London shop assistant wins playwriting prize with first play, about young carers dealing with welfare cuts.
Wish List by Katherine Soper, who currently works in a perfumery on Regent Street in London, was today announced as the winner of the 10th anniversary Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2015 – Europe’s biggest playwriting prize. She wins a prize of £16,000, and a residency at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, where today’s award ceremony took place and the process towards production begins.
Wish List is Katherine Soper’s first play. She said: “This is the best boost of writerly confidence I could imagine.”
This year the judges decided to present an additional, fourth, Judges’ Award, The plays chosen are: Sound of Silence by Chloe Todd Fordham, Parliament Square by James Fritz, How My Light is Spent by Alan Harris and Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver.
Wish List tells the story of Tamsin, sole carer for her brother Dean, whose crippling OCD leaves him housebound in a perpetual state of ritual. Now that ‘Help to Work’ has cut all his benefits, she’s taken a zero-hour contract performing packaging rituals of her own, on the clock and to a quota. If she doesn’t pack faster, whilst keeping her brother on track, she’ll lose out to the next in a long line of temps, and soon they could both lose their lifelines. A sensitive and delicately powerful play about trying to survive when every system is against you.
All entries to the Bruntwood Prize are submitted anonymously. Soper said: “Having someone respond well to your work, with no name or personal information factored in, is so heartening.”
The Chair of the judging panel, former Artistic Director of the National Theatre Nicholas Hytner said: “The Bruntwood shortlist has been a pleasure to read, and it includes strikingly accomplished plays covering a startling range of urgent subject matter. It is a privilege to be able to recognise them and to be part of this imaginative and important competition.”
Fellow judge, and Chair of Bruntwood, Michael Oglesby said on deciding to award an extra prize: “The extraordinary strength of this years shortlist led us to make the unprecedented decision in our tenth year to award an extra prize to reflect the exciting ambition and unique talent that made it to the final ten.”
The winner was announced this afternoon in Manchester by Nicholas Hytner 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, which receives more entries and offers a bigger prize than any other playwriting prize in Britain.
In its ten year history, the Bruntwood Prize has awarded more than £160,000 to 17 different playwrights, and developed 16 full productions of new plays with 28 UK theatres.
Katherine Soper currently works in a perfumery on Regent Street in London, and has also worked at Harvey Nichols in Manchester. She wrote Wish List as her dissertation play at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She took part in the Royal Court’s writers’ group in Autumn 2014, and developed a short play, Sundries, with the Young Friends of the Almeida earlier this year.
Writers of all levels of experience were invited to enter plays, which must be original, unperformed and unproduced. This year 1,938 scripts were submitted for the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting – the second highest tally in the Prize’s history.
The competition, which runs every two years, is a unique partnership between the Royal Exchange Theatre and property company Bruntwood.
The judging panel for this year’s prize was chaired by Nicholas Hytner, former Artistic Director of the National Theatre. The full judging panel is as follows:
Nicholas Hytner (former Artistic Director, National Theatre)
Sarah Frankcom (Artistic Director, Royal Exchange Theatre)
Vivienne Franzmann (playwright and former Bruntwood winner)
Ramin Gray (Artistic Director, Actors Touring Company)
Bryony Lavery (playwright)
Michael Oglesby CBE (Chairman, Bruntwood)
Miranda Sawyer (writer and broadcaster)
Meera Syal CBE (actor and writer).
The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting is open to writers in the UK and Ireland aged 16 and over.
Over 11,000 entries have been generated from across the United Kingdom and winning playwrights have gone on to have work produced at the Royal Court Theatre, Almeida Theatre, on Broadway and in the West End. It is a significant investment in playwrights and support for new work on stage. More information about the Prize can be found at www.writeaplay.co.uk/about.
Alan Harris’s How My Light Is Spent is a heartfelt and humorous take on loneliness, isolation and longing, the play follows two people who meet and fall in love on a phone-sex line. Alan Harris’ previous work includes: Marsha: A Girl Who Does Bad Things (liveartshow/Arcola), The Opportunity of Efficiency (New National Theatre Tokyo/National Theatre Wales), Wolf, The Lighthouse, A Certain Date, Take Me To Victoria Park (all BBC Radio 4), The Gold Farmer (BBC Radio 3), The Future For Beginners (liveartshow/Wales Millennium Centre), The Magic Toyshop (Invisible Ink/Theatr Iolo), A Good Night Out in the Valleys (National Theatre Wales), Re-Set (Mess Up The Mess), Marsha (Capital Fringe, Washington DC), Rhinegold, Manga Sister (both liveartshow, The Yard, London), The Journey (Welsh National Opera), The Hidden Valley (Birdsong Opera/WNO), Cardboard Dad (Sherman Cymru), Miss Brown To You (Hijinx Theatre), Brute (Operating Theatre Company), Orange (Sgript Cymru), Come To Where I’m From (Paines Plough). He was given a Creative Wales Award in 2011 from the Arts Council of Wales and, following work with prisoners at HMP Cardiff, is a Koestler Trust platinum award winner.
Chloe Todd Fordham’s play Sound of Silence follows the extraordinary journey of an antique and very valuable ngoni – a traditional Mali instrument. From England to Africa and back, the instrument travels through the hands and lives of many. Her engaging and far-reaching story explores how lives are destroyed through war and conflict, whilst championing music as a vital expression of resilience and resistance against the destructive power of fundamentalism. Chloe Todd Fordham’s first play Land’s End was selected for inclusion in the Arcola Theatre’s inaugural PlayWrought Festival and was one of the six plays shortlisted for Theatre 503’s Playwriting Award in November 2014. She is currently under commission with Theatre 503 through their residency scheme, 503Five and was one of five writers collaborating on Elexion earlier this year. Her previous work includes Rogan Josh (Theatre 503), Girls (RichMix) and Sound Bites (RADA).
James Fritz’s play Parliament Square is a hard hitting and vital scream against injustice, which probes whether political protest can ever make a difference and asks if violent action is madness or compassion? James Fritz’s first full-length play, Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, premiered at Hampstead Theatre downstairs in Autumn 2014 and was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre before transferring to Trafalgar Studios in 2015. His latest play, Ross and Rachel (“a virtuosic piece of writing” Time Out) opened at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. He was selected for the 2015 Channel 4 Screenwriting Course and is currently under commission to Hampstead Theatre.
Kendall Feaver’s play The Almighty Sometimes is an unflinching and eloquent examination of the highs and lows of human emotions. After 13 years on a cocktail of drugs, 21 year-old Anna is starting to wonder whether her mother was too quick to medicate, and so decides to rediscover the talent and passions she believes were interrupted. Suddenly the world is a much more volatile and challenging place, but does this herald the return of a childhood illness, or is the real Anna simply ‘waking up?’ Kendall Feaver’s previous works include The Hiding Place (ATYP Under the Wharf), Rocket Boy (Adelaide Fringe Festival) and The Forgotten (Shortlisted, Sydney Theatre Company ‘Young Playwright of the Year’ Award). Most recently, she wrote Kingdom Come for The Story Project at Arcola Theatre, New Dawn for Islington Youth Theatre, Push It as part of Scrapyard Theatre at The Traverse, and created installation The Glossatree for Just So Festival, Cheshire. Kendall has an MA in Writing for Performance from Goldsmiths, University of London, which was supported with an Ian Potter Cultural Trust Award.