PART 3: Bruntwood Playwriting Competition 2011

Vivienne Franzmann photo, 2008

Vivienne Franzmann receiving her award

VIVIENNE FRANZMANN…was a Drama teacher in London for twelve years. She left teaching in 2009 to pursue writing after winning the 2008 Bruntwood Playwriting Competition for Mogadishu. The play also won the George Devine Award in 2010.

What did it mean to win the Bruntwood Prize? The first thing was that it was a total shock. I never expected to be one of the winners and, it was, and has been, brilliant. My ambition was to write a complete and finished play and be able to type the words ‘The end’. I would often start to write and then get sidetracked by real life/work/food – juggling a full-time career as a busy secondary school teacher with a passion for playwriting is no easy feat! So initially I was just pleased to have completed a whole play. When I was shortlisted in the competition, I allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to win, but never felt it was a real possibility, so I just enjoyed the fantasy of it all. My overwhelming memory of the ceremony was that in the rehearsed reading, the audience laughed at the stuff I thought was funny, which felt great. And then later when they announced my name as one of the winners, my dad, who’s Australian leant over and whispered, “You fucking beauty!”

And then all the hard work and lots of rewriting began…..

Winning has given me the chance to do things I never thought I’d do and be part of an industry that I didn’t think I’d ever be part of – I thought I’d teach for the rest of my life. The Bruntwood is an amazing competition because it’s open to everyone and everyone has an equal chance and the Manchester Royal Exchange is a fantastic place full of talented people who care about new writing and want to find new writers. Being one of the winners gave me the chance to develop my play alongside some great people and really develop my skill as a writer. The prize money gave me time and space to get the play to a place that I wanted it to get to and I enjoyed the whole process. So sometimes it was hard, but mostly it was just bloody great.

Since the award ceremony in 2008, I’ve been commissioned by Clean Break and the Royal Court. I’ve got an agent. I’ve poked my nose tentatively into the world of telly and I won another prize in 2010, the George Devine Award. And I bought a dog and called her Mabel (she’s a fucking beauty!). So, in essence, winning the Bruntwood opened doors to me and took my life in a completely different direction – and it made me a writer.

Book jacket of Mogadishu

Mogadishu by Vivienne Franzmann

Mogadishu received its world premiere at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, January 2011: ‘the play has urgency and neatly balances rough-tongued adolescent rudeness with adult anxiety’ – Guardian. It will later transfer to the Lyric Hammersmith, London, opening on 3 March 2011.

Advertisements

PART 2: Bruntwood Playwriting Competition 2011

Image of Ben Musgrave (© Marius Macevicious)

Ben Musgrave (© Marius Macevicious)

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…

Jacket for Pretend You Have Big Buildings

Pretend You Have Big Buildings by Ben Musgrave

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!