Royal National Theatre Foundation Playwright Award

The Royal National Theatre Playwright Award was made for the first time in 2013. This Award succeeds the Meyer Whitworth Award and is intended to help further the careers of playwrights, resident in the British Isles and Republic of Ireland, who are not yet established. 

There were a total of 51 entries from across the British Isles. The winning play selected by the judges was Foxfinder by Dawn King, nominated by Papatango Theatre Company. In addition to the main prize, two Awards of £1,000 were presented for the first time in recognition of the strength of two scripts on the shortlist. Douglas Rintoul, writer of Elegy, and Naylah Ahmed, writer of Mustafa, won these Awards.

The Judging panel consisted of Kate Mosse, novelist and playwright (lead judge); Stephen Greenhorn, playwright; Topher Campbell, director, and Kath Mattock, producer and director.

Full Shortlist 2013

Mustafa by Naylah Ahmed
Kali Theatre Company & Birmingham Rep

Mudlarks by Vickie Donoghue
Theatre503, HighTide Festival Theatre and Lucy Jackson Productions

Educating Ronnie by Joe Douglas & Gareth Nicholls
Macrobert Arts Centre and Utter in association with HighTide Festival Theatre

Foxfinder by Dawn King
Papatango & Finborough Theatre

Same Same by Shireen Mula
Co-produced by Ovalhouse and fanSHEN Theatre Company

Elegy by Douglas Rintoul
Theatre503 & Transport

Held by Joe Ward Munrow
Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres

Award Criteria

The Award was made to the writer whose play, in the judges' opinion, most satisfied the following description:

  • showed promise of a developing new talent, and in which
  • the writing was of individual quality.

The Award was made to the writer whose career, in the judges' opinion, would most benefit from the Award.

About the Shortlist

Mustafa by Naylah Ahmed. Photo by Robert Day

Mustafa by Naylah Ahmed

Mustafa is in prison for the death of a teenage boy during an exorcism. Racked with guilt at the loss of an innocent life and isolated in a world where his beliefs are constantly challenged, he tries to avoid trouble. But when prisoners who taunt him suffer mysterious injuries and prison officers start behaving strangely, Mustafa starts to think the evil djinn he tried to banish from the young victim's body is still with him and he must face it once more…

Naylah Ahmed:
A former BBC radio drama producer and writer, Naylah has been writing full time since 2010. Her stage plays include: Mustafa (Birmingham Rep and Kali Theatre Co), Butcher Boys and These Four Streets, (a Birmingham Rep commission with 5 fellow writers in response to the 2005 Lozells troubles). Naylah is currently working on a play called The pre-criminal Space, with two other writers, and developing her latest play, Jack in a Box. Naylah's radio plays include Zubeda (Saturday Play, BBC R4), The Happy Gathering, (Afternoon Play BBC R4) and Mrs Parker (Afternoon Play BBC R4).

Mudlarks by Vicky Donoghue. Photo by Nobby Clark.

Mudlarks by Vickie Donoghue

On the muddy banks of the River Thames, downstream from the bright lights of London, three boys hide from the police after a night of thrilling recklessness. Over the course of the freezing night their fears, secrets and dreams emerge, collide and combust revealing the desperate frustration of lives barely led but already ravaged.

Vickie Donoghue:
Vickie graduated from the MA in Creative Writing (Plays and Screenplays) at City University in September 2009. A rehearsed reading of her MA piece Talk for England took place at RADA in March 2010. Her first short play One Last Wave was one of the three finalists of the 2005 Windsor Fringe Marriott Award. Her debut full length play Mudlarks premiered at The Hightide Festival in May 2012 before transferring to London's Theatre 503 and then to The Bush Theatre in October 2012. Following this Vickie was one of 12 writers selected to take part in the inaugural The Bush Theatre/KUDOS TV development scheme in October 2012. She was longlisted for the Evening Standard Theatre Awards as Most Promising New Playwright 2012.

Educating Ronnie
Educating Ronnie by Joe Douglas & Gareth Nicholls. Photo by Alan McCredie

Educating Ronnie, co-written by Joe Douglas & Gareth Nicholls

In 2002, Joe went on a gap year trip to Uganda, to visit an aunt who was working for a charity. Amidst the six week blur of safaris, white-water rafting and orphanages, Joe made friends with Ronnie....Ronnie was 16, Joe was 18. They were both the eldest sons of large families. They both supported Manchester United. Six months later, back in Manchester, Joe got a text: "Brother my sponsor has pulled out on me and I want to stay in school. Can you help? Ronnie x" That text was to change both of their lives and inextricably link them together. An astonishing true story performed by Joe himself, Educating Ronnie takes place over a decade: 4000 miles apart and thousands of pounds invested, it explores the murky processes behind bettering oneself in Uganda.

