2017 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Bríd Brennan, The Ferryman

Thinking about this most well-received of plays, it is the role of Aunt Maggie Faraway who lingers most in my mind, the elegiac beauty of her speeches an elegant way of folding in traditions of Irish storytelling and emphasising the deep bonds of family. Breathtaking work from Brennan.

Honourable mention: Kate Kennedy, Twelfth Night (Royal Exchange)
When done well, Olivia is one of my favourite Shakespearean roles and the statuesque Kennedy didn’t disappoint with a highly-sexed take on the character which embraced all the physical potential of her height.

Sheila Atim, Girl From the North Country
Laura Carmichael, Apologia
Romola Garai, Queen Anne
Lashana Lynch, a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)
Kate O’Flynn, The Glass Menagerie

8-10
Susan Brown, Angels in America; Jessica Brown Findlay, Hamlet; Denise Gough, Angels in America

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Tracie Bennett, Follies

All I have to say is ‘I’m Still Here’. I’M STILL HERE!

Honourable mention: Rachel John, Hamilton
Only the tiniest of margins separated these two and it’s only really the fact that she’s not Renée Elise Goldsberry that held John back from the title.

Christine Allado, Hamilton
Julie Atherton, The Grinning Man
Sharon D Clarke, The Life
Joanna Riding, Romantics Anonymous
Lucie Shorthouse, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie


8-10
Nicola Hughes, Caroline or Change ; Cathy Read, Little Women; Sharon Sexton, Bat Out of Hell

2016 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Jade Anouka, The Tempest
After being somewhat underused in Doctor Faustus earlier in the year, it was extremely gratifying to see Anouka rise to the fore again in the cumulative triumph of the Donmar’s Shakespeare Trilogy. Striking as Hotspur in Henry IV, it was her street-smart Ariel that stood out most for me.

Honourable mention: Lizzy Connolly/Amanda Lawrence, Once in a Lifetime
Confession time. Both these women should really have been recognised last year – Connolly for Xanadu, Lawrence for Nell Gwynn – and so the fact that they appeared in the same show this year felt like a sign, Lawrence in particular proving she is a comedic tour-de-force wherever she goes.

Nadine Marshall, Father Comes Home From The War (Parts 1, 2, and 3)
Tanya Moodie, Hamlet
Siân Phillips, Les Blancs
Rachael Stirling, The Winter’s Tale
Susan Wokoma, A Raisin In The Sun

8-10
Alisha Bailey, A Raisin In The Sun; Nina Sosanya, Young Chekhov; Jo Wickham, Steel Magnolias

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Jennifer Saayeng, Ragtime
She may only figure [spoiler!] in the first half of the show but Sarah is an epic part with some epic songs, including two stone-cold classics in ‘Your Daddy’s Son’ and ‘Wheels of a Dream’, and Saayeng rose to the occasion magnificently both dramatically and musically. You totally believed she was someone Ako Mitchell’s Coalhouse would turn the world upside down to avenge.

Honourable mention: Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Murder Ballad
I wasn’t necessarily the biggest fan of this show but Hamilton’Barritt’s performance kept me as thoroughly engaged as Ramin Karimloo’s abs did. She has that real gift of being able to transcend the material she’s given, to become scene-stealingly excellent even when she’s not the lead.

Josie Benson, Sweet Charity
Sheila Hancock, Grey Gardens
Rachel John, The Bodyguard
Katherine Kingsley, She Loves Me
Gloria Onitiri, The Grinning Man

8-10
Cassie Clare, Little Shop of Horrors; Djalenga Scott, Grease; Nicola Sloane, Flowers for Mrs Harris

2016 Best Supporting Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Peter Polycarpou, Scenes from 68* Years
In the midst of a heartbreaking play (by Hannah Khalil), Polycarpou’s contributions to the multi-stranded narrative were more heartbreaking than most – agonisingly, beautifully evoking the Palestinian struggle in the most heartfelt way.

Honourable mention: Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
We may be being urged to #keepthesecrets, but there’s no mystery that Boyle has been the breakout star of Cursed Child as Scorpius Malfoy, especially when the homoerotic undertones are more like overtones in the first part.

Rudi Dharmalingam, Mary Stuart
Dex Lee, Father Comes Home From The War (Parts 1, 2, and 3)
Nick Fletcher, The Deep Blue Sea
Jonjo O’Neill, Unreachable
Alan Williams, Mary Stuart

8-10
Robert Hazle, Home Chat; Tobias Menzies, Uncle Vanya; Paul Thornley, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Julian Bleach, The Grinning Man
As the Machiavellian manservant Barkilphedro, Bleach was deliciously arch throughout this captivating show and as his grasping ambitions brought him to the centre of the action, it was hard not to be slightly seduced by his awfulness.

