The Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing 2020

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The 17th Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing Programme

After our first On-Line  performances of our three finalist’s plays,  our chair Karen Darville, announced the overall winner, who will receive the £500 prize money.

Judged purely on the writing by our judges Joan Lane & Jenny Seagrove from 236 scripts received from 14 countries.  

CONGRATULATIONS to Ricky Davies from W. London for his play,  ONLY HUMAN

 

The runners-up: 

THE STEPS TO THE STAGE by Richard Brabin (Oxford UK)

TOUCH THE MOON by Arianna Rose (Miami Beach, Florida  USA)

Only Human The Winning Play

From left:-     Julie Armstrong, Reece Richardson, Kate England, Laura Allen                                               Writer: Ricky Davies

In front:-     Director: Amanda Noar & Writer: Ricky Davies

Additional Cast Notes - See Also Program Above

Julie Armstrong

Her extensive West End/Theatre inc: Follies & Network both at The National Theatre, Saving Jason,  The Rise & Fall of Little Voice ,Spend Spend Spend, Nominated (Viv Nicholson) Mrs Henderson Presents (Aggie) King Pit, From Here to Eternity (Mrs Kipfer), Annie Stepping Out (Mavis) Evita, The Snow queen, Jolson, Chicago .Merrily We Roll Along ,Scrooge (Ghost of Christmas Past), Magic of the Musicals, The Cheeky Chappie (Ruth) Just So (Zebra) directed by Julia McKenzie, Follies (Christine), original cast of Chess, directed by Trevor Nunn, West Side Story (Clarice) Spring & Port Wine (Hilda) & Of Mice & Men (Susy).Movie/TV: Dear Stranger, London Road, From Here to Eternity, Close & True, BAFTA nominated Hero of the Hour, Chucklevision, Crimewatch, Project Freebird,
The Two Ronnie's, Laurence Olivier Awards, Des O’Connor Show, The Royal Variety Per- formance.

Workshops: Papadopoulos! (Nanny P, Dir: Tania Azevedo), Women In Power (Woman), Doris Stokes (Doris, Dir: Christian Durham),
Billy Elliot the Musical Dir: Stephen Daldry), Naughty Pour Homme (Mephistopheles, Dir: Jez Bond)

Recording/Radio: Follies, King Pit, From Here To Eternity, Merrily We Roll Along, Jol- son, Just So, Scrooge.

Laura Allen

Laura Allen trained at Guildford School of Acting. Theatre inc: Working - A Musical  Upstairs at the Gatehouse), Virgins (Vienna English Theatre) Can’t Stand up for Falling Down (White Bear Theatre,) Vanity of Song (Finborough Theatre), Tommy (Shaftesbury Theatre,) Spring Awakening (The Bull Theatre), The Merchant of Venice (Speech Room Harrow), Twelfth Night (Gaiety Theatre), The Gut Girls (The Mill Theatre), The Colour of Justice (Ivy Arts Centre). TV/Film: Tulip Fever, Grantchester, Birdsong.

Reece Richardson 

Reece Richardson trained at The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama and also at the National Youth Theatre. Theatre credits inc: 1984 & The Odyssey (Aquila Theatre & US National Tour),The Clay Kickers Chorus (Wild Thyme), The Tempest (The Lord Chamberlain’s Men & Stafford Gatehouse Theatre), Up ‘n Under & Oh! What a Lovely War (Oldham Coliseum). 

Judges' Comments

Judge: Jenny Seagrove

This is a really interesting  moral discussion on the capacity of ALL to love and it is written in a human and accessible way. It asks may questions of the reader and I think would be very exciting to see acted out.

I was able to engage with the different characters and be moved by the impossible situation.

Judge: JOAN LANE

ONLY HUMAN is a science fiction drama, as we become more and more aware of the increased use of artificial intelligence. It is a well-written, thought-provoking and entertaining play. 

After turned to drink following his wife’s death Jack decides to buy a robot, “Artificial Intelligence”, or “AI”, to replace her, naming  her Amie, with her  duties being to care for the home and children.   

All goes well at first , but we are introduced where she is getting on Jack’s nerves. Having given up drink after bringing Amie into the house, he is returning to his old habits.  Amie is programmed to be rational; Jack is tipsy and not very likeable. When Jack says Amie has to leave, she takes him to court requesting custody of the children.  

The writing is sharp and clever, which enhances our understanding of both Jack and the AI.  During the trial, we sympathise with Jack as his human emotions spill out as compared to Amie’s cold programmed logic and are persuaded that she is acting merely to safeguard her own survival. The twist in the story is when Veronica is unveiled by Amie to be a kindred robot; the writer makes us feel uncomfortable about the possibility of Artificial Intelligence manipulating, mankind.

ONLY HUMAN is purposely left open-ended: Despite getting custody of his children, will Jack turn off Amie’s decommissioning button and render her useless – or not?  While this innovative play is ahead of its time, it probably won’t be seen as such for much longer!

The Steps to the Stage

From left:-      George Parker, Kirsty MacLaren, Harry (Stage hand) Gordon Kennedy,                                               Writer: Richard Brabin

Hermione Gulliford & Nick Waring

In front:-     Director: Izzy Parriss & Writer: Richard Brabin

Additional Cast Notes - See Also Program Above

Hermione Gulliford

Hermione trained at Central

Theatre credits inc: Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice, Anthony & Cleopatra (R.S.C ) 3 Winters and Hotel (National) The Real Inspector, Twelfth Night, (Ian Charleson Award commendation)the Country Wife, Hayfever, The Importance of Being Earnest(Old Vic) TV inc: Doc Martin, Holby, Foyles War, New Tricks, Bletchley Circle, Call the Midwife, Lewis, Upstairs & Downstairs, Midsummer Murders, Monarch of the Glen & Jane Eyre .Films inc: Where Hands Touch, Stage Beauty & The Affair of the Necklace.

Kirsty Mclaren

Kirsty trained at The Dance School of Scotland and its Royal Conservatoire.

She Originated the role of Manda in the Olivier Award – winning Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (International tour/National UK./W.E) and also nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress for the  role. Kirsty can currently be seen, playing Violet in Series 3 of The Crown 

 Other theatre credits inc :Nikki in  This is My Family (Chichester Festival,) Chava in Fiddler on the Roof (Menier Chocolate Factory/Trevor Nunn) Rapunzel (Platform Theatre) Suzanna Walcott in The Crucible (Royal Lyceum Theatre) Susan Walker (Miracle on 34th St.) Lady Agatha in The Admiral Crichton, Morag in Mr. Bolfry, (Pitlochry Festival Theatre) 

TV/Radio/ Film jnc: Lulu in A Lulu of A Kid  and Lulu’s Back in Town (BBC Radio Drama) & the short films Skin Deep and End of Season (BBC)

Nick Waring

Nick trained at Central & was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Student, The Ian Charleson & the Wind the Civic Northern Press Award for best actor.

W. End inc: Evita, Star Quality, Hay Fever, The Trials of Oscar Wilde, Under Milk Wood. Tours inc: Dorian Grey,The Doll’s House, Importance of Being Earnest, Anthony & Cleopatra, The Three Musketeers. TV/Film inc: London’s Burning, The Bill, Holby City, Eastenders ,Casualty, Call the Midwife & Father Brown.

Judges' Comments

Judge: Jenny Seagrove

This is a compelling piece with good dialogue and wonderful nuances.  It was fascinating “watching” the central character effectively do a volte-face.  One was praying for it not to happen but expecting it at the same time.  The ending felt a little rushed and therefore I feel that the play doesn’t deliver the final pay-off that it should.  Perhaps that could be worked on a little?

Judge: Joan Lane

Germany, 1933, and Leonhard, his wife Elva and son, Ronald, an affluent middle-class German family, are expecting guests: Dr. Meier, a Jewish doctor and his daughter, Mathilde. 

Although deciding that the political situation in Germany should be avoided, protest comes from the two young people and  the  subject of politics arises.

The writer has offered an inter-generational exchange, pitting logical concern against political moves which are crude and disrespectful. Also cleverly keeping  to  the middle-class language of the era, evoking the now back-in-fashion and admired plays of Terence Rattigan and Noel Coward.

The denouement of the two young people’s wish to marry causes an upset and the dramatic highlight of the play is the parents are unable to hide their displeasure at their son’s desire to marry a girl from a race of people Adolf Hitler is publicly deriding.  We will never know if loyalty to his parents will override Ronald’s passion for 

This was an enjoyable drama to read when the 75th Anniversaries of D-Day and VJ Day remind us that political ambition, can lead to the very worst traits in humankind. Maybe this writer is telling a personal story.  Again, who knows?  But, very well done.

Touch the Moon

From left:-     Sophie Todd, Laura Kay Bailey, Tristan Alexander

In front:-      Director: Richard Elson

Judges' Comments

Judge: Jenny Seagrove

An imaginative, clever piece with believable characters that plays with us.  Is it real or is it a lie or imagined?  It has a theatricality although that possibly could have been taken a little further.  I liked the use of transitions to take one scene into the next.

Judge: Joan Lane

Set in 1994, TOUCH THE MOON is a gripping piece of writing  

As a concept, it might be that familiar tabloid headline we recognise, but this plot has twists.  The characters are well-drawn; and through vignettes, the writer has understood how to structure the story to increase tension, pace the dialogue, and build vocal and visual potential.  

A flashback introduces us to the mother-daughter relationship, where the wilful teenager is determined to take a holiday with friends for the first time, but denies the fact to her mother that she intends to sample everything on offer.  This surely reminds us of the two sides to truth and lies: have we not been there ourselves as the child and as the parent, or as the pupil or the teacher, or the employee or the boss?  

This is a story about parental love and loss, of devotion that turns into a nightmare.. Riveting.