The Papatango Writing Prize has entered its eighth year and is considerably one of the fastest-growing, most respected and exciting writing awards around. In his introductory speech, Papatango Artistic Director George Turvey looks back to when the writing prize began and how they thought they’d ‘hit the jackpot’ when they received 70 play submissions from budding creatives from all over the UK. This year, they received 1053 full-length plays and the calibre and interest of Papatango has increased similarly to the amount of submissions.
Papatango are proud to announce this year’s prize winner to be Matt Grinter for his play, Orca. Starting off in 2009, the Papatango New Writing Prize became the first (and still only) award that provides it’s winner with a guaranteed production of their work on a professional stage, including publication of the text (via Nick Hern Books) and box office royalties. Additionally, from this year, the award will commission the winner for a follow-up play next year. The award is set to discover and launch emerging playwrights and to give their work the support and platform they deserve and to develop it for strong recognition. Not only does the winner receive all these benefits but the runners-up and all entrants do not leave empty handed. All applicants receive feedback on their work and the final five finalists will be provided with development help on their pieces from Papatango. All these reasons and more are why Papatango’s popularity has sky-rocketed and is vastly becoming the UK’s leading annual playwright award, if it isn’t already.
We were brought to the Southwark Playhouse in the afternoon for Papatango to announce its winner and the dates that the winner’s play would premiere. The Southwark Playhouse will host Grinter’s play in November this year. Alongside Matt, I was also in the company of the other four finalists; Chris Salt (for his play, Tarn), Gareth Jandrell (for Alkaline), Sarah Pitard (for Full Tilt) and Dean Poulter (for Gnaw). All fantastically interesting and intelligent creatives who I intend to keep a look out for in the future.
Upon Grinter’s win, he was very grateful and said he looks forward to the journey of making his first full-length play a reality and a full-force production with Papatango and The Southwark Playhouse. Grinter’s win is considered extra special to the team at Papatango because years back in 2008, the company produced his first one-act play, Angel, which went on to win the Lost Theatre’s One-Act Play Festival, which is when Grinter decided, after directing and working as a musician, decided to focus more as a writer.
When you submit your work for the Papatango Prize, it is done via pseudonym and coincidentally, Matt’s play was brought into the list of finalists by a group of thirteen readers. Naturally, when George Turvey and Papatango producer, Chris Foxon found out that Orca was written by Matt, it was extra special coincidence as they assisted with his first ever writing project. Turvey says, ‘In a way, it feels like we are completing a journey started eight years ago, and it’s wonderful to be able to have another chance to support his talent’.
After speaking with Grinter, we talk about the time it has taken to get Orca to where it is now. Grinter has been working on Orca for a year and knows very well that it’s not finished yet. The next three months before its premiere will include strong development with Papatango to make it the best it can be.
Orca is based off a small fishing island outside the UK where the people of a small village send out a girl every year to bless the waters and keep the Orcas at bay. This year, Fan has been chosen though, Maggie, her older sister is very much against her going. Maggie, who was chosen before, had something happen to her out there. Nobody talks about it.
‘Orca is an incisive, unflinching insight into what makes a community tolerate the unthinkable’. Papatango will continue to bring challenging, exciting new plays hopefully for years to come and give emerging playwrights the platform they need. It’s truly a fantastic prize.
Orca will have its premiere at the Southwark Playhouse 2 – 26 November 2016, published by Nick Hern Books and Grinter’s follow-up play has been commissioned for 2017.