The Stage Debut Awards today reveals the nominees for its annual awards ceremony celebrating the best emerging theatre talent in the UK. This year’s 45 nominations across 8 categories celebrate an array of talented individuals from performers to composers and designers through to writers, lyricists and directors.

Among this year’s shortlist, the hotly contested Best West End Debut Performer category, the only one where the winner is voted by the public, will see stars including Olivier Award-winner Paul Mescal for A Streetcar Named Desire; Netflix’s Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley for Blues for an Alabama Sky, Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto for Best of Enemies and Netflix Bodies actor Gabriel Howell for The Unfriend in the mix along with A Strange Loop’s Kyle Ramar Freeman. Also in the running are both Brokeback Mountain stars Emily Fairn and Mike Faist who are recognised for their magnetic performances in @sohoplace’s production, as well as As You Like It’s Rose Ayling-Ellis, winner of the TV talent show Strictly Come Dancing. A second former show contestant Maisie Smith is also a nominee for Best Performer in a Musical for her role in Strictly Ballroom the Musical.

The full shortlist celebrates the breadth of emerging talent across the UK with shows from Wales fairing especially well this year with three nominations including Jennifer Lunn for Best Writer for Es & Flo at Wales Millenium Centre, Cardiff, Richard Mylan for Sorter at the Swansea Grand Theatre and Elan Davies for Best Performer in a Play for the Welsh speaking production Imrie, at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. 

Performers and creatives whose work traversed the length and breadth of the country in touring shows are recognised in the shortlist including two nominations from the production of The Importance of Being Earnest for Denzel Westley-Sanderson and Rilwan Abiola Owokaniran for Best Director and Best Performer in a Play respectively. Richard the Second’s Daniel Rock has also been nominated and musical theatre performer Drew Hylton who toured Unexpected Twist: An Oliver Twisted Tale is also nominated. Further upcoming names in the Best Performer in a Musical category include Jessica Lee who made her first starring role in The Crucible’s Miss Saigon, while hit show Newsies at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre has two outstanding performers recognised with Josh Barnett and Arcangelo Ciulla.

Comedian and performer Lenny Henry gets a first time writer nomination for August in England, the hit solo show he starred in honouring the 75th anniversary of the Windrush Generation at the Bush Theatre, alongside Anoushka Lucas who is also in the running for Elephant. The venue also originates the most The Stage Debut Awards nominees this year with a total of four including 2019 BAFTA Rising Star Award winner Bukky Bakray, who made her name in Rocks and now has strong theatre credentials for her role in Sleepova, and Emily Ling Williams for directing A Playlist for the Revolution.

Broadway sensation A Strange Loop not only has performer Kyle Ramar Freeman nominated, but creator Michael R Jackson is shortlisted for two awards for Best Composer, Writer or Lyricst and Best Creative West End, which also sees Rob Madge recognised for their ground-breaking writing in My Son’s a Queer, (But What Can You Do?). Composers SpitLip, who already hold The Stage Debut Award from 2019 for Operation Mincemeat, one of the most recent West-End transfers, return to the awards for a second time but in the Best Creative West End category.  

Commenting on his ambitions for this year’s Debut Awards, The Stage editor Alistair Smith, says: “We have another superb shortlist this year, full of extraordinarily talented newcomers. It's particularly thrilling to see the huge geographical spread of the work recognised - with three nominees from Wales, including our first ever nomination for a Welsh language performance - as well as high profile commercial shows from the West End and beyond.

"I look forward to celebrating with our nominees and our fabulous host Divina De Campo on the night."

Mark Cornell, Chief Executive Officer of ATG Group commented, “ATG is proud to be supporting British theatre’s emerging talent through The Stage Debut Awards for the second year. At ATG we know that people are at the heart of successful theatre and that new ideas and voices are essential to bringing great live experiences to new audiences.

We look forward to being part of an exceptional night celebrating professional debuts at these awards in October.”

Votes for The Best West End Debut Performer can be cast online at This award celebrates a performer’s first time in London’s West End and voting closes at midday on September 17.


The winners will be announced at The Stage Debut Awards 7th awards ceremony, hosted by legendary drag artist, performer and singer Divina De Campo, on October 1 2023 at 8 Northumberland Avenue, London in association with headline sponsor Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG).

