Royal Exchange Dramaturg Suzanne Bell ‘Be brave, try new things, follow your instincts and just submit!’


A number of people have mentioned to me recently (in fact about 8 yesterday alone!) that they are worried about submitting for the Bruntwood Prize – they have something, they’re working on something, they have an idea they passionately want to tell on stage, they’re just not sure it will be “polished enough / finished enough / good enough” to submit.

I want to send a very clear message to everyone out there – just submit!

Everyone who reads for the Bruntwood Prize is acutely award of how much work goes into writing a play and that it is a brave act to send it out into the world for others, complete strangers, to read. They also know that a script is not a finished article but a crucial part of a journey.  They dive into each script with excitement, wanting to find what works, wanting to support the gesture of the play, wanting to listen to and nurture the voice telling that story.

Crucially, they are not looking for a “polished script”. Every winner of a Bruntwood Prize has been supported to go on a process of development. Every production has been of a play which has grown and changed and become more focused and more “itself” since winning the award. Every playwright, having won the award, has come into the Royal Exchange very much with the gesture of “there’s still a lot of work to do.”

So use the deadline to galvanise and focus you to get that draft done. To reach some form of the end of your story.  That deadline is a friend – I remember Viv Franzmann, winner of a Bruntwood Prize in 2008 for the critically acclaimed MOGADISHU, had never had a play performed and was working as a teacher when she saw the flyer and used the deadline to spur her on to get that play that she’d started finally “finished”.  That was all she was thinking about.  That in itself is a huge achievement.

And, as I have said, theatre is collaborative – as Stephen Jeffreys says in his fantastic book on playwriting that we have featured on the website “Playwrights are part of a creative team… we do not stand alone.” Playwrights work directors, dramaturges, designers, movement practitioners, actors and many many more to shape and craft their play and bring it to life in front of an audience.  And, of course, the ultimate collaboration is with the audience, with their emotions, imaginations, hearts and minds.

And anonymity is so crucial to the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting because we believe that it can be freeing – you can use that to be bold, be brave, try new things, follow your heart and instincts, don’t edit yourself but try to listen to the truth of your play and where it’s taking you.

You might feel there isn’t much time left, there isn’t enough time left, it will be rushed.  Don’t let that put you off.  James Fritz, who won a Bruntwood Prize in 2015 for PARLIAMENT SQUARE, suddenly decided he had to submit something – only a week before the deadline!

So that voice that tells you it’s not ready, that voice that tells you it’s not polished enough, that voice that tells you don’t send it – try and reassure that voice, gently and with compassion, that it’s okay, it’s just part of the journey of being a playwright, you’re not alone and people want to support you and it’s only the start of the conversation.  Furthermore, the shortlist, the Awards, the productions, is just one element of the Bruntwood Prize – everyone involved works tirelessly to try to support playwrights more widely, whether through resources and opportunities on the website, the feedback reports that go to the Top 100 Longlist or the directors who read a script they want to champion and go on to forge a relationship with that playwright and bring their work to fruition.

You have until the 5th June. You have nothing to lose and an awful lot to gain.

Please please just send it in!

Suzanne Bell
Royal Exchange Theatre

Published on:
23 May 2019


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