BEN MUSGRAVE…on winning the inaugural Bruntwood Prize in 2007 for his play Pretend You Have Big Buildings
How has winning the first Bruntwood Prize affected your career as a writer?
A week before the prize announcement, I had given up my job to concentrate on writing full-time. Winning the prize felt like a miraculous validation of this decision. It launched my career as a writer: all of a sudden I had representation, interest, the time to write, and, most importantly, the opportunity to work with some wonderful practitioners towards the production of my play in the Main House of the Royal Exchange. It was really extraordinary. Nick Hern published a playtext of Pretend You Have Big Buildings, and every now and again I’m in a bookshop and see a copy of my play on the shelves, which is a lovely thing. The playtext is also on the syllabus at Westminster University…
What advice would you give to a writer entering the prize this year?
I believe that the real value of a prize like this is that it has the potential to find the best play – on its own terms. Not the most fashionable play, or the play most suitable for a particular theatre, but the best play in its own right. In a sense, my play Pretend You Have Big Buildings, very firmly set in Romford, was entirely inappropriate for a theatre in Manchester, and it had already received a “not one for us” response from a few theatres. But there was something about it, and I think that came through. So the best advice I can give to entrants is to write the play you want to write, not the play you think the theatre wants you to write.
What have you done since winning the prize and what are your plans for the future?
It’s been hard to top winning the Bruntwood Prize! It’s also been hard to write the follow-up to Big Buildings, a play that came easily to me, and which emerged, very suddenly, with its heart and character almost fully revealed. But the big ‘Second Play’ has been slowly emerging – I hope it’ll be ready sometime in 2011. In the meantime, however, I’ve been privileged to write a couple of really interesting plays about science – one about neuroscience, and one about privacy and government databases, and I’m really proud of them both. Last year I also had my play Exams Are Getting Easier produced at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre – performed by their youth theatre. I’m also working on a play for a really interesting company called Only Connect, and I think I’ve just been commissioned to write a play for Radio 4!