The Stage Debut Awards recognise emerging talent within the theatre industry, and this year’s star studded ceremony awarded the debut work of people both on and offstage.

Due to the pandemic, there hasn’t been a ceremony since the virtual one in 2020. The nominees could have been in their show anytime in the last two years! And on Sunday evening they put on their glad-rags and went down to celebrate all things stagey. With performances throughout the evening from Frances Mayli McCann, Natalie Paris, Shan Ako and Samuel Thomas, the night was a true celebration.


Best Performer in a Play

• Elisabeth Gunawan for Unforgettable Girl at Voila! Europe Theatre Festival

• Ensemble of For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy at the New Diorama and Royal Court, London (Mark Akintimehin, Emmanuel Akwafo, Nnabiko Ejimofor, Darragh Hand, Aruna Jalloh, Kaine Lawrence)

Best Performer in a Musical – sponsored by Carnival Cruise Line

• Elijah Ferreira for Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Leeds Playhouse

Best Director – sponsored by Theatredor

• Monique Touko for Malindadzimu at the Hampstead Theatre, London

Best Designer

• TK Hay (set and costume) for An Adventure at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Best Writer – sponsored by Sonia Friedman Productions

• Tyrell Williams for Red Pitch at the Bush Theatre, London

Best Composer, Lyricist or Book Writer

• John Patrick Elliott for Cruise at the Duchess Theatre, London

Best West End Debut Performer

• Jodie Comer for Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London

Best Creative West End Debut – sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment

• Julia Cheng (choreographer) for Cabaret at the Playhouse Theatre

Find more info about the nominees here!


ELIJAH FERREIRA – Winner of Best Performer in a Musical

© Alex Brenner

How did you feel when you found out about your nomination?

Really surprised and then really kinda proud, just because that show meant a whole lot to all of us, like it was really special to get to do it. The show has meant a lot to me for a long time, since I was really young so to have the production recognised was really really special.

What’s next for Hedwig?

We don’t know, with something like that there is always hope for something bigger – I don’t know if anything is happening, but we keep our fingers crossed!

What’s next for you?

At the moment I’m actually working on a production at the Seven Dials Playhouse, a new musical called Help! We Are Still Alive, with music from Tim Gilvin, who did Unfortunate – So I’m in the middle of that at the moment. And then at Christmas time i’m in a production of A Christmas Carol at Reading Rep Theatre.

What did the role mean to you?

Oh my God everything, it’s probably one of the most meaningful things i’ve ever done and quite possibly will ever do. The content of the show has resonated with me from a young age, since the age of 12, and I never quite thought I would be able to, I didn’t quite see a journey for me to be involved. And then Jamie Fletcher came along, a beautiful wonderful queer director, and made a new version of it that meant I could be a part of it. And so I went up for it, and got it, and it was incredibly special.

GEORGIA BIRD – Company Stage Manager for Prima Facie (Accepting the Award on Jodie Comer’s behalf)

I think this show was so so different, because it’s a one-person show, our relationship was so important and so special. For her to know, that support every single night was surrounding her. And I think the most important thing for me was that team of women that were behind her in making the show happen every single night, it was more of a sisterhood and I know that is something that she massively loved in terms of that support.

Does Jodie know she won?

She does! She’s so so grateful, she can’t believe it! Especially with it being her West End debut, and with such an incredible play, to know that has been validated by the people that have come to see it, the general public – I know for her and for all of us it’s just such an incredible achievement. This show was unlike anything I’ve experienced in my career, and probably ever will again.

MONIQUE TOUKO – Winner of Best Director

How did your debut come about?

I got an email, thinking I was going to be an assistant and then I realised that it was a directing opportunity, and i was like, ‘wow this is going to be exciting’. Mufaro Makubika is from Zimbabwe, and I’m from Zimbabwe as well, so I was very excited to tell that story, and it felt like a story that I could tell. So when I got it initially, I was really exciting to jump on board!

What have you learnt from your debut?

That directing isn’t just being creative, it’s also people management. It’s ensuring people feel comfortable and people feel safe. You can have the best creative ideas in the world, but if you can’t manage people you don’t have a hope.

What attracted you to directing?

It was the one job where I felt like all my skills were being met. That I could fully put my best foot forward with all the roles, I liked the idea of being in control, and the idea of being creative was the most important thing for me.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to take a break, I’ve got a show at the Almeida, so after that I’m going to stop for a bit and try and pick up next year and see what’s available.

HANNAH JARRETT-SCOTT – Nominated for Best West End Debut for Pride and Prejudice (*Sort Of)

Hannah (centre) in Pride and Prejudice (*sort of) © Matt Crockett

Hi, how are you feeling?

Yeah I’m happy, I’m in my kilt, it’s exciting, I’ve never been to an awards ceremony before so I feel very lucky and very happy.

How did you feel when you heard you were nominated?

In shock, because our show finished early because of Omicron, and we had to leave it for a bit, and the nomination came out very recently, and it’s just nice to be recognised for something you did a little while ago. It’s my favourite show I’ve ever done, and I’m yet to find a funnier script. The show is a joy – I’m very close to everyone in it.

Whats next for the show?

We open in Cornwall next week and then we go to Scotland for five weeks – we end up in Sheffield and then the new cast will take over at the end of the year.

Will the show come back to London?

I hope so, I think it deserves it, Isobel’s script is very very good and I feel the only reason we had to stop was due to the pandemic so It would be great to share it with London again sometime soon.

ELISABETH GUNAWAN – Winner of Best Performer in a Play

© Alex Brenner

How did you feel when you found out about the nomination?

I was really happy, I was in Edinburgh at Edinburgh fringe, I was sharing a bed with another girl doing a show covered in clay. It was a breath of fresh air and I’m gonna be honest, I was nominated for a show that I wrote and created, we done a two night run at The Cockpit, I produced for myself and I didn’t think that people took notice, and this means a lot to me.

How did it feel to make your debut?

All I can say is that the piece I created explored a lot of the questions that I have about existing as a woman of colour, and the shame that comes with that, and what you have to do to survive in the world. And I just feel really invigorated, I think this is a time where it’s really important to talk about that. I think that there are a lot of people, maybe not necessarily women, maybe not necessarily people that exist in bodies which look like mine, that feel that way. I think that’s why you make your own theatre, also I think it’s becoming increasingly important and acknowledged that actors need to make their own theatre, and we need to tell our own stories.

What’s next for you?

I really want Unforgettable Girl to get an even bigger platform, just from being nominated here and I want to keep making my own theatre, that’s the biggest thing for me. I also love getting to be on stage, I just came out of drama school a year and a half ago – but for me its also about telling my own stories, I think that’s really important.

JACK HOLDEN – Nominated for Best Creative West End Debut for writing Cruise The Play

Jack in Cruise © Alastair Muir

What did Cruise mean to you?

Well it’s a very personal story, it’s a story that I heard when I was volunteering for Switchboard the LGBT charity, like 10 years ago, so to be able to put it on stage was incredibly important to me. The first run of the show happened just after theatres reopened, socially distanced, and I was quite apprehensive about how that would go down – but audiences were so hungry for live experience and it went down so well. And we just finished our second West End run, and it feels like it’s got some real momentum now.

Whats next for the show

Our producer, Katy Lipson is off to New York next week to try and seal a transfer, so hopefully that will be where we go next. And then ideally come back to the West End after that for one more run. I do feel like it’s the kind of show that you can keep coming back to watch, because there is so much music and so much to see in it – but also its very tiring too, so maybe only one more (run).

How did you feel when you found out about the nomination?

I was over the moon. The Stage is where I get all of my theatre news from and I read it everyday and so to see my face on the website, I was blown away and it’s a really vindication of all the work you’ve put in, so yeah I was thrilled.

TK HAY – Winner of Best Designer

© Alex Brenner

Hi, how are you feeling?

I’m not used to this, us designers we tend to stay in the background, so its very unusual to be out talking to people, but I’m really happy for the show.

What was your reaction to finding out about your nomination?

Disbelief I suppose, I wasn’t expecting it at all. Yeah I didn’t see it coming completely, I love my job and I just do what I do without expecting recognition, I suppose

Is An Adventure coming back?

I’m not sure, i’m not sure what’s happened to the set either – hopefully its not in landfill!

LIZZIE ANNIS – Nominated for Best West End Debut for The Glass Menagerie

Lizzie in The Glass Menagerie © Johan Persson

How are you feeling?