The line-up of Guest Presenters and Performers will be revealed in September. 



Best Performer in a Play (Sponsored by Cabbells):

Bukky Bakray for Sleepova at Bush Theatre, London

Rita Bernard-Shaw for Trouble in Butetown at Donmar Warehouse, London

Natalie Blair for Spring and Port Wine at Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Rhian Blundell for Let the Right One In at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Elan Davies for Imrie at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran for The Importance of Being Earnest at Leeds Playhouse and touring

Daniel Rock for Richard the Second at Omnibus Theatre, London and touring

Isobel Thom for I, Joan at Shakespeare's Globe, London


Best Performer in a Musical (Sponsored by Carnival Cruise Line):

Liv Andrusier for Ride at Charing Cross Theatre, London

Josh Barnett for Newsies at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, London

Arcangelo Ciulla for Newsies at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, London

Carla Dixon-Hernandez for Mrs Doubtfire at Shaftesbury Theatre, London

Drew Hylton for Unexpected Twist: An Oliver Twisted Tale at Royal and Derngate, Northampton and touring

Jessica Lee for Miss Saigon at Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Maisie Smith for Strictly Ballroom the Musical, Churchill Theatre, Bromley and touring


Best Director: (Sponsored by Arts Council England)

Daniel Blake for Bones at Park Theatre, London

Indiana Lown-Collins for The Solid Life of Sugar Water at Orange Tree Theatre, London

Denzel Westley-Sanderson for The Importance of Being Earnest at Leeds Playhouse and touring

Emily Ling Williams for A Playlist for the Revolution at Bush Theatre, London


Best Designer (Sponsored by Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL):

Carly Brownbridge (set & costume) for Agatha at Theatre503, London

Peter Butler (set & costume) for The Shape of Things at Park Theatre, London

Andrea Scott (video) for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre, London


Best Writer  (Sponsored by Sonia Friedman Productions):

Sasha Hails for Possession at Arcola Theatre, London

Lenny Henry for August in England at Bush Theatre, London

Anoushka Lucas for Elephant at Bush Theatre, London

Jennifer Lunn for Es & Flo at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Richard Mylan for Sorter at Swansea Grand Theatre

Zak Zarafshan for The Boys Are Kissing at Theatre503, London


Best Composer, Lyricist or Book Writer (Sponsored by Crossroads Live):

Gerel Falconer for Alice in Wonderland at Brixton House, London

Michael R Jackson for A Strange Loop at Barbican Theatre, London

Jenny Moore for Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-written at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London

Lilly Pollard for Sugar Coat at Southwark Playhouse, London


Best West End Debut Performer:

Rose Ayling-Ellis for As You Like It at @sohoplace

Emily Fairn for Brokeback Mountain at @sohoplace

Mike Faist for Brokeback Mountain at @sohoplace

Kyle Ramar Freeman for A Strange Loop at Barbican Theatre

Gabriel Howell for The Unfriend at Criterion Theatre

Paul Mescal for A Streetcar Named Desire at Phoenix Theatre

Zachary Quinto for Best of Enemies at Noël Coward Theatre

Samira Wiley for Blues for an Alabama Sky at National Theatre


Best Creative West End Debut: (Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment)

Joe Bunker (Musical Director) for Operation Mincemeat at Fortune Theatre

SpitLip (David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts) for Operation Mincemeat at Fortune Theatre

Tingying Dong for The Crucible at National Theatre and Gielgud Theatre

Michael R Jackson for A Strange Loop at Barbican Theatre

Scott Le Crass for Rose at Ambassadors Theatre

Rob Madge for My Son's a Queer, (But What Can You Do?) at Garrick Theatre and Ambassadors Theatre



The inaugural The Stage Debut Awards took place in 2017 and recipients of these awards have gone on to star in and create West End shows, television series and films. Notable award winners include Shan Ako (Hamilton), Tyrell Williams (Red Pitch), Sam Tutty (Dear Evan Hansen), Miriam-Teak Lee (& Juliet), Jac Yarrow (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), Bush Theatre Artistic Director Lynette Linton, and Composers Femi Temowo (Death of a Salesman) and Dan Gillespie Sells (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie).