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Prestigious stage award marks a Welsh language first

02 Oct 2023 4 minute read
Elan Davies with her award for Best Performer In A Play for Imrie at the Stage Debut Awards (Credit: Alex Brenner, PA Wire)

Elan Davies has become the first ever Welsh language winner at The Stage Debut Awards in London.

The rising star won Best Performer in a Play at the awards, marking the first time a performer in a Welsh language production has won at the event, which aim to highlight breakthrough actors, writers, directors, designers, composers or lyricists in the industry.

Davies was recognised for her performance in Imrie at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, and shared the award with Isobel Thom, who won for I, Joan at Shakespeare’s Globe.

The production, which was originally staged at the Sherman earlier this year before touring, was directed by Gethin Evans and written by Nia Morais. It was produced by Fran Wen and Sherman Theatre – and performed in Welsh with captioning in English and Welsh.

Speaking to The Stage website, Davies said it was so important that the Welsh language has been recognised in this way.

“To be spotlighted at such a young age and at the beginning of my career feels really great,” she said. “It’s so important to be recognised at an awards show like this, especially for a Welsh language production. We’re trying to get a million speakers by 2030 so it’s a huge thing for the Welsh community as well.”

The judges said the production brought “street-smart wit, tenderness and a streak of cruelty to a magic-realist coming-of-age tale of two sisters”.

The award was presented by fellow Welsh actor Callum Scott Howells, known best for his roles in Cabaret and It’s A Sin.

(Read our exclusive interview with Imrie writer Nia Morais HERE)

Elan Davies with her award for Best Performer In A Play for Imrie at the Stage Debut Awards (Credit: Alex Brenner/PA Wire)

Other winners at the awards included actress and Strictly Come Dancing 2021 winner Rose Ayling-Ellis who picked up the best West End debut prize.

Former EastEnders star Ayling-Ellis, 28, won for her performance in As You Like It at Soho Place – her first West End play.

The stage and TV star fought off competition from a shortlist that included Normal People’s Paul Mescal for A Streetcar Named Desire, Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto for Best Of Enemies and Orange Is The New Black actress Samira Wiley for Blues For An Alabama Sky.

Earlier in the year Ayling-Ellis had been nominated for an Olivier Award for her role in the Shakespearean romantic comedy.

The best creative West End debut award was shared between two winners – Rob Madge for writing the West End show My Son’s A Queer (But What Can You Do?) at the Garrick Theatre and Ambassadors Theatre, and Tingying Dong for her sound design that created an eerie atmosphere for The Crucible at The National Theatre and Gielgud Theatre.

Jessica Lee took home best performer in a musical for Miss Saigon at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, and Anoushka Lucas was honoured for best writer for the play Elephant.

Emily Ling Williams received the best director award for romance-comedy A Playlist For The Revolution and Andrea Scott won best designer for her video design for My Neighbour Totoro at the Barbican Theatre.

Lastly, playwright and music writer Michael R Jackson scooped the best composer, lyricist or book writer award for his Broadway show A Strange Loop.

Speaking about the awards, The Stage editor Alistair Smith said: “Our wonderful winners highlight just how much emerging talent there is across British theatre.

“I’m particularly pleased that this year we were able to recognise our first ever winner in a Welsh language performance.

“Meanwhile, also for the first time this year, I’m delighted to reveal that, in partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group, we are offering a £10,000 prize fund split among our winners.

“Along with the exposure these awards bring, we hope this will be a real tangible help to them as they embark on what we have no doubt will be stellar careers.”

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