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.
Electric Rosary – Tim Foley
In St Grace’s, the sisters are divided. Outside, the world is increasingly marked by man’s reliance on technology but an angry nation fears the changes that innovation brings. When an unusual postulant arrives at the convent some see her presence as a miracle but to others, she’s the biggest threat to their way of life. How long can the nuns hide from this growing unrest?
Tim Foley is a writer based in Manchester. He is the Associate Artist for Pentabus Theatre, and previously their Channel 4 Playwright. Tim’s first full-length play, The Dogs of War, premiered at the Old Red Lion Theatre in May 2015 and won the 2016 OffWestEnd award for Most Promising New Playwright. His next play, Astronauts of Hartlepool, premiered at the 2017 VAULT Festival and won a VAULT Origins Award for Outstanding New Work. Tim is currently on the HighTide First Commissions scheme, and he also writes audio dramas set in the world of Doctor Who and Torchwood for Big Finish Productions.
What inspired you to write this play?
Back in the 1940s, my Grandad helped build a monastery up in Scotland, and about ten years ago I went and visited it to hang out with his old mates. The monks there were discussing a dilemma at the time, since two of their vows were being thrown into sharp relief. They were expected to a) work the land, and b) keep outside contact to a minimum, but due to their ageing population and declining membership, they needed outsiders to come in for the former…and outsiders to stay away for the latter. I thought this was a curious situation.
Fast forward to last year, and I spent a lot of time on a farm with Pentabus Theatre Company. I spoke to farmers young and old about new technologies and, with the rise of automation, the deep-rooted fear of job loss. I started thinking about that closed religious life again. Could monastic ritual embrace such tech? Would their vows remain intact? And was there space for a robot in a House of God? I went to visit some awesome nuns, spoke to some scientists, and slowly I began to formulate a plan…
Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a playwright?
I have always loved storytelling, and discovered plays and playwriting at university. Upon graduation, I packed my knapsack full of questionable drafts and began to bounce around the country. I was a longtime barman at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London and joyfully watched talented companies traipse in and out, weaving their magic in the theatre upstairs. A year after leaving the job, I had my first play performed there. I think it was a cunning ploy on their behalf, because they made me jump back behind the bar on the busier evenings! I live in Manchester now, and I love it. There’s such a vibrant theatre-making scene here, and it’s full of friendly people. Plus the drinks are really cheap.
How do you feel about being shortlisted?
I’ve done all the emotions. I cried outside a McDonalds when I first found out, I did a weird scream when I treated myself to a haircut, and now I keep giggling nervously whenever I remember that I’m on the list. The Bruntwood Prize is a firm fixture in every playwright’s calendar – I plan my redrafting around it – so to be even a small part of it is very humbling indeed.
What do you think about anonymity of the Bruntwood Prize?
I always love sitting in the back of a rehearsal room in secret, so it’s lovely and freeing to be able to do this on a script level. There’s no awkward questions, no second guessing – the play just has to speak for itself. Of course you want to rip off the mask and shriek “There’s a typo on p.16!” but it’s too late for that.