Amazing, really really privileged to be here and really excited, just really fortunate and grateful to The Stage and for this opportunity, to be among these incredible people.

How did it feel to make your West End debut?

Amazing it was really really special, to be able to do it with the group of people I was able to share the experience with, with that cast; Amy, Victor, Paul and Tom. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better team, I couldn’t have asked for a better more inspiring group of actors, or a better creative team or stage management team – it was really special. And this play is one that I read when I was younger, I hadn’t read it for a while, and then I re-read it at drama school for a project and thought ‘wow wouldn’t it be amazing if they done a revival of The Glass Menagerie?’ And then the audition popped up and I couldn’t believe it. It felt serendipitous in a way

What did the role mean to you?

So much, I think that Laura is such an incredible person. I think that something I’ve spoken about recently is her vulnerability and her openness to the world and her openness to experience. I often think that vulnerability is overlooked and undervalued and I’ve learnt so much from her. Her vulnerability is what aids the storytelling in such a vivid way, and that’s what we all want to do within this industry.

TOMMY SIM’AAN – Nominated for Best Performer in a Play for Starcrossed

Tommy in Starcrossed © Pamela Raith

How did it feel to be nominated?

I was just saying, like surprised, I didn’t actually know about the awards then in itself, I was like this is really cool. Because Starcrossed is a really great show, and we’re hoping it will come back – it’s cool to get to further the name a little bit, and get it out there a little bit more, hopefully keep the ball rolling, and see what happens.

What did the show mean to you?

A lot of different things, plot wise super important and exciting, personal/ career wise a bit of a big learning curve – and moving forward I feel much more grounded in myself as an actor. It was a really big experience.

What’s next for Starcrossed?

I don’t know yet, the producers are over in America and we’re waiting to see, they’re in contact with a few theatres and we’re hoping it’ll come back!

JOE PITTS – Nominated for Best Performer in a Musical for Spring Awakening

What did the show mean to you?

The show was incredible, I’m honestly so grateful to have been a part of it. Working with Rupert Goold and our company of actors was just amazing, for a lot of us it was our first job as well. Coming out of a pandemic, we were supposed to do it just before Covid hit, and we got kept on, the Almeida were so supportive and said that they still wanted to do it. To get in those rooms and rehearse, and then to play to full houses with everyone masked up, there was just such a special atmosphere, every single night and I didn’t take any night for granted.

People were huddled up sweating behind a mask but it was so worth it – the show maybe took on a new meaning because of that, and spoke to a younger generation with everything that happened within that year with Black Lives Matter, it really spoke to us as a company. I’m so honoured just to be recognised here tonight and so glad it spoke to audiences, that’s all you can really dream of.

What was your reaction to finding out you were nominated?

I was just buzzing to be with Bella honestly, we went through drama school together and then this was our first job together so just to be recognised, I’ve been reading The Stage since I was younger and wanting to get into theatre, and the calibre of performers here! I’m just feeling so lucky and grateful, really blessed

Is the show coming back?

Who knows, I think there’s a desire for it. They filmed it so I don’t know what they’re going to do with that, but we’ll see, it means a lot that people want it to come back.

JORDAN PAUL CLARKE & FRANCESCA FORRISTAL – Nominated for Best Composer, Lyricist or Book Writer for Public Domain

Jordan and Francesca in Public Domain © Jane Hobson

How did you feel when you found out that you were nominated?

FF: Really really surprised, I did not expect it

JPC: It had been a bit of time since we did the show and it was just that real surprise of no one knows who we are or what we’re doing. And it’s so lovely to think that people know about this and that they recognise it, and that were here with these amazing people.

What did the show mean to you?

JPC: It meant different things to both of us in some ways, and we connected together with this real sense of purpose that we have to tell a story that speaks to right now.

Whats next for the show?

FF: We can’t say!

JPC: There’s possibilities, I can say that the album will be released very soon and that will be announced super soon! Theres an EP available on Spotify now, but the full album is being released very soon which is exciting.

What’s next for you?

FF: The next project we’re gonna do is looking at what does modern romance looks like. A lot of romance troupes are extremely toxic and heteronormative, and we’re both gay as heck! And we are interested in, in 2025, what does it mean to be romantic without those toxic traits. And what does it mean to tell a romantic story especially in a musical that is inherently romantic, what does that look like now?

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