Debut Awards

The Stage Debut Awards 2019

The Stage Debut Awards are the only awards to recognise breakthrough theatre talent.
They celebrate emerging actors and creatives, from all backgrounds.

Nominations now open

Nominations for The Stage Debut Awards 2019 are now open.

We welcome submissions from debut theatremakers as well as agents and the general public.

To submit a nomination simply email the name of the performer, writer, composer, lyricist, director or designer along with the relevant production details to 


Best Actress in a Play
sponsored by Audible

Best Actor in a Play
sponsored by Audible

Best Actor in a Musical
sponsored by Encore Radio

Best Actress in a Musical
sponsored by Really Useful Group

Best Director
sponsored by Smith & Williamson

Best Designer
sponsored by Robe Lighting

Best Composer or Lyricist
sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group

Best Writer
sponsored by Sonia Friedman Productions

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut

Best Creative West End Debut 
sponsored by the Noël Coward Foundation

Child Performer of the Year
sponsored by Stagecoach


August 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019

The Stage’s nationwide team of critics submit recommendations for nominees
Eligible performers and creatives, their agents and the general public are also able to suggest nominees for consideration

June 2019

Expert advisors from throughout the UK give their opinion on the longlist

End of July 2019

The Stage Debut Awards judging panel meets

August 8, 2019

Shortlist announced for all categories and the Joe Allen Best West End Debut category opens to public vote

September 15, 2019

Winners announced at The Stage Debut Awards ceremony

I love The Stage Debut Awards. It feels both genuinely celebratory and useful to recognise people’s talent at the start of their careers. There are plenty of awards which heap praise on the already successful, but The Stage Debut Awards are unique in giving a helping hand to those joining the profession. It has been a privilege to be part of the team helping to select the winners

Lyn Gardner, associate editor

Nominees and Winners 2018

Headline sponsor: Access Entertainment

Best Actress in a Play

Sponsored by Audible

WINNER: Gemma Dobson for Rita, Sue and Bob Too at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Kitty Archer for One for Sorrow at the Royal Court, London

Lorna Fitzgerald for The Shadow Factory at NST City, Southampton

Grainne O’Mahony for The Elephant Man at Bristol Old Vic

Best Actor in a Play

Sponsored by Audible

WINNER: Akshay Sharan for The Reluctant Fundamentalist at the Yard Theatre, London

Seb Carrington for Summer and Smoke at the Almeida Theatre, London

Chris Walley for The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre, London

Alex Wilson for The Elephant Man at Bristol Old Vic Theatre

Best Actress in a Musical

Sponsored by R&H Theatricals Europe

WINNER: Amara Okereke for Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre, London

Teleri Hughes for Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

Eleanor Kane for Fun Home at the Young Vic, London

Rebecca Mendoza for Hairspray, on tour

Best Actor in a Musical

Sponsored by Encore Radio

WINNER: Louis Gaunt for Oklahoma! at Grange Park Opera, West Horsley

Will Carey for It’s Only Life at the Union Theatre, London

Toby Miles for Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre, London

Simon Oskarsson for Return to the Forbidden Planet at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London

Best Designer

Sponsored by Robe Lighting

WINNER: Khadija Raza for Hijabi Monologues, Spun, and Mixtape, at the Bush Theatre, London, the Arcola Theatre, London and the Royal Exchange, Manchester

Basia Binkowska for Devil with the Blue Dress at the Bunker Theatre, London

Fin Redshaw for Pieces of String and Love Me Now at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester and the Tristan Bates Theatre, London

Jasmine Swan for Hyem, The Passing of the Third Floor Back, Hanna and The Sleeper at Theatre503, London, the Finborough Theatre, London, the Arcola Theatre, London

Best Director

Sponsored by Smith & Williamson

WINNER:  Katy Rudd for The Almighty Sometimes at the Royal Exchange, Manchester

Iwan Lewis for One Minute at the Barn Theatre, Cirencester

Alexandra Moxon for Wreck at Nottingham Playhouse

Oscar Pearce for Great Apes at the Arcola Theatre, London

Best Composer

Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group

WINNER: Gus Gowland for Pieces of String at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester

Kate Marlais for Abandon at the Lyric Hammersmith, London

Matt Winkworth for The Assassination of Katie Hopkins at Theatr Clwyd, Mold

Best Writer

Sponsored by InterTalent Rights Group

WINNER: Andrew Thompson for In Event of Moone Disaster at Theatre503, London

Georgia Christou 
for Yous Two at Hampstead Theatre, London

Kendall Feaver for The Almighty Sometimes at the Royal Exchange, Manchester

Natasha Gordon for Nine Night at the National Theatre, London

Joe White for Mayfly at the Orange Tree Theatre, London

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut

WINNER: Aidan Turner for The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre

Mohammad Amiri for The Jungle at the Playhouse Theatre

Ashley Banjo for Dick Whittington at the London Palladium

Bryan Cranston for Network at the National Theatre

Michelle Greenidge for Nine Night at the National Theatre

John McCrea for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre

Kelli O’Hara for The King and I at the London Palladium

Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy for The Jungle at the Playhouse Theatre

Lucie Shorthouse for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre

Adrienne Warren for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre

Last year's The Stage debut awards winners. Back row: Akshay Sharan (best actor in a play), Amara Okereke (best actress in a musical) and Khadija Raza (best designer). Front: Gus Gowland (best composer), Katy Rudd (best director), Louis Gaunt (best actor in a musical), Gemma Dobson (best actress in a play) and Andrew Thompson (best writer). Photo: Alex Brenner

All photos: Alex Brenner

Nominees and Winners 2017

Best Actor in a Play

WINNER: Abraham Popoola for Othello at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

Jack Archer for Nivelli’s War at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast

TJ Jones for The Seven Acts of Mercy at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company

Kenneth Omole for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London

Best Actress in a Musical

Sponsored by The Other Palace

WINNER: Miriam-Teak Lee for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Chloe Carrington for Hair at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

Emily Hughes for Fiddler on the Roof at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool

Siena Kelly for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Best Actor in a Musical

Sponsored by Encore Radio

WINNER: Samuel Thomas for Allegro at Southwark Playhouse, London

Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre, London

Ben Hunter for The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre, London

Daniel Urch for 110 in the Shade at Ye Olde Rose and Crown, London

Best Composer

Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group

WINNER: Dan Gillespie Sells for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Jonah Brody for Removal Men and This Beautiful Future at the Yard, London

Ruth Chan for Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon

MJ Harding for Removal Men at the Yard, London

Stephen Jackson for Roller Diner at the Soho Theatre, London

Best Director

Sponsored by See Tickets

WINNER: Lekan Lawal for Betrayal at Derby Theatre, Derby

Sean Aydon for Richard III at the Rosemary Branch, London

Alexander Lass for 46 Beacon at Trafalgar Studios 2, London

Lynette Linton for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London

Best Designer

Sponsored by Robe

WINNER: Rosie Elnile for The Convert at the Gate Theatre, London

Joshua Gadsby for Dreamplay at the Vaults, London and Still Ill at the New Diorama, London

Simon Spencer for The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon

Jessica Staton for Extra Yarn at the Orange Tree Theatre, London

Best Writer

WINNER: Katherine Soper for Wish List at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, and Royal Court Theatre, London

Titas Halder for Run the Beast Down at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Finborough Theatre, London

Asif Khan for Combustion at Tara Arts, London

Victoria Willing for Spring Offensive at the Clapham Omnibus, London

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut

WINNER: Andrew Polec for Bat Out of Hell at the London Coliseum

John Boyega for Woyzeck at the Old Vic

Anthony Boyle for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre

Andy Karl for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic

Audra McDonald for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at Wyndhams Theatre

Imogen Poots for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Amber Riley for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre

Charlie Stemp for Half a Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre


Definition of debut: first professional appearance in a named role in a production reviewed by The Stage (previous appearances in ensemble roles or as an understudy do not disqualify you from consideration).

To be eligible for The Stage Debut Awards 2019 you must meet the following conditions:

  • Nominees for all categories except Child Performer of the Year sponsored by Stagecoach must be 16 years old or over.
  • Nominees for Child Performer of the Year sponsored by Stagecoach must be 15 years old or under
  • Nominees’ debuts must have been reviewed by The Stage.
  • Child actors who have since become 16 years old or over are eligible for their first eligible debut as an adult.
  • Nominees must have made their debuts in the UK.
  • Debuts in shows during Edinburgh Festival Fringe will not be considered for these awards, but are eligible for The Stage Edinburgh Awards. Prior appearances at Edinburgh Fringe do not disqualify you from eligibility for The Stage Debut Awards.
  • Actors and creatives who have previously worked in other media, e.g. TV and film, are eligible.
  • Nominees can be of any nationality.
  • The Joe Allen Best West End Debut category covers all West End performance debuts. West End is defined as SOLT theatres.
  • The Best Creative West End Debut category covers composers, lyricists, writers, directors and designers. West End is defined as SOLT theatres.
  • Anyone who has made a debut and is performing on stage between August 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019 can be nominated.
  • For any queries on eligibility please contact The Stage reviews editor, natasha[@]
  • The Stage’s decision is final.

Judging Process

1. The Stage Critics

The Stage’s nationwide network of reviewers will identify actors and creatives making their debuts and put forward recommendations. People making their debut, agents and the general public can also nominate.

