George Devine Award won by Daniel Ward

THE CANARY AND THE CROW by writer/performer Daniel Ward has been announced as the winner of the 2020 George Devine Award.

In a very competitive shortlist, including Temi Wilkey’s brilliant THE HIGH TABLE, the judging panel chose Ward’s debut play as the winner.

The play had already won the Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence and the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain Award for Best Play For Young Audiences, and was nominated for a Total Theatre Award at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Further, the play is shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award which is announced on 26th November.

The semi-autobiographical play about a working-class black kid accepted to a prestigious grammar school, blends grime, hip-hop and classical music to tell the story of a young person’s search for belonging in a divided society.


George Devine Award shortlist announced

George Devine

The George Devine Award has announced its 2020 Shortlist. Founded in 1966 in memory of the Royal Court’s founding Artistic Director George Devine, the Award is recognised as one of the most prestigious in new writing and seeks to spotlight a playwright of promise. Previous winners have included Diana Nneka Atuona, Richard Bean, Alice Birch, Lucy Prebble and Rory Mullarkey.

The winner will receive a £15,000 prize to support their future writing.

Former George Devine Award-winner and 2020 judge Roy Williams said:

“The quality of the plays on the 2020 Shortlist is exceptional. They are a set of bold, diverse voices representing huge variety in style and subject matter. Amidst a very difficult year for theatre, it felt clear when discussing these plays with my fellow judges that there is a bright future to look towards for new writing when the industry reopens.”

The 2020 Shortlist is:

When Great Trees Fall by Dipo Baruwa-Etti

Motherland by Chris Bush

Staying at Stacey’s by Annie Jenkins

Does My Bomb Look Big In This? by Nyla Levy

There are no beginnings by Charley Miles

Out of Sorts by Danusia Samal

O, Island! by Nina Segal

The Canary and the Crow by Daniel Ward

The High Table by Temi Wilkey

This year’s judging panel includes the previous GDA-winning playwrights Charlene James and Roy Williams alongside former Royal Court Artistic Director Ian Rickson, actor Patsy Ferran, director Elayce Ismail and producer Amy Powell Yeates.

In my own view, the strongest contender I have seen, and the one I am rooting for, is Temi Wilkey’s wonderfully warm and ambitious THE HIGH TABLE which had its run cut cruelly short at the Bush Theatre earlier this year. You can read my four-star review here.

The winner will be announced later this month.


Views: On this week’s global protests

People of all colours and backgrounds around the world have united in peaceful protest at the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police, yet another in a long line of killings in the USA all centred around race.

Racism is a cancer which cripples our society’s growth. Peaceful protest is understandably a significant way for people to express their grief and outrage. But it’s worth remembering that, as well as protest, there are so many other actions we can take which will also bring about change. And in my own opinion, education will play a major role in the way forward.

That is why I am asking you to support progress in a very specific way.

You and I know that theatre is a powerful educator. When theatre comes back – as it will – we will need all those companies who have produced radical, challenging and exciting work around the black experience to be primed and ready to leap out of the starting gate.

If you, like me, feel that you must contribute to the protest in some way, but feel that you haven’t quite found your own way in which to do this, then do something different. Donate! In particular, donate to the many excellent theatre and arts companies which are producing great work in sharing and exploring the experiences of People of Colour.

In the UK

Donate to Eclipse Theatre, who produced and toured a terrific play in early 2020, Janice Okoh’s THE GIFT (review here)

Donate to Tamasha and Paines Plough and the Bush Theatre who produced and toured Zia Ahmed’s I WANNA BE YOURS (review here)

Donate to The Bush Theatre, who have produced Temi Wilkey’s THE HIGH TABLE with Birmingham Repertory Theatre (review here)

Donate to The Young Vic which produced the UK premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning FAIRVIEW (review here)

In the UK and internationally

Donate to Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway’s (founder of award-winning ARTISTIC DIRECTORS OF THE FUTURE organisation) new project BEYOND THE CANON to draw students attention to literary diversity by championing hidden and forgotten plays written by Black, Asian, LatinX and Middle Eastern playwrights by making these texts available to students in the UK and internationally during the hiatus in global education systems. This is a brand new project today and I am thrilled to have been the first donor- so who will join me? Donate here

In the USA

Donate to award-winning Chicago playwright Reginald Edmund’s BLACK VOICES BLACK WORDS INTERNATIONAL project.

Whilst this is my own personal selection of my own recent engagements and experiences, I appreciate that there are many other great organisations which I haven’t highlighted here, so if you know them better than I do, why not donate to them also?

Change is coming, and you can help drive it. Use your money as a way of planting seeds of hope and thought for the future, to help these organisations’ contributions to conversations about important work flourish and grow. And hopefully to lead us all into a more enlightened and caring world where difference is no longer hated but celebrated.


Review: THE HIGH TABLE

THE HIGH TABLE plays at the Bush Theatre until March 21. Information and tickets here

IN BRIEF Expansive family drama confidently argues for acceptance in an ambitious show with drama, heart and humanity

Temi Wilkey’s ambitious, brave and compassionate debut play covers a lot of ground. Tara and her girlfriend Leah are getting married, and the big day is approaching. But Tara’s Nigerian parents didn’t know about the wedding until now- oh, and also the fact that she is a lesbian. All the knee-jerk prejudices come tumbling out – “she doesn’t even look like a man”, “it’s a choice”, etc.

Simultaneously, high above the earth, in an afterlife, a meeting of a council of guidance has been called to decide whether or not to bless this marriage. Three past relatives of Tara gather- but they are missing one. Who is the late arrival, the fourth member of the council, and why does he carry such a disturbing aura with him?

Back on earth, the ensuing upset and pushback from her parents puts a strain on Tara and Leah’s relationship, as they doubt themselves and each other.

Posing intriguing questions along the way, this well-woven play shuttles back and forth between earthly and spiritual locations.

Tara’s need for family at this time is natural and her sadness at its lack is affecting. We see the parents’ opposition gradually unfurl itself as rooted in a protective fear for Tara’s safety, assuming that being gay is the same experience for people in the UK as it is in Nigeria, where intolerance, hatred, blackmail and beatings seem to be the ususal outcomes.

As the descendants’ and contemporary family stories are uncovered, unexpected connections and moving revelations bring about a hopeful ending with a wedding dance that cannot fail to make you smile.

THE HIGH TABLE is sensitively directed by Daniel Bailey (who did another good job with the part-mystical UNKNOWN RIVERS a few months ago at Hampstead), and strongly performed by the entire cast; Cherrelle Skeete brings soul and vulnerability to Tara, Stefan Aegbola makes his journey from victim to spiritual enabler most affecting, and Jumoke Fashola is a powerful and magnetic storyteller. The muscular rhythmic musical interludes, played (and co-composed) by Mohamed Gueye, effectively instil a sense of place and heritage.

Wilkey’s writing is knowing, passionate and human, with canny injections of humour and emotion, lovingly investing her characters with dimension and making a powerful case for “You go want who you go want”.

THE HIGH TABLE plays at the Bush Theatre until March 21. Information and tickets here

THE HIGH TABLE then plays Birmingham Repertory Theatre from March 25 to April 9. Information and tickets here