RuPaul’s Drag Race star wins best performance in a musical at the UK Theatre awards

<span>Photograph: Ian West/PA</span>
Photograph: Ian West/PA

A star of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK has picked up a leading theatre award for her performance as an East German “slip of a girly boy” who lives bitterly in Kansas after botched gender reassignment surgery.

Divina de Campo won the best performance in a musical award at the UK Theatre awards on Sunday, one of three prizes for the biggest winner of the day: Leeds Playhouse.

De Campo starred in a revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a stage musical that became a film of the same name which initially flopped but has since achieved cult-like adoration.

It tells the story of Hedwig, born as Hansel Schmidt, who falls in love with a GI and is coerced by him into moving to America so she can have surgery enabling them to marry as husband and wife. It goes wrong and the GI leaves on their first wedding anniversary.

De Campo – whose alter ego, Owen Farrow, is non-binary – was runner-up to The Vivienne in series one of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK on the BBC.

In an interview with the Guardian, De Campo described the musical as a “really, really gay Rocky Horror Show – if that’s possible”. It was a co-production between Leeds Playhouse and Manchester’s Home arts centre.

De Campo, who grew up in Brighouse and now lives in Manchester, said her award shows that budding theatremakers do not need to be in London to do cutting edge work.

She said: “Actually, there is lots of really interesting, exciting work happening all over the country and you can make a career wherever you are.”

She added that the award showed the increasing prominence and marketability of queer stories. “I think it’s that recognition that not only is queer-led work valid, it’s also financially more than viable. You know, it’s always about economics!”

Leeds Playhouse was also named the UK’s most welcoming theatre, while Laura Hopkins and Simon Wainwright won the best design award for Dracula: The Untold Story, staged at the theatre.

The UK Theatre awards are the only nationwide awards honouring theatre achievements across the country.

Other winners included the semi-autographical Mugabe, My Dad and Me by Tonderai Munyevu, a work that charts the rise of the dictator through the writer’s personal story, which was named best play.

The best musical production award was won by the Curve in Leicester for its version of Billy Elliot the Musical, a show described as “unforgettable” by the Guardian, which gave it five stars.

The best director award went to Elin Schofield, Robert Hastie and Anthony Lau for Rock/Paper/Scissors, an audacious theatrical first which had one cast perform three plays in Sheffield’s Crucible, Lyceum and Studio theatres simultaneously.

Giles Terera won best performance in a play for Bristol Old Vic’s production of The Meaning of Zong, and Nishla Smith won best supporting performance for Kes at the Octagon theatre, Bolton.

The awards, which were not staged last year because of the pandemic, were handed out at a ceremony at the Guildhall in London.