This year the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting Judges decided upon a winner anonymously on Monday 23rd October. The winner and Judges Awards will be announced at the Award Ceremony (livestreamed from 4pm Nov 13th) In the run up to the ceremony we’re profiling all the shortlisted writers and their plays.
Pumpjack- Daniel Foxsmith
Rabbit buries her dead after a catastrophic slaughter, Slick and Neath run from a familiarly modern-looking explosion, whilst Reynolds and Puck prospect for water in a future world run dangerously dry. Three generations of survivors explore England’s wastelands, separate but bound together by what it means to live post-resources, the land they walk on and the blood in their veins.
PUMPJACK is about aftermaths. Nature. Old gods and broken worlds. The legacy we choose to leave and the shadow it casts over the people we leave it to.
Daniel trained at East 15 Acting School and is an award-winning actor and writer. He was long listed for Theatre503 Playwright’s Award in 2014. He founded internationally touring company Snuff Box Theatre in 2011.
The Observatory, his first piece focused on the war in Afghanistan and won two awards, the Ideastap/NSDF/Methuen Edinburgh Award and the Scottish Daily Mail/CDS Edinburgh Drama Award, both in 2011.
The Altitude Brothers, based on the real-life events of the first men in space, was toured by Snuff Box Theatre in 2012.
WEALD was shortlisted for the inaugural Hodgkiss Award at The Royal Exchange in 2013 and the Yale Drama Series prize in 2014. It had its debut at the Finborough Theatre in 2016 and was published by Oberon Books.
Q & A
What inspired you to write this play?
Naomi Klein. George Monbiot. If the play ever gets published, they should probably get a dedication. Their books on how our behaviour is affecting the world in a very tangible, visceral way were fundamental corner stones of the play. I became obsessed with the faith and the fervour that has grown up around our usage of resources. Oil is a dying leviathan: what becomes the next hill we choose die on? The future of oil seems set like the stone it came from; the future of water however, scares the shit out of me. I became obsessed by our relationship to the generation previous to ours and the one following us. And a seam that seems to run through my writing at the moment is the heritage of our old belief systems, our shared stories – so probably add Wōden to the dedication list too. I stuck all of that in a blender, and out came the play.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a writer?
Originally, I trained as an actor – the Contemporary Theatre course at East 15 runs a festival – ‘Debut’ – which is written, performed, directed and produced by the third year students. It’s a unique training and it was the first of it’s kind. It allows people to take brave leaps. I’m still acting, and the performance training helped me to write my first play, which was this big angry mess, during that final year. Messy as it was, it still had a beginning, a middle and an end. And I thought to myself ‘I can do this, and I don’t mind it – might be something in it’. The course gave us the freedom to risk, to become experts in failure. I set up a theatre company, Snuff Box Theatre, with two classmates, women who are also special talents in their own rights, as a way of getting our stories heard. My play Weald was produced by Snuff Box. Since then I’ve worked with some amazing people, like Guy Jones and Mel Hillyard and the rest of the writers on the Orange Tree Writer’s Course. I’m still learning as a writer – and these fierce brains that are becoming part of a growing network of creatives are putting me through my paces!
How do you feel about being shortlisted?
It feels important, I think – I mean, yeah, of course it is! – but I don’t know how quite yet. To be honest, I was simply glad to be given a deadline to shoot for. I almost didn’t send anything this year, which goes to show you that sometimes fear masquerades as instinct! Right now I just feel grateful for the all the help, inspiration and time I’ve received from generous brains so far. Maybe ask me in a year or two and I’ll be able to give you a more in-depth answer…
What do you think about anonymity of the Bruntwood?
Well Bruntwood is the writing prize, isn’t it?! It’s legacy is pretty vast – some of my favourite playwrights are immortalised there on the hallowed Wikipedia page! So to have this huge thing, this engine of creativity run on anonymity for fuel? That feels like a rare creature. Anonymity gives you freedom. There’s something exciting about it; it protects both reader and writer, I think, from unhelpful outside stuff. It concentrates and focuses – it becomes just about story. I think it’s hands down the best way to organise something like this.