Published: Mon 29 Jan 24

Winners announced for Tony Craze Award 2023

Soho Theatre today announces its joint winners of the 2023 Tony Craze Award – Laith Elzubaidi and Maryam Garad. The highly commended award goes to Cal-I Jonel. This is the first time, since the award’s inception, that the top prize has been awarded to two writers.

Jessica Draper, Head of Creative Engagement at Soho Theatre said:

It’s been a privilege to spend time with this year’s writers, who developed and crafted exceptional plays as part of Soho Theatre’s acclaimed Writer’s Lab.

“Huge congratulations go to the writers who captivated us with their skill and dynamism. Collectively their plays cover a spectrum of genres, worlds and interests, and combine a remarkable command of language with ambitious theatrical vision. 

“In a first for the Tony Craze Award, we’re thrilled to be announcing two winners. Markedly different in form, character and setting, the judges unanimously agreed to award Maryam Garad’s Reparations and Laith Elzubaidi’s Insane Asylum Seekers, thanks to the contemporary significance of both plays’ cultural contexts.  

“At Soho Theatre we’re committed to identifying and nurturing fresh, original and compelling voices. Our annual Tony Craze Award continues to be a significant force for celebrating and recognising early-career writers. As these writers and artists will almost certainly be blazing a trail of acclaim in the years to come, we’re proud to be at the beginning of this journey with them.”


  • Fat Do as Fat Does by Lashay Green
  • Filthy Animal by Rosie Race
  • PRESSURE by Danny Bailey
  • WINNER: Insane Asylum Seekers by Laith Elzubaidi
  • WINNER: Reparations by Maryam Garad
  • HIGHLY COMMENDED: There’s a Mouse in the Kitchen by Cal-I Jonel

 Insane Asylum Seekers by Laith Elzubaidi is a multi-generational story of a British-Iraqi refugee family. Reparations by Maryam Garad is the story of a Somali woman’s journey with infatuation, stolen identity and systematic neglect. There’s a Mouse in the Kitchen by Cal-I Jonel centres themes of brotherhood and grief under the pressure of a looming deadline.

Reparations can be seen at Soho Theatre on 9 & 12 February as part of the annual Soho Rising festival.

 The Tony Craze Award (formerly Soho Young Writers’ Award) is named in honour of Soho Theatre’s former Artistic Director and first ever Verity Bargate Award winner who passed away in 2016.

Applications are open each year to writers on Soho Theatre’s Writer’s Lab – an entry-level course supporting new writers to create a play over nine months.

Previous winners include Somebody Jones with All My Friends Are Dead, Louis Emmitt-Stern with Slippery, Fran Bushe with A Gig for GhostsFarah Najib with Dirty DogsAdam Narat for Birthright (renamed New Pacific), Phoebe Eclair-Powell with FuryCharlie Josephine with Bitch Boxer, and Patrick Russell with Antlers.



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Immersed in a digital world saturated with diverse voices, opinions, and judgments, SOL is getting swallowed up by social media and spat. back. out.

In her attempt to navigate the complexities of body image, societal expectations, the intersectionality of identity and relationships, the narrative unfolds through exploring different facets of SOL’s experiences as she grapples with the external judgments and internal struggles associated with her body.

Things are changing, and SOL is done being nice and needs a way to “fix” and change it all. But what does that mean for her?

Lashay Green, a dynamic artist from North West London, is a multifaceted writer, poet, spoken word artist, facilitator, and playwright. Her vibrant body of work delves into themes of image, identity, race, and mental health, fearlessly exploring the unspoken aspects of our humanity to unearth comfort in discomfort. Drawing from her roots in poetry, Lashay skilfully intertwines lyricism and narrative in her scripts, forging a powerful and poignant voice. With a commitment to bridging the gap between spoken word and theatrical expression, she consistently crafts stories that resonate deeply, offering audiences a unique and thought-provoking perspective on the intricacies of the human experience.


Filthy Animal is a perversely funny examination of the complexities of an abusive relationship that has come together for its final hours after years of absurdity and obsession.

Decades unfold in one room, in one afternoon in the span of an hour, as a cruel and complex man invites his younger ex-wife to his dying bedside to ask one final favour.

Filthy Animal discusses themes of traumatic birth, assisted suicide and psychological abuse.

