Editor’s View: The Stage Debut Awards underline theatre’s generous spirit

Michael Grandage with Lekan Lawal, winner of best director at The Stage Debut Awards. Photo: Alex Brenner
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As all theatre artists know, when you launch something new into the world, you can never be completely sure of how it will be received.

So, as we prepared for The Stage Debut Awards’ inaugural outing last Sunday (September 17), the team at The Stage experienced the feelings of excitement and trepidation that many of our nominees would have had before they made their professional theatre debuts.

In the end, we needn’t have worried. It was a joyous evening, celebrating the best emerging theatre talent – and what talent.

The key to the evening’s success – and its most heartwarming element – was just how eager established stars of the theatre industry were to pass on the baton to the next generation. As Lyn Gardner observed on the night, it showed the “theatre industry at its generous, supportive best”.

Kenneth Cranham, who created some of Pinter’s greatest characters on stage, opened proceedings by presenting the award for best actress in a play to Grace Molony. She graduated from LAMDA this year before making her mark in The Country Girls in Chichester.

This was followed by a cornucopia of talent – Nica Burns, Caro Newling, Rufus Norris, Noma Dumezweni, Rachel Tucker and Preeya Kalidas to name a few. Many had self-deprecating stories about how their own debuts in the industry had not been quite as garlanded as those of our nominees.

The final presenter, Sharon D Clarke, was so delighted when she opened her envelope to reveal the identity of the best actress in a musical winner, that she went off script: “You know when you’re watching something and someone comes on stage and you lean forward – they draw you in. That’s how I felt.” She was talking about Miriam-Teak Lee’s performance in On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

The goodwill in the room was exemplified by Michael Grandage who, having opened the new musical version of Disney’s Frozen in Denver, had flown back to present the best director category. He stunned the four tyro directors by offering to mentor all of them.

Thank you so much to everyone who supported the event on the evening. If you weren’t able to join us, there is full video coverage of the ceremony – including two superlative performances from Follies and Dreamgirls.

Now, to start planning that notoriously difficult second album. Out in 2018.

Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk