Popcorn Group have announced this year’s judging committee along with their longlist of brave and imaginative new plays for the Popcorn Writing Award. Partnering for the first time with BBC Writersroom, Popcorn offers a prize fund of £6,000. Opening the door for emerging writers, BBC Writersroom are reading all of the longlisted plays and members of the BBC Drama Commissioning team will offer valuable one-to-one meetings with each of the playwrights.
Judging the award this year will be Bridgerton’s Luke Thompson (Hamlet, Almeida and West End; King Lear, West End), Olivier Award-winning producer Francesca Moody MBE (Fleabag, West End), globally celebrated portrait artist Jonathan Yeo, award-winning comedian Jack Rooke (Big Boys, Channel 4), star of stage and screen Lydia Leonard (Ten Percent!, Amazon/AMC; Wolf Hall, RSC), BAFTA and two-time Emmy and Ivor Novello nominated composer Nainita Desai, and award-winning director and artist, Charlotte Colbert.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is vital for launching the careers of up-and-coming talent in the arts, having been a springboard for the likes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Rachel Weisz. After two years of cancellations and setbacks, the Fringe is returning with a bang this year to bring theatre back to the forefront of the festival circuit. The Popcorn Writing Award plays a huge part in championing new voices from all over the world.
Jess Loveland, Head of New Writing commented, “BBC Writersroom are delighted to be partnering with the Popcorn Writing Award for the first time in this exciting year for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It has been a real privilege for the Writersroom team to read the longlisted plays and immerse ourselves in the work of these talented emerging voices. We are looking forward to returning to Edinburgh this month and seeing the writers’ words brought to life on stage.”
Popcorn Group commented, “We are thrilled to be back with the Popcorn Award this year and to be able to champion these wonderful emerging writers bringing their unique voices to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.”
Francesca Moody MBE said, “Popcorn Group have been instrumental in championing emerging writers despite the continuing challenges that the pandemic has bought, and the Popcorn Writing Award provides a much-needed platform for creatives.”
The Popcorn Award 2022 longlisted plays are:
Assisted by Greg Wilkinson, The Space UK
Jordan and Connie want their next-generation AI voice assistant – Alivia – to make their perfect lives just that little bit better. But what happens when the technology starts to take control? A funny and searching exploration of love and domesticity in the near future.
Blanket Ban by Davinia Hamilton & Marta Vella, Underbelly “Sometimes, I’m afraid of this play.” Malta: Catholic kitsch, golden sun, deep blue sea, Eurovision – and a blanket ban on abortion. Propelled by three years of interviews with anonymous contributors and their own lived experience, actors and activists Davinia and Marta interrogate Malta’s restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom. Winner of the Edinburgh Untapped Award 2022.
Breathless by Laura Horton, Pleasance What happens when the things we covet hide us from ourselves? Breathless is a funny, honest and stylish exploration of the knife-edge of hoarding, from the joy to the addiction and suffocating shame. From Laura Horton, Plymouth Laureate of Words, own experience of clothes hoarding.
BROWN BOYS SWIM by Karim Khan, Pleasance Mohsen and Kash are gearing up for the biggest night of their lives – Jess Denver’s pool party. Except they can’t swim. Fierce, funny, and brimming with heart, Karim Khan examines the pressures faced by young Muslim men in this exhilarating new play about fitting in and striking out. CASTE-ING by Nicole Acquah, Summerhall Caste-ing explores the experiences of three black actresses using beatboxing, rap, song and spoken word. An entertaining and rhythmic showcase of the realities, structures and pressures of the acting
Cassie and the Lights by Alex Howarth, Underbelly When Cassie’s mother disappears, the teenager wants to care for her sisters on her own. Is she the right person to be a parent now, or should she let foster parents adopt her sisters and create a new family? Based on real-life events and interviews with children in care and with live music, Cassie and the Lights examines our ideas of what makes a family.
Daddy Issues by Anna Krauze, Pleasance Natalia is a Polish immigrant and an unsuccessful painter who works on a sex line, getting calls from older men seeking a “girlfriend experience”. Nat shares insights of her work, slowly revealing details of her own affairs with men, her emotional baggage and troubles of navigating one’s life where dreams are overshadowed by family traumas carried from childhood into adulthood.