2. Expert Advisors

Representatives from across the UK are sent the critics’ longlist and asked for their input.

Final decisions on both the shortlist and winners will be taken by our judging panel.

3. Judging Panel

  • Tim Bano
  • Lyn Gardner
  • Sam Marlowe
  • Bridget Minamore
  • Fergus Morgan
  • Alistair Smith
  • Natasha Tripney

The judging panel will assess all categories and provide a shortlist. They will decide a winner in all categories except the Joe Allen Best West End Debut Award.

4. The Public Vote

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut shortlist will be decided by the judging panel. The shortlist will then be put to a public vote in August.

Videos from The Stage Debut Awards 2018

The Stage Debut Awards could not happen without the generous support from our sponsors

If you are interested in being a sponsor in 2019 please get in touch or take a look at the sponsorship packages here

sponsor of Best Actress in a Play and Best Actor in a Play

Audible is a listening destination that offers insight and inspiration to millions of listeners and is the world’s leading audio and spoken-word media service. Audible’s theatre initiative delivers language-driven storytelling and captivating performances on stage and in audio. In New York, Audible has produced Harry Clarke by David Cale starring Billy Crudup, Girls & Boys by Dennis Kelly starring Carey Mulligan, Patti Smith: Words and Music, and many others. In audio, Audible has produced True West starring Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn, The Diary of a Hounslow Girl and Iphigenia in Splott. In 2017, Audible launched a five million-dollar Emerging Playwrights Fund that identifies, nurtures and invests in emerging playwrights, making their works available to millions of listeners around the world. Proof of Love is the inaugural stage production from the Emerging Playwrights Fund.

Encore Radio
sponsor of Best Actor in a Musical

Encore Radio plays songs from your favourite musicals, all day, every day.

The national digital station plays the greatest songs from musicals and movies, 24/7, from shows such as Les Misérables, Wicked, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and more.

There are many great ways to listen to Encore Radio across the UK, meaning you can take us with you wherever you go. You can listen online, on free mobile app and on your home smart speaker, plus, get the latest West End and Broadway news, videos, ticket deals and competitions.

For more, visit

Really Useful Group

sponsor of Best Actress in a Musical

The Really Useful Group is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s producing and licensing company and manages the theatrical rights for all of Andrew’s works, including The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Sunset Boulevard and School of Rock – The Musical. The Really Useful Group reached over 20 million people across the globe last year from live theatre and concert audiences, cinema-goers, television viewers and music fans, to social media and art lovers. This year The Really Useful Group continues to work across theatre, film and television and as it produces and develops new projects and partnerships worldwide, alongside its ongoing work in education, amateur licensing and music publishing.

Smith & Williamson
sponsor of Best Director

Smith & Williamson is uniquely placed in the theatre industry to offer tax, accounting, financial planning and investment management services to both private individuals and corporates.

In addition to being a Top 10 Accountancy practice*, our investment management business has around £20.4bn of funds under management and advice**.
We understand that being in the world of theatre your day-to-day focus is on what you are passionate about, your work. However, it is essential that your financial affairs are well managed and arranged to your greatest advantage.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and investors may not receive back the original amount

Smith & Williamson LLP regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for a range of investment business activities. A member of Nexia International. Smith & Williamson Investment Management LLP authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate all services referred to in this document. © Smith & Williamson Holdings Limited 2018. *Accountancy Age 2017 and **Smith & Williamson Investment Management as at 31/12/17

Trafalgar Entertainment Group
sponsor of Best Composer or Lyricist

Trafalgar Entertainment Group is a live entertainment business and home to Trafalgar Studios, Trafalgar Theatre Productions, Trafalgar Releasing (formerly Picturehouse Entertainment) and Stagecoach Performing Arts. It is the latest venture from Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire OBE – two of the most influential entertainment entrepreneurs of the last 20 years.  The production arm of the company, Trafalgar Theatre Productions, is producing a group of new shows and classic musicals in London and internationally. Trafalgar Entertainment has a particular interest in nurturing new creative talent and is delighted to be supporting this event.

Sonia Friedman Productions
sponsor of Best Writer

Sonia Friedman Productions is an international production company responsible for some of the most successful theatre productions of recent years. Since 1990, Sonia Friedman OBE and SFP have developed, initiated and produced 160+ new productions and won a combined 55 Oliviers, 24 Tonys and 2 BAFTAs. Recent West End and Broadway productions include: UK premiere of The Book of Mormon, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, All About Eve, Dreamgirls, The Inheritance, Mean Girls, The Jungle, Fiddler on the Roof, Farinelli and the King, Travesties, 1984. Upcoming: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in San Francisco and Hamburg, and Rosmersholm, West End.

