Image: Ezra England
Ezra England wins the 2021 Playwright’s Prize with Nuclear Children a dark comedy about mental health, a submarine accident and a melon
By KEVIN WILSON
The winner of the 2021 £5,000 Platform Presents Playwright’s Prize has been announced as Nuclear Children by 21-year-old British writer, Ezra England, following the decision of a strong council of celebrity and high-profile industry judges.
The prize includes £5,000 cash and ongoing mentoring from Platform Presents, who will produce the winning script for stage and screen.
734 plays were submitted from writers based from London to Mumbai, New York to LA to Melbourne. These were shortlisted to ten finalists by the Platform Presents co-founders and script readers.
Nuclear Children is a dark comedy about mental health, a submarine accident and a melon. Following the death of her father Isla is struggling to cope; plagued with intrusive thoughts and her deteriorating mental health, she runs away to university in the hope of staying sane. As Isla finally begins to find her feet, her world, quite literally, stops making sense.
Actress, Jenna Coleman, one of the prize’s judging panel, said: “‘The more I thought about everything the less I understood it.’ Nuclear Children. Never have I read confusion so eloquently described. Being inside the mind of Isla, is like being on a spin cycle as she processes her father’s death, sieves through what it means to grow up, mental health, life and loss. The wounds of grief are so palpable and yet also funny in their, at times, absurd mundaneness. She somehow brings humour, sense and poetry to that which does not make sense. Her perpetual confusion reflected in our own. A stunning and gifted writer who chimed straight into my heart with such a startling debut. I’m so looking forward to her exciting future.”
Platform Presents founders Gala Gordon and Isabella Macpherson, said: “At Platform Presents we are always looking for writers who can produce a visceral reaction within us – whether to make us laugh out loud or feel heavy of heart, catch our breath, be surprised or feel sorrow. Ezra England’s writing stood out for this reason, in an exceptionally competitive year.”
Another of the judges, actor, writer and director Aki Omoshaybi, said: “A play that humanises the absurdity of one’s thoughts during difficult times, making the viewer/reader feel that we’re all in this together, going through it together. And that we’re all just the same… which leaves you feeling deeply connected and content.”
Casting Director, Jessica Ronane, said: “I have been honoured to be part of the judging panel for the Platform Presents Playwright’s Prize not once but twice. The plays this year have been a joy to read. Spending time with the the work of new writers is a privilege and many of the characters have stayed with me. I am thrilled that the play that won was a unanimous decision. It affected us all and what happens next for this brilliant writer and their work will be riveting. Bravo to all who submitted and the extraordinary panel also to Isabella and Gala whose energy and commitment to the next generation of theatre writers is changing the future for them.”
The judges for the 2021 Prize were: Aki Omoshaybi (Actor, Writer, Director), Amy Gardner (Producer), Emma Forrest (Writer), Ella Road (Actor, Writer), Cynthia Wu (Producer), Gala Gordon (Co-Founder Platform Presents), Helena Lee (Writer), Isabella Macpherson (Co-Founder Platform Presents), Jessica Ronane (Casting Director), Jenna Coleman (Actor), Madani Younis (Chief Executive Producer, The Shed), Pearl Mackie (Actor), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Actor), Kristín Ólafsdóttir (Producer, Director) and Victor Jenkins (Casting Director).
Platform Presents was founded in 2017 by actress Gala Gordon and producer Isabella Macpherson to give a platform to rising star talent: actors, writers and directors, with a particular interest in female voices.
The annual Playwright’s Prize is funded by Platform Presents’ annual Poetry Gala, an evening of the world’s best-loved poems performed by stars of the stage and screen.
Rhys Ifans said about the Platform Presents Poetry Gala 2020. “Any kind of platform that gives an opportunity for new, young voices to be heard in an industry that can so often seem completely impenetrable is fantastic. And already we have seen Platform Presents have great successes in catapulting writers to where they should be and encouraged and nurtured.”