THEATRE 503’s Playwriting Awards

The Battersea theatre above the Latchmere recognises and rewards new talent in the most practical ways

Winners Paul Murphy and Bea Roberts. Pic:

Winners Paul Murphy and Bea Roberts

For a writer, nothing says, ‘We like your work’ more convincingly that a nice fat cheque.

So it’s gratifying that the inaugural Theatre 503 Playwriting Award comes with a £6,000 prize funded by the Richard Carne Trust and an anonymous donor – alongside the even more valuable promise of a full-scale production of the winning play.

And it’s a tribute to the quality of the 1,600 entries and the exacting nature of Steve Harper and his literary team’s judging process that there are two winners, who each receive the full prize value: Paul Murphy, 37, for his disturbing psychological thriller Valhalla; and Bea Roberts, 28, whose And Then Come the Nightjars looks at the tender relationship between two farmers.

Five other writers – Chloe Todd Fordham, Brian Mullin, Vinay Patel, Ella Greenhill and Nessah Muthyn – will also receive 18 months of mentoring and £2,000 apiece to develop their work as winners of the 503Five Writer Residency Scheme.

Artistic Director Paul Robinson asks leave for a little self-congratulation (granted, of course) as he explains that Theatre 503 is a writer’s “first best chance”.

And what better evidence could there be than the appearance of awards judge Dennis Kelly, whose first play, Debris, was produced at Theatre 503 and who frankly acknowledges his debt to its encouragement.

‘Theatre 503 lets you take risks – it was the best thing that could have happened to me,’ he says.

Kelly may describe himself as a ‘twat’ for not preparing a proper speech, but he’s also one of the Britain’s most successful playwrights, not least because of his book for Matilda the Musical, an international hit. He’s also scripted Channel 4’s Utopia, and the forthcoming submarine movie thriller Black Sea, starring Jude Law.

So it’s inspiring for the winners to hear that Kelly felt that frisson of writer’s jealousy when reading their scripts, thinking, ‘I wish I’d thought of that…’

Theatre 503 has built an extraordinary reputation for staging new plays and mentoring writers, and this new biennial award can only help to enhance and maintain its work, and continue to promote the brightest and best.

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