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Bruntwood Prize 2019 shortlist includes Sami Ibrahim and Eve Leigh

15 plays make the list for the Royal Exchange playwriting prize

Sami Ibrahim, Eve Leigh and Lauren Yee
© Richard Davenport

15 new scripts by established, emerging and debut playwrights made the shortlist for the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

With the highest number of submissions in the Prize's history – 2,561 entries – the Royal Exchange and Bruntwood whittled the submissions down to ten plays for the overall prize and five plays for the International Award. At £16,000, the largest prize for playwriting in Europe invited scripts from established, emerging and debut writers to develop for the stage, in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre's creative team.

Female voices are strongly represented across the shortlisted works, with eight of the 15 shortlisted plays written by women. Established playwrights such as Sami Ibrahim (two Palestinians go dogging) – writer-in-residence at Shakespeare's Globe – and Eve Leigh – one of the Royal Court's two Jerwood playwrights of 2019 – join the shortlist alongside four new writers – babirye bukilwa, Jacob Kay, Michael John O'Neill and Sam Grabiner, a former resident playwright at Papatango Theatre Company and now based in New York. In addition to the main award, these four are also eligible for the Original New Voice Award, an additional prize of £8,000 given out to debut writers to develop their first full-length play.

In addition to the shortlisted ten, there are five international playwrights from Australia and USA who have been separately shortlisted for the first ever International Award category, a prize of £8,000.

The final award in the overall £40,000 fund is the Judges Prize, an £8,000 prize given by the panel which includes the Royal Exchange's artistic director artist Bryony Shanahan, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Michael Oglesby, Anna Jordan, Bridget Minamore, Jenny Sealey, Kate Vokes, Shane Zaza. New to the panel this year are Faith Yianni, a member of the public selected following a search by the Prize, and theatre critic Lyn Gardner.

Suzanne Bell, dramaturg at the Royal Exchange Theatre, said: "I am extremely pleased to present this year's impressive shortlist for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, which for the first time includes international entries. It's thrilling to see submissions growing year on year, and it is fantastic to celebrate the outstanding achievement of our 15 shortlisted writers who have been selected from over 2,500 entries."

Shanahan added: "The Bruntwood Prize engages, encourages, supports and celebrates the craft of playwriting, beginning with the phenomenal online resources on www.writeaplay.co.uk and culminating in the help each of our winning writers will receive from the Royal Exchange."

Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on 4 November.

The shortlist contains plays on politics, mental health, race relations and climate change. The full shortlists are listed below:


Shortlist for the main prize

black bird by babirye bukilwa

Shed: Exploded View by Phoebe Eclair-Powell

Neptune by Sam Grabiner

The European Hare by Sami Ibrahim

Glass by Jacob Kay

Salty Irina by Eve Leigh

Hares by Lee Mattison

Ballybaile by Jody O'Neill

Akedah by Michael John O'Neill

Glee & Me by Stuart Slade


Shortlist for the international award

TAMBO & BONES by Dave Harris (USA)

Pavlov's Dogs by Emme Hoy (Australia)

untitled f*ck miss sa*gon play (srsly this is not the title) by Kimber Lee (USA)

This Land Was Made by Tori Sampson (USA)

Periods of Collapse OR Mother Russia by Lauren Yee (USA)

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