Women dominate at WhatsOnStage awards, proving gender-neutral categories can work

Side by side photos of Jodie Comer and Gwyneth Keyworth at the WhatsOnStage Awards.

Women dominated the WhatsOnStage awards last night (12 February), proving that gender-neutral award shows can work.

This year marked the first year the WhatsOnStage awards honoured “performers” rather than genders, in categories including best performer and best debut performance.

Women took home the prize in nine of the 15 gender-neutral categories.

Big winners included Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer, who won best performer in a play for her role as Tessa in Prima Facie, and Courtney Bowman, who took home the best performer in a musical gong for her portrayal of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Fellow Legally Blonde star Lauren Drew (as Brooke Wyndham) won best supporting performer in a musical while Gwyneth Keyworth won best supporting performer in a play, as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.

X Factor alumni Lucie Jones also joined the list of winners, for taking over the role of Elphaba in the long-running Wicked.

The result of the WhatsOnStage awards are a staggering contrast to the Brit Awards which aired this weekend (11 February).

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In its first gender-neutral ceremony, the UK’s biggest music awards whipped up controversy by offering up a disappointing all-male best artist shortlist – despite British women such as Charli XCX, Florence Welch and Cat Burns dominating the charts over the past year.

The Brit’s controversy left many questioning whether a gender-neutral ceremony was the way forward, if it meant women were neglected.

Divina De Campo attends the WhatsOnStage Awards
Non-binary performer Divina de Campo (R) was nominated at the WhatsOnStage Awards. (Getty/David M. Benett)

However, the WhatsOnStage awards have made it clear that gender-neutral categories can honour men and women if they are compiled sensibly.

Gender-neutral categories also enable non-binary performers to be celebrated, with Drag Race UK star Divina de Campo nominated in the best performer category at last night’s ceremony.

Elsewhere at the WhatsOnStage awards, Heartstopper star Joe Locke bagged the best professional debut performance award for his role as Noah in The Trials.

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