Following the record number of 1,493 submissions to its Verity Bargate Award 2020, and a longlist of 20 playwrights, Soho Theatre today announces the 7 plays that have been shortlisted for the Award. The shortlisted plays, submitted back in early January, feature an eclectic mix of stories including a feminist ghost story, rich and evocative plays about identity, the NHS and education, a pressure-cooker drama set in a paranoid McCarthy-era America, and prescient dystopian dramas, which feel more relevant now than ever.

The winner will be announced in October, following deliberations by the judges, a panel of industry experts including former Soho writers Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Laura Wade, screenwriter Russell T Davies, and 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 shortlist, Stephen Garrett said: ‘These shortlisted plays are spine-tingly zeitgeisty, a vivid reminder of what the world is missing with no live theatre, and what excitements await when it returns. These are voices crying out to be heard.’

Verity Bargate Award 2020 shortlist

Honey                                    Lucy Foster

Krill                                        Sorcha McCaffrey

RAD                                       FXXX BXXXXX

Retrograde                           Ryan Calais Cameron

scum                                       Ava Wong Davies

Shedding A Skin                  Amanda Wilkin

Super High Resolution      Nathan Ellis

Honey – Lucy Foster
When three sisters inherit their family home after their father dies, it’s the first time the house has ever been owned by women. And the house decides to rebel.
This feminist horror centres around directionless Leanne, her older sister and ever-nurturer Clare, and 16 year old Erin, who is desperate to be older. As they battle grief, financial uncertainty, and the sudden presence of an older man, these sisters will be disturbed further when strange things start to happen. Doors blow open and closed, lights flicker on and off, and objects, in particular jars of honey, start to appear in places where nobody could have left them. The tricks escalate as cracks form between the sisters, and as these strange things start to centre around Leanne, and only Leanne, she begins to question: is this all in her head, or is something trying to get rid of her?

Krill – Sorcha McCaffrey
The infection is spreading and people are being wiped out. The country has gone into panic. In a small abandoned town in the north of England, Esther and Kay find themselves trying to survive. As they start to run out of food and time starts to lose meaning, they are pulled back into memories and longing, and Esther and Kay fall in love as the world ends. Krill is a queer love story about the the end of the world. It’s about falling in love, losing people, and how to deal with toothache in an apocalypse.

In a luxury European home, a tutor prepares an eerily detached teenager for his first term at a British boarding school. As she becomes closer to the boy’s nanny, the tutor uncovers clues to a violent history, which gradually expose the brutally radicalising power of money. The house becomes a battleground of extremism and hypocrisy, as its occupants question what constitutes an act of terror — and ask what little Maximilian is really going to learn at the hallowed Radstowe Hall.

Retrograde – Ryan Calais Cameron
Early 1950s and a young Sidney Poitier, walks in to the head office at NBC to meet with a lawyer, Mr Parks. He has just booked a history-defining lead role in a new TV series. Sidney thinks he is coming in to sign contracts. He’s right, but the type of contracts that this young Black actor, activist, and role model will be asked to sign will not just have the ability to define history but change the course of it.
Retrograde explores identity, resilience, and integrity as it investigates what is the true measure of a great man.

scum – Ava Wong Davies
“I did what I had to. I don’t regret it. Not one bit.”
It’s the end of the world. Maggie and Kathy are the only ones left. They know there’s no-one else. They’re sure of it.
scum is a play about the brutality of adolescence and the terror of the unknown.

Shedding A Skin – Amanda Wilkin
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.

Super High Resolution – Nathan Ellis
Anna is a doctor. She’s not going to quit. She’s determined not to quit. Being a doctor is a really good job and you get to save lives and help people, so you should not quit. But when Anna’s patient runs out on her, and her personal life starts to spiral, she’s not certain that it’s worth it any more. This is a play about the realities of being a doctor in the modern NHS and the limits of anyone’s ability to care for other people.

Soho Theatre’s Literary Manager Gillian Greer said: ‘Our shortlist this year represents an incredible variety of stories from some of the most exciting emerging voices writing plays today. From prescient dystopian worlds to feminist haunted houses, from historical dramas exploring our roots, to contemporary tales of rediscovering them, from a lambasting of the private education system to a frank examination of our public health service – it’s going to be a challenging year for our judges to pick a winner!’

Headshots can be downloaded here.

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