News: Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award 2020 Longlist Revealed

Following a record number of 1,493 submissions to its Verity Bargate Award 2020, Soho Theatre today reveals the 20 plays that have been longlisted for the award. The shortlist will be announced at the end of September and the winner of the award announced in October.

Since 1982, the Verity Bargate Award, Soho Theatre’s foremost playwriting award, has uncovered the best new and emerging writers. It has launched the careers of some of Britain’s most established playwrights and screenwriters including Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), Vicky Jones (HBO’s Run), Toby Whithouse (Doctor Who) and many, many more. This year’s award will be judged by a panel of industry experts including former Soho writers Phoebe Waller-BridgeArinzé Kene and Laura Wade, screenwriter Russell T Davies, actress and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti. The award is sponsored by Character 7 and chaired by film and television producer, Character 7’s Stephen Garrett. The Award honours Verity Bargate, Soho’s co-founder who passionately championed new writing during her time at the small but hugely influential fringe theatre, Soho Poly.

On the Verity Bargate Award 2020 longlist, Stephen Garrett said: “If anyone needs reminding why we absolutely have to have theatres back in our lives, they should look no further than this inspiring, inspired, richly diverse, fabulously imagined and utterly necessary body of work from 20 emerging voices.”

Verity Bargate Award 2020 longlist

44 Sex Acts in One Week        David Finnigan
Black Beth                              Cheryl Ndione
Even In Arcadia                                  Sophie Swithinbank
Everything Must Go                Caitlin McEwan
Fly Home Butterfly                  Tife Kusoro
A Gig for Ghosts                     Fran Bushe
Honey                                                Lucy Foster
Human Suit                            Sarah Kosar
KRILL                                    Sorcha McCaffrey
The Levellers                          Nathan Lucky Wood
Marry or Burn                         Tolula Dada
RAD                                       FXXX BXXXXX
Retrograde                             Ryan Calais Cameron
scum                                      Ava Wong Davies
Shedding a Skin                     Amanda Wilkin
Super High Resolution            Nathan Ellis
This Game Right Here            Aaron Gordon
This Might Not Be It                Sophia Chetin-Leuner
Vile Acts of Love                     Naomi Sheldon
When We Begin                      Leo J Skilbeck

Soho Theatre’s Literary Manager Gillian Greer said: ‘This is the Verity Bargate Award’s biggest ever year, and we have never needed it more. In a time of great uncertainty, I am delighted that Soho Theatre can celebrate these twenty vital, distinct, urgent and uncompromising theatrical voices. The talent, variety, and ambition on display within this list is truly astonishing, and offers a beacon of hope for the future of playwriting.’

The longlisted playwrigthts for the Verity Bargate Award 2020 are:

FXXX BXXXXX is a theatre and opera maker, who won the 2015 Genesis Future Directors Award with his production of Man: three plays by Tennessee Williams at the Young Vic. He produces his own work as Oedipa, and is now collaborating with UCL’s Communication Clinic and Britten-Pears Arts on using opera to generate new expressive tools for people living with communication disabilities. After several years adjusting to living with long-term health conditions, he is co-writing a new musical with Gwyneth Herbert for Audrey Productions, supported by Bristol Old Vic. He is also publicly exploring inherited privileged and restitution through family autobiography at www.ReparationStory.com.

Fran Bushe is a playwright, comedian and is currently writing a book. She is an Associate Artist for the Pleasance Theatre in London and an alumni of the Soho Theatre Writers’ Lab 2018/19.  Her play Ad Libido had a run at VAULT Festival, Pleasance Edinburgh and was at the start of a UK tour in March. Last year she wrote The Diary of My Broken Vagina for Channel 4 and her short play Alive Day was published in 20 Short Plays with Big Roles for Women. 

Ryan Calais Cameron is a writer and actor. Queens of Sheba (co-written with Jessica Hagan) and Typical (starring Richard Blackwood) were produced by Nouveau Riche Theatre Company and were sell-out hits at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Ryan is an alumnus of the Royal Court writer’s programme 2017 and the Soho Young Company 2016/17. Currently Ryan is under commission to the Royal Court Theatre and has a number of projects in development with television companies.

