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.
Plow- Sharon Clark
(AKA Over the Hill There’s Something Better)
In the US a lone woman hits the road and starts to walk. In a matter of weeks she has covered four states. Nobody knows her name or her destination as she never utters a word. Is she an agent for hope in uncertain times or the harbinger of something ominous? As social media and the press fuels an ever-growing mass of followers, the end of her journey is in the hands of just one man.
Sharon Clark is Creative Director of the Bristol-based immersive theatre company, Raucous, where she has written and produced two shows for the company, The Stick House and Ice Road. She is a lecturer in writing for theatre at Bath Spa University and a resident of the Pervasive Media Studio. Her work has been produced at Bristol Old Vic, Theatre 503, the New Diorama, Theatre West, the egg (Bath Theatre Royal) and the Arcola and her work has been shortlisted for the PapaTango Prize and the Yale Drama Prize. She has written two short films, Stag and The Face He Created and is currently writing her first full-length film.
Plow was read under the title of ‘Over the Hill There’s Something Better’ to protect Sharon’s anonymity as it was also shortlisted for this years Papatango New Writing Prize.
What inspired you to write this play?
It is inspired by a short piece I read online about a woman who was silently walking across four states in the US. At that stage not much was known about her or what her destination was as she refused to answer any questions, or indeed utter a word. At this particular time in world politics it became interesting to think about how the many different factions in American society might view her – dark ominous threat or herald of a new age of hope? What role would social media play in charting her journey and what role would the press play in interpreting it? How would the government react to a silent African American woman trekking across the states when only she knows the whys and wheres of her walking. Why is she dressed head to toe in black? Why is her head covered? What does it signify? What does all this mean? And as the questions formed themselves I became intrigued to find the answers and weave them into a story. Then the story felt thematically prescient– the fear of the ‘other’, the enormous influencing force of social media and a world that needs to invent someone uncorrupted who can restore belief.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a playwright?
If I am honest it has been a long one. I have been writing plays for some time, a few of my plays have been produced in London and Bristol, I have been in residency at a couple of theatres, my work has received numerous rehearsed readings, I have been involved in development initiatives, been awarded funding and even shortlisted for several awards. However I was older than most emerging playwrights when I started to write and life got in the way more often than not. Kids, family, the need to make a living often delayed the development of a play for a year, sometimes two. The need to have a career and family meant that time was in limited supply – and the first thing that was sacrificed in the time squeeze was dedicated time to write plays. So uneven and a little bumpy has been the journey. Last year I took the decision to step off my main career path to donate more time to writing. And, unsurprisingly, my output rose and more opportunities have been offered.
How do you feel about being shortlisted?
Shocked. Astonished. Enormously excited.
What do you think about anonymity of the Bruntwood Prize?
I think it is vital. Anonymity allows you to take a risk without fear of overt judgment. You can send in your very first script or submit a play in which you have taken a potentially practice changing risk. It is the opportunity for your work to be read on a level platform with other writers. It allows your writing to speak for itself in its own terms without being considered next to a CV. It can make you brave.