Earlier on, I got the chance to don my new frock and heels to join the suited and booted at the awards ceremony for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2013, held at Manchester's lovely Royal Exchange theatre and introduced by "genial host" (his words) Dave Haslam. The preamble included a tasty spread and a quick round-up of the competition: 1,872 scripts were submitted this year, with extracts from the shortlist of 10 being presented today; four of those receiving prizes (1st prize £16,000 and three judges' prizes £8,000 each) and going into development.
The ubiquitous DJ said the final 10 represented a "wonderful snapshot of the talent out there", while Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom was impressed by the "diverse subjects tackled" and said that "new playwriting is absolutely central to our work here at the Royal Exchange". Bruntwood chairman and one of the judges Mike Oglesby's words - "All 10 were absolutely fantastic plays and I'm sure they'll all go on to do fantastic things" - were reiterated by chair of the judges' panel, Radio 4's Dame Jenni Murray: "Really, 10 great, great plays. It was a really difficult job to distil the 2,000 entries down to 10 and then down to the final four." Still, she continued, with a nod to the Exchange's current production, Sweeney Todd: "We managed to come to an agreement without any blood on the floor."
Those "snapshots" were then brought to life by a short interview with each of the 10 shortlisted writers, in no particular order, followed by a brief excerpt of their play acted out in the round; enough of a snippet to get a feel for the works, all very varied. I was hooked in by Kate Lock's Russian Dolls, about a blind woman and her young offender carer, and Alice Birch's December showed promise; especially given all I've been learning recently about the importance of conflict in creative writing. I was also intrigued by the vision of a dystopic alternative reality provided by David Kantouras' Waste along with the glimpse of life and love in Korea in In-Sook Chappell's P'Young Yang. There was also Dorm by Lynda Radley and Imam by Toby Clarke, but taking the judges' prizes were the Welsh-accented Bird by Katherine Chandler, Uganda-set The Rolling Stone by Chris Urch and Essex-based So Here We Are (though I'm sure the latter was announced incorrectly as Somewhere From Here) by Luke Norris. Which leaves us with Yen, the fourth play from
South London playwright, Anna Jordan, whose work (the press release informs me) has been performed at the Bush
Theatre, Soho Theatre and Riverside Studios in London.
This was a really interesting showcase to brand-new works, and it will spur me on to try and catch some of the productions when they hit the stage in months to come. The next Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting will be in two years' time; 2015 marking its 10th anniversary. Good stuff.