Sophia Chetin-Leuner is a writer and teacher from London. Her first play, Save+Quit, won the London Student Drama Festival in 2015 and was published by Nick Hern Books in 2017 as part of their Best of the Vaults anthology. She completed an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch in 2018 where she was the recipient of the Dalio Family Foundation Scholarship. She was a member of the HighTide Academy in 2016 and the Bush Emerging Writers Group in 2019. 

Tolula Dada is an award-nominated playwright and screenwriter with over a decade’s experience, spanning theatre, drama development and script editing continuing drama and returning series for BBC One, ITV, Sky One and Cinemax. Her first full-length play, Carrot Or Stick? was nominated for the 2015 Alfred Fagon Award. She went on to take part in the Royal Court’s Introduction to Playwriting Group and a year-long writing residency at Oxford Playhouse. Since completing the 2019 4Screenwriting Course, she has developed a number of original series for TV and written on the forthcoming BBC Three series, Red Rose.

Ava Wong Davies is a playwright and theatre critic based in London. She is a regular contributor to The Stage and Exeunt Magazine and in 2018 won the Sunday Times Harold Hobson award for criticism. As a playwright, her work has been performed at The Yard, The Bunker, VAULT Festival, and The North Wall. 

Nathan Ellis is a writer for theatre and TV. His first play No One Is Coming to Save You was called a ‘blazing debut’ (The Guardian; one of their top shows of the Edinburgh Fringe 2018). His six-part comedy drama series Nuclear is currently in development with Greenacre Films. He was a member of the Royal Court Invitation Writers’ Supergroup, led by Alice Birch and Ali McDowell in 18-19. He lives in North London. 

David Finnigan is a playwright and theatre-maker who works with climate and earth scientists. He is the writer of Kill Climate Deniers and an associate of Coney. More at davidfinig.com

Lucy Foster is a writer for stage, screen, and audio. Her current projects include developing a play as part of Hampstead Theatre’s 2020 INSPIRE writing group, developing a comedy-horror audio drama with Audible, creating an ensemble play about the life of Eliza Hamilton for LEH’s Write the Girl Initiative, and developing an original comic-fantasy TV series. She won the Alpine Fellowship 2019 with ROLL, PLAY, which centred on gender identity told through a Dungeons and Dragons game. She is also the Artistic Director of Snapper Theatre, and wrote their debut production, LOBSTER (Theatre503 2018). She’s represented by Jennifer Thomas at United Agents.

Aaron Gordon is an actor-writer born and bred in Hackney. He has worked in theatre since his early teens and developed a second passion in writing when he was eighteen. Since then he has been involved with a number of different companies. Taking writing courses at the Royal Court and Lyric Hammersmith. Seed commissions with Paines Plough and Stratford East Theatre. A writer’s collective with Tamasha and most recently writer on attachment with the National Theatre. Aaron’s motto when creating work is something to make you think, laugh and cry. And he hopes to apply that all his work.

Sarah Kosar is a writer for theatre, audio and TV. She has recently recorded her original audio drama Bear Trap for Audible and is developing an original TV series with NBCU. She was part of the Old Vic 12 (2017/2018) and received a Tier 1 Exceptional Promise in playwriting visa.

Tife Kusoro is a Nigerian-British writer. She was previously a Bush Theatre Emerging writer, and is currently the Royal Court’s Lynne Gagliano Writers’ Award recipient. Her plays have been showcased as part of the Talawa Firsts festival and at the Alchymy festival Catalyst scheme at the North Wall Arts Centre.

Sorcha McCaffrey is a writer and actor from Yorkshire. She trained at ALRA North and is a supported artist at Oldham Coliseum. She has performed with the John Godber Company, Contact Theatre and Apples and Snakes, and has taken part in the Royal Court writers group. Her play Ladybones ran at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019 and has been touring in the North of England, as well as being recorded as an audio drama for Audible.