Honourable mention: Tyrone Huntley, Jesus Christ Superstar
In an extraordinarily good company revitalising Lloyd Webber, Huntley was a stellar presence alongside Declan Bennett’s Jesus, a real thorn in his side. But now he’s firmly ensconced in Dreamgirls, will he be joining the shows return to the Open Air next summer?

Adam J Bernard, Dreamgirls
Daniel Crossley, Sweet Charity
Stuart Neal, The Grinning Man
Dominic Tighe, She Loves Me
Gary Tushaw, Ragtime

8-10
Peter Caulfield, Jesus Christ Superstar; Michael Esper, Lazarus; Thomas Howes, The Wind in the Willows

2015 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Daisy Haggard, You For Me For You
There’s no way to describe Haggard’s performance that could do justice to just how accomplished it is. Ostensibly just gibberish, the precise nature of the gobbledygook becomes apparent as her speech slowly modulates into increasingly recognisable English. And all the while as she’s speaking what is essentially another language, she never forgets to extract every exquisite comic detail – just brilliant. 

Honourable mention: T’Nia Miller, Eclipsed
As with Wright for Best Actress, it’s a tad invidious to separate out the ensemble of what was my favourite play of the year but the extra dimension that she brought to the show, adding the thoughtful complexity of class division to the mix was an absolute highlight.

Priyanga Burford, The Effect
Estella Daniels, Octagon
Rosalind Eleazor, Plaques and Tangles
Sally Rogers, Hangmen

7-10
Adjoa Andoh, A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes; Zawe Ashton, Splendour; Hélène Devos, Glazen Speelgoed; Ellie Piercey, As You Like It (Globe)


Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Emma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents
An actress who deserves to be much better known than she currently is, her latest superlative turn in a British musical might just be the one to push her through to the wider public consciousness, as deservedly so. At one point, a single sustained note from her brought tears to my eyes in seconds.

Honourable mention: Amy Lennox, Kinky Boots
This was probably the closest run of these choices as I loved Lennox’s haplessly quirky turn as Lauren is the very definition of a scene-stealer, none more so than in the glorious ‘The History of Wrong Guys’.

Anita Dobson, Follies
Anna Francolini, wonder.land
Lauren Samuels, Bend It Like Beckham
Lorna Want, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

7-10
Liza Goddard, The Smallest Show on Earth; Preeya Kalidas, Bend It Like Beckham; Anastacia McClesky, Close to You; Victoria Serra, Grand Hotel

2014 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Vanessa Kirby, A Streetcar Named Desire
In the parlance de nos jours, ‘she really made that role her own’. Faced with Gillian Anderson giving the performance of a lifetime as Blanche, Vanessa Kirby more than rose up to the challenge as younger sister Stella in Benedict Andrews’ production of Tennessee Williams’ classic play. I’ve never seen a Stella so dynamic and real and making her so fully aware of her sensuality and sexuality cleverly reinforces the sisterly bond in all its compelling glory. Kirby’s star has been bubbling under for a wee while now but it can’t be long before she goes stratospheric (and theatre loses her!).

Honourable mention: Phoebe Fox/Nicola Walker, A View From The Bridge 
By rights I should have introduced a new category of Best Ensemble so that this whole company could be rewarded but we’ll have to make do here with a joint placing for the two women in the cast. Phoebe Fox’s nubile Catherine, not a girl and not yet a woman (thanks, Britney) and desperately unaware of the effect she wreaks on her uncle, is a sensuous figure throughout. And Nicola Walker as his wife responds brilliantly to van Hove’s direction to make a compassionate and nuanced portrayal of a woman torn by loyalty. Book for the West End transfer now!

Blythe Duff, The James Plays
Liz White, Electra
Lydia Wilson, King Charles III

7-10
Anna Maxwell Martin, King Lear (NT); Jenny Rainsford, The Rivals; Sharon Rooney, Henry IV (Donmar); Jemima Rooper, Breeders

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Jenna Russell, Urinetown
I though Russell’s Miss Pennywise was very good when I first saw Urinetown but she was downright excellent once the show had transferred into the West End. Maybe it was the freedom of the bigger stage, the fact that we were much closer second time round or a demob-happy spirit as she was in the final week of her run but whatever it was, it worked. Fierce eye contact, vocals on point, broad yet pointed comedy – a performance to treasure in a show that needed more of her.