Joe Douglas:
Joe trained in Directing at Rose Bruford College and was Trainee Director in residence with the National Theatre of Scotland in 2007-8. His directing credits include The BFG (Dundee Rep), The Last Polar Bears, Our Teacher's A Troll, Allotment and re-directing the 2013 world tour of Black Watch (National Theatre of Scotland), The Reprobates (HighTide), The Drowning Pond, Jabberwocky (YMT), Thank You, Videotape and The Sunday Lesson (Oran Mor, Glasgow), Eat Theatre (Farnham Maltings), One For The Road and Fantasy Football (BAC), 5+1 (24:7 Theatre Festival). He has worked extensively as an Assistant and Staff Director on Number 1 tours, West End, World Tours and Off-Broadway. He makes work with and for young people across a wide variety of contexts, especially in Youth Theatres and Drama Schools.

In 2012, he wrote and performed Educating Ronnie (Macrobert/Utter/HighTide) at the Edinburgh Festival as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, where the production was awarded a Fringe First. Educating Ronnie toured Scotland in Autumn 2013. He is the Co-Artistic Director with Gareth Nicholls of the new work company, Utter.

Gareth Nicholls:
Gareth is theatre director based in Glasgow but working throughout the UK. Over the last few years he has directed and worked with National Theatre of Scotland, Tron Theatre, Arches (Glasgow) Macrobert (Stirling), High Tide Festival Theatre (London), Traverse, Royal Lyceum (Edinburgh), Kopergietery and Campo (Belgium). Before this he trained in Contemporary Theatre Practice at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Although primarily a director, Gareth also works as a dramaturge and writer collaborating on a range of projects. Previously he has been an Imaginate Artist In Residence and a National Theatre of Scotland Emerging Artist, while currently he is an associate artist with Company of Angels. Gareth Is also Co-Artistic director of Utter - a Scottish based Theatre Company specialising in New Work - along with Joe Douglas. Last year Utter won a Scotsman Fringe First with their first production Educating Ronnie (co-produced with macrobert).

Foxfinder by Dawn King. Photo by Garry Lake.

Foxfinder by Dawn King

William Bloor, a Foxfinder, arrives at Sam and Judith Covey's farm to investigate a suspected contamination. What follows will change the course of all their lives, forever. Foxfinder is a gripping, unsettling and darkly comic exploration of belief, desire and responsibility

Dawn King:
Dawn's play Foxfinder won the Papatango Theatre Company writing competition in 2011 and was produced at the Finborough Theatre, London, where it was critically acclaimed and sold out. Foxfinder won Dawn 'Most Promising Playwright' at the Off West End Awards 2012 and was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn prize 2012 and the James Tait Black drama prize 2011/2012. Foxfinder has had productions in Sweden (Gothenburg English Speaking Theatre) and Australia (Red Stitch.)

Dawn was Pearson writer in residence at the Finborough for 2012. She was one of ten writers chosen for the BBC Writersroom 10 scheme in 2012 and through this received a seed commission and residency at West Yorkshire Playhouse where she wrote Ciphers. Ciphers is being produced by Out of Joint, Exeter Northcott and The Bush and will tour the UK in 2013/2014. In 2013, Dawn participated in the prestigious Channel Four television writing scheme, 4 Screenwriting 2013. She has an original drama series in development with Touchpaper Television. Her feature film script The Squatter's Handbook won the UK Film Council's 25 Words or Less pitching competition in 2005 and her short film The Karman Line is in post production.

Dawn writes regularly for Radio and has had radio plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 4 Extra and BBC Radio 3. Previous theatre work includes: Water Sculptures/ZOO double bill - The Union Theatre.

Dawn was a member of both the Soho Theatre and Royal Court Theatre Young Writers' Programmes and has an MA distinction in Writing for Performance from Goldsmiths University, London.

Same Same
Same Same by Shireen Mula. Photo by Conrad Blakemore.