Godot is a Woman by Silent Faces, Pleasance Since Samuel Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot, he and his estate have notoriously challenged – often legally – non-male companies that wish to perform it. In Godot is a Woman, Silent Faces playfully explore authorial copyright, gender barriers in the arts and the cultural significance of Madonna’s 1989 album, Like a Prayer.
Happy Meal by Tabby Lamb, Traverse Happy Meal is a joyful queer rom-com. Travel back to the quaint days of dial-up and MSN, and meet two strangers on their journeys to become who they always were. A funny, moving and nostalgic story of transition. From teen to adult, from MySpace to TikTok, from cis to trans.
How to Build a Wax Figure by Isabella Waldron, Assembly Bea’s older neighbour was her first love, her first cigarette, her first prosthetic eye. When Bea is invited to the Wellcome Collection to speak about her expertise making glass eyes, she must unpack her mentor’s effect on her work to find who and what she really loves.
Look at Me, Don’t Look at Me by Rash Dash, Pleasance A cabaret-style two-hander in which Lizzie Siddal and Dante Rossetti join us in the modern day to hash out the finer details of their artistic life and toxic relationship through dialogue and song with the aid of a synth and a piano.
Manic Street Creature by Maimuna Memon, Summerhall A modern day love story, this show takes the audience through the euphoria and distress of two people dealing with their own and each other’s mental health. Ria is working hard to complete a new album, but the more she progresses, the more she’s drawn back to the darkness of her past.
Poles: The Science of Magnetic Attraction by Amelia Pitcher, Pleasance
The Science of Magnetic Attraction is a dark comedy about stripping, loneliness, and the stigma of monetising your body. One night, seemingly by chance, Cora runs into her estranged BFF-turned-GF-turned-ex, before embarking on a mission to prove that she doesn’t push people away, she attracts them.
Ruckus by Jenna Fincken, Summerhall Lou is a primary school teacher who’s aware the audience are watching her. She wants to show them exact moments in her relationship, breaking down the progression of coercive control. From establishing love and trust, isolation, monopolising perception, inducing debility and exhaustion, enforcing trivial demands, punishments, rewards, threats and degradation.
Surfing the Holyland by Erin Hunter, Underbelly When a wide-eyed American moves to Tel Aviv, how does she navigate the wild waters of the Middle East? She learns to surf! Colourful characters, comedy songs and one woman’s search for chutzpah, blending bighearted storytelling, electrifying ukulele riffs and fearless physicality. A fast-paced solo show, exploring female empowerment.
Svengali by Eve Nicol, Pleasance A promising young woman rises to supernatural heights on the tennis court under the hypnotic thrall of a master coach. Mentor and protege battle for dominance – on the courts and off. A one man show performed by one woman, Svengali explores an erotic dynamic of power and control.
The Beatles Were a Boyband by Rachel O’Regan, Gilded Balloon Violet’s scared walking home. Daisy fights to make the streets safer. And Heather? She’s just over it. How do you stop male violence when you can’t even see how far its roots go down? The Beatles Were A Boyband is an urgent and unapologetically feminine response to misogyny.
The Mistake by Michael Mears, The Space UK An urgent new drama about the first atomic bomb. Through the lives of a brilliant Hungarian scientist, a daring American pilot and a devoted Japanese daughter, The Mistake explores the dangers that arise when humans dare to unlock the awesome power of nature – dangers that continue to this present day.
Who Murdered My Cat by Roann Hassani McCloskey, Assembly Are we reliable narrators of our own stories? What if those stories are never interrogated and redefined? An intense subtext for what is a one-woman show, both hilarious and heart wrenching, about being gay, Muslim and growing up in Wembley in the 90’s. Oh, and a murdered cat.
You’re Safe Til 2024: Deep History by David Finnigan, Pleasance Deep History looks at six key turning points in the history of humanity since the last ice age. That deep time story is placed against the story of the 2019-20 Australian bushfires. 75,000 years of human history meets 75 hours of escalating danger on one New Year’s Eve.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday 25th August at The Gilded Balloon Library Bar.