SHE won critical acclaim for her professional stage debut at the Octagon and now Gemma Dobson is in the running for a theatre 'Oscar'.

Gemma, who played Sue in Rita, Sue and Bob Too, has been nominated for the Newcomer Award for her role in this year's Manchester Theatre Awards

The actor took to the Bolton stage in September in a production by the Octagon Theatre, Out of Joint and Royal Court Theatre.

Andrea Dunbar's play is about a sleazy married man who has an affair with two schoolgirls at the same time, set against the backdrop of a poor, working class housing estate in Bradford in Margaret Thatcher's Britain.

Others shortlisted for the Newcomer Award are Scott Hunter for his part in the Yank! at Hope Mill Theatre and Vinay Lad for The Railway Children at The Lowry.

The awards ceremony — billed as the most important theatrical prize-giving outside London — will take place at a red carpet on March 9, hosted by actor and comedian Justin Moorhouse.

The annual ceremony has been a major fixture of the North West cultural calendar since 1981 and honours productions seen in Greater Manchester during 2017.

Last yer the theatre picked up three accolades at the big ceremony with Ciaran Bagnall collected the design award for Singin’ in the Rain while its large cast walked the red carpet to pick up the ensemble award. Little Lever School pupil Lucy Doyle Ryder won young newcomer for her performance as Scout Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

This year The Lowry in Salford leads the way with 15 nominations across categories including dance, opera and drama, with HOME in Manchester city centre following with 13 nods. Oldham Coliseum, the Palace Theatre and Opera House, The Royal Exchange and the Contact are also nominated.

Famous faces from stage and screen have been honoured at the ceremony, including Sir Kenneth Branagh, Bolton actor Maxine Peake, Rufus Hound, Rory Kinnear, Barry Humphries, Julian Glover and Sian Phillips.

Famous names in the running for awards this year include Sheridan Smith, who is nominated for Best Visiting Actress for her role as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, Danny Mac, nominated for Best Visiting Actor for his performance as Joe McGill in Sunset Boulevard while Jason Merrells is up for Best Actor for his role in HOME’s Uncle Vanya.

Coronation Street and Broadchurch actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, who is a previous multiple Manchester Theatre Award winner, said: "I love the Manchester Theatre Awards.

"It’s always such a lovely coming together of our artistic community in the best city in the world, and is a celebration of all things theatrical here: From the emerging raw talent of the burgeoning fringe scene to the bobby dazzler spectaculars in our main houses and from the internationally acclaimed cultural highlights of MIF to a couple of people in a tiny space above a Salford pub."

Members of the public can also buy tickets for the event. Tickets, priced £15 are available from