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The Stage Debut Awards winners, in their own words

The Stage Debut award winners, clockwise from left: Lekan Lawal, Katherine Soper, Rosie Elnile, Samuel Thomas, Abraham Popoola, Miriam-Teak Lee, Grace Molony and Dan Gillespie Sells. The Stage Debut award winners, clockwise from left: Lekan Lawal, Katherine Soper, Rosie Elnile, Samuel Thomas, Abraham Popoola, Miriam-Teak Lee, Grace Molony and Dan Gillespie Sells. Photo: Alex Brenner
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First-time performers, directors, writers and designers were recognised at the inaugural celebration of The Stage Debut Awards, held in central London on September 17.

The event celebrated theatre’s newest stars, each of whom have made their professional debuts in their field in the past year. Here, we speak to the winners as they picked up their awards.

Portraits by Alex Brenner.

Miriam-Teak Lee, best actress in a musical (award sponsored by The Other Palace)

“It literally feels incredible, it’s amazing. I had no idea what to expect. It’s just so amazing to be here today with such incredible talent. To be nominated is really something special so to have won now is just crazy.”

Abraham Popoola, best actor in a play

“I’m really happy, very happy, chuffed, humbled. When I first knew I wanted to act I just had no idea how to get in there. And the background I come from is not a theatre background, so I was just like ‘how do I get in there?’ I think the theatre community is so encouraging and lovely once you find your way into it.”

Lekan Lawal, best director (award sponsored by See Tickets)

“I forgot to thank my mum on stage so she will tell me off, but otherwise it feels very good. It’s so difficult to sustain a career in theatre. You hear stories of people getting a great job but then struggle to get the next job, or their third job, it’s so difficult. So to celebrate all the nominees is really great.”

Katherine Soper, best writer

“I’m really surprised actually. I wrote a speech as a contingent and I’m really glad I did because when I got up there I was really quite shaky. It’s really lovely to be honoured in this way and to be presented with it by Rufus is amazing.”

Grace Molony, best actress in a play (award sponsored by Pauline Quirke Academy at PQA Studios London)

“It’s very surprising, I really wasn’t expecting it. It was intimidating to go up there but it was brilliant. I am so so happy to have won. It’s really reassuring to hear that new talent is being appreciated.”

Samuel Thomas, best actor in a musical (award sponsored by Encore Radio)

“I’m still processing it, but I’m absolutely thrilled. I think it’s very important to celebrate people who aren’t necessarily names yet, so it’s fantastic that the awards give that platform to be recognised.”

Dan Gillespie Sells, best composer (award sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group)

“It feels really fantastic. I actually feel quite lucky because of my career before theatre, but when I stepped out of pop music and into musical theatre I was terrified, so to get an award early on in your career doing something new, it’s amazing.”

Rosie Elnile, best designer (award sponsored by Robe)

“It’s great. It’s a funny thing as a designer, because it’s different to being an actor or even a director because your role is not really talking to people or being given awards.”

Christina Bennington, on behalf of Andrew Polec, the Joe Allen Best West End Debut Award

“These awards are such an incredible idea and it’s fantastic that a first time performer in the West End can be recognised in this way. We’re so proud as a show of Andrew, he’s a phenomenal talent and an excellent leader of the company.”

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