Jade Fox attends the Bruntwood Prize Ceremony 2017 at the Royal Exchange Theatre
1,898 plays, 100 dedicated readers, 8 judges, 6 winners.
The Bruntwood Prize has been inspiring the creation of new theatre since 2005. It invites anyone — and everyone — to have a good go at writing a play. People are able to submit anonymously — a wonderful consideration for both the first time and practised writer — and are considered for a part of the £40,000 prize fund — and, more importantly, the opportunity for it to become a live theatre production.
Usually, upon entering the Exchange’s “spaceship” (in other words, a futuristic in the round theatre), one expects transportation to anywhere on the planet for an hour or two in the company of compelling and complex characters. The Bruntwood Prize ceremony was no different.
The organisers ensured that this theatre remains what it always has been, a playground. The extracts performed from the eight shortlisted plays performed were phenomenal. The content ranged from a man leaving for life on Mars, to a restaurant teeming with international relations. It is due to the quality of the acting company and the scripts themselves that the stage could so quickly become tense, hilarious, thought-provoking, and, most of all, thrilling to watch.
The winner of this year’s overall prize is Heartworm by Timothy X Atack. The extract from his piece was wonderfully weird and in its short introduction, he claimed that it gets more so as the play goes on. Our short exposure to the characters established that the work has a strong grasp on humour and that Tim is skilled in revealing a character’s opinion without revealing a character’s opinion.
He said to me after winning that ‘[he] wrote this to be like a dream’ and that he had considered it being too out there for the Bruntwood prize. Nevertheless, he has entered the competition five times: proving that creativity and tenacity are a winning combination. Be sure not to miss Heartworm when it appears onstage. It is to be produced by the Royal Court and the Royal Exchange in the near future.
The atmosphere after the ceremony was that of imagination. The room became saturated with conversation as soon as we entered it. Amongst the excitement, I had the chance to speak with panel member Russell T Davies. He explained that he was very quick to take up Bruntwood on their offer when they asked for him to be involved. Upon mention of the difference between theatre and television — a somewhat calculated medium — Russell remarked that “in theatre, anything can happen.”
Many people know that to create theatre is to create magic. And if anything supports and inspires these hidden magicians, it’s Bruntwood.