Young, gifted and making their mark

A new generation of comedians, actors, musicians, artists and impresarios are set to break into the big time over the next 12 months.

By Elisa Bray, January 27, 2011
Natalie Abrahami: award-winning theatre director

Natalie Abrahami: award-winning theatre director

Natalie Abrahami
31, director

As artistic director of the Gate Theatre, Abrahami has been credited with turning the 70-seat venue into a big player on the London theatre scene. Or as Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner says, under her direction, the Gate "is suddenly out there in the vanguard of all that is exciting, explosive and invigorating in British theatre".

Sell-out shows have included Women in Love and How To Be An Other Woman, a stage adaptation of Lorrie Moore's short story about love and ambition.

Elsewhere Abrahami has directed plays at the Royal Court - where she cut her teeth as a graduate trainee - and Southwark Playhouse, and she was awarded the James Menzies-Kitchin Trust Award for Young Directors for her production of Samuel Beckett's Play/Not I.

Next up, she will direct A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Headlong Theatre company - a radical re-imagining transporting Shakespeare's Athens setting to of 1960s Hollywood (on tour from February 3).

Jay Foreman
26, comedian

Jay foreman started out in comedy as a hobby. In 2005, in between studying for a degree at York University, he contributed songs - "halfway between acoustic guitar and stand up comedy" - to open-mic nights. In a bid to raise funds for a trip to Morocco he sold CDs of his performances around the campus and the reaction was astounding. There followed further performances and a host of awards, including the BBC New Talent Pick of the Fringe at Edinburgh Festival in 2007 and Best Newcomer at the Musical Comedy Awards in 2009.

Last year Foreman performed his first Edinburgh Fringe solo show to top reviews and will return this year with We're Living in the Future. Also coming up this summer is his "Beatles Buskathon" when he will play all 186 Beatles songs back to back from memory. Look out too for the sequel to his short film, Unfinished London, on YouTube. The first episode, about Edgware, Mill Hill and Bushey was an online hit.

Foreman: YouTube

Foreman: YouTube

Inbali Iserles
35, author

Born in Israel and having lived in London since she was three years old, Cambridge-educated Iserles has managed to juggle a job as a City lawyer with a career as a prize-winning children's author.

She netted the Cauderdale Children's Book Award for her debut fantasy adventure, The Tygrine Cat, published by Walker Books in 2007.

Just out is the sequel, The Tygrine Cat on the Run, and fans can meet Iserles at her writing workshop at the Jewish Book Week's "Little Bookniks" children's festival next month (details at

Tom Ross-Williams
24, actor

The reviewers lavished praise on Ross-Williams last year after he starred in the critically acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production, Dunsinane.

They were at it again this month when they gave the National Youth Theatre-trained actor rave notices for his latest role as an Olympic swimmer in Steve Waters's play Amphibians.

Don't worry if you missed that. You will be able to catch Ross-Williams in his own play, Hooked, which is about to go on tour. It will be worth making the effort. The director Stella Duffy reckons Ross-Williams is a joy to work with. "He has a sense of playfulness coupled with rigorous intelligence which makes him a real asset to any company," she says.

Leo Cohen
23, visual artist

Controversial is the word that comes to mind when considering Cohen's work.

The self-styled "Jewish rebel" has photographed himself tattooed with words from of the Shemah. His latest drawings examine how religion, sexuality, and spirituality come together.

Raised in an Orthodox family, and a member of the London Young Jewish Art collective, Cohen draws on his background to explore the place of homosexuals and lesbians in the Orthodox community. Other themes include the Holocaust and capitalism.

His works have typically been sculptural-based installations, such as the giant piece called ZugZwang shown at Warwick Arts Centre for Limmud 2010.His next exhibit, at Alexandra Palace in London from May 28, will tackle environmental themes with an installation constructed of recycled material.

Joseph Finlay
29, musician

Pianist Finlay was the musical director of a political musical called Pins and Needles that he plucked out of obscurity and put on at the Cock Tavern Theatre in London. It was selected by listings magazine Time Out as its number one fringe theatre production of 2010,

On the composing side, Finlay's work, Piano Trio, was broadcast on German national radio earlier this month, performed by the Leibniz Trio, and he is currently working on expanding his string piece, Cheap and Potent Music, for the Solstice Quartet.

His music will also feature on an upcoming CD from the London Jewish Male Choir. Finlay - who studied at the Royal Academy of Music - has had works performed by the Britten Sinfonia and the London Sinfonietta.

Last updated: 12:32pm, January 27 2011