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From a record number of 1493 entries, a longlist of 20 inspiring and fabulously imagined emerging voices, and a shortlist of seven incredibly eclectic new plays, Soho Theatre is thrilled to announce the winner of the Verity Bargate Award 2020 as Amanda Wilkin with her captivating play Shedding A Skin. The production will have its world premiere at Soho Theatre in the Spring/Summer of 2021.
For 50 years Soho Theatre has championed new writing, from lunch time plays in the 70s to today’s commissions, attachments, writers labs and awards. Since 1982, Soho Theatre’s prestigious biennial playwriting competition, the Verity Bargate Award, has uncovered the best new play by an emerging UK and Irish writer and launched the careers of some of Britain’s most established writers.
In January this year, almost 1500 new plays by emerging writers were submitted to the Verity Bargate Award 2020. What followed was months of reading from a diverse team of arts industry professionals, that continued throughout COVID restrictions, to reach a longlist of 20 plays before a shortlist of seven plays was determined. Chaired by film and television producer, and Award Sponsor, Character 7’s Stephen Garrett (The Night Manager, The Undoing) – who described the shortlisted plays as ‘spine-tingly zeitgeisty’ – hours of Zoom deliberations ensued between a panel of industry experts including former Soho Theatre writers Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Laura Wade, screenwriter Russell T Davies, actress and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti, before determining Amanda Wilkin’s play Shedding A Skin as the Award winner.
Selected quotes from the judging panel:
Lolita Chakrabarti said: ‘Amanda Wilkin’s play is beautifully written, contemporary, poetic and delicate. The world she creates in the play is familiar and surprising all at once. She’s definitely a talent to watch.’
Phoebe Waller-Bridge said: ‘I was not prepared to be kidnapped by a play and a voice so completely as I was by Amanda Wilkin’s Shedding A Skin. I’m excited to see this profound, funny, modern, stark and hopeful play performed at Soho Theatre. Then of course, after that, just everything Amanda puts her pen to!’
Russell T Davies said: ‘It was an absolute honour to read all seven plays, seven brilliant plays, seven marvellous writers, a real joy. And I noticed that as we talked, we kept coming back to one voice, one vision, one person, and that was Amanda Wilkin. It’s a beautiful play, it’s heartfelt, it’s mysterious, it says a lot about the world, it’s really really brilliant.’
Stephen Garrett said: ‘As sponsor of the Verity Bargate Award, I could not be more thrilled that Shedding A Skin has won this year’s prize. Amanda Wilkin has crafted a play that is funny as it is warm, as profound as it is of the moment. She’s captured a generation. It’s a work of incredible beauty and great wit, she will go far.’
Amanda Wilkin will be the recipient of the £7,500 prize, and will see the play produced at Soho Theatre in Spring / Summer 2021. The production will also be recorded and livestreamed, as well as released on Soho Theatre On Demand at a date to be announced.
Soho Theatre’s Creative Director David Luff said: “Following a year of immense change and adaptation, we are delighted to discover a quite brilliant new writer, with a voice and style so effortlessly evocative, extraordinary and electrifying. Amanda Wilkin has written a spellbinding play, unmistakeably for our times, tapping into the pressures of modern life, the desire for connection and the need for social and political change. I greatly look forward to producing our 2020 Verity Bargate Award winning play as both a live and filmed production next year.”
Soho Theatre’s Literary Manager Gillian Greer said: “Now more than ever, initiatives like the Verity Bargate Award are vital in order to identify and support our next generation of playwrights. Sifting through almost 1,500 plays with twenty freelance readers, Soho Theatre’s creative team and our brilliant judging panel have lead us to discover Amanda Wilkin’s bright, distinct and indefatigable voice. Shedding A Skin is such an exciting, vital discovery and I am so excited to see this play realised.”
Amanda Wilkin is a playwright, actress and jazz and blues singer-songwriter from London. Her first play And I Dreamt I Was Drowning was developed as part of the Talawa Firsts Festival 2018. More on Shedding A Skin:
She’s broke, just been dumped and lost her job after flipping out at a diversity photoshoot at her work. She needs somewhere new to live, and goes for the cheapest option available, renting a room from an elderly woman, Mildred. A young woman has to navigate how to heal, and face up to how she’s neglected to nurture her roots.
Amanda Wilkin said: “I’m really excited and grateful to find out that I’ve won the Verity Bargate Award. It was just amazing to be longlisted and shortlisted with extraordinary writers that I’m really proud to be amongst. I just wanted to say a big thank you to all the readers and the judges. I’m looking forward to getting started!”
NOTES TO EDITORS
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 writing a play for audio about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor with 45North and Ellie Keel Productions.
VERITY BARGATE AWARD 2020
The search is on. Soho Theatre and Character 7, producer of The Night Manager, are looking for extraordinary plays from extraordinary new voices. The Verity Bargate Award is Soho Theatre’s flagship new-writing award with the winning play produced in a full production on our stages. For almost 50 years, Soho Theatre has championed new writing. Since 1982, the Verity Bargate Award, Soho Theatre’s 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 (Run for HBO), Toby Whithouse (Doctor Who) and many, many more.
The Verity Bargate Award is open to any playwright who has had fewer than three professional productions and who lives in the UK or Ireland. There are no restrictions on subject matter. Musicals and other forms of theatre are welcome but will only be judged on the text that is submitted. The winner receives £7,500 in respect of an exclusive option for Soho Theatre to produce the play. www.sohotheatre.com/writers/verity-bargate-award/ | www.characterseven.com/
Soho Theatre is London’s most vibrant producer for new theatre, comedy and cabaret. We pursue creative excellence, harnessing an artistic spirit that is based in our new writing roots, the radical ethos of the fringe and the traditions of punk culture and queer performance. We champion voices that challenge from outside of the mainstream, and sometimes from within it too. We value entertainment, accessibility and enjoy a good show. We are a registered charity and social enterprise and our audiences are diverse in age, background and outlook.
Ordinarily our work plays to live audiences of 250,000 audiences a year in our Dean Street venue, at the Edinburgh Fringe and beyond. Since our temporary closure due to Covid-19 we have re-launched our online platform Soho Theatre On Demand, which hosted the phenomenally successful live recording of Fleabag. We are also working towards the opening of an exciting second venue, a “local theatre with a national profile” in Walthamstow, currently slated to open in 2022.
Soho Theatre’s board is chaired by Dame Heather Rabbatts DBE and the company is led by Executive Director Mark Godfrey and Creative Director David Luff. sohotheatre.com | sohotheatreondemand.com | @sohotheatre
Character 7 is a production company founded by Stephen Garrett for high-end television and film projects. It is based in Los Angeles and London. As an accomplished producer Stephen Garrett most recently served as Executive Producer on the David E Kelley penned HBO mini-series THE UNDOING, starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland, directed by Academy Award winner Susanne Bier, which has just launched in the UK on Sky Atlantic to stellar reviews. He was also Executive Producer on the multiple Golden Globe winning “The Night Manager.” A collaboration with The Ink Factory, the series –which also won an Emmy for director Susanne Bier- marked the first project under the Character 7 banner. Among the company’s upcoming projects in development are “Russians Among Us”, an adaptation of BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera’s compelling account of the spies ghosted into stolen identities in North America and “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold”, which is being produced in association with The Ink Factory, Paramount Television and BBC.
Prior to Character 7, Garrett was Founder and Executive Chairman of Kudos, the UK’s leading independent producer of TV drama. With his business partner Jane Featherstone, Kudos’ TV drama arm galvanized British television with the popular, acclaimed shows BAFTA- winning “Spooks” (based on Garrett’s original idea), “Hustle,” “Life on Mars,” “The Hour” and ITV’s hit “Broadchurch.” Garrett and Featherstone sold Kudos to Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group in 2006, and continued to be involved with the company until 2014. characterseven.com | @characterseven