Soho Theatre today announces the shortlisted plays and Award winner for the Tony Craze Award 2021, its new writing prize open to Soho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab participants, as well as a Publishing Partner, Nick Hern Books, for its Verity Bargate Award 2022. Stories exploring grief, loss, imaginary worlds, harsh realities, gender, displacement, generational trauma, sisterly bonds, blackness, and queerness feature in the eclectic mix of plays shortlisted:

Tony Craze Award 2021 shortlist
new kingdom of Kitara – babirye bukilwa – HIGHLY COMMENDED
Secrets of Da Syrian Sisters – Sherine Chalhie
Slippery – Louis Emmitt-Stern – WINNER
String – Louise Dalton
White Island – Tanya Bridgeman

Soho Theatre’s Creative Learning Producer Jules Haworth said: ‘It’s an honour to celebrate these talented early-career writers, whose vibrant plays leapt off the page and stirred our panel’s curiosity. The award, in honour of Soho Theatre’s former Artistic Director and playwright, Tony Craze, champions courageous new writers emerging from the Writers’ Lab programme. We hope these five artists take the industry by storm, keep an eye on them.’

Award winner Louis Emmitt-Stern’s Slippery, a comedy-drama about grief, sex, spaghetti carbonara and confronting ghosts, will receive a workshop at Soho Theatre early next year. babirye bukilwa’s new kingdom of Kitara, which examines grief, gender, displacement and the aftermath of abrahmaic religions and its effect on Black queer bodies, came highly commended.

Formerly the Soho Young Writers’ Award, the Tony Craze Award was renamed in 2017 in honour of Soho Theatre’s former Artistic Director and first ever Verity Bargate Award winner who passed away in 2016. Open each year to the 48 writers on Soho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab, previous winners include Fran Bushe with A Gig for Ghosts, Farah Najib with Dirty Dogs, Adam Narat for Birthright (now called New Pacific), Phoebe Eclair-Powell with Fury, Charlie Josephine with Bitch Boxer, and Patrick Russell with Antlers.

It is also announced today that the UK’s leading independent theatre publisher, Nick Hern Books, will be Publishing Partner for the Verity Bargate Award from 2022. The publisher will have the first option to publish the winning play. The Verity Bargate Award is sponsored by Character 7.

Matt Applewhite, Managing Director and Commissioning Editor of Nick Hern Books, said: ‘The Verity Bargate Award has long been one of UK theatre’s most important, surprising and exciting new-writing prizes – and is aligned completely with our aims at Nick Hern Books of discovering, sharing and shining a spotlight on brilliant plays from the very best new voices.

‘Having published many winning and shortlisted writers from previous years – including Vicky Jones, Dylan Coburn Gray, Phoebe Eclair-Powell, Janice Okoh and Diane Samuels – we are thrilled to make it official as Publishing Partner, to strengthen our close relationship with the wonderful team at Soho Theatre, and can’t wait to publish many fantastic new plays in the future.’



new kingdom of Kitara – babirye bukilwa (they/them)HIGHLY COMMENDED
Set in a dystopian future where paying to have access to the sun is law, a Queer Ugandan Matriarchy has colonised Europe. Twin siblings battle it out to sit on the throne. Set in Nakku, formerly known as the city of London, the new kingdom of Kitara explores revolution, love, intimacy and rivalry amdist a heaving backdrop of war, desperation, power and epic righteous rage. Centering Black, queer, AFAB bodies and uncompromising on the horrors of a new empire, the heartbeat of the play examines grief, gender, displacement and the aftermath of abrahmaic religions and its effect on Black queer bodies

babirye bukilwa is an actor, poet and writer based in London. babirye uses they/them pronouns and writes their name in lower case.
babirye’s debut play …blackbird hour was commissioned by Talawa Theatre Company and was shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2019. …blackbird hour was also a finalist for the inaugural Women’s Prize for Playwriting 2020 and the Alfred Fagon Award 2020. Their second play …cake, an origin story to …blackbird hour has received critical acclaim notably in the Stage, the Idependent and WhatsOnStage. …cake has been nominated for an OFFIE award for best production 2021. …cake has been longlisted for the Alfred Fagon award for 2021 making this babirye’s consecutive nomination for this award.
babirye was comissioned by the National Youth Theatre and their play masters house sold out it run.
babirye’s third play the new kingdom of Kitara, has been nominated for Soho Theatre’s Tony Craze Award and as of November 2021 it was shortlisted. babirye has participated in the Royal Courts introduction to playwriting group, BBC London voices and Soho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab. babiryes play WATER has received an OFFIE award in partnership with Small truth theatres second digital series inspired by the banks of the River Thames.
babirye’s poetry has been featured and published in SISTA! (Team Angelica Productions), The Colour of Madness Anthology: Exploring BAME Mental Health and Sweet Thang Magazine. They were commissioned by Inua Ellams and Michelle Tiwo for the Barbican.

Jamelia speaks the Queen’s English; Fatemah is a functioning weedhead; and as for baby Hayat – she’s got good reason to be a little anxious. The Husseiny sisters have more than just flying rats to contend with, and there’s not enough Febreze in the whole of Northolt that can shift the smell of death from their nasty council flat – “wiv all dat we still gotta get onto our daily prayers fam!”… As lies, stickier than layers of secret baklava unfold, dese gals just gotta come clean.
Secrets of Da Syrian Sisters takes us for an energetic ride through the lives of three young women united by their cultural upbringing and religion but distinct in their view of the modern world; a play about sisterly rivalry, secrets, faith, friendship and ultimately love.

