Press Release: Theatre Centre Commissions Win Double
24 January 2017
Theatre Centre Commissions Win Two Awards from The Writer’s Guild of Great Britain