Irish actor Denise Gough nominated for Tony Award for ‘Angels in America’

Actor from Ennis almost gave up after 10 years struggling to make it in London, before landing her big break

Denise Gough: Tony Award nominee for ‘Angels in America’, which also stars Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane. Photograph: Tom Jamieson/The New York Times

Denise Gough: Tony Award nominee for ‘Angels in America’, which also stars Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane. Photograph: Tom Jamieson/The New York Times


Irish actor Denise Gough was nominated today for a 2018 Tony Award for her performance as Harper Pitt in Marianne Elliot’s National Theatre revival of Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America on Broadway. She first played the role at Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre, London, and has already won the 2018 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the part.

Gough, who is from Ennis in Co Clare, graduated from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in London in 2003. She struggled to make it as an actress in London for over 10 years, while babysitting and waitressing, and was about to give up on acting when she got a big break, in a new play People, Places & Things at Britain’s National Theatre. She played an actress who is an addict in recovery, and her performance won rave reviews and awards, including the Olivier and the Critics Circle Award.

She also played the role in New York, before performing in the marathon eight-hour play Angels in America; she said about the transfer of the London production to New York: “I am just really glad we’re taking the play home. If we hadn’t taken it to New York it would have been almost shameful.”

The New York Times review said “Her Harper now shimmers with wit and the promise of a buried resourcefulness. Harper’s spikiness is on a level with that of Mr. [Andrew] Garfield’s Prior, and when they meet “on the threshold of revelation” in shared hallucinations, they are a wonderfully matched set.”

Denise Gough and Lee Pace in Angels in America at the Paul Simon Theatre, New York, in February. Photograph: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The play had 11 Tony nominations, with SpongeBob SquarePants and Mean Girls leading the pack with 12 nominations each.

Her stage performances in Ireland have included the Abbey Theatre production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, directed by Wayne Jordan in 2010, and as Julie in the 2009 Gate Theatre production of The Birds, written and directed by Conor McPherson.

In film Gough has played Mathilde de Morny, one of the first women to identify publicly as being a man, in Colette, with Keira Knightley and Dominic West. Last year she started in the small screen in a RTÉ-BBC revenge thriller Paula.

Deniss Gough as Paula in the RTÉ/BBC drama of the same name. Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian/BBC
Deniss Gough as Paula in the RTÉ/BBC drama of the same name. Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian/BBC

Gough was born in 1980 and is one of 12 children; her younger sister Kelly is also an actress. Her father was an electrician, then a fisheries expert and her mother “was pregnant for nine and a half years”, Gough has joked. She left school at 15 and “followed a boy” to London. Years later she began a Saturday acting class and later got a place at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wandsworth (she borrowed the audition fee), graduating in 2003.

Her television debut was in Casualty in 2004 and she has been in series including New Tricks and Stella. Other work includes the play The Painter and TV mini-series Messiah V: The Rapture.

She was nominated in 2012 for Evening Standard Awards for roles in Our New Girl and Desire Under the Elms. Her breakthrough role in People, Places and Things at the National Theatre in 2015 won her great attention and critical praise.

Since the establishment of the Tony awards in 1947 there have been numerous Irish nominations, starting with Siobhán McKenna, nominated in 1956 for Enid Bagnold’s high comic The Chalk Garden and in 1958 for Morton Wishengrad’s Nietzschean drama The Rope Dancers.

In 1970, Tomás Mac Anna’s Borstal Boy won three Tonys, for best play (the autobiographical novel by Brendan Behan, who had died in 1964, was adapted for stage by Frank McMahon), best direction for Mac Anna, and best leading performance by Frank Grimes.

Hugh Leonard’s Dublin comedy Da swept the boards in 1978 winning Tonys for best play, director, actor and actor in a featured role. Cork-born designer Bob Crowley, who was working in England, won a Tony in 1994 for a revival of the musical Carousel , and more recently won again for his design in John Tiffany’s staging of Once in 2012.

In 1992 the Abbey production of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa, Brid Brennan won best actress, Patrick Mason won best director, and Friel won best play. In 1998 playwright Martin McDonagh and Druid began a run of Tony nominations. Druid’s production of McDonagh’s debut The Beauty Queen of Leenanne dominated, with acting awards for Anna Manahan, Marie Mullen and Tom Murphy, best play for McDonagh and best director for Garry Hynes. Brían F. O’Byrne, who was nominated for Beauty Queen, won a Tony 2004 for Bryony Lavery’s Frozen, beating Aiden Gillen who was nominated for role in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker.

In 2006 the Gate Theatre’s revival of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer, had one win - for Ian McDiarmid’s Teddy - and three nominations. Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer was nominated in 2008 and Jim Norton won for his performance. Irish set  and costume designer Bob Crowley has won seven Tony awards, including in 2015 for his work on the musical An American in Paris.

