The Bruntwood doesn’t want you. Now what?

Credit: dgim-studio on Freepik

COMMENT: The arts industry does aspiring writers no favours by implying script submission is the only route into play writing. There’s a far better way to hone your craft than waiting for the thumbs up of the reading room.

Today, the Bruntwood prize revealed its longlist. And out of the 1890 entrants, 1760 of you got the news you’re not on it. And, worse, you have no information of what you did wrong. They did of course congratulate you on your achievement of writing a play and getting it out there. But that is little consolation, and when “sending it out into the world to be experienced by other people” can mean “having it read once then put in the bin” it’s a bit of a platitude. “There’s always next time” is the usual upbeat message – but how are your prospects next time supposed to be any better? What have you learned from this?

To be fair to the Bruntwood Prize and all of the other major competitions, they are aware of the questions of whether they are there for everyone or the lucky few. In the case of the Bruntwood Prize, they publish a series of “toolkit” articles from various writers on how to make your scripts better. But you have probably already read those, and you still lost. You have also probably been on playwriting courses for beginners, read books about playwriting and searched for tips on the internet – and you’re still getting nowhere. What are you meant to do now?

Well, I’ve been there. I found a way forward. And it wasn’t by playing the game of submit-reject-sumbit-reject-submit ad infinitum. I do not claim to be an authority on how to write a good play, but this year I got my first nomination for new writing award on the fringe circuit and my first professional writing commission has just been produced, so I think my experience counts for something. Nevertheless, I have something to say that many of you aren’t going to like, and I don’t think the Bruntwood will like either. I have a lot of nuance and caveats to add to this message, so please try not to take this at face value, but there’s no getting round the fact this is an unpopular thing to say:

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What’s worth watching: autumn/winter 2022

Skip to: Noughts and Crosses, Brassed Off, Constellations, Watson: the Final Problem, Shakers, Terrifying Tales from Tyneside, Sugar Baby, Around the World in 80 Days, Howerd’s End, One Off, Wishes in the Wind, A Room of One’s Own, Alice in Wonderland, The Great Gatsby

I finally get round to writing up this overdue list of what’s coming up in the north-east that I recommend, and what happens? That thing. However, I have thought long and hard about this, and I have decided to continue writing this article. It is what the Queen would have wanted. However, I am writing this with my Union Jack flying at half mast and wearing a black armband. I hope you approve.

Fringe season is over, it’s time to look back at what’s happening locally.

Safe Choice:

You should all be refreshed on the rules by now, but to recap: safe choice is for plays where I think you can’t go wrong AND where the play has a wide audience appeal. Nothing appeals to everyone all the time, but if you like the sound of how I describe this, I’m confident you’ll like it for real.

Noughts and Crosses

Sephy and CallumThe top of the must see list by far is from Pilot Theatre. There are two things notable about York-based Pilot Theatre. Firstly, they are one of the best theatre companies I’ve seen for staging, and it doesn’t necessarily means high-budget or flashy staging but staging that is creative and innovative, with every play being visually striking in a different way. Secondly, they are a super-diverse theatre company. That’s not the easiest of things to do; one pitfall is casting that looks contrived, and the other is endless plays about racism – in my opinion, neither of these do anybody any favours in the long run. Pilot Theatre, I think, gets it; and for any theatre company looking to diversify its programme but unsure how to go about doing it, I’d recommend Pilot Theatre for inspiration.

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