Robe Lighting
sponsor of Best Designer

Robe Lighting is based in the Czech Republic and manufactures innovative stage lighting products for the entertainment industry.

Now established at the top of the touring market, in recent years they have turned their attention to products specifically for theatre. Incorporating detailed feedback from lighting designers and operators across the sector, their flagship DL4 and DL7 series LED luminaires are now regularly specified across the world.

The company continues to focus on designing and producing well-engineered products in Europe to meet the creative, technical and practical demands of a wide range of users. Sales, training and service is provided through offices in the UK, US, France, Germany, Singapore and Dubai and a network of dealers in 76 countries.

sponsor of Child Performer of the Year

Stagecoach Performing Arts was founded in 1988 and continues to grow as the UK’s largest network of extra-curricular performing arts schools for children, with over 46,000 students enrolled in our weekly classes. One of the first extra-curricular children’s performing arts schools in the country, we aim to inspire our students, making a difference in their lives by teaching Creative Courage For Life®. With 350 franchises and 3,500 teachers worldwide, Stagecoach operates over 1800 schools and classes and has a presence in eight countries including Canada, Germany, Malta, Spain, Gibraltar, Australia and South Africa.

Notable alumni are Emma Watson, Jamie Bell, Eleanor Tomlinson, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Fletcher, Dani Harmer, Josh Cuthbert, Danny Mac and Charlotte Jaconelli.

Find Stagecoach on Facebook and on Twitter and for more information visit the website.

Noël Coward Foundation
sponsor of the Best Creative West End Debut

One hundred years ago, Noёl Coward debuted as a playwright in the West End at the age of twenty, and was hailed as a significant new talent. Throughout his life, Coward took an interest in and mentored up-and-coming artists across the industry, so to mark this centenary The Noёl Coward Foundation is celebrating today’s emerging theatre-makers by sponsoring this award in his name.

The Noël Coward Foundation was set up in 2000 and awards grants to education and development projects across the Arts while also continues the keen interest Coward himself took in charitable work during his lifetime. The Foundation is proud to support a diverse range of outstanding organisations working in theatre, music, playwriting, academic research and many other areas.

Joe Allen
sponsor of the Joe Allen Best West End Debut

A stalwart for the great and the good of the West End, Joe Allen is a New York brasserie, offering classic American dishes, cocktails and a show tune or two at the piano. Open 7 days a week from breakfast to pre-theatre and well into the evening after the curtains have been drawn on the London theatre circuit, it has often been dubbed the ‘West-End Canteen’ owing to the many actors, celebrities and even royalty who have been visiting Joe Allen since it opened its doors in January 1977. In 2012 Tim Healy and Lawrence Hartley took over the historic theatre-land restaurant breathing a new lease of life into the institution which moved around the corner to 2 Burleigh Street, bringing with them the very essence of Joe’s, the team, the bar, the wood panelled walls, all but the kitchen sink.

Supporters of The Stage Debut Awards


The Stage Debut Awards has been covered in publications including:

  • BBC Arts & Entertainment
  • Broadway World
  • WhatsOnStage
  • The British Blacklist
  • My Theatre Mates
  • Broadway Briefing
  • Conservatoire for Dance & Drama
  • Sardines Magazine
  • Encore Radio
  • Love London Love Culture
  • The Agency
  • National Youth Theatre
  • Playbill
  • Stage Faves
  • West End Wilma
  • Theatre Weekly
  • Young Voices
  • British Theatre
  • West End Theatre
  • Aidan Turner News
  • London Theatre
  • Official London Theatre
  • BBC News
  • Theatre Bubble
  • Shenton Stage
  • London Theatre Bookings
  • The Edge
  • Afridiziak Theatre News
  • Bury Times

If you would like a comment from The Stage or have a press enquiry please contact

Rachel Scott, Head of Marketing

020 7939 8468


Or marketing[@]

Get Involved

Nominate debut performers, directors, writers, composers and designers in the productions you’re involved in.
Nominations for the 2019 awards are now open. Email the name of the theatremaker and the production they are involved with for consideration.

Share #DebutAwards on social media. Could you be a presenter at the awards? An expert adviser to consult on the longlist? If you have ideas and think your skills could benefit The Stage Debut Awards we would love to hear from you.

Gain vital exposure for your business and help support emerging talent by sponsoring a category.

Tickets are available for the ceremony which takes place in London. Email to check the latest availability.

Call: 020 7939 8468


The Stage Debut Awards Sponsors

The Stage Debut Awards could not happen without the generous support of our sponsors and supporters

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Photos by David Monteith-Hodge Awards presentation Drinks reception