Getting to know our shortlist: Neil Walden

As we move closer to announcing the  winner of the 2017 Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize on March 27th, find out more about our top 6…

Writer: Neil Walden, Gloucestershire

Play: Absoluted

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.

Neil 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 said: “Absoluted poses the question of whether there are any similarities between organised crime and organised religion. I realise that this makes it sound a bit heavy, but be assured that it is quite definitely a comedy! One of the characters observes ‘Aren’t the nuns supposed to offer the crooks sanctuary?’ Well, not in this case they don’t! The boot is on the other foot.”

Neil added: “I am always hoping to get my work staged, but the opportunities are very few and far between. When I saw it announced, I was particularly keen to enter The Liverpool Hope Playwriting prize. That the competition has involved important organisations, and lined up a really impressive panel of judges was one of my reasons for entering. I couldn’t be more pleased that Absoluted has been shortlisted.”

 

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Getting to know our shortlist: Ian Nightingale

As we move closer to announcing the winner of the 2017 Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize on March 27th, find out more about our top 6…

Writer: Ian Nightingale, Ormskirk, Lancashire

Play: Paulo & Me

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 teaches geography in a secondary school, and 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 also 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.

Ian said: “I’ve always been fascinated with the immediacy of theatre since being taken as a schoolchild to watch Willy Russell’s Our Day Out. As I got older, I found my writing was deeply affected by those initial theatre experiences, and this shaped the way I wrote about real people in communities and the struggles they faced.

Paulo & Me is inspired by a real mix of things – as I got into my late 30’s it felt like I was  watching a world which seemed to be spinning faster and becoming more and more fragmented; where people are obsessed with instant gratification, fame and the hope that the grass will always be greener. It’s also inspired by the community you grew up in; the one that you absolutely hated but later realise defines you and ultimately you miss and reminisce about with utter love 20 years later. And of course, it’s inspired by the hapless football team you support fanatically, constantly letting you down until the day you die.

“Just knowing that all the hours spent hammering away on the keyboard in a darkened box room trying to conjure up this little world filled with characters people will actually care about and laugh at can actually connect with the judges and be considered for a prize of this magnitude is genuinely mind blowing.”

 

Getting to know our shortlist: Stewart McDonald

As we move closer to announcing the 2017 winner of the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize on March 27th, find out more about our top 6…

Writer: Stewart McDonald, Liverpool

Play: Mummy’s Boy

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.

Stewart says: “My girlfriend and I were due to go on a romantic trip across Europe, but we had big row a week before our flight. Being consoled by my mum, I said, ‘Imagine if we split up…I can’t go on my own.’ My mum said, ‘Well… I’ll go with you’. And that was it, the seed was planted. Thankfully, my girlfriend and I reconciled and had a lovely time, but writing the play went beyond just a mother and son/odd-couple holiday. It really got me examining 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.

Stewart adds: “It’s very difficult as a writer to get any kind of industry exposure and I thought this competition was a great chance to get my name out there and see if people found my work funny, whilst also connecting with the characters and the underlying themes.”

Getting to know our shortlist: Gerry Linford

As we move closer to announcing the 2017 winner of the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize on March 27th, find out more about our top 6…

 

Writer: Gerry Linford, Ellesmere Port

Play: A Prayer to Saint Cajetan

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. A Prayer to Saint Cajetan is the first play that Gerry has written, although he has written films including Buddha Boy for BBC Wales, and What’s The Story in which he also starred alongside Darren Day.

Gerry said: “A Prayer to Saint Cajetan is inspired by actual events from my childhood – although obviously I used creative license to develop the story seeds into something much bigger. I was motivated to enter the competition after seeing a poster in a coffee shop in Liverpool last year.
“I’d been kicking the story around with a view to a screenplay but thought it lent itself very well to the stage. When I heard I was shortlisted, I was absolutely thrilled. I love theatre in Liverpool and it would be a dream come true to see my work come alive there.”

Getting to know our shortlist: Christopher Jordan

As we move closer to announcing the 2017 winner of the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize on March 27th, find out more about our top 6…

Writer: Christopher Jordan, Halifax

Play: The Elementary Occult

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, who is originally from Kidderminster and now lives near Halifax, studied at The Poor School has been a professional actor for 10 years. He has appeared in Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On and BBC 3’s In The Flesh. On stage, he has appeared alongside Sheridan Smith in Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic Theatre. He was also a finalist in Channel 4’s competition So You Think That You’re Funny. Christopher has previously had his work performed as part of the Pomegranate Theatre new writing festival, but his shortlisted play, The Elementary Occult, is his first full length play.

