The Stage 100 2014 by category: performers

Lenny Henry, who will be hosting the Olivier Awards, in a scene from Fences. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Simon Russell Beale

No sooner had he stepped out of camping it up in Michael Grandage’s Privates on Parade, Beale was back on stage again – this time in Jamie Lloyd’s The Hothouse. A perennial favourite, he moves seamlessly between roles and is always exciting and engaging. We look forward to seeing what 2014 brings – especially his Lear.


Simon Russell Beale in The Hothouse at Trafalgar Studios. Photo: Johan Persson
Simon Russell Beale in The Hothouse at Trafalgar Studios. Photo: Johan Persson

Chiwetel Ejiofor

As well as appearing in Steven Poliakoff’s Dancing on the Edge on BBC2 – a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination – and in the film 12 Years a Slave, Ejiofor could be seen in A Season in the Congo at the Young Vic in 2013. His turn was hailed as “tremendous” and “beautifully taut” by critics, who also lamented losing him to TV. His last theatre role before Congo was in the Donmar’s 2007 production of Othello. Let’s hope he doesn’t leave it as long this time.


Henry Goodman

Goodman began 2013 appearing in The Winslow Boy at the Old Vic before moving on to star in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the Duchess Theatre, a transfer of the Chichester Festival Theatre production. Hailed as “downright mesmeric” by The Telegraph and a “knockout” by The Guardian, Goodman always delivers quality performances and is clearly an actor in demand.


Lenny Henry

Having earned rave reviews for his stage debut in Northern Broadside’s 2009 production Othello – which later transferred to the West End – Henry cemented his reputation as a serious actor in 2013 by taking on August Wilson’s poignant play Fences. Utterly compelling, convincing and captivating, Henry wowed audiences and critics alike – proving that he is (thankfully) more than just the face of Premier Inn.


Cush Jumbo in A Doll’s House at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. Photo: Jonathan Keenan
Cush Jumbo in A Doll’s House at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. Photo: Jonathan Keenan

Cush Jumbo

At 2013’s UK Theatre awards, Jumbo won the best performance in a play prize for A Doll’s House at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. She also went on to pick up an Evening Standard theatre award in the emerging talent section for writing and appearing in Josephine and I at the Bush Theatre. An exceptional and exciting young actor.


Rory Kinnear

Kinnear must be one of the busiest performers around. Not only was he appearing in television series such as ITV’s Lucan and Channel 4’s Southcliffe in 2013, but he also found time to appear in the National Theatre’s production of Othello, playing Iago to Adrian Lester’s Othello. It was a performance that earned him an acting prize at the Evening Standard theatre awards. On top of that, Kinnear squeezed in his writing debut, with The Herd at the Bush Theatre. Impressive.


Adrian Lester

Having made it into the Stage 100 in 2013 for appearing in Red Velvet at the Tricyle, Lester returns to the list for his stunning portrayal of Othello in the National Theatre production of Shakespeare’s classic. His performance ensured sell-out performances for the venue, and earned Lester an Evening Standard award for his acting (which he shared with Rory Kinnear). Lester was made an OBE in the 2013 New Year honours for his services to drama.


Lesley Manville

According to The Telegraph, Manville gave “the performance of her life” in Richard Eyre’s Ghosts, which ran at the Almeida. The Stage’s reviewer called her “mesmeric”. Ghosts has since transferred to the West End so even more people can enjoy Manville’s skillful portrayal of Ibsen’s Helene Alving. The play was so good it was also recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Manville was nominated for an Evening Standard award, but was beaten to it by Helen Mirren. The less said about that, the better.


James McAvoy

McAvoy took a break from his Hollywood schedule to appear in Macbeth at the Trafalgar Studios in 2013, opposite Claire Foy. He was praised for his “commanding” and “gripping” performance. As if playing Macbeth wasn’t challenging enough, McAvoy had to contend with interruptions from audience members, which forced him to stop the show on two occasions – once to help a sick audience member and another to reprimand a camera-using audience member. A theatre hero.


Helen Mirren in The Audience at the Gielgud Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson
Helen Mirren in The Audience at the Gielgud Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson

Helen Mirren

Her Evening Standard theatre award may be in dispute following last year’s claims of rigged voting, but Mirren still makes it into The Stage 100 for being a box office draw and for her fine portrayal of the Queen. In The Audience she depicted the monarch through different stages of her life, and she even found time to tell off some noisy drummers making a racket outside the Gielgud Theatre during a performance. Bow to Mirren, oh loyal subjects.


Daniel Radcliffe

Radcliffe spent much of 2012 treading the boards on Broadway in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, but in 2013 he returned to the West End stage for the first time since 2007’s Equus. This time he was in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, giving a brilliant performance as Billy Claven. The role may not have had the most lines, but it was physically demanding and Radcliffe gave it his all – so much so that he admitted that he may now take a break from theatre for a while. No doubt audiences will welcome him back when he’s ready.


Sheridan Smith

Beginning 2013 as the co-host of the Oliviers, Smith went on to enjoy great success in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of Michael Grandage’s season at the Noel Coward Theatre. Following 2012’s Hedda Gabler, Smith continued to cement her reputation as a theatre force to be reckoned with, delivering a sexy and wild Titania. Smith also squeezed in some TV in 2013 – Channel 4’s Dates – and some radio too. A busy performer, always worth a watch.


Matt Smith

Having become known by millions for his portrayal of the Doctor in Doctor Who, Smith regenerated himself at the end of 2013 to take on American Psycho at the Almeida, his first musical theatre production. He has won rave reviews for his performance. Rumours abound that the musical will transfer – but whether or not Smith goes with it, who can say? Either way, it won’t be long before he pops up in something else.


Ben Whishaw in Peter and Alice at the Noel Coward Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson
Ben Whishaw in Peter and Alice at the Noel Coward Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson

Scarlett Strallen

Scarlett Strallen ditched her Singin’ in the Rain brolly in 2013 to join the revival of A Chorus Line at the Palladium. The show may not have been a long runner, but Strallen was a hit with her brilliant performance and eye-catching moves as Cassie. She weathered the musical’s closure to land a part in Candide at the Menier Chocolate Factory. An underrated member of the Strallen clan.


Ben Whishaw

Having appeared together in the Bond film Skyfall, Judi Dench and Whishaw were reunited in 2013 – on stage this time – in Peter and Alice. John Logan’s play may not have wowed critics, but the performances impressed. And when Whishaw moved out of the Noel Coward Theatre, it wasn’t long before he moved into the Harold Pinter Theatre to appear in Mojo. That show has been extended to accommodate demand, with Whishaw’s appeal and skill clearly part of this.