Theatre News

Phoebe Eclair-Powell wins 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting

The playwright receives a £16,000 prize and a commission from the Royal Exchange Theatre

Michael John O'Neill, Kimber Lee, Phoebe Eclair-Powell and Stuart Slade
Michael John O'Neill, Kimber Lee, Phoebe Eclair-Powell and Stuart Slade
© Second left: The Gersh Agency, others: The Other Richard

Phoebe Eclair-Powell was named the overall winner of the 2019 Bruntwood Prize Playwriting, it was announced in a ceremony at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester this afternoon.

Eclair-Powell's play Shed: Exploded View was selected from a shortlist of 10 shows as the overall winner. In addition to a £16,000 prize, Eclair-Powell will work with the Royal Exchange Theatre's creative team to develop the script. The playwright joins a list of Bruntwood alumni including Katherine Soper, Duncan Macmillan, Alistair McDowall, Anna Jordan, Janice Okoh and Tim X Atack.

Shed: Exploded View spans 30 years and sees three couples navigate family life, complex relationships and loss, all told through a series of non-linear short scenes. The play is inspired by Cornelia Parker's art piece Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, which is made with the
restored contents of a garden shed exploded by the British Army and suspended from the ceiling as if captured mid-explosion.

Also announced at the ceremony were the winners of three other prize categories. Michael John O'Neill won the Original New Voice award for Akedah, a prize given out to debut writers to develop their first full-length play. Stuart Slade was awarded the Judges Prize for Glee & Me and New York-based playwright Kimber Lee received the newly introduced International Award for untitled f*ck miss sa*gon play (srsly this is not the title). Each of these winners take home £8,000 and their scripts will begin a development process with the Royal Exchange Theatre.

In addition to the four prizes, the judges also awarded Dave Harris and Jody O'Neill £4,000 each as a commendation for their captivating plays, TAMBO & BONES and Ballybaile respectively.

Bryony Shanahan, joint artistic director at the Royal Exchange Theatre and judge for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, said: "This year's Bruntwood shortlist was exceptional, the plays continually surprised us as judges both in subject matter and in form; they felt alive, contemporary and kept us debating for hours. Shed: Exploded View is ambitious, nuanced and goes right to the heart of the human experience. When I first read it, it felt like a punch to the guts – it is precise and considered, a beautiful tapestry of ideas meticulously woven together, but it is also astonishingly emotional. Phoebe's characters are so well drawn and she deals with themes of female trauma with dignity, offering hope to her characters and the audience along the way. The non-linear form of her play makes for a searing and exhilarating experience, and her words – as the title suggests – explode from the page. This is a beautifully crafted piece of brave, bold and aspirational writing. I am delighted for Phoebe and cannot wait to see where this play goes next."