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The Stage Debut Awards 2019: the winners in their own words

The Stage Debut Awards 2019 winners. Photo: Alex Brenner
The Stage Debut Awards 2019 winners. Photo: Alex Brenner

The winners of The Stage Debut Awards 2019 were announced at a ceremony on Sunday, September 15 hosted by Cush Jumbo.

The Stage Debut Awards, in association with Access Entertainment, celebrate the very best breakthrough talent in theatre, from actors and directors to designers, writers, composers and lyricists, all of whom have made their professional debuts in the past year. They are the only awards of their kind to recognise outstanding emerging theatre talent.

Here, we speak to the winners as they picked up their awards.

Portraits by Alex Brenner

Lauren O’Leary, best actress in a play (sponsored by Audible)

This play (The Awkward Years) was a year ago, and it ran for two weeks, so to have people see it and value it, it’s the best thing I’ve done in my life so far. I’m so grateful, and am just so honoured and shocked.

Jamal Ajala, best actor in a play (sponsored by Audible)

I’m flabbergasted, I don’t know what to say, I’m so happy. It shows that people can do wonderful things in the arts regardless of their disability. It means so much to me.

Danielle Fiamanya, best actress in a musical (sponsored by Really Useful Group)

It’s an incredible award and an amazing platform for us new performers. The previous winners are people I’ve looked at and thought ‘Wow, they look like me and I want to be doing that’, so to be following them is a dream.

Adam Hugill, best actor in a musical (sponsored by Encore Radio)

Championing new work for young people and championing regional theatre is amazing. I performed on my stomping ground – to go back there and to win an award from The Stage means everything. It got me here today.

Atri Banerjee, best director (sponsored by Smith & Williamson)

I used to be the press assistant at the National Theatre before I became a director, so being presented this award by Rufus Norris feels like I’ve come full circle. I’m delighted.

Evie Gurney, best designer (sponsored by Robe)

I’m flattered that people have enjoyed the work and excited at the beginning of my career in theatre. The awards are a very generous thing to do for people at the beginning of their career, to give them that recognition.

Natasha Hodgson, Zoe Roberts, David Cumming and Felix Hagan, best composer or lyricist (sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment)

Clockwise from back left: Natasha Hodgson, Zoe Roberts, Felix Hagan and David Cumming. Photo: Alex Brenner

It’s a dream to be nominated among the kind of people we were in a category with, frankly, on our first try. So we’re just absolutely blown away and over the moon.

Jasmine Lee-Jones, best writer (sponsored by Sonia Friedman Productions)

It feels amazing. The people I grew up with are mainly black women. I don’t see enough of their stories, or enough variants of those, particularly with the diaspora.

Jac Yarrow, the Joe Allen Best West End Debut

To make your West End debut is such an achievement. To be recognised by the theatre community is amazing. The fact that this award has been given to me by The Stage makes it so much more prestigious.

Designer Frankie Bradshaw and director Lynette Linton, best creative West End debut (sponsored by the Noel Coward Foundation)

Working together on Sweat was so special. It was a big jump and a big learning curve and it feels so nice to win together.

Taya Tower, child performer of the year (sponsored by Stagecoach Performing Arts)

I am very excited to win this award. I would especially like to thank my mum for everything she does for me.

The Stage Debut Awards 2019: the winners in full

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Catch up with the winners of The Stage Debut Awards 2018Catch up with the winners of The Stage Debut Awards 2018

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