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The Stage Debut Awards 2018: From pub theatres to the West End’s longest-running musical, this year’s winners revealed

Amara Okereke collecting her award for best actress in a musical. Photo: David Monteith-Hodge Amara Okereke collecting her award for best actress in a musical. Photo: David Monteith-Hodge
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The first black woman to play Cosette in the West End production of Les Miserables is among the winners of The Stage Debut Awards 2018, in association with Access Entertainment.

Prizes also went to a playwright who chose interplanetary travel as the subject for his first play, and the composer of new musical Pieces of String.

The awards celebrate emerging theatre talent from across the UK, and were presented for a second year at a ceremony in central London on September 23, hosted by The Good Fight star Cush Jumbo.

Winners included Amara Okereke, who won best actress in a musical for her performance in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre in London, while best actor in a musical was won by Louis Gaunt for Oklahoma! at Grange Park Opera.

Meanwhile, best actress and actor in a play were won by Gemma Dobson for Rita, Sue and Bob Too at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton, produced by Out of Joint, the Royal Court and the Octagon, and Akshay Sharan for National Youth Theatre’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist at the Yard Theatre.

Composer Gus Gowland won in the composer and lyricist category for his musical Pieces of String, which ran at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, while best writer was won by Andrew Thompson, who wrote In Event of Moone Disaster for Theatre503 in London.

Best director went to Katy Rudd, for The Almighty Sometimes at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

The design category was won by Khadija Raza for her work on three shows – Hijabi Monologues, Spun, and Mixtape, which ran at the Bush and Arcola theatres in London and the Royal Exchange respectively.

The awards were judged by a panel that included editors and critics at The Stage, however The Joe Allen Best West End Debut award, won by Aiden Turner for The Lieutenant of Inishmore, was judged by public vote.

Any performer making their West End debut was eligible for the award, and Turner saw off competition from Bryan Cranston, Kelli O’Hara and John McCrea.

The Stage’s editor Alistair Smith said: “The Stage is delighted to recognise another great roll call of emerging theatrical talent. The winner of The Joe Allen Best West End Debut Award, Aidan Turner, is already known to many for his work on the BBC’s Poldark, but I have no doubt that our other superb winners will go on to achieve great things in theatre and beyond.

“They are the West End stars, groundbreaking artists and household names of tomorrow and we can’t wait to see what they all do next.”

Full winners see here

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