Joel Fry, 29
You may know him as mere “pleb” Stylax in the ITV2 ancient Rome-set sitcom Plebs, or as supermarket worker in Sky One’s Trollied, but 29-year-old Joel Fry is about to ascend a few rungs on the social ladder. In series four of Game of Thrones, which returns to Sky Atlantic in the spring, Fry will play Hizdahr zo Loraq, the scion of an ancient Meereenese family, who crosses paths with dragon wrangler Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). We can also make one other prediction; given the general smuttiness of Thrones, his new character has far more chance of participating in a Roman-style orgy than poor Stylax ever did.
Ruth Barnes, 35
Broadcaster, blogger and one-time BBC continuity announcer, Ruth Barnes has been quietly blazing a feminist trail as the presenter of Amazing Radio’s The Other Woman, a consistently excellent show devoted to music made by women. There have also been repeated stints on Tom Robinson’s 6Music show as his “girl music guru”. This year, Barnes’ career is set to go up a gear as she fronts Radio 4 female-centric documentaries Mad About The Boy, an investigation into teen fandom, and The Lost Genius of Judee Sill, about the neglected Seventies folk singer.
Dusica Bijelic, 26
For a singer to peak early may be a misfortune – the wings are full of those who failed to live up to their promise – but one petite young soprano we’d put money on is Dusica Bijelic. Born in Bosnia, she moved to Serbia, and had a string of eminent teachers before being accepted onto Covent Garden’s Jette Parker training scheme. There she has given a masterly Berio recital and distinguished herself in supporting roles: this coming season she appears in Die Frau ohne Schatten and on 2 May she will make her debut as Barbarina in Figaro – which is when the world will really clock her.
Ed Atkins, 31
A video and graphic artist who has grasped the digital age to make films and writings about a world of corporal reality and decay seen through the prism of high definition technology. Atkins has produced work for the Tate, and in Berlin and Bonn and, at 31, he is ready for the bigger stage.
American dramatist, Jennifer Haley (who doesn’t like to give her age), is an unknown quantity over here. But that will change dramatically next year when the Royal Court, in a main stage co-production with Headlong, mount the UK premiere of The Nether in July. Winner of the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Award, this futuristic piece centres on a cyber-detective who discovers an immersive pseudo-Victorian wonderland for paedophiles. A former web designer, Haley has an acute, tech-savvy imagination but The Nether has been hailed for the particularly disturbing ingenuity and depth with which it explores the painful ethical questions raised by virtual reality. It is destined to put her on the map.
Stacy Martin, 22
Given the intense (and slightly prurient) fascination with Lars Von Trier’s sex opus Nymphomaniac, former model Martin (who shares the lead role of Joe in the film with the older Von Trier veteran Charlotte Gainsbourg) is bound to attract a huge amount of interest from press, public and casting agents alike.
Rachel Parris, 29
As Roy’s grieving girlfriend in the last episode of The IT Crowd, Rachel Parris played the straight woman to Chris O’Dowd’s madcap nerd. A month before that episode aired in September, Parris was showcasing her sharp musical comedy skills in her solo show, The Commission, at the Edinburgh Fringe, and cooking up some madness of her own. Versatility is her watchword – when Parris is not busy acting, singing comedy songs or cracking withering asides, she is also an accomplished improviser with, among others, the celebrated troupe Austentatious, of which she was founding member. Multi-talented, multi-faceted; she’s a girl most likely.
Hanya Yanagihara, 39
Hanya Yanagihara is already being feted as the next big thing in America for her debut, The People in the Trees. Yanagihara, a New Yorker who works as a travel writer at Condé Nast Traveller (USA), had the idea for the book 20 years ago. The New York Times called her a “writer to marvel at”. The novel is based on the true story of the rise and fall of the Nobel Prize-winning biologist, Dr Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, who won his accolade for identifying a fatal disease in a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea, but was later convicted of child abuse in the 1990s. The book, published by Atlantic this month, alternatively called an ecological parable and a “Nabakovian phantasmagoria”, has been endorsed by Sarah Waters and Paul Theroux.
Benjamin Clementine, 24
When Benjamin Clementine appeared on Later With Jools Holland, he instantly became the most shared artist on Spotify. Following his performance, an impressed Paul McCartney expressed his admiration. And it’s easy to see why: blessed with a big tenor voice that he accompanies on hypnotic piano vamps, the 24-year-old marries the intimacy of Antony Hegarty with the passion of Aretha Franklin and the intensity of Edith Piaf, delivering his introspective lyrics about integrity and vulnerability with an almost operatic soul sensibility that recalls Nina Simone. Born in Ghana but brought up in Edmonton, North London, Clementine is entirely self-taught musically, but didn’t manage to express himself publicly until, in 2009, he fled a troubled home situation for Paris, where he was spotted busking in the Metro by a couple of producers who arranged for him to perform in hotel lounges. Word spread from there, and he’s now about to release his debut EP, Cornerstone (13 January).
Francesca Hayward, 21
Recently promoted out of the corps de ballet, Francesca Hayward is already dancing leading roles at the Royal Ballet. As a student, she won plenty of awards, including Young British Dancer of the Year in 2010. With dark hair and long limbs, she’s a beautifully fluid dancer, with airy musical phrasing. She’s a spontaneous, enchanted young Clara in The Nutcracker, but has also taken on the tough dramatic role of Princess Stephanie in Mayerling. This year, Hayward is due to dance the virtuoso lead in Frederick Ashton’s sparkling Rhapsody.
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