A robbers’ hideout, the 19th century occult scene, and the life of Moliere are among the worlds entered into by writers shortlisted for the 2017 Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize.
The Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize is the UK’s second largest playwriting prize after the Bruntwood Prize, and aims to find the next great comedy play. As well as being presented with £10,000, the winning writer will have their play considered for production by Liverpool’s Royal Court, while up to two Highly Commended writers will win £1,500.
All entries are judged anonymously.
The Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize is run in partnership with Liverpool Hope University, and Liverpool’s Royal Court. The Stage and The Liverpool Echo are official media partners for the 2017 competition.
Shortlisted writers from the inaugural 2015 Prize have gone on to carve successful careers in the theatre industry. Katie Mulgrew, winner of the first Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize, currently has her play Omnibus in production with Liverpool’s Royal Court and the Unity Theatre, with tickets on sale soon. Ian Salmon’s Highly Commended The Comeback Special will be performed at Liverpool’s Capstone Theatre in March, while shortlisted Michael Ross’s play Happy To Help was performed at Park Theatre London in 2016.
This year’s judging panel includes Frank Cottrell Boyce (Screenwriter and Author), Alistair Smith (Editor, The Stage), Catherine Jones (Arts Editor, Liverpool Echo), Amanda Whittington (Playwright), Les Dennis (Actor, Comedian and Writer), Kevin Fearon (Chief Executive, Liverpool’s Royal Court), Katie Mulgrew (Comedian and winner of the first Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize), Paul Allen (Playwright and Critic), and Dr John Bennett (Principal Lecturer, Drama and Theatre Studies, Liverpool Hope University).
The winner of the 2017 competition will be revealed at Liverpool’s Royal Court theatre in March 2017.
Kevin Fearon, Executive Producer, Liverpool’s Royal Court, added: “The standard was very high this year and the final judging session was both difficult and enjoyable because of that. The competition’s last winner is being produced by us at Unity Theatre, which has been a catalyst for a new relationship between the two theatres. We are looking forward to meeting the winner of this year’s prize so we can work together to bring the play to the stage.”
Dr John Bennett, Principal Lecturer in Drama at Liverpool Hope said: “The judges’ meeting was very exciting with nine of us trying to find the best play from an impressive shortlist. All the scripts in the final selection reminded us of how powerful comedy can be as a vehicle for social comment, as well as the much-needed belly laugh of a good night out.”
The Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize 2017 – The Shortlist
The Last Act of Love of J B Moliere: Simon Bradbury, London
In 1673, playwriting and acting was a risky business. Moliere, knowing his death is near, prepares to put on a performance of 'The Imaginary Invalid'. Moliere’s servant and wife try to dissuade him from performing, and ask him to sign a document renouncing the acting profession, in the hope of saving his soul and affording him a Christian burial. Both his friends and enemies alike conspire to keep Moliere from the stage in this madcap romp.
Actor and writer Simon was born in Salford. He was a member of the Manchester Youth Theatre and studied at the Drama Centre London before moving to Canada where he spent 16 years with The Shaw Festival Theatre. His play about Chaplin was programmed for their Courthouse season in 2002. Simon now resides back in the UK. He has acted in a number of Shakespeare productions, and has starred in the TV shows Arrow, Fringe and Stargate: Arc of Truth. He also starred in Moliere’s Tartuffe at The Stratford Festival. He is working in The Beatles’ LOVE by Cirque du Soleil until the end of February 2017.
The Elementary Occult: Christopher Jordan, Halifax
The year is eighteen hundred and something. Professor Elwes, a man of science, is living in exile in the countryside with his awful mother. He hopes his latest invention, a revolutionary communication device, will thrill the Metropolitan Scientific community. But does he really understand his own creation? What does his machine really do? What are the ghostly voices emanating from it at inconvenient moments telling him about the future? Elwes must try to comprehend all of this whilst engaging in battle with Doctor Molloch, the Occultist, who is also courting scientific interest in his diabolical schemes.
Christopher trained at The Poor School and has been acting for ten years. He has starred in Emmerdale, Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On, and BBC 3’s In the Flesh. He has performed on stage around the UK, including the role of George Tesman (Understudied and Played) alongside Sheridan Smith in Hedda Gabler at The Old Vic. He was also a finalist in Channel 4’s So You Think You're Funny competition. Most recently, he has appeared in Two Pence to Cross the Mersey at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre and Noises Off at Liverpool’s Royal Court and The Nottingham Playhouse.
A Prayer to Saint Cajetan: Gerry Linford, Ellesmere Port
1978. Liverpool. An eccentric priest teams up with an unemployed man to place a series of outlandish bets on the World Cup taking place in Argentina. When Father Tony Aherne turns up at the Duffy house in the summer of 1978 nobody, least of all lapsed Catholic Terry, can anticipate the chaos and magic which his arrival will bring. As the money stacks up, this unlikely duo are faced with life changing decisions.
Gerry is a lecturer in Screenwriting at the University of Central Lancashire. He has written a number of films. These include Buddha Boy for BBC Wales and What's The Story which he also acted in alongside Darren Day. A Prayer To Saint Cajetan is the first stage play Gerry has written, and is inspired by actual events from Gerry’s childhood – plus some creative license!
Mummy’s Boy: Stewart McDonald, Liverpool
Dumped by his girlfriend just days before their romantic getaway to Italy, a young man reluctantly takes his brash mother along for the trip. Mummy’s Boy was inspired by Stewart’s own experience, after he and his girlfriend had a row before they were due to go on a romantic trip across Europe. Luckily, they reconciled, and this also gave Stewart the idea for his play, which examines the parent-child relationship, and how families can become disconnected over time.
Web developer Stewart has been part of Liverpool Network Theatre for the last seven years. His experience as an actor led him to write and direct his first play Millionaires Anonymous, which premiered at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool in 2015 and went on tour around the North West in 2016. Mummy’s Boy is the follow-up play, which Stewart penned as part of the Everyman Playwrights’ Programme.
Paulo & Me: Ian Nightingale, Ormskirk, Lancashire
Long suffering mum Mandy is at her wits end with her marriage to slob husband Colin, whose only passion in life is for his local football club. Newly single, she meets a dashing Italian stranger, Paulo, who turns out to be the club's new manager and this causes Colin to have an epiphany about his own life.
Ian has been writing for radio and screen for the past five years. He is a member of the BBC Northern Writers group, and one of 27 screenwriters in the UK to be mentored by Harry Swindell at the BBC. His writing to date has received a BAFTA Rocliffe commendation for an unproduced screenplay, been shortlisted for both The Red Planet Prize and the Alfred Bradley Bursary, and shortlisted by Philip Shelley at Channel 4 for development. Ian was selected by the Head of Development at LIME pictures to complete trial scripts at Hollyoaks. His first short film script 'The Librarian' won the 2016 Special Merit Award at the Northern Film School at Beckett University and is currently being filmed.
Absoluted: Neil Walden, Gloucestershire
Absoluted tells the story of an exhausted nun who arrives at the hideout of a criminal gang lying low after a huge robbery. The unity of the gang is soon disrupted by the nun, who it seems is seeking some kind of sanctuary herself.
Neil, who was born in Windsor and used to live in Wales, was inspired to write the play after writing a series of local history books about true crimes, and by his interest in heist stories. Neil has had one-act plays performed at the Actor's Studio in Liverpool as part of the Second Write Now festival, at Liverpool’s Unity theatre, and festivals around the UK. He has also taken part in script slams in South Wales.