Christopher said: “The first seed of the idea came when I was in the British Library, and saw a glossy picture book in the gift-shop. It was full of photographs of Victorian spiritualists exuding pretend ectoplasm from their faces.

“The pictures fascinated me because they were ridiculous and, in a peculiar way, eerie at the same time. The themes of the play resonate with my love of Science fiction – I like how Science Fiction can change the focus or terms of a drama almost instantly, and how it can remove the fetters from your plotting. The most important theme in the play for me, is the tension between Science and Spirituality – and how easily they can be mistaken for each other.”

 

Getting to know our shortlist: Simon Bradbury

As we move closer to announcing the 2017 winner of the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize on March 27th, find out more about our top 6…

Writer: Simon Bradbury, London

Play: The Last Act of Love of J B Moliere

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.

Simon Bradbury, who was born in Little Hulton, Salford, and was a member of the Manchester Youth Theatre, is a professional actor.

Simon studied at the Drama Centre London and then spent 16 years with the Shaw Festival Theatre in Canada. His play about Chaplin was programmed for their Courthouse season in 2002. He performed at all the major theatres in Vancouver – Bard on the Beach, Vancouver Playhouse, The Arts Club and the Gateway Theatre, Richmond, garnering three Jessie nominations and winning one for best supporting actor. He also founded his own theatre company, Ziggurat Theatre. He now resides back in UK.

Simon has acted in a number of Shakespeare productions, and starred in the TV shows ArrowFringe and Stargate: Arc of Truth. He has also worked in The Beatles’ LOVE by Cirque du Soleil.

Simon said: “My inspiration for the play was, in fact, the world of the theatre. Austerity has been a blow to all aspects of our lives but the cultural world is the first to get it in the neck. My admiration for Moliere, the man and his farces, was another springboard. He dealt with tyrannical patronage, censorship and ceaseless attacks from the church, yet continued his commitment to enlighten and entertain. I have tried to reproduce his spirit of anarchy by constructing a comedy about the last hours of his life, during which all these travails come to the fore. It is my cheeky homage to a compulsive social critic who pushed the bounds of convention and good taste, while being completely incapable of denying himself and countless others a bloody good laugh.”

Simon added, “I sent my play in because it is rare to see comedy highlighted for a competition. It tends to be the poor cousin of tragedy and other genres. This specialization is exciting, because it harkens back to the days of the Aldwych farces, which led to a golden era of English theatre comedy. Comedy is damned serious business! The association of a highly regarded academic institution with a respected theatre company lends credence to this idea. That is why this competition is unique and very important. I am thrilled to bits to be shortlisted.”

Inaugural Hope Playwriting Prize winner gets Arts Council England Funding boost

Plans to stage Omnibus, the winner of the inaugural Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize, are moving ahead following the announcement that the project has received a grant from Arts Council England’s Grants For The Arts Programme.

The award of up to £14,850 has been granted to help to develop the play in conjunction with Liverpool’s Royal Court and Unity theatres.

Written by Katie Mulgrew, Omnibus is a fast moving farce that starts with three housemates lounging in front of the television on a Sunday afternoon. Their plans for a lazy day are put on hold when a surprise guest bursts in with a gun and a bag full of money.

The Arts Council’s Grants For The Arts Programme is a our Lottery-funded, open access funding programme for individuals, arts organisations and other people who use the arts in their work. Grants are available for activities carried out over a set period and which engage people in England in arts activities and help artists and arts organisations in England carry out their work.

Omnibus has already been developed in a series of workshops with Director Robert Farquar and now this funding will support a full run of the play, planned to take place at Unity Theatre in June 2017. Performance dates have been confirmed and tickets go on sale next month.

Professor Gerald Pillay, Vice Chancellor & Rector of Liverpool Hope University said: “We are delighted that the first winning play from the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize is to be performed. The whole objective of the competition is to invest in the artists of the future, bring new and interesting voices to the stage and encourage new writing for the theatre. The fact that Ominbus has secured Arts Council England funding highlights those aims, the quality of work from Katie Mulgrew, the winning writer, and the Liverpool Royal Court team. I am looking forward to curtain up on opening night.”

Katie Mulgrew said: “’I’m so thrilled that my play, ‘Omnibus’ is going to be performed at the Unity theatre. Since winning the Hope playwriting prize, I’ve worked with a fantastic team to develop the play and I’m made up that it will be the first co-production between the Liverpool Royal Court and the Unity.”

Kevin Fearon, Executive Producer at Liverpool’s Royal Court said: “This is very welcome news as it gives us the chance to develop a new piece of work in a new space for us. Katie’s play is not just a great show but it has given us the opportunity to create partnerships with both Hope University and Unity Theatre”

Find out who is on the shortlist for the 2017 Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize