One of the many pleasures of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child – the play that won a stonking eight categories in the WhatsOnAtage Awards on Sunday – is the way it has brought to broad public attention a cast of fantastic but perhaps under-noticed actors.
I have admired Jamie Parker for years, ever since The History Boys and particularly enjoyed his musical turns in Assassins and High Society. But for all his sterling work, and stand out performances in Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead at Chichester and Henry V at The Globe, he is the kind of subtle, low-profile performer whose skills might never have been recognised on the awards circuit against more classical, flashier talents exhibited by the likes of Ian McKellen or Ralph Fiennes. It is wonderful that he has now been recognised by the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Actor in a Play.
Jamie Parker is a low-profile performer whose skills might never have been recognised on the awards circuit
The same goes for Best Supporting Actress in a Play winner Noma Dumezweni, a long-kept and much-loved secret wonder on the theatre circuit who won wider acclaim when she stepped in to save Linda at the Royal Court in 2015. She has in fact won awards before – an Olivier for her performance at the Young Vic in A Raisin in the Sun – but there is no doubt that her graceful reimagining of Hermione has brought her to a much larger public, who will never now forget her.
The casting team at Harry Potter – hats off to them – has also recruited a superb young group of actors who will no doubt carve brilliant careers in future, none more so than Anthony Boyle whose witty, moving and perfectly honed performance as Scorpius Malfoy is really something special.
There is a remarkable freshness about the acting talent you have recognised in the WhatsOnStage Awards
In general, there is a remarkable freshness about the acting talent you have recognised in the WhatsOnStage Awards. It would have been impossible to ignore Billie Piper's devastating performance in Yerma in the Best Actress in a Play category, but it is lovely that Amber Riley and Trevor Dion Nicholas – both new to the London stage - beat more established talents to take the gongs in the musicals categories. Both are the life force of their respective productions.
And although I did not share many people's fondness for Half A Sixpence I am thrilled that the real star-is-born quality of Charlie Stemp in the leading role has been acknowledged with a prize and glad that Emma Williams' sterling attempts to breathe life into Helen, the object of his affections, has won her the Best Supporting Actress in a Musical prize.
So hats off to you, the voters. You've spotted talent and rewarded it. Now we have all got to remember to keep an eye out as these careers progress. An award is always lovely, but it is a lifetime of work that counts. I shall look forward to following future progress.
- Ian McKellen
- Billie Piper
- Emma Williams
- Noma Dumezweni
- Jamie Parker
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Amber Riley
- Charlie Stemp
- Anthony Boyle
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