From a shortlist of plays featuring tales of grief, loss, the Parsi diaspora, metaphorical ghosts, hooliganism, the Black British dating experience, gentrification in London, and queerness, it was a story about virtual reality grief-gaming, All My Friends Are Dead by Somebody Jones, that won Soho Theatre’s emerging playwriting prize Tony Craze Award 2022.
Top, left to right: Somebody Jones, Iona McTaggart
Bottom, left to right: Abby Vicky-Russell, Rebecca Banatvala, Mwansa Phiri, Simon Castle
Named in honour of Soho Theatre’s former Artistic Director and first ever Verity Bargate Award winner, the Tony Craze Award is open each year to the playwrights on Soho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab, an entry-level course designed to support new writers to create a play over nine months. Previous winners include Fran Bushe with A Gig for Ghosts, which finished its run at Soho Theatre last week, Louis Emmitt-Stern with Slippery, Farah Najib with Dirty Dogs, Adam Narat for New Pacific, Phoebe Eclair-Powell with Fury, Charlie Josephine with Bitch Boxer, and Patrick Russell with Antlers.
Speaking about this year’s vibrant mix of stories, Soho Theatre Creative Learning Producer Jules Haworth said: ‘It’s an honour to celebrate these gifted early-career writers, whose voices leapt off the page and sparked our panel’s excitement and curiosity. The Tony Craze Award champions courageous new writers emerging from the Writers’ Lab programme. We are excited to see how these writers and theatre-makers continue to flourish through the industry, in the years ahead.’
Award winner Somebody Jones’ All My Friends Are Dead will receive a workshop at Soho Theatre early next year. Iona McTaggart’s When It All Turns To Dust, a modern ghost story of loss, life and community inspired by the real stories of Elephant & Castle’s Heygate Estate residents, came highly commended.
TONY CRAZE AWARD 2022 SHORTLIST
All My Friends Are Dead by Somebody Jones – WINNER
GUSH by Abby Vicky-Russell
A Piece of My Liver by Rebecca Banatvala
Talking Stages by Mwansa Phiri
Two Tribes by Simon Castle
When It All Turns To Dust by Iona McTaggart – HIGHLY COMMENDED
ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD – SOMEBODY JONES (she/her) – WINNER
Bloom, a video game developer, is about to become the pioneer of a new invention — Death Tech Entertainment. To help her partner Zara deal with the recent deaths that she’s been grieving, Bloom offers her a chance to bring her loved ones back to life in a video game called Soul’s End. But after virtually reconnecting with two important people from her past, Desmond and Russell, Zara isn’t so sure that she wants to return to the real world.
Somebody Jones is a Los Angeles native playwright/dramaturg, currently living, working, and dreaming in London. She received a bachelor’s in Theatre with an Emphasis in Playwrighting from the University of Southern California and a master’s in Dramaturgy and Writing for Performance from Goldsmiths University of London. Her work celebrates and champions Black culture in all of its charms and complexities. Jones primarily works within the genres of horror, magical realism, verbatim, and recently, Black fantasy. She’s currently under commission at the Bush Theatre.
The name Somebody Jones means the more you run from your past, the more you’ll run into it.
GUSH – ABBY VICKY-RUSSELL (she/her)
GUSH follows a plumber who has unexpectedly come to the theatre to fix a leak, so that a contemporary dance troupe can continue with their incredibly urgent piece exploring the relationship between pomegranates and vulvas. But what happens when these two worlds collide? Delightfully dumb yet intensely moving, GUSH is a one-woman character comedy exploring the dynamics of a father-daughter relationship and how a family survive in the aftermath of a sexual assault.
Abby Vicky-Russell is an actor, writer and comedian from Sheffield.
Her one-woman show GUSH, written on Writers’ Lab, premiered its sold out run at Camden People’s Theatre. Abby was a Resident Artist of both The Sheffiled Crucible and The Roundhouse Theatre where she wrote and performed Community. She was announced as an Emerging Brit by the NYFA and co-wrote the short film Kindred which premiered at BFI Imax, 2019. Abby is NYT REP Company Alumni and has filmed for ITV, Channel 4, BBC, Disney+ and Amazon TV.