The Tony Award – the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre – recognises excellence in live Broadway theatre. The nominations were announced on May 1st by actors Leslie Odom Jr and Katharine McPhee. The awards will be made at the 72nd annual ceremony on June 10th , hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Tony Award nominations

Best Musical

The Band’s Visit


Mean Girls

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Play

The Children

Farinelli and the King

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


Latin History for Morons

Best Revival of a Musical


My Fair Lady

Once on This Island

Best Revival of a Play

Angels in America

Lobby Hero

Three Tall Women

The Iceman Cometh


Best Book of a Musical

The Band’s Visit, Itamar Moses

Frozen, Jennifer Lee

Mean Girls, Tina Fey

SpongeBob SquarePants, Kyle Jarrow

Best Original Score

Angels in America, Adrian Sutton

The Band’s Visit, Music and Lyrics: David Yazbek

Frozen, Music and Lyrics: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Mean Girls, Music: Jeff Richmond; Lyrics: Nell Benjamin

SpongeBob SquarePants, Various contributors

Best Leading Actor in a Play

Andrew Garfield, Angels in America

Tom Hollander, Travesties

Jamie Parker, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Mark Rylance, Farinelli and the King

Denzel Washington, The Iceman Cometh

Best Leading Actress in a Play

Glenda Jackson, Three Tall Women

Condola Rashad, Saint Joan

Lauren Ridloff, Children of a Lesser God

Amy Schumer, Meteor Shower

Best Leading Actor in a Musical

Harry Hadden-Paton, My Fair Lady

Joshua Henry, Carousel

Ethan Slater, SpongeBob SquarePants

Tony Shalhoub, The Band’s Visit

Best Leading Actress in a Musical

Lauren Ambrose, My Fair Lady

Hailey Kilgore, Once on This Island

LaChanze, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

Katrina Lenk, The Band’s Visit

Taylor Louderman, Mean Girls

Jessie Mueller, Carousel

Best Featured Actor in a Play

Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Michael Cera, Lobby Hero

Brian Tyree Henry, Lobby Hero

Nathan Lane, Angels in America

David Morse, The Iceman Cometh

Best Featured Actress in a Play

Susan Brown, Angels in America

Noma Dumezweni, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Deborah Findlay, The Children

Denise Gough, Angels in America

Laurie Metcalf, Three Tall Women

Best Featured Actor in a Musical

Norbert Leo Butz, My Fair Lady

Alexander Gemignani, Carousel

Grey Henson, Mean Girls

Gavin Lee, SpongeBob SquarePants

Ari’el Stachel, The Band’s Visit

Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Ariana DeBose, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

Renée Fleming, Carousel

Lindsay Mendez, Carousel

Ashley Park, Mean Girls

Diana Rigg, My Fair Lady

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Miriam Buether, Three Tall Women

Jonathan Fensom, Farinelli and the King

Santo Loquasto, The Iceman Cometh

Christine Jones, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Ian MacNeil and Edward Pierce, Angels in America

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Dane Laffrey, Once on this Island

Scott Pask, The Band’s Visit

Scott Pask, Finn Ross and Adam Young, Mean Girls

Michael Yeargan, My Fair Lady

David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants

Best Costume Design of a Play

Jonathan Fensom, Farinelli and the King

Nicky Gillibrand, Angels in America

Katrina Lindsay, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Ann Roth, Three Tall Women

Ann Roth, The Iceman Cometh

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Gregg Barnes, Mean Girls

Clint Ramos, Once on This Island

Ann Roth, Carousel

David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants

Catherine Zuber, My Fair Lady

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Neil Austin, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Paule Constable, Angels in America

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, The Iceman Cometh

Paul Russell, Farinelli and the King

Ben Stanton, Junk

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Kevin Adams, SpongeBob SquarePants

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Once on This Island

Donald Holder, My Fair Lady

Brian MacDevitt, Carousel

Tyler Micoleau, The Band’s Visit

Best Direction of a Play

Marianne Elliott, Angels in America

Joe Mantello, Three Tall Women

Patrick Marber, Travesties

John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

George C. Wolfe, The Iceman Cometh

Best Direction of a Musical

Michael Arden, Once on This Island

David Cromer, The Band’s Visit

Tina Landau, SpongeBob SquarePants

Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls

Bartlett Sher, My Fair Lady

Best Choreography

Christopher Gattelli, My Fair Lady

Christopher Gattelli, SpongeBob SquarePants

Steven Hoggett, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls

Justin Peck, Carousel

Best Orchestrations

John Clancy, Mean Girls

Tom Kitt, SpongeBob SquarePants

AnnMarie Milazzo and Michael Starobin, Once on This Island

Jamshied Sharifi, The Band’s Visit

Jonathan Tunick, Carousel

Sound Design in a Play

Adam Cork, Travesties

Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Angels in America

Gareth Fry, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Tom Gibbons, 1984

Dan Moses Schreier, The Iceman Cometh

Sound Design in a Musical

Kai Harada, The Band’s Visit

Peter Hylenski, Once on This Island

Scott Lehrer, Carousel

Brian Ronan, Mean Girls

Walter Trarbach and Mike Dobson, SpongeBob SquarePants

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater

Chita Rivera

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Special Tony Award

John Leguizamo

Bruce Springsteen