Is celebrity casting overshadowing the real stars of the theatre?

Last night, a whole host of celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Imelda Staunton, Mark Gatiss and Judi Dench – all won Whats On Stage Awards at the annual ceremony, held at the Prince of Wales Theatre, in London’s West End. Public voting is great as it gives the general public a chance to have their say about who they think is most worthy to win an award. These awards were all voted for by the public and so there can be no whispers of ‘fixed’ judging panels or backhanded bribes (unlike some awards out there).

All award ceremonies come into the firing line for one reason or another when they take place, even my own Wilma Awards have had their fair share of negative comments and so you certainly can’t always please everyone. We have to look at these awards as recognition for great things that have been achieved within theatre, whether we personally agree with the outcome or not. This is certainly not a blog about criticising why certain people won over others. I have come to the conclusion that everyone is entitled to their own opinion on these things and there is no such thing as ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ but just people being recognised for great things. That’s no bad thing.

It does make me wonder though, whether theatre performers are being overshadowed by celebrities at award ceremonies these days. When you have A-list film stars up against professionally trained West End performers, is there really much competition? There are a million Nicole Kidman fans out there who will vote for her as Best Actress in a Play but did the equally deserving Denise Gough (People, Places and Things) have any chance of winning against her?

With the amount of ‘celebrity casting’ in theatre these days (which is sadly becoming necessary to warrant to price of theatre tickets) I’m starting to think that maybe there should be separate categories for ‘Best Celebrity in a Play’ or ‘Best Celebrity in a Musical’ to really make it a competition. If Nicole Kidman was up against people on the same fame scale as her, would the win be more exciting and feel more well deserved (not to say she didn’t deserve to win but it does raise the question whether she won on her acting merits).

With the 2016 Wilma Awards soon to be top of my mind for later on this year, I have certainly been given food for thought on whether categories should be looked at a little differently.

What do you think? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook.

West End Wilma