Sherine Chalhie is a writer performer born and bred in Tottenham London. Sherine trained as an Actress at Drama school hoping to be snapped up for a plethora of meaty roles, but disillusioned by the lack of opportunities, she decided to take matters into her own hands and start writing. She is passionate about seeking out untold human stories from working class and culturally diverse backgrounds, telling daring, female led stories, all the while inspiring young people.
Hijabi Matters was Sherine’s debut solo show which received Art Council Funding for an R&D, featured on Sky News, premiered at Oval house in 2019 and went on to be performed at Harris Academy secondary school.
Sherine is founder of Shout About it Productions – creating theatre that breaks down cultural stereotypes, empowers women and inspires young people to create their own opportunities. @shoutaboutitpr1
Sherine has written a feature film pitch. She is an alumni of the Soho Theatre Writers Lab 2020/21 where she wrote her play Secrets of da Syrian Sisters.
She loves collaborating and is currently adapting her solo show into a TV series called Are you Dizzy Fam? with her writing partner Fiona Kelly. Sherine is also writing a new play with her actress friend Bayley Freer called Power Through.

“That’s the rules. First you cry for six weeks, then you move into a really fucking expensive flat in Canary Wharf. And then, because that won’t quite fill the void, you gut the place and start over.”
It’s been almost a decade since Kyle and Jude last saw each other. When Jude suffers a bloody accident, Kyle finds himself taking care of his ex-boyfriend for the first time since their messy breakup. Their tender reconnection is put under pressure as the pair search for comfort in the wounds of an unhealthy past.
A comedy-drama about grief, sex, spaghetti carbonara, and confronting ghosts, Slippery navigates how we heal and restore intimacy when we lose people we love.

Louis Emmitt-Stern is a Gibraltarian writer, director, and theatre-maker based in London. As a playwright, his work has been performed at Pleasance Theatre Islington, Watford Palace Theatre, Southwark Playhouse, and Ivy Arts Centre. His monologue, Laura, was shortlisted for The Pleasance Young Playwrights Award 2018, and his play All The Blue Areas received a Farnham Malting’s ‘No Strings Attached’ arts grant in 2019. He is an alumnus of Guildford School of Acting, Gibraltar Academy of Music & Performing Arts, National Theatre Playwrights Toolkit Programme, and Young Lyric Directors Programme at Lyric Hammersmith. Last year, Louis was nominated for a HM Government of Gibraltar Cultural Services Award for his production of Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs, and for his work with young people in the arts and education.

‘We’re gonna fly. Like two steady wings of a plane, me and mum. Safe, me and mum. Side by side. My hand in hers and her heart a part of mine. We’ll keep a string between us, to hold us together tight. Cause the wind can be wicked. And the rain is pooled in the sky just waiting to…’
Caught somewhere between reality and her own fantastical world, 20 year old Ash grapples with grief, loss and what it means to really fucking love someone. All while working her job at the local supermarket, chugging redbull and sneaking early morning cigs. String walks the line between mundanity and metaphor, imagination and truth, being stuck and taking flight.

Louise Clare Dalton is a queer, non-binary playwright, poet and facilitator based in North East London. In 2019, Louise’s poetry reached the final of the Roundhouse Poetry Slam, and their writing has since featured for Thinkably, Women Like Us and Evolve London. They have taught in schools across the UK, and are passionate about bringing theatre and creativity to the young people who need it. String is Louise’s playwriting debut.

Eabha spent her childhood in a mother and baby home in Dublin during the 60’s. She didn’t realise that she was treated differently because of the colour of her skin. Now a mother herself, her and her daughter Whitney struggle to find a sense of belonging. Do we need to know our roots to truly understand our place in the world? A story of heritage, belonging and generational trauma – a mother and daughter search for answers of their past.

Tanya Bridgeman is a working-class creative who grew up in Medway, Kent. She trained as an actor on the 3-year acting BA at Mountview and graduated in 2019. Tanya began her writing journey over lockdown and has since written two full length plays. Her debut play Shoes To Fill, inspired by stories told by her Bajan Grangran and Irish Granny, was commissioned by the Iris theatre and received an Off-West End commendation. Tanya is co-artistic director of production company Fair Play. who co-produced Shoes to Fill.


Augustin Wecxsteen / Communications Officer /

Kelly Fogarty / Co-Audience & Communications Director /

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.
We are mission driven and we measure our success in: • the NEW WORK that we produce, present and facilitate • the CREATIVE TALENT that we nurture with artists, in our participation work and with our own staff • the DIVERSE AUDIENCES that we play to and engage.
To create theatre we nurture new playwrights, we commission new work and we produce new plays. Writers including debbie tucker green, Chris Chibnall, Theresa Ikoko and Vicky Jones had early work produced at Soho. With comedy and cabaret, we identify, develop and produce exciting new talents and present some of the biggest international stars.
We work beyond Soho taking work to and from the world’s major festivals like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Our touring work plays across the UK and internationally with strong connections to India, Australia and the US. Our filmed comedy can be downloaded on our digital platform, seen on TV and viewed on international airlines. We’re ambitious, entrepreneurial and collaborative and take pride in our strong relationships with commercial partners – but the profits we make go back into supporting our work. | | @sohotheatre

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 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. |  

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. Character 7 is currently in production on CULPRITS, an 8 part thriller for Disney+/Star, written and directed by J Blakeson (I CARE A LOT).
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

Nick Hern Books (NHB) is the UK’s leading specialist theatre publisher and performing rights agent. They’re home to many of the most exciting UK and Irish writers working today, as well as leading playwrights from the USA, Australia and elsewhere. NHB also publishes practical books by a range of highly renowned and respected practitioners, teachers and performers, on topics such as acting, writing, directing and more. For more information, visit

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