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Sam Pritchard On...The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting

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Every fancied writing a play? The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting is the search for great new plays and great writers. It is Britain’s biggest playwriting competition and has so far awarded £80,000 in prize money. We chatted to Sam Pritchard (New Writing Associate - Bruntwood), at the Royal Exchange Theatre to find out more.

Can you tell us a bit about the competition?

The Bruntwood Prize is really a search for great plays wherever we find them and whoever they are by. Writers can submit an original and unproduced play to us until 6th June. The competition has a total prize fund of £40,000 which is awarded to four writers. This year that will be a first prize of £16,000 and three other awards of £8,000 each.

All the winning plays are developed towards production with the Royal Exchange and we’ve now produced six winners across two competitions. Mogadishu by Vivienne Franzmann and Winterlong by Andrew Sheridan were produced at the Exchange earlier this year before transferring to London theatres.

Who is eligible?

The competition is for first time writers, emerging playwrights and produced writers in equal measure. It’s open to anyone aged 16 and over who lives in the UK or Ireland and it’s as simple as that really. Every play is read and judged anonymously to create as level a playing field as possible. A real range of writers have been involved in the past two competitions and we hope that continues this year. No one has too little or too much experience to send us a play.

What do you think makes a good winning play?

I think it’s really important to say that we’re not looking for a particular type of play. One of the real pleasures of the Prize is that writers will surprise us and take us to places we never dreamt of reading a play about. The best plays allow us to spend a short amount of time seeing the world through someone else’s head. They pursue what most frightens, excites, thrills or intrigues a writer.

We want to read plays that really engage with theatre as live performance and that create strong and exciting relationships with an audience that could only happen on stage. I’d also encourage people to write really great parts for actors, fresh and exciting roles that they’ll be desperate to play.

Everyone has a good play in them. How true do you think this is?

It’s certainly true that you don’t have to be a particular kind of person to be a writer or a playwright. Everyone has experiences, ideas, ways of seeing the world or characters in their head that could fuel a fantastic play, whether it’s epic or intimate. If you can start to get a feel for the way people’s words express how they think, then anything is possible.

Should writers consider the space of the Exchange when writing their plays?

Absolutely not, there’s no sense that these plays are for the Exchange. We want people to write the play they want to write. One of the exciting things about the development process with the winners is that its only as the play finds its shape that the company and the writer work out which of our spaces it might sit best in.

Why do you feel people should enter?

One of the things we’re passionate about, as are our partners at Bruntwood, is that the competition should provide a career changing opportunity for a writer or allow someone to start thinking of themselves as a writer. The prize money doesn’t go towards a production but straight to the writer, to help and support them in whatever way is best for them. Winners have been able to take time off work to develop their play, to write a new play or to develop their work in a way they hadn’t thought was possible.

The two Bruntwood winners that were produced this year were seen by a combined audience of 30,000 people in Manchester and in London. New plays now have the potential to speak to a really huge audience and we hope that’s really exciting to writers.

If you are interested, you have until 6 June to enter. For more information on the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting - please click here.


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