The Stage Debut Awards highlight breakthrough actors, writers, directors, designers and composers to help cement their position in the industry. The Stage has announced the shortlist for its inaugural The Stage Debut Awards. The awards recognise the best breakthrough actors and creatives in theatre.

First-time performances from actors as young as 16 and established stars making their theatre debuts such as The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie Sells are among the nominations. Meanwhile in The Joe Allen Best West End Debut category, nominees include Star Wars’ John Boyega, Glee’s Amber Riley, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’s Anthony Boyle. The shortlist highlights the breadth of new talent on and off stage with categories celebrating performers, writers, composers and directors. The shortlist includes actors and creatives working in Manchester, Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Chichester, Liverpool, Derby, Stratford-upon-Avon and London.

Lyn Gardner, The Stage’s associate editor and one of the judges, said: “The Stage Debut Awards are a unique chance to celebrate emerging theatre talent. With so much great theatre taking place across the country, we have a really strong and diverse set of nominees – from young actors making their debuts in small fringe theatres to designers, writers and directors at major regional and national producing theatres. It’s great to see such a great range of talented theatremakers and gives cause for great optimism about the future of theatre in the UK.”

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut category is the only award to have the winner decided by public vote, and voting is now open. The Joe Allen Best West End Debut celebrates a first performance in London’s West End (rather than their professional debut). The public can vote on the winner here.

The shortlist for The Joe Allen Best West End Debut is:

  • John Boyega, Woyzeck
  • Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
  • Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
  • Andrew Polec, Bat Out of Hell
  • Imogen Poots, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Amber Riley, Dreamgirls
  • Charlie Stemp, Half A Sixpence

Shortlisted nominees will be invited to an invitation-only ceremony in central London on September 17, 2017, when the winners will be revealed.

Shortlist in full

  • Best Actor in a Play – Jack Archer for Nivelli’s War at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast | TJ Jones for The Seven Acts of Mercy at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon | Kenneth Omole for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London | Abraham Popoola for Othello at Tobacco Factory, Bristol
  • Best Actress in a Play: sponsored by Pauline Quirke Academy at PQA Studios London – Anya Chalotra for Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe, London | Kellan Frankland for The House of Bernarda Alba at the Royal Exchange, Manchester | Grace Molony for The Country Girls at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester | Jess Peet for Alice in Wonderland at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
  • Best Actor in a Musical: sponsored by Encore Radio:  Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre, London | Ben Hunter for The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre, London | Samuel Thomas for Allegro at Southwark Playhouse, London | Daniel Urch for 110 in the Shade at Ye Olde Rose and Crown, London
  • Best Actress in a Musical: sponsored by The Other Palace – Chloe Carrington for Hair at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester | Emily Hughes for Fiddler on the Roof at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool | Siena Kelly for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London | Miriam-Teak Lee for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
  • Best Director: sponsored by See Tickets – Sean Aydon for Richard III at the Rosemary Branch, London | Alexander Lass for 46 Beacon at Trafalgar Studios 2, London | Lekan Lawal for Betrayal at Derby Theatre, Derby | Lynette Linton for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London
  • Best Designer: sponsored by Robe – Rosie Elnile for The Convert at the Gate Theatre, London | Joshua Gadsby for Dreamplay at the Vaults, London | Simon Spencer for The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon | Jessica Staton for Extra Yarn at the Orange Tree Theatre, London
  • Best Composer: sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group – Jonah Brody for Removal Men at the Yard, London | Ruth Chan for Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon | Dan Gillespie Sells for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield | Stephen Jackson for Roller Diner at the Soho Theatre, London
  • Best Writer – Titas Halder for Run the Beast Down at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Finborough Theatre, London | Asif Khan for Combustion at Tara Arts, London | Katherine Soper for Wish List at the Royal Exchange, Manchester | Victoria Willing for Spring Offensive at the Clapham Omnibus, London

The Stage Debut Awards ceremony will also include a presentation for the Alan Bates Award for best drama school graduate.

For full details on eligibility and the judging process see The Stage Debut Awards website.

The Stage Debut Awards is the flagship event of  The Stage Supports a series of groundbreaking interventions launched by The Stage, all with one aim: to nurture on and off-stage talent in theatre and the performing arts. The Stage Supports includes The Stage Scholarships which gives away more than £500,000 worth of drama training every year.


To find out more about The Stage Supports visit thestage.co.uk/supports.
Winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony held on September 17, 2017 at 8 Northumberland, London.

See the following TBB articles:

  • Woyzeck review here.
  • Dreamgirls review here.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child here.
  • Interview with Miriam Teak-Lee (On the Town) here.
  • Interview with Kenneth Omole (Assata Taught Me) here.
  • Interview with Katie Leung (Snow in Midsummer) here.