances by Divina De Campo, who opened the night with an exclusive musical number devised especially for the ceremony. Rachael Wooding sang After the Rain from the hit new British musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge, opening at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in the West End in 2024; Charing Cross Theatre’s upcoming Bronco Billy: The Musical lead’s Emily Benjamin performed Cabaret’s soaring ballad Maybe this Time and rounding off the evening Zizi Strallen performed Champagne Dreams from Cake: The Marie Antoinette Playlist which just completed a short West End transfer to the Lyric Theatre last month.
The Stage Debut Awards 2023 Winners In Full
Best Performer in a Play (Sponsored by Cabbells):
- Elan Davies for Imrie at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
- Isobel Thom for I, Joan at Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Best Performer in a Musical (Sponsored by Carnival Cruise Line):
- Jessica Lee for Miss Saigon at Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Best Director: (Sponsored by Arts Council England)
- Emily Ling Williams for A Playlist for the Revolution at Bush Theatre, London
Best Designer (Sponsored by Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL):
- Andrea Scott (video) for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre, London
Best Writer (Sponsored by Sonia Friedman Productions):
- Anoushka Lucas for Elephant at Bush Theatre, London
Best Composer, Lyricist or Book Writer (Sponsored by Crossroads Live):
- Michael R Jackson for A Strange Loop at Barbican Theatre, London
Best West End Debut Performer (Sponsored by TodayTix)
- Rose Ayling-Ellis for As You Like It at @sohoplace
Best Creative West End Debut: (Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment)
- Tingying Dong (sound designer) for The Crucible at National Theatre and Gielgud Theatre
- Rob Madge (writer) for My Son’s a Queer, (But What Can You Do?) at Garrick Theatre and Ambassadors Theatre