The winners of the OUDS New Writing Festival were announced today.
A yearly competition for budding playwrights, the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS) New Writing Festival (NWF) is a highlight of Oxford’s dramatic calendar. Entrants are invited to submit a new play they have written. The winning scripts are produced and performed for an audience that includes celebrated professional writers and literary agents. This year’s competition saw thirty-seven entries reduced to a final group of four winning scripts, after three gruelling rounds of judging.
The OUDS Committee selected a ‘long list’ of fifteen outstanding contenders. Helen Eastman, literary associate of Soho Theatre, made a final shortlist of six for Tony Award-winning playwright Michael Frayn. Frayn chose four winners: The Fireflies by David Shackleton, Instead of Beauty by Richard O’Brien, Revival by Carla Neuss and Toffee by Charlotte Geater.
The four plays will be performed in the Burton Taylor Studio in Seventh Week next term. NWF producer Chloe Courtney remarked on the variety among the winning entries. ‘We have a massive range of scripts, from character-driven coming-of-age drama to an absurdist piece which channels Beckett,’ she said.
Over twenty directors applied to bring these scripts to life. Sarah Perry, a fresher who won acclaim for Oriel’s Cuppers entry, The Lover, will direct Revival. She described her feelings about directing this script. ‘Revival uses quite stylised, playful language in a naturalistic setting. I’m excited to see what comes out of that physically,’ she said.
Meg Bartlett of Merton, director of Best of Cuppers nominee A Real Summer and Rimika Solloway of St Peter’s, assistant director of A State Affair, take on Toffee and The Fireflies respectively. Christchurch English student Abhishek Bhattacharyya, originally from Delhi, directs Instead of Beauty.
Roland Singer-Kingsmith, President of OUDS, has high hopes for the event. He says he is ‘extremely excited about the invigorating transformation from page to stage of four of the best new plays in Oxford.’ There is certainly much to look forward to, and maybe a few surprises. Michael Frayn called one of the plays ‘whimsical and bold’ and commented that he liked the ‘self-opening filing cabinets’ in another. He has selected an overall winner from the final four, but its identity remains a closely guarded secret – at least for now.