In-Sook Chappell’s play This Isn’t Romance has won Soho Theatre Company’s prestigious Verity Bargate Award 2007. It was chosen from over 800 entries in the biennial competition to find the best new play by an emerging writer. The award, which carries a prize of £5,000 and a residency at Soho Theatre, was announced last night last night (8 November 2007) at an event at which an excerpt of the play was performed.

This Isn’t Romance follows a beautiful Korean woman’s return to Seoul where she begins a highly charged relationship with the brother she left behind. Chappell was born in Seoul and brought up in Essex. Now living in London, she worked as an actor and a model before turning to playwriting. As a writer, she has worked with Paines Plough and the National Theatre Studio.

Commenting on her win, Chappell said: “Hearing I’d won the award was the greatest moment ever. It's great when other people respond to something you've written - I feel vindicated, that my belief in my writing was not completely delusional.”

The 2007 judging panel comprised: former Award winner Bonnie Greer, playwrights Bryony Lavery, Gupreet Bhatti and Philip Ridley, Noble+Silver’s Kim Noble and Stuart Silver, and Soho Theatre artistic director Lisa Goldman.

According to Greer, “In-Sook's play has a brutal beauty which takes us into a hidden world. I can't think of any better definition for a prize-winning play.” An excerpt of This Isn’t Romance, directed by Lisa Goldman, was performed by Wendy Kweh and Mo Zainal at yesterday’s event, which was attended by leading theatre industry figures.

The runners-up for this year’s award were Harm’s Way by actress Zawe Ashton (currently appearing in The Arsonists and Rhinoceros at the Royal Court), Rosemary Jenkin’s Outcast, Simon Bennett’s Zimbabwe, Andres Lustgarten’s The Punishment Stories and Maxine Quintyne’s Meantime. Excerpts from all runners-up plays were also performed at yesterday by a variety of actors including Russell Tovey, Danny Sapani, Richard Dormer, Dona Croll, Jeffrey Kissoon, Paul Moriarty, Fraser Ayres and Susannah York.

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The new writing award was established in 1981 in memory of Verity Bargate, co-founder of Soho Theatre. The last Verity Bargate Award-winning author, former Whatsonstage.com employee Matt Charman, followed A Night at the Dogs, produced at Soho in April 2005, with The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder, premiered at the National Theatre this summer.

Other previous 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 new theatre on Dean Street in 2000; and Kindertransport (1994) by Diane Samuels, which ran at Soho prior to a New York transfer and continues to be produced in the UK and across the world.

For Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand at Soho Theatre for yesterday’s awards celebrations, along with In-Sook Chappell, the runners-up, performers, previous winners, judges and other guests.

- by Terri Paddock