Rosie Race trained in choreography and visual performance at Dartington College of Arts before graduating from RADA in 2019. She is a freelance actor as well as being a core member of Quirk Theatre in Devon. She works as a movement director and is Associate Artist at Theatre Royal Plymouth where her first full length show, Us Against The World, will be produced and open in February 2024. She is Associate Artist of Theatre Alibi and Documental Theatre and developed Filthy Animal during her time on Soho Theatre Writer’s Lab 2022/23. Rosie is an Associate Lecturer in Acting and Physical Performance at University of Plymouth.


Interweaving 100 years of true stories, Insane Asylum Seekers is a sprawling multi-generational story following one British-Iraqi refugee family over an entire century. Jumping back and forth in time, the show paints a picture that questions whether the past ever really ends and wonders when the future begins. An exploration of how a family’s lives and personalities are shaped by events that happened decades before they were born.

There are also some dick jokes. Though the writer would argue they are ‘post-colonial dick jokes’. So still highbrow.

Laith Elzubaidi is a British-Iraqi drama and comedy writer based in London. He is the founder of the British-Arab Writers Group, a collective of over 100 writers, and co-producer of Hakaya: A British-Arab Variety Show at Soho Theatre. In 2023 he was selected for the BBC Comedy Collective Supercharged Bursary Scheme, winning a development grant and paid shadowing opportunities on BBC productions. He recently wrote and directed the sci-fi film Panic!, which premiered at the Southbank Centre for Refugee Week 2023. He was a Screenshot Showcase bursary recipient (SISTER Pictures and South Of The River Productions), and his sci-fi drama script, An Impossible Homecoming, won a Special Commendation at the Edinburgh TV Festival All3Media New Drama Script Awards.


If riot is the language of the oppressed and a tool for revolution, what happens when one’s society actively polices that voice?

It’s 2011. Paulette hides within the ruins of the Brixton riots that tore through her family 30 years before, suffocating under the oppressive structures that silence Black women in Britain. But with the Tottenham riots approaching, Paulette is forced to confront the voice that was snuffed out in 1981 and push back against the PRESSURE.

Originally from Hackney, Danny Bailey uses his Afro-Caribbean background as a creative vocabulary to challenge social-political issues through playwriting, performance, filmmaking, digital art and community building.  He is the founder of @ThePalaceOfTheDogs which aims to put B(L)ACK Art into the centre of communities. Experimental filmmaking credits include Black Exodus (V&A, National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, Black Lens film festival) and Soft Bwoi (Queer Film & Arts Festival in London, Afropolitan Festival in Brussels and Fringe of Colour Festival in Edinburgh). Recent performing work includes A Strange Loop (Barbican), The Dark is Rising (Complicité) and Get Up Stand Up (The Lyric Theatre). In 2024 he will perform in The Big Life (Theatre Royal Stratford East). He continues to develop PRESSURE along with his play Finding Olokun.


Upon spending three years in prison for shoplifting, Aisha struggles to navigate her life post prison. She soon finds herself infatuated by a wealthy young woman named V and comes to the conclusion that stealing material items is simply not enough – true healing will come when she steals this woman’s life.

Reparations is a play about the consequences of neglect and the ramifications when it’s at once familial and systemic.

Maryam Garad is a British/Somali playwright and actor from London. Her debut play Reparations was shortlisted for the Mustapha Matura award. Her writing primarily centres the Black Muslim experience with the goal of allowing those that share her experiences to see themselves truthfully on stage. Her writing has been staged at Riverside Studios, Bush Theatre and Omnibus theatre. She is a recipient of Bush Theatre’s Bloom Bursary and is a part of the current London Library Emerging Writers’ Group.


Trapped in their flat, two brothers, Sean, absorbed in his dissertation, and responsible Tristan, confront their anxieties, secrets, and buried fears as unexpected events reveal deeper tensions. Amidst a looming deadline and life commitments, the duo face not just a scurrying mouse but also their hidden vulnerabilities. This poignant narrative delves into brotherhood, grief, and mental health, unraveling the complex dynamics between siblings.

Cal-I Jonel, an East London-based actor, writer and theatre-maker, began his artistic journey in community-based youth work, crafting, directing and producing plays. Alongside a decade-long career in education, he has released various independent projects as a singer-songwriter and composer, including co-composing Blouse and Skirt’s critically acclaimed The Instrumentals. As a playwright, his work includes the self-penned one-man show, No More Mr Nice Guy (in collaboration with Nouveau Riché) at Camden People’s Theatre, a commission by Queen’s Theatre for Blueprint Festival (2022) and a radio drama seed-commission for Talawa Theatre (2023). Cal-I facilitates workshops in spoken word and performing arts across London’s schools, colleges, and local communities.