Gloria Obianyo (27) has won the first prize of the 2022 Ian Charleson Awards for her role as Neoptolemus in Paradise by Kae Tempest at the National Theatre — a performance that “never put a foot wrong”, according to the judges.
Commenting on her win Obianyo said she was “delighted to win the award, particularly when the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic have compounded the challenges of making it as a young actor. When you’re not in work all of your demons come out and you start worrying about whether you will ever work again.”
Paradise was her first big role and she says “it’s cool” that it has been recognised. Obianyo recently finished filming the second series of Good Omens with David Tennant and Michael Sheen.
Aimee Lou Wood (28) was awarded second prize for her Sonya in Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre. She is best known as Aimee in Netflix’s Sex Education, however she started out in theatre — playing a handmaiden in Mary Stuart at the Almeida in 2016. Her next project is Seize Them! — a comedy series set in the Dark Ages.
Lorn Macdonald (29) was awarded third prize for Segismundo in Life Is a Dream, Lyceum. He was praised for his “passionate” performance as Segismundo in Life Is a Dream at the Lyceum in Edinburgh last year. He is playing Albion Finch in the Netflix romp Bridgerton.
Winners of the award were announced at a special event held at the National Theatre last week with former winner Rory Kinnear as the guest of honour. Kinnear said “when you are in work, being an actor is the best job in the world but often the reality for a young actor is spending a lot of time out of work and then being forced to decide between “the job that rewards you well” and “the one that pays you well”.
The awards were established in 1990 in memory of Ian Charleson, the successful and popular British actor who died of AIDS. Supported by The Sunday Times and the National Theatre, the Ian Charleson Awards celebrate the best performances by actors under 30 in a classical role.
The shortlist included Jonathan Ajayi and Norah Lopez Holden for Hamlet at the Young Vic; Anna Russell-Martin for Life is a Dream at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh; Rebekah Murrell for Romeo and Juliet, and Josh Zaré for Measure for Measure, both at Shakespeare’s Globe; and, Baker Mukasa for the RSC’s The Comedy of Errors.
Previous winners are a roll call of successful stage and screen talent, including Andrea Riseborough, David Oyelowo, Cush Jumbo, Rory Kinnear, Rebecca Hall, and Tom Hollander. Past nominees include Michael Sheen, Jodie Whittaker, Benedict Cumberbatch, Adrian Lester, Helen McCrory, Jude Law, Damian Lewis, Hugh Bonneville, David Tennant, and Ben Whishaw.
The judges of this year’s awards include the National Theatre casting director Alastair Coomer, actors Emma Fielding and Ashley Zhangazha, and the former Times theatre critic Kate Bassett.
Also see our Awards section
Ian Charleson Awards – Nominees
Jonathan Ajayi, 25 – Hamlet, Young Vic
Norah Lopez Holden, 27 – Hamlet, Young Vic
Lorn Macdonald, 29 – Life Is a Dream, Lyceum – Awarded Third Prize
Baker Mukasa, 27 – The Comedy of Errors, RSC
Rebekah Murrell, 29 – Romeo and Juliet, Globe
Gloria Obianyo, 27 – Paradise, National Theatre – Awarded First Prize
Anna Russell-Martin, 24 – Life Is a Dream, Lyceum
Aimee Lou Wood, 28 – Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter – Awarded Second Prize
Josh Zaré, 29 – Measure for Measure, Globe