Honourable mention: Lara Pulver, Gypsy
Though the excitement is all about Imelda Staunton’s Mama Rose transferring to the Savoy with Gypsy, it is just as much her elder daughter’s show, especially in the second act. And Lara Pulver gave great life to the transformative journey of the overlooked Louise into the extrovert Gypsy Rose Lee in Chichester, barely recognisable as the same person and thrilling to behold. I assume she won’t be performing in London (as she’d’ve been announced already?), if so it’s a real loss.

Samantha Bond, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, In The Heights
Kiara Jay, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Zoe Rainey, The Return of the Soldier

7-10
Carly Bawden, Assassins; Gia Macuja-Atchison, Here Lies Love; Melanie Marshall, The Infidel; Golda Roshuevel, Porgy and Bess

2013 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Linda Bassett, Roots

The Donmar proved a powerhouse for female performances this year and in Roots, it was Linda Bassett who took the honours as the rural mother, conveying decades of hardship, making do and a hard-won no-nonsense attitude almost entirely through the minutiae of managing the family home. A breath-taking performance of perfectly studied and understated detail. 

Honourable mention: Deborah Findlay, Coriolanus

Tom Hiddleston may have been the big name in the Donmar’s Coriolanus but for me, it was Deborah Findlay’s Volumnia that was the biggest performance, scorching the earth before her as the militaristic mother driving her son’s career and then breath-takingly chastened as the tragic consequences are reaped. 


Anna Calder-Marshall, The Herd

Isabella Laughland, The Same Deep Water As Me
Cecilia Noble, The Amen Corner

7-10

Claudie Blakley, Chimerica; Kirsty Bushell, Edward II; Naomi Frederick, TheWinslow Boy; Fenella Woolgar, Circle Mirror Transformation

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Leigh Zimmerman, A Chorus Line

She won the Olivier earlier this year and now she can add a fosterIAN to the list – her dry put-downs as the wise-cracking Sheila enlivened A Chorus Line no end, trying to shield herself a little from the reality of being one of the older members of the group and seeing her last shot at stardom slipping away. 

Honourable mention: Nicola Hughes, The Color Purple

In a musical full of strong black women, Hughes proved herself one of the strongest with an extraordinary performance in The Color Purple as singer Shug Avery, utterly self-possessed and ultimately self-obsessed and never less than unmissable when onstage. 
Amy Booth-Steel, The Light Princess
Katie Brayben, American Psycho
Cassidy Janson, Candide
Sophia Nomvete, The Color Purple

7-10

Lucyelle Cliffe, When Midnight Strikes; Kaisa Hummerland, The Boys from Syracuse; Joanna Riding, Stephen Ward; Liz Singleton, Fiddler on the Roof

2012 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play 


Though Nicola Walker was excellent as the mother in this adaptation, it was Niamh Cusack who really shone for me. Her kindly teacher also doubled as a narrator of sorts and so it was her gorgeously warm tone that steered the audience into the wonderful world of this production, alive to the sensitivities of the situation but never once veering towards the condescending (unlike certain reviewers I could name).

Honourable mention: Laura Howard, Lost in Yonkers
One of those performances that caught me right in the heart from its opening moments and never let go throughout. Neil Simon’s play can be described as a tragicomedy and whilst most of the audience were hooting with the comedy, I found myself weeping near-continuously as Howard depicted the simplicity and emotional openness of the always under-estimated Bella with huge skill.

Ruth Sheen, In Basildon
Fenella Woolgar, Hedda Gabler

7-10
Lucy Ellinson, The Trojan Women; Miranda Raison, The River; Laura Elphinstone, Chalet Lines; Anastasia Hille, The Effect

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Clare Foster, Merrily We Roll Along
Foster had a great year, impressing mightily in Finding Neverland at the Curve but it was as Beth in the Menier’s Merrily We Roll Along that she solidified her credentials as a genuine favourite by giving a rendition of Not A Day Goes By that actually made me forget Bernadette Peters’. Truly special.

Honourable mention: Bonnie Langford, 9 to 5 The Musical
Langford figured strongly in my childhood as companion Mel in the first Doctor Whos I really remember watching and in Bugsy Malone too, so I can’t believe it has taken this long for me to finally see on her stage. And what a debut it was, as as secretary Roz in 9 to 5 The Musical she effortlessly steals the show with a sensational number that displays all of her considerable skillset.

