Now in its thirteenth year, ‘The Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing’ received 289 scripts from 18 countries. These scripts are unpublished one-act plays which are read anonymously by 41 readers. They are judged purely on the basis of the writing and for the first time the nine shortlisted plays all came from UK writers.
Three of these plays were selected as winners and then staged during the Windsor Fringe, with a final overall winner announced on Saturday 8th October.
‘The Space Between’ was written by Jackie Daly and directed by Helena Taylor. This interesting play examines what it would be like if conversations were physical things that we could hold in our hands. Debbi Christie plays ‘Frida,’ diagnosed with terminal cancer she reflects on the key conversations she’s had in her life. Debbi Christie is naturally warm and connects with the audience immediately; she tells the story with passion and conviction that cannot help but move the audience.
‘Jameson & Son; Family Funeral Directors Since 1888’, written by Eleanor Clare Taylor and Directed by Charlotte Ive, is a dark comedy about the meeting of a recently bereaved young man and the Funeral Director. ‘Dickie,’ played by Luke Gray must plan an unusual funeral for his father and has turned to ‘Jameson,’ played by Daniel Brennan, for help.
My favourite of the three (and I’m sorry, I can’t help having a favourite) was ‘Eyes to the Wind’ by David Hendon and directed by Hannah Bannister. Performed at breakneck speed, the whole audience was gripped from the outset. ‘Daniel’ appears to be nothing short of a Saint, but a dark secret from his past threatens his future. The writing is exceptional, taking the audience on a rapid journey of twists and turns that leaves you unsure what to expect.
The performance in ‘Eyes to the Wind’ was also the strongest, Sam Curry in the title role maintained a pace that would have floored many an actor. His physical performance was as strong as the verbal, but his greatest achievement was to speak directly to the audience, not as a whole but as individuals. This is an incredible piece that will hopefully be staged again, preferably with Sam Curry reprising the role.
In the end, the judges, Jenny Seagrove and Andrew C Wadsworth disagreed with me and awarded the overall prize to Jackie Daly and The Space Between. A worthy winner that I am delighted will be taking home the prize.
The Award for New Drama Writing demonstrates the passion that exists for new and exciting pieces of theatre, congratulations to all of those who were involved.