A PIECE OF MY LIVER – REBECCA BANATVALA (she/her)
Natalie Sorrowalla’s as non confrontational as they come but when her grandfather dies she’s unwillingly forced to face who she is, what she wants and whether she’s going to finally introduce her non-binary partner to her family. Meanwhile, trawling through the bureaucracy of death, the Sorowalla family can’t even agree on the nutritional value of biscoff let alone whether to hold a Zorastrian or Christian funeral. Old grievances bubble, family taboos shatter and the circumstances surrounding Sorab’s death start to seem a little strange…
A Piece of My Liver chews through family, grief and belonging within the context of the ever-dwindling Parsi diaspora.
Rebecca Banatvala is an actor and early in her career as a writer. Her first TV treatment Zoo House was shortlisted for Nisha Parti/BBC’s 2020 Asian Writer’s award. Previously she has co-written and performed Rapport with Tatty MaCleod at the Caravan Theatre and with her company Korupt Kabuki is currently co-devising BOXTICKERS with the support of CPT. She has also written for drag king LoUis CYfer (The Glory and Phoenix Arts). A Piece of My Liver is her debut play.
TALKING STAGES – MWANSA PHIRI (she/her)
“The dating pool has piss in it”
Lelani wants to meet the man of her dreams. Elijah wants to be the kind of man women dream about. After connecting on a dating app, their attempt to live happily ever after becomes derailed by the never-ending relationship advice debated on Twitter. Talking Stages is a romantic comedy examining themes of heteropessimism, classism, slut-shaming and miscommunication, to explore the trials and tribulations of the modern Black British dating experience.
Mwansa Phiri is a London based poet, playwright and screenwriter. She was a finalist in Amazon Prime Video and TCN’s 2020 WriterSlam for her TV pilot Killing Time, and was shortlisted for a Hidden Beast Award in 2021 for her short film script Mother-Daughter Dance. Her debut play Talking Stages was shortlisted for the 2023 VAULT Five, and she was awarded a Seeding Space artist residency by London Performance Studios to develop her second play waiting for a train at the bus stop. As a playwright, Mwansa has had work staged at The Pleasance London, Golden Goose Theatre, Arcola Theatre and Southwark Playhouse.
TWO TRIBES – SIMON CASTLE (he/him)
‘When I was just a little boy,
I asked my mother what should I be?
Should I be Millwall?
Should I be Leeds?
Here’s what she said to me…’
Two Tribes follows two rival football hooligan firms descending on Leeds in 1987, to watch football and fight. But it charts the journey of two opposing football fans falling in love, which aims to answer the question: Can love survive where masculinity thrives?
Simon Castle is an actor and writer who specialises in telling queer stories.
As an actor, Simon has worked on projects with The RSC; BBC Radio 4; The Lowry; The Belgrade; Brixton House; The Other Palace and was part of the award-winning queer podcast, Tough Talks, which won Gold at The British Podcast Awards, 2021. As a writer, Lynx Africa and Dildos (Bush Theatre) is published by Team Angelica Books, in the queer monologue anthology, FIERCE. His play, Changeling, is premiering at Amplify Festival (Nottingham Playhouse). He’s an alumni ofSoho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab, National Theatre’s Playwriting Programme and NYT.
WHEN IT ALL TURNS TO DUST – IONA MCTAGGART (she/her) – HIGHLY COMMENDED
Bill’s been feeling more and more like a ghost these days. Billy’s been feeling like a ghost because he’s dead. Tomorrow, the condemned estate they call home will be dust. Tomorrow, the council push the big red button and their world changes forever.
A modern ghost story, When It All Turns To Dust is a funny, poignant look at what it means to be a Londoner when London doesn’t feel like home anymore. It’s an exploration of loss, life and community for our changing times, inspired by the real stories of the people that called Elephant & Castle’s Heygate Estate home for over 40 years.
Iona McTaggart is a writer, actor and spoken word poet based in East London. As a writer, her work has been performed at Pleasance Theatre Islington, Theatre503 and The Roundhouse. Her poem, Origami Boat was published in the poetry anthology, I Know, I Wish, I Will (2020) and she was a shortlisted writer for The Pleasance Young Playwrights Award (2019) for her monologue Ghosts. Iona is also a former member of the Roundhouse Poetry Collective (2018/19). When It All Turns To Dust is her playwriting debut.