Josefina Gabrielle, Merrily We Roll Along
Debbie Kurup, The Bodyguard
Helena Blackman, A Winter’s Tale
Laura Pitt-Pulford, Hello, Dolly!

7-10
Beverly Rudd, Soho Cinders; Siân Phillips, Cabaret; Lucy Van Gasse, Wonderful Town; Aimie Atkinson, Steel Pier

2011 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Alexandra Gilbreath, Othello

The main reason that I travelled to see Othello at the Crucible was not so much for the reunion of The Wire stars in Dominic West and Clarke Peters, but in the casting of Alexandra Gilbreath as Emilia. And it was totally worth it as she made a massive impact, creating a fully rounded character with a history and passions that surely far exceeds what is on the page. Her work in the Royal Court’s The Village Bike also pleased me greatly, making this a great year for fans of the Gilbreath.

Honourable mention: Sheridan Smith, Flare Path

As anyone who saw Flare Path will say to you, ‘the letter scene, THE LETTER SCENE!’. Though second billed below Sienna Miller in this Terence Rattigan revival, Smith pretty much stole the show, finding unexpected deep reservoirs of feeling in Doris, the barmaid with a heart of gold done good, whose reactions to hearing the (translated) letter from her husband were one of the most affecting moments in a theatre all year.

Sinéad Matthews, Ecstasy
Billie Piper, Reasons to be Pretty
Kirsty Bushell, Double Feature 1
Esther Hall, Many Moons

7-10
Claudie Blakley, Comedy of Errors (NT); Janie Dee, Noises Off; Imelda Staunton, A Delicate Balance; Anna Calder-Marshall, Salt Root and Roe

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Samantha Spiro, Company (Crucible)

It does seem that anyone playing Amy in Sondheim’s Company is a shoo-in for recognition here, Cassidy Janson just missed out on a nomination for her role in the Southwark Playhouse production, but the truth is when the song (Not) Getting Married is delivered well, it really is a showstopper. Janson did well, but Samantha Spiro, already so very beloved of my heart for Hello, Dolly! if not necessarily Chicken Soup with Barley, held the Crucible in the palm of her hand as the scatty bride-to-be whose jitters threaten to jeopardise her whole happiness. She radiates warmth here and never once sacrifices clarity of diction for an easy laugh in that most verbose of numbers: acting through song at its best.

Honourable mention: Kate Fleetwood, London Road

In some ways, it is a bit harsh to nominate one person out of London Road as it really is such a strong ensemble show but Kate Fleetwood emerged most as the beating heart of the show as the unassuming woman who set up the London Road in Bloom competition that forms the centre of the community’s coming together and achieves so very much. Fleetwood taps into so much empathetic normality here that somehow translates into something so special: that first “begonias and, petunias, and um, impatiens and things” is just remarkable.

Josefina Gabrielle, Me and My Girl
Josie Walker, Matilda
Rosalind James, Ragtime
Ann Emery, Betty Blue Eyes

7-10
Lauren Ward, Matilda; Cassidy Janson, Company (Southwark Playhouse); Joanna Riding, Lend Me A Tenor; Katherine Kingsley, Singin’ in the Rain

2010 Best Supporting Actress in a Play & in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play



Rachael Stirling, A Midsummer Night’s Dream


That voice! That voice! I could listen to Stirling read the telephone directory and it would be a happy day. And it is remarkable that in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that saw Dame Judi Dench taking on the role of Titania once again, it was Stirling from whom I could not tear my eyes. She brought such fiery warmth to her Helena, a great clarity to her verse speaking but her best moments for me (ironically) were when she was not speaking but reacting to the Rude Mechanicals’ efforts where she was just gorgeous to watch, almost stealing the show from an extremely funny Pyramus and Thisbe. You can currently catch her in An Ideal Husband, which finishes in February.


Honourable Mention
Jemima Rooper, All My Sons
Playing against such heavyweights as Suchet and Wanamaker both delivering stellar performances, one could have forgiven Rooper and Stephen Campbell Moore for slacking a little bit in their supporting roles in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. But part of what made this production such a monster success was the strength of their own performances, standing up to these heavyweight talents and delivering their own great turns. Rooper’s face-off with Wanamaker was one of my favourite scenes of the year. Rooper is currently in Me and My Girl in Sheffield, and I’m going inn early January!