Caitlin McEwan is a writer and actor, originally from Edinburgh. Her previous work includes Bible John, which was the recipient of the Charlie Hartill Theatre Reserve from the Pleasance, and received an Offie commendation for its run at Vault Festival in February 2020. She is currently working on a seed commission with 45North, is part of HighTide’s Playwright Crisis Support Programme, and is on an invitational writing group at the Royal Court, led by Leo Butler. 

Cheryl Ndione is a writer, director, performer, producer and a graduate of both Central School of Speech and Drama and the University of Bristol. She founded and is Executive Director of Purple Moon Drama, a theatre company that creates opportunities for young people and emerging artists. She has directed various productions for Purple Moon including Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman and Side Effects by Iman Qureshi. Cheryl’s most recent play, Apple, premiered at the 2020 VAULT Festival.

Naomi Sheldon is a writer performer. Her debut play Good Girl transferred from the Edinburgh Fringe to Trafalgar Studios where it won Best Show in the Funny Women Awards in 2018. She joined the BBC Drama Room scheme in 2019 and in 2020 the BBC Writersroom Drama Room programme, where she is paired with Bad Wolf to develop an original drama. She is under commission at Trafalgar Studios and wrote Out Of Your Mind for BBC Radio 3 for their Summerhall radio season. Her recent play Vile Acts of Love (developed on the Soho Writer’s Lab) had a work-in-progress run at VAULT festival 2020 and was long listed for The Women’s Playwriting Award. Naomi is co-host of The Pleasure Podcast, a hit podcast about sex and intimacy.

Leo Skilbeck is a writer, director and maker, for stage and screen. Their work includes transmasc odyssey Bullish (show and photography exhibition, Milk Presents, Camden People’s Theatre) , drag king play JOAN (Milk Presents, Derby Theatre, winner of  Fringe First Award and Off West End Award) and Big Ben (short film, My England series, Young Vic). Leo’s work as director includes cabaret Chekhov (THE BEAR/ THE PROPOSAL, Young Vic as Genesis Future Director) and as Associate Director: Fun Home (Young Vic, as Jerwood Assistant Director) and The Complete Deaths (Tim Crouch and Spymonkey Comedy).

Sophie Swithinbank is an award-winning playwright, based in London. Her play Bacon (Tony Craze Award Winner 2018) was commissioned by Soho Theatre but is on hold due to the pandemic. Earlier versions of Bacon appeared at Theatre503 and Arcola Theatre. Sophie was the 2019 Writer In Residence at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the 2020 Writer in Residence at Villa Sarkia in Finland. Sophie’s previous works include Circle Game (booked at Soho Theatre, cancelled due to pandemic), Fabric Scissors (St Paul’s Girls’ School), Where There Is Smoke (National Theatre Learning), Come Inside (Bush Theatre) and The Superhero (Lyric Hammersmith). Sophie is currently working on a one-act play about motherhood. Even in Arcadia is Sophie’s first adaptation for stage.

Nathan Lucky Wood is a writer from London. His previous plays include Alcatraz (Vault Festival 2019) and A Haunting (King’s Head 2016, Vault Festival and Belgrade Theatre 2017). He’s a London Library Emerging Writer for 2020/21. Outside of writing, he’s worked for the past decade in the homelessness and domestic violence prevention sectors. Twitter: @lucky_wood

Amanda Wilkin is a playwright, actress and jazz and blues singer-songwriter from London. In 2017 she was on the Royal Court and BBC London Writers’ Groups. After touring Hamlet to 188 countries with Shakespeare’s Globe, she wrote her first play And I Dreamt I Was Drowning, which was developed as part of the Talawa Firsts Festival 2018. She has since written and performed short pieces at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, The Little Sob as part of Dark Night of the Soul in early 2019, and BESSIE COLEMAN as part of Notes to the Forgotten She-Wolves in early 2020. She is under commission to Audible as part of their Emerging Playwrights Programme 2020 and is also writing a play about the history of protest songs and another about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

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