Jun 18

Winners announced for Mercury Playwriting Prize 2017

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It’s so hard for any aspiring writers to become visible so to hear of competitions which might bring that about is exciting, and something to drive towards. At the very least you reach a deadline and to win is even better.


It is the inaugural year of The Mercury Playwriting Prize and one might expect entry numbers to be low, but not a bit of it: over 160 entries were received.

It has been announced that Oliver Bennett is the winner with  Europe After the Rain, a noir, surreal exploration of the world we live in now. It offers up a mirror to the concerns of contemporary Britain: immigration, enfranchisement, globalisation, loss and love.


The runners-up are Berri George for her play Shadow Kingdoms, and Phil Tong for his play The Furrow. Entries from University of Essex students were simultaneously entered for the student prize of £200, and this year’s winner is Ryan Cogman for his play Floodgate.

So who is Oliver Bennett? Oliver Bennett trained as an actor at RADA, and has collaborated with the Belarus Free Theatre, whose work he has found inspirational. He has worked frequently with Howard Barker, Edward Bond, performing at Southwark Playhouse, Arcola, The Print Room, and in ‘Backbeat’ in the West End, Canada and LA.


Dan Sherer (Associate for New Work and one of the Mercury Playwriting Prize judges) said:

“Europe After The Rain is a tremendous script – a worthy winner of the Mercury Playwriting Prize 2017 Oliver Bennett has written something timely, beautifully layered, and highly theatrical. We are delighted to be able to work with Oliver over the coming year as an Associate Artist, as part of our absolute commitment to nurturing new work and emerging artists at The Mercury Theatre.”


Berri George is a writer and a performer, and graduate of both the Belgrade Theatre’s Critical Mass and The Royal Court Theatre invitation playwriting schemes. She is 2014 alumni for the Orange Tree Theatre’s invitation writers group, and made the Old Vic 12 shortlist for 2016. Her work has been staged by a range of the UK’s leading new writing venues; Manchester Royal Exchange, Bolton Octagon Theatre, Theatre 503, High Tide, The Space, Talawa, Old Red Lion, and the West Yorkshire Playhouse.


Phil Tong was Director of Drama at the City of London Freemen’s School until 2014, at which point he made a decision to stop teaching and to concentrate full time on his work as a playwright. He has had nine plays premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe since 2000 and his plays for young people’s theatre are published on Treepress. His work has also been performed in London, Paris and Milan.


Artistic Director Daniel Buckroyd  said:

“The Mercury is committed to supporting emerging artists and providing a platform on which upcoming theatre-makers can develop their work, and so it’s been fantastic to see just how many writers have engaged with this opportunity and the sheer quality of this year’s entries. Our upcoming New Talent Festival is a real showcase of the many skilled artists working in our region, and I would encourage anyone with a passion for new theatre to come along. You won’t be disappointed.”

Prize-winner  Oliver Bennett will receive £2000, a year-long attachment to The Mercury Theatre  Colchester as an Associate Artist, and will be supported to stage a production of his winning play in the Mercury’s Studio Theatre. Local residents can hear rehearsed readings of Bennett, George, Tong and Cogman’s plays, as well as last year’s Essex Playwriting Competition winner – Kenny Emson’s The Piscator – as part of our 2017 New Talent Festival.


Bravo! We need more of the competitions.

Tickets for the rehearsed readings are free but must be booked in advance.

For more information about this work, or other Make It opportunities, visit: www.mercurytheatre.co.uk/make-it

Or call 01206 573948.