A Night at the Dogs - which won Whatsonstage.com’s business development manager Matt Charman the prestigious Verity Bargate Award in November (See News, 24 Nov 2004) - receives its world premiere this spring at Soho Theatre, where it commemorates the new writing company’s fifth year at its £10.6 million specially built Dean Street premises (See News, 14 Mar 2000). The play’s limited five-week season runs from 11 April to 14 May 2005 (previews from 7 April).

Twenty-five-year-old Charman was washing cars at a crash repair shop when he wrote A Night at the Dogs, his first play. Having joined Whatsonstage.com last year, he submitted the script for awards consideration using a pseudonym.

In the play, four mechanics form a syndicate to buy a racing greyhound whose winnings they hope will change their lives. On the night of the dog's first race, the men are ambushed by a colleague and, in a surprising reckoning, they learn an unexpected lesson about family, fathers and fortune. A Night at the Dogs, directed by Soho artistic director Abigail Morris, will feature Neil Stuke and Mark Hadfield.

Founded in 1969, Soho Theatre Company aims to produce new work, discover new writers and develop new audiences. The new writing award was established in 1981 in memory of Soho’s co-founder Verity Bargate. Since moving into its permanent home at 21 Dean Street in spring 2000, the company has extended its programming to include late night comedy and cabaret and has more than doubled its total output to over 1,000 ticketed events a year.

Following A Night at the Dogs, Soho’s fifth birthday programming, running from the end of March until July, will continue with Mancub (running from 31 May to 25 June 2005), a collaboration between Vanishing Point and playwright Douglas Maxwell; and Shoreditch Madonna (6 to 30 July 2005), by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who earlier this month won the Critics’ Circle Most Promising Playwright Award for The Night Season at the National (See News, 1 Feb 2005).

Other special birthday events will include an open house fortnight for theatre practitioners across the UK (including from Liverpool Everyman and Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse), a week of education and community work events, and a programme of comedy and music.

Previous Verity Bargate award winners include: Office (2000) by first-time writer Shan Khan, produced by Soho at Edinburgh prior to a London transfer; Jump Mr Malinoff Jump (1998) by Toby Whithouse, which opened Soho's Dean Street residence; and Kindertransport (1994) by Diane Samuels, which ran at Soho prior to a New York transfer.

- by Terri Paddock