Friday, November 05, 2010

Theatre Encouragement Awards 2010

The Theatre Committee of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain presented its annual awards for the encouragement of new writing at a lunch ceremony at the Royal Court Theatre Bar today.

The awards, the brainchild of former committee member, playwright Mark Ravenhill, were set up to give members the opportunity to thank those who had given them a particularly positive experience in new writing over the previous year. This also gives the committee and the Guild the chance to celebrate rather than solely focusing on members’ and industry problems. All those who have ever participated -- both as nominators and winners – have appreciated the personal meaningfulness of these awards, and the sincerity of feeling involved.

The winners of the sixth annual awards are:

Chris Bridgman, Director, North West Playwrights, nominated by Harvey Cox.

‘Chris’s constructive criticism while writing and rewriting of a play I have been developing has done a great deal to help me, as a novice, to improve my writing. He has a superb ability to home in on weaknesses in a script, without undermining one's confidence. Whenever I leave a discussion with him, even if he has not leapt up and down and hailed me as the next Stoppard, Pinter or Ayckbourn, I feel good about what has been said and ready to look at my work again and make it better. This is so valuable to someone who has not yet had anything commissioned, but is thinks he has it in him to do so one day.’ (Harvey Cox)

Neil McPherson, Artistic Director, and the Finborough Theatre, nominated independently by Sarah Grochala and Iain Finlay Macleod

‘Neil MacPherson and the Finborough Theatre have been very supportive of my writing in the last twelve months and through them I have managed to have two of my plays shown in London. Although I have had plays on throughout Europe and the US, this is the first time I have had a production on in London, it has been very beneficial in many ways. One of the plays, I was a Beautiful Day, also transferred to Glasgow's Tron Theatre for a short run. They are extremely supportive of writers, a great team, and, most importantly, great audiences!’ (Iain Macleod)

‘The simple reason for this nomination is for their encouragement, championing and support of older writers, as well as younger ones. They understand that sometimes talent can take time and experience to develop and that it’s not only the under 30s who might have something new and fresh to say about the world.’ (Sarah Grochala)

Purni Morell, Head of Studio, the Royal National Theatre, nominated by Timberlake Wertenbaker

'Since Purni has taken it over, the National Theatre Studio has been amazingly open to writers of all kinds, allowing real experimentation and freedom and encouraging more daring work.

‘I am extremely grateful to her, who convinced me to spend some weeks at the studio developing anything I wanted. There is no pressure, everyone is very nice but no one is looking over your shoulder and it's made clear that if you just want to think for a few weeks, that's fine. This lack of pressure was inspiring, and a weekly gathering for the writers who were there (five in all) and the various directors, some from abroad, was part of the pleasure as well. Purni made sure these were fun, relaxed, non-hierarchical. It was a great experience and I attribute the ease of it and lack of preciousness to Purni. She's forged a very distinct identity in the Studio and I felt incredibly encouraged and free (and I wrote a play.)

‘It was only at the very end that Purni convinced me to show her the play, again without pressure, and she has been incredibly helpful with its development and given me much needed confidence. I've spoken to many other writers who have had the same experience there. I think her range of interest is remarkably broad but she is also one of those people who passionately defends what she likes as opposed to what everyone else is liking at the moment. She makes writers feel safe but asks them not to be safe. Such people are rare and deserve recognition.’ (Timberlake Wertenbaker)

The Orange Tree Theatre (Sam Walters, Artistic Director, and Alan Strachan, freelance director) nominated by Ben Brown

‘Alan Strachan, directed my play, The Promise, at the Orange Tree (as he did my previous plays) and, as other writers have found too, he is the perfect new play director. Sam Walters, who produced it, deserves especial credit for enormously increasing his new writing production: as well, he just produced another one-act new play from a first time writer and is producing two more in his new season.’ (Ben Brown)

David Thacker, Artistic Director of the Bolton Octagon nominated by Aelish Michael

‘David has commissioned my play about the steeplejack Fred Dibnah, The Demolition Man, for the main house in spring 2011. Since he ran a workshop on an early draft of the play last March, David has acted as dramaturg on the development of the piece, which is my first full-blown commission. His fantastic intuitive flair for knowing what works dramatically has been invaluable through various drafts over the last few months. His faith in the project and in me has instilled me with greater confidence as a playwright, encouraging me to produce the best possible play that I can. David is demanding and a stickler for detail,but in the kindest, most positive, most generous way. His uniquely supportive and inspiring approach, always sprinkled with good humour, has made the work on the play an enjoyable and unforgettable experience.’ (Aelish Michael)

Previous winners of the Guild's Theatre Encouragement Awards have been:

  • Sarah Brigham, Associate Director, Dundee Rep
  • Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director, The Globe Theatre
  • Kevin Dyer, Writer
  • Fifth Word Theatre Company of Derby (Angharad Jones and Laura Ford)
  • Bill Hopkinson, Director/ Dramaturg
  • Arnaud Mugglestone, Director
  • Joe Devlin, artistic director, Focus Theatre, Dublin
  • Elske van Holk, director of STET Promotions, the English language theatre for The Hague
  • Lakeside Theatre, Nottingham (Matt Aston, Theatre Programmer/ Producer)
  • Annette Mees, Project Director
  • The Menagerie Theatre, Cambridge (Paul Bourne, Patrick Morris & Holly Race),
  • Oldham Coliseum Theatre (Kevin Shaw, Natalie Brown, Michelle Temperley and Jodie Lamb)
  • Andrew Breakwell, Director of the Roundabout Company at Nottingham Playhouse
  • Suzy Graham-Adriani, producer, Youth Theatre Projects, Royal National Theatre
  • Clive Paget, musical consultant, Royal National Theatre
  • Frances Poet, associate director (literary), Hampstead Theatre
  • Peter Rowe, artistic director, Wolsey Theatre Ipswich
  • Adele Thomas, director, RuthIsStrangerThanRichard, Cardiff
  • Gwenda Hughes, Director and Producer
  • Claire Malcolm, Director, and Anna Summerford, Deputy Director, New Writing North
  • Joe Sumsion, Artistic Director/ Chief Exec, Action Transport Theatre Company
  • Watford Palace Theatre (Joyce Branagh, Mary Caws, Lawrence Till)
  • Lorrie Sheehy, director, First Look Independent Productions
  • Richard Lee, director of Alec French Architects, Bristol
  • Katherine Mendelsohn, literary manager, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
  • Jeremy James Taylor, artistic director, National Youth Music Theatre

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