Keith Saha has won the Theatre Centre Brian Way Award 2011 for his hard-hitting, but very sensitive, knife crime play Ghost Boy. The play was produced last year by Liverpool-based company Twenty Stories High where Saha is co-artistic director.
The £6,000 award was presented at an up-beat event at Theatre Centres’ headquarters, Shoreditch Town Hall last night. Laurence Wilson, winner of the TC Brian Way Award 2010 for his play Blackberry Troutface, presented the prize and spoke warmly about Saha’s work. He also praised Skye Lonergan’s warm, charming, perceptive and thoughtful play Mish Gorecki Goes Missing (produced in Glasgow by Tron Theatre Company) which judges deemed an outstanding runner-up.
I was one of the five judges for this award. We met on Monday to thrash out a decision, which was far from easy and took a long time. 56 plays had been entered and whittled down to a shortlist of six, every one of which was an outstanding piece of work. The rules stipulate that the play must already have been professionally produced so, in a sense, all the plays being considered are already successes insofar as someone has invested in staging them.
The other four shortlisted plays, in no particular order, were:
- Pondlife by Rob Evans (produced by Catherine Wheels, Edinburgh)
- The Day the Waters Came by Lisa Evans (produced by Theatre Centre, London)
- Plum (and me, Will) by Louise Osborn (produced by Sherman Cymru)
- Scarecrow by Chris Cooper (produced by Theatre Powys)
The standard was astonishing. It took judges (playwrights Laurence Wilson and Rachel de-Lehay, Chris Taylor who directs New Writing South, writer/director Tony Clark who chaired — and me) a long time to discuss the shortlisted plays in depth. And we finally reached agreement only after a lot of negotiation and by continual presentation of further textual evidence to each other.
Theatre Centre took over (and renamed) the Brian Way Award from the Arts Council in 2007. It is now settling to become one of the most prestigious accolades a writer of plays for young audiences can achieve. So many thanks to Theatre Centre for all its work on this and the Adrienne Benham Award, a prize celebrating new writing for young people which is awarded at the same time. It is vital that work for young audiences gets the recognition it deserves and Theatre Centre is doing a lot to ensure that.
And, of course, congratulations to Keith Saha and to five other playwrights, all of whom have given me enormous pleasure in the last month or so as I have read and reread their work. And how delightful that of these six plays, only one hailed from London. Lovely to read two from Scotland, two from Wales and one from the north of England.