03 Apr 2024

Shortlist and judges announced for inaugural playwriting prize for comedy

Sean Foley by Kris-Askey .jpeg

Sean Foley, artistic director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre has announced the panel and shortlist of eight new plays for the first ever major playwriting prize dedicated to the art of Comedy - The Victoria Wood Playwriting Prize for Comedy in partnership with The Victoria Wood Foundation and supported by BBC Comedy.

Joining Sean Foley (pictured) on the panel are: BAFTA winning actor, comedian and friend of Victoria Wood, Daniel Rigby, BAFTA winning actor and broadcaster Siobhan McSweeney, West End and Broadway producer Tegan Summer, renowned playwright Tanika Gupta, television producer and representative of the Victoria Wood Foundation Piers Wenger. 

The project is led by the multiple award-winning live comedy director, dramaturg and comedy teacher, Dec Munro.

Panellist Daniel Rigby said: “I’m thrilled to be on the panel for the Victoria Wood Playwriting Prize. Victoria was a huge part of my life and a total inspiration, so it’s an honour.  I’m also looking forward to reading some brand spanking new comedy voices for the theatre which are sorely needed.

Tanika Gupta added: “I am delighted to be on the panel for the Victoria Wood Playwriting Prize. Victoria was an absolute comedic icon and her writing sparkled effortlessly with wit, wisdom and side-splitting humour. I look forward to reading some great new comedy writing for the stage.” 

The shortlist of eight plays are: 

Bring me the Head of Miriam Margolyes by Andrew Pollard

Hello Charlie by Caoimhe Farren 

Bum by Ed Amsden and Tom Coles 

Goodbye Suzzie Jenkins by Ben Callon 

Reach for the Stars by Jenny Knotts 

Portugal by Eugene O'Hare

Sidekicked by Patrick Maguire 

Fake Melania by Poppy Corbett 

The names of the four finalists will be released on Monday 13 May. The winner will be announced at a special ceremony, which will be held at The Rep on Wednesday 15 May from 4.30pm – 6.30pm. 

They will receive £25,000 (£10,000 of which will be the play commission) and a special award designed and currently being made in The Rep’s own workshops.

Sean Foley said: “It’s a personal thrill that The Rep created the Victoria Wood Playwriting Prize for Comedy in partnership with the Victoria Wood Foundation.

“To have a new major playwriting prize in our industry is a cause for celebration itself - never has the need for supporting new plays been greater - but to have this Prize dedicated to the art of Comedy, perhaps the most difficult genre of all, is ground-breaking. 

“A fitting tribute to Victoria Wood’s trailblazing comic talent, this is the first major playwriting Prize for narrative stage comedy in the world. The Rep is proud that the home of the Prize is in the UK’s most diverse and youngest City, the city of one of Victoria’s major collaborators, Dame Julie Walters, and the city of so many contemporary comedians and writers such as Sir Lenny Henry, Joe Lycett, and Meera Syal, CBE, FRSL.  

“It is, of course, also the city where Victoria Wood herself went to university to study Drama. 

“Of the twin masks of drama - comedy and tragedy - often the focus from our industry, across acting, directing and writing, is on the latter. The Rep has been a pioneering force in UK theatre for over 100 years, and with the creation of this Prize is once again opening up new possibilities”

The Prize has been made possible thanks to the generous support of The Victoria Wood Foundation, a charity set up after the death of Victoria Wood in 2016 by her friends to support the arts.

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