Jessica Raine, Earthquakes in London
Sylvestra Le Touzel, Les Parents Terribles
Clare Higgins, Hamlet
Madeleine Potter, Broken Glass


7-10
Noma Dumezweni, Romeo & Juliet/The Winter’s Tale; Barbara Marten, Henry IV Part I + II; Jade Williams, Palace of the End/ Henry IV Part I + II; Sian Clifford, The Road To Mecca


Best Supporting Actress in a Musical


Hannah Waddingham, Into the Woods


I first lost my heart to Hannah Waddingham in A Little Night Music a couple of years back, but this year she really confirmed her place as one of my most favourite musical theatre actresses with four stellar performances that I was lucky enough to see. Rocking the Menier Chocolate Factory with her own cabaret was massive amounts of fun; appearing at Wilton’s Music Hall as part of a charity gala was lovely (and possibly her best rendition of Send in the Clowns yet); her contribution to Anton Stephans’ concert Grateful, singing Jason Robert Brown’s Coming Together with Stephans was one of those indescribable moments of bliss, but in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, in a cleverly designed production at the Open Air Theatre, she excelled as the Witch. Whether hunched over as the disguised crone or standing statuesquely tall post-transformation, she sang beautifully and precisely, really demonstrating herself to be, alongside co-star Jenna Russell, as one of the best interpreters of Sondheim in a year when we heard so very much of his works. She will evidently spend most of next year in The Wizard of Oz but I hope Lloyd-Webber is coming up with some crackers for her to sing as the Wicked Witch of the West is not a part best known for its songs. Now I just need to her to look at me, just once, as she sings the line ‘there ought to be clowns’ and I would die a happy man!


Honourable Mention
Jodie Jacobs, State Fair
Again, a bit of a recognition of a body of work for the year here as Jacobs managed the not inconsiderable feat of appearing in three different musicals in as many months: Bright Lights Big City, Me & Juliet and the revival of State Fair at the Trafalgar Studios, this latter of which was my favourite of all her performances and one of my highlights of the year. As Emily, the showgirl with a heart and a wise head, she shone in the tiny Studio 2, revelling in the heady flirtations with Karl Clarkson’s dopey farm-boy, dazzling with her own burlesque-inspired routine and hoofing with the best of them in the numerous glorious ensemble numbers. People around the country will be able to see her next year in the touring production of Footloose (I think), but I hope it is not too long before she hits London’s stages again.


Karen Mann, Spend! Spend! Spend!
Siobhan McCarthy, The Drowsy Chaperone
Jill Halfpenny, Legally Blonde The Musical
Twinnie Lee Moore, Flashdance The Musical


7-10
Ally Holmes, Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi; Beverley Rudd, Into the Woods; Jenna Russell, Into the Woods; Aoife Mulholland, Legally Blonde The Musical

2009 Best Supporting Actress in a Play/in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Rebecca Hall, The Winter’s TaleMake no mistake about it, Rebecca Hall is destined for great things, she is a fantastic actress and proved this in her Bridge Project turns this year. I plumped for her Hermione over her Varya as it was a slightly better role for her with more opportunity to showcase her heartbreaking treatment. Mark my words, this woman will become huge!

Honourable mentionKate Fleetwood, Life is a Dream
Stealing the show somewhat for me, Kate Fleetwood’s Rosaura provided a welcome light-hearted comic relief to this darkly-hued play and kept the attention on what felt like a slightly superfluous sub-plot.

Jessie Cave, Arcadia
Michelle Dockery, Burnt By The Sun
Alexandra Gilbreath, Twelfth Night
Ruth Wilson, A Streetcar Named Desire

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Josefina Gabrielle, Hello, Dolly!
As widowed milliner Irene Molloy, Josefina Gabrielle’s turn in Hello, Dolly was sweet of voice, nimble on the dancefloor, nicely comic and the perfect foil for Samantha Spiro’s lead role. And appearing now in Sweet Charity in another sterling supporting role (or two!), I hope it is not too long before she returns to head up a good musical.

Honourable mention
Sheila Hancock, Sister Act
Following on from her well-received turn in Cabaret, Sheila Hancock visited another musical with her presence, this time Sister Act in the role of Mother Superior and boy what fun she has and so in turn do we. Neither the best singer or dancer, it matters not a jot, in fact it enhances her performance as the senior nun and lends a nice gravitas to this show. For an actress in her late 70s, her energy levels and creative choices are a lesson to us all.
Josefina Gabrielle, Sweet Charity
Tiffany Graves, Sweet Charity
The Lovely Debbie McGee, Frank’s Closet
Jodie Prenger, Oliver
!