BWW NEWS: Theatre Uncut Launch New Political Playwright Award
In a special ceremony hosted at the Young Vic, last night Theatre Uncut announced the exciting news of their inaugural Political Playwriting Award. Years in the making, the company aim to find the next generation of political playwrights who want to explore the big issues affecting our lives today.
The award runs in partnership with the Young Vic, Traverse Theatre and Sherman Theatre. When searching for the winner, Theatre Uncut are looking for a brand new voice that examines - in a full-length play - the political in its widest sense, from the domestic to the global.
The winning writer will be awarded £9,500 and agree to option the production of the play to Theatre Uncut and the award partners. Submissions open on 1 September 2018 and close on 1 November 2018.
Theatre Uncut artistic directors Hannah Price and Emma Callander will read a longlist, followed by the shortlist of 10 being read by the artistic directors of the partner venues: Kwame Kwei-Armah, Rachel O'Riorden and Orla O'Loughlin. The overall winner will be judged by the panel above, along with invited guests (to be announced soon).
Theatre Uncut started in 2011 in response to the cuts being made to public spending. Every year they commission writers to write short pieces about political or social issues. Some of them are available to download for free now.
At the event Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, one of the playwrights from the most recent series of commissions, performed her piece A Coin In Somebody Else's Pocket: a brutally honest tale of Muslim stereotypes and intersectionality through globalisation. So far the play has been downloaded all across the UK and read in Barcelona, Strasberg, Budapest, India, the US, Cairo, Japan, Australia, to name but a few.
The partner venues were invited to speak at the event and answer the question, 'Why did you say yes?'.
Kwame Kwei-Armah: "I said yes because Hannah and Emma articulated this idea so bloody well. When they walked in and began to explain what Theatre Uncut were doing - its ambitions, its goals; hearing Suhaiymah's play and knowing that it's been downloaded across the world - just filled my heart.
"I began as a political playwright, so it feels really important that one of my first things here was to invite these guys in and say, 'I'm in. I'm going to support you in any which way'. I think this is a brilliant idea; it's a brilliant way of sending a message out that being a playwright counts; that speaking to the world matters.
"We define ourselves in British theatre actually as writing state-of-the-nation plays. Here we just go wherever we need to and so I love that they're doing this, I love the idea of supporting, and I love the idea of reading 10 new writers that I might not have had a chance of reading if they hadn't started this brilliant initiative."
Orla O'Loughlin: "I suppose the Traverse has a 55-year history of new writing and the tradition in Scotland certainly is to create political and socially engaged work. My very first festival programmed featured Theatre Uncut, so we've been on the journey with them from the start.
"And I've seen our bar full of people. I've seen people turn up at eight o'clock in the morning, script in hand, who really mean it. The work is brilliant, the attention absolute and the debate so tenacious and full of action. And at your heart is hope: that change is possible. And we need that now more than ever. So, here we go."
Rachel O'Riorden: "Part of the reason that I said yes was because the partners fascinated me. We have a theatre in London, one in Cardiff, Wales and one in Edinburgh. For me, looking at three countries and asking 'What does political mean to you...' within those three very distinct geographical areas was a big draw to me.
"England, Scotland and Wales together, looking at some of the similar issues that we all face, but I imagine through very different prisms. And also, anything that puts new work at the heart of the ambition is all good by me. It really chimes with what we're doing at the Sherman: giving a platform to stories that matter, to make theatre that has an impact, to say things to people that they'll actually respond to in their gut and heart."