Same Same by Shireen Mula

Same Same is the story of Asha, five minutes away from her twenty-first birthday. Twenty-one means grown-up and ready for the world but Asha, adopted and unsure of her past, feels she doesn't know who she is yet. At five to midnight another woman, Nid, remembers the decision she made at 21, a decision that continues to echo in both women's minds. Each constructs the mothers/ daughters that they hope for, and the mothers/ daughters that they fear. They imagine meeting, both reluctant to discover the reality which lies behind the layers of fantasy that they've created. Nid finds herself at Kings Cross Station, the place where she said goodbye to the baby who would become Asha; a reminder of her family in the present finally enables her to stop re-living the decision she took 21 years ago. Asha manages to let her boyfriend know that she cares about him, and admits her fear of needing him. The two women, who have never met but have been such an enormous part of each others' lives for so long, let each other go and begin to live. Same Same is an exquisitely fractured jigsaw of regret, longing and mixed-race identity set in a dark recess of contemporary London.

Shireen Mula:
Shireen is a playwright and theatre-maker. She has worked in London, regionally and internationally, creating work for audiences of all ages. Shireen's plays include: Soon Until Forever (Theatre503, 2013), Same Same (fanSHEN & Ovalhouse, 2011), He Said, She Said (Soho Theatre, 2011), Nameless (Arnolfini Theatre, 2010). Same Same was translated into Italian by the British Council and presented in Puglia, Italy during their Short Latitudes Festival (2012).

Shireen is an Associate Artist at Ovalhouse and a Hub Writer at Soho Theatre. She was playwright-on-attachment at the Royal Court (2010), Firehouse Creative Productions, USA (2011) and Nottle Theatre, South Korea (2011). Shireen founded and co-facilitated 20/20 - an introduction to playwriting course for writers with disabilities. She has facilitated playwriting workshops for Soho Theatre and Ovalhouse. She is presently under commission by Company of Angels.

Held by Joe Ward Munrow. Photo by Christian Smith

Held by Joe Ward Munrow

Somewhere between the past and the present there is a truth. But who remembers best? And who is right? Held is a captivating, poignant and at times touchingly funny story of a mother and two sons and the weave and weft of family life when a member of the family becomes ill. Pauline Daniels is Mary the mother remembering the loves, joy and pain of her life, while Alan Stocks and Ged McKenna are her mismatched sons.

Joe Ward Munrow:
Joe grew up in Deptford, south-east London and studied Drama at John Moores University, Liverpool. He is a graduate of the Liverpool Everyman Young Writers' Programme. His first play The Laundry won the Brockley Jack's Write Now Award 2011 and was subsequently performed at the Brockley Jack Theatre. The Laundry also won the Commended Prize in the BBC's Alfred Bradley Bursary Award and was short-listed for Little Brother's Big Opportunity 2013. Joe's second play Held, was commissioned by the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and directed by Lorne Campbell. Held received its world premiere at the Playhouse Studio in November 2012 and was critically well-received.

Elegy by Douglas Rintoul. Photo by A Zbigniew Kotkiewicz.

Elegy by Douglas Rintoul

A young Caucasian man, with a British accent, sits alone on stage and asks an audience to imagine a journey into his recent past. Elegy at first appears to be an intimate account of one man's impossible love for his best friend but gradually reveals itself to be something more - a poetic love letter to the victims of homophobic murders that regularly take place in liberated Iraq.

Told from the viewpoint of one who got away, his is a moving plight; an excavation of memory. Once, he sat on a river in his native city experiencing the first pains of love. Now he is in a detention centre in a country he doesn't know and no one believes that he is telling the truth. The search between is fragmented and non-linear and is a story of love, loss and exile: a journey through a no-man's land of empty train stations, border crossings, bomb-blasted towns and detention cells.

Douglas Rintoul:
Douglas read drama at the University of Birmingham. He is primarily a theatre director/devisor and Elegy is his first written text and was produced by Douglas' company Transport with a summerday. Devised with the actor Jamie Bradley, Elegy premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where it was nominated for a Fringe First and went on to play Theatre503, London where it was nominated for two Off West End Awards. As a director/devisor for Transport: 1001 Nights (nominated for the Off West End Award for Best Production for Young People), As You Like It, Invisible, Elegy and Europe. Other directing credits include productions for the Watermill Theatre, Trafalgar Studios, Unicorn Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse, Dundee Rep, National Theatre Studio, New Wolsey Theatre, and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg. He is an associate director to Complicite.

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