Did you pen a short play during lockdown? Would you like to see it performed?
Streatham Theatre Company’s annual September workshop for new writing – Streatham Shorts – is fast approaching and the amateur society is on the hunt for unpublished sketches, monologues and short plays.
Send your script in and, if accepted, STC will perform and discuss your work at its workshop on 14 Sep.
The process couldn’t be easier. Submissions should be sent to email@example.com titled ‘Streatham Shorts’ by Wednesday, 25 August. Please include your name and contact details.
Unpublished monologues, sketches and short plays are acceptable (10 minutes maximum run-time).
Extracts from longer works are not suitable for this event. Submissions are limited to one per person.
Selected writers will be notified and should ideally be available to introduce and/or present their piece at the workshop which will be held in person (subject to any Covid restrictions).
Entries may also be performed by Streatham Theatre Company actors at the group’s Christmas Streatham’s Got Talent event.
For more information please go to: streathamtheatre.org.uk/event/shorts-2021.
Judges’ decisions are final!
STC was forced to perform its annual Christmas Special online in 2020.
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.”
Above: Chesil Theatre, Winchester, home of Winchester Dramatic Society
by Flavia Bateson
Chesil Theatre, the leading Winchester community theatre company, is pleased to announce the top ten winners of TakeTen, a national competition and festival of new writing.
Entries were invited from writers in the format of a ten-minute play based on the theme The Road Not Taken. An independent panel of judges from the world of professional theatre and drama had the task of selecting the winners from over four hundred entries submitted from across the UK.
The winners are:
1. A Desert Place by Rosemary Evans, London
2. A Grande Day Out by Ian Fraser, Winchester
3. All Our Lives by Christina Pye, Winchester
4. Along Any Minute by William Patterson, London
5. Careful by Karla Ptacek, London
6. Pufferfish Over the Carpathians by Neil Walden, Gloucester
7. The Belgians by Ross Bateson, London
8. Tremble by Rob Johnston, Manchester
9. Tunnel by Cate Sweeney, Cardiff
10. Waiting For a Fare by John-Paul Jones, Poole
The plays cover every genre of theatre from absurdist to tragedy, satire to black comedy. Many writers explored topics of particular relevance to 2020: loneliness, family relationships, retrospection. The ten plays are now cast with twenty-four actors and ten directors.
Chesil Theatre Chairman David Small said: “We have been delighted that TakeTen has been well received with so many participants from all across the UK. Chesil Theatre is pleased to play its small part in giving writers the challenge of creating a unique work within a prescribed format and theme, with the opportunity to see their work premiered onstage.”
The ongoing pandemic means that Chesil Theatre will need to adapt its approach to producing the festival. As Hampshire is currently in national lockdown, rehearsals are being held online. There is a possibility of initial streamed performances. The company is determined to see this special festival brought to the stage once government guidance allows.
In previous festivals an intense weekend of four performances has taken place when writers, judges, actors, directors and audiences could all meet and share thoughts. Chesil Theatre will work towards once again making this aspect an essential element of the event.
Chesil Theatre has been running new writing festivals biennially since 2008 and has received positive encouragement from the professional theatre including a visit from Sir Ian McKellen who watched a performance in 2014.
Most recently, when the new TakeTen Festival was announced in May 2020 Sir Kenneth Branagh said: “Three cheers for Winchester’s Chesil Theatre! At a time of challenge for all, they have bravely looked to creativity and imagination. Their new writing competition can lead the way to new ideas and new and entertaining ways to look at our changed and changing world.
“I hope these exciting writers will help herald the return of live amateur theatre, a vital part of Britain’s creative ecosystem.”
Chesil Theatre has also announced that plans for a much-needed annexe to their historic premises have been given the green light, in conjunction with neighbouring landowners, St John’s Winchester.
Contracts have been exchanged for the society’s purchase of a freehold parcel of land adjoining the Chesil Theatre, allowing their development scheme to go ahead.
David Small added: “The Society established the Chesil Theatre in 1966, though we have been entertaining the people of Winchester since 1863. In addition to our annual programme of six main productions, we have increased our activities with sessions for two youth groups, drama workshops and training, student performances and regular use of our intimate auditorium for small-scale professional productions. However, over the years our building has begun to bulge at the seams, putting pressure on our ability to carry out all the arts-related objectives we’d like.
“Working alongside St John’s, it is now possible for us to create a new annexe. This will provide disabled amenities, adequate dressing-room facilities, a new foyer/rehearsal space and a performance/community room. It’s a wonderful opportunity and one which will benefit the city well into the future.”
Roger Bright, Chair of St John’s Winchester commented: “St John’s is delighted to be facilitating this expansion of the Chesil’s facilities through the sale of part of its Chesil Site. The Theatre has a proud history and we look forward to seeing the Annexe completed and all the community benefits that will bring.”
The wardrobe and props team at the Chesil Theatre will be particularly pleased with the news as storage space has been severely limited to the upper floors of the tower, via a near-vertical staircase. The new scheme will provide a purpose-built section, easily accessed for the Society and other local groups looking for costumes and props.
For this improved larger area of land Chesil Theatre will now need to prepare a fresh planning application. Winchester City Council and the Town Forum have been very supportive of the society’s plans over many years. Cllr. Kathleen Becker, Chairman of Town Forum said: “We are pleased to hear that this long-hoped-for development can now be realised and the theatre can continue to offer its wonderful benefits to the city.”
Photo: The Other Richard
Daniel Ward is the winner of the 51st George Devine Award for his debut play The Canary and the Crow, picking up a prize of £15k.
Daniel’s play is the coming-of-age story of a working-class black kid accepted to a prestigious grammar school. The script blends grime, hip-hop and classical music to tell the story of a young person’s search for belonging in a divided society. With Daniel Ward playing the central role of The Bird, the play was performed at the Brighton and Edinburgh Festivals, and ran at the Arcola Theatre, London at the start of 2020. The UK tour had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Upon receiving the award, Daniel Ward said: “To sum up what it means to win this award is so, so difficult. I am honoured, delighted, humbled and feel incredibly unworthy to have my name sit alongside the prestigious list of previous George Devine winners. I am thankful to everyone that has contributed to the creation of this piece, too numerous to mention, so please excuse me for not going into an expansive list. Please know that I hold everyone in my heart.
“In a year when the arts and theatre has faced such turmoil, I am thankful to the artists who continue to bring such creativity, light and inspiration to the world. I pray that light continues to shine into next year and beyond. There are writers who made the shortlist for the George Devine award who have personally inspired me, so thank you. I am a black man. The Canary and the Crow is a story that centres the lived experience of a black man. In 2020 what that means has taken on much greater significance. I wrote this play to highlight the often difficult to articulate experiences of black people navigating society. The response was far more positive than I could have ever imagined, but what was particularly special was the black and brown people who approached me, telling me how much it resonated with them.”
Chesil Theatre’s annual writing competition, TakeTen, attracts over four hundred entries.
In our previous issue (Aug 2020), you may remember we featured how Chesil Theatre’s 2020 writing competition, TakeTen, had attracted the attention and backing of world-famous actor, Sir Kenneth Branagh.
Since then, the Winchester society’s competition has drawn a whopping four hundred scripts and judging is now well underway with the top ten winners about to be announced.
Budding playwrights were invited to submit a play lasting ten minutes embodying this year’s theme – ‘The Road Not Taken’.
Sir Kenneth Branagh said: “Three cheers for Winchester’s Chesil Theatre! At a time of challenge for all, they have bravely looked to creativity and imagination. Their new-writing competition can lead the way to new ideas and new and entertaining ways to look at our changed and changing world.
“I hope these exciting writers will help herald the return of live amateur theatre, a vital part of Britain’s creative ecosystem.”
Previous writing festivals run by Chesil Theatre have enjoyed the support of Sir Ian McKellen, who attended a performance in 2014.
TakeTen judge, Kate Spencer.
An exciting challenge now faces the panel of five judges to find the ten winning entries. All drawn from the world of drama and theatre, the judges are:
- Kate Spencer, stage and television actor, currently playing Grace Vickers in Coronation Street.
- George Richmond-Scott, West End director and vocal coach, presently teaching at ALRA and RADA Business.
- Rosanne Collinson, Head of Drama at Peter Symonds College, Winchester.
- Simon Plumridge, core member of Winchester’s professional touring company, Platform 4.
- Cecily O’Neill, author of a number of books on Drama in Education, Artistic Director of 2Time Theatre and a judge for previous Chesil Theatre writing festivals.
Chesil Theatre Chair, David Small, said: “We are delighted to welcome the panel of judges to our festival, all working in the theatre and drama profession. They bring a wealth of experience and expertise from directing to performing, teaching to publishing.”
Chesil Theatre plans to perform the ten winning plays in February 2021, Government restrictions permitting.
Sky Blue Theatre Company is delighted to announce that the international new writing competition, the British Theatre Challenge, is returning for its ninth year and is now open for submissions.
The Sky Blue Theatre Company is delighted to announce that the annual international new writing competition, the British Theatre Challenge, is returning for its ninth year and is now open for submissions.
In anticipation of this, we are reaching out with this information and hope you will all share it, pass it around and forward it to your fellow society members.
2021 will see five winning plays produced by a professional cast and crew for a week-long run somewhere in London. Moreover, this exciting opportunity will also see the winning works filmed in performance, given full written assessments by theatre professionals and considered for publication by our partnered publishers.
With over fifty of our previous winning plays having received offers of publication don’t miss the chance to see your work in motion.
Furthermore, we have been working hard over the last few months to future-proof the challenge against Covid-19 related disruption (as is the trend nowadays, and you never know). If Covid-19 restricts live audience at the time of performance, plays will be live-streamed (with live editing by Mini Mammoth Films).
To learn more about the competition including important dates, rules, etc. please visit our website at: www.skybluetheatre.com
We would be delighted to offer this opportunity to the entire amateir theatre community and look forward immensely to seeing the submissions come in.
Ten participants are offered the opportunity to develop their skills as part of Selladoor’s bridging initiative following recent DCMS funding.
Selladoor Worldwide’s CEO, David Hutchinson, told Sardines: “Our New Writers Programme offers an incredible opportunity for those interested in developing their writing craft. The course will challenge its members to write to a specific brief, giving them the opportunity to have their work produced by an award-winning theatre company, and meet and work with talented professionals along the way.
“Sessions will be led by our in-house staff and visiting experts from across the industry, and enrolment on the course will include access to at least two existing online theatre productions.”
The short course entitled Responding and Adapting to the New Normal is an eight-week series of sessions for anyone living within the Greenwich area at the early stages of their writing career. The course will run on Monday evenings from 11 January to the 1 March. Sessions will look at character, structure and style, and build to each participant creating a short play responding to their recent experience of the world. Each piece will be created specifically to reflect the ‘new normal’ and will be designed to be performed online or without an audience. Final plays will be performed by professional actors and released online in the week of 29 March. Sessions will take place online or in person in Deptford where possible) and participants will be expected to complete tasks outside of the classroom.
As part of the Government’s Cultural Recovery programme, this course is free of charge to successful applicants and no previous writing experience is necessary.
More at: www.selladoor.com/bridging-program/new-writers-programme.
Deadline for applications: 7 Dec.