The Bruntwood Prize is one of the biggest writing competitions around right now. It’s open to absolutely anyone who wants to write a play.
On Tuesday Becca and I attended the Bruntwood Roadshow at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. We weren’t really sure what to expect, and we were delighted with what we got.
The session was won by a past winner, Vivian Franzmann, who was a teacher before she wrote her first, Bruntwood-winning play, Mogadishu. She talked to us about writing her play and entering the prize, and then she took us through some brilliant discussions and writing exercises.
We also had a chat with the lovely Suzanne Bell, the Royal Exchange’s literary manager, who is always inspiring in her passion for new writing. It’s so encouraging to know there are people out there with so much enthusiasm still, people who still want to nourish the arts, and are making it happen.
I only got to chat to a couple of the writers, and I wish I’d had time to speak to more of them, so I hope I’ll run into some. There was one I recognised from Script-in-Hand at MMU, and knowing what a small town Manchester can be, I’m sure I’ll see some of them again.
These are the pieces that I wrote at the workshop. For the first we had to write a scene between 76yo Stan and 15yo Stacey, and they had to be talking about bingo, carrots or David Cameron.
The setting is a small local hairdresser’s. Stan is styling Stacey’s hair.
Stan: So, what’s this for? Big date?
Stacey: Naw, it’s me gran’s birthday.
Stan: Ah right, big night? Do you want me to leave it long at the back?
Stacey: Yeah. I’m taking her out to this Christmas bingo night.
Stan: Oh where’s that?
Stacey: Premier Inn. It’s dinner, bingo and a mince pie for a tenner. Nice prizes too.
Stan: I used to love bingo when I was a kid. Down the local scout hut, my Dad read the numbers.
Stacey: Can’t see you playing bingo.
Stan: Nah well, I was mostly trying to get off with the scoutmaster’s daughter. Lovely slip of a girl. Legs eleven!
Stacey: Augh, you dirty old man.
They both laugh.
Stan: Beautiful she was. Two little ducks.
Stan makes a cupping gesture on his chest with both hands.
Stacey: (cackling) Gross!
Stan: Come on, don’t tell me you’re just going for your gran. Not dolled up like this. Oh, turn your head love.
Stacey: Well, there is this boy. He’s older, he works on the bar.
Stan does the ‘legs eleven’ whistle again.
Stacey: Oh lay off.
Stan: So what’s his name?
Stacey: Declan. He’s dead gorgeous.
Stacey: No, he’s tiny
They both laugh loudly.
The other task we had was to choose an image of someone from lots on offer around the room, and write a monologue as that person, beginning with ‘I want’. I found the image of someone with a healing black eye, and before I knew it, Luca was pouring out of me, almost faster than I could write him down.
I want to be the girl I’ve always meant to be, the girl Marina wanted to squash and shake out of me, and how long I let her do it. How long I watched her grow and pulse with food, filling herself and blowing up like a great big pink balloon, stretching into a shape she knew I couldn’t possibly want to be.
But I did, I did. I wanted her and I wanted to be her and the more she tried to change herself the more I wanted to change myself too. She was getting what she wanted, and I wanted it too.
God, I’m shaking, I can’t stop. I know why he hit me, I know why they did it, but I don’t understand, I never will.
I read this poem once where a punch landed like water spilled on tarmac, and at first that was all I could think of. I looked up from the triangle her feet made with the floor, at the sandwich toaster in her hand and I thought you are fucking kidding me.
I always hated that sandwich toaster, she would never clean it when she was done, and mixed with the blood was a smear of greasy fudge on my forehead.
Overall I’m feeling really inspired now and I cannot wait to start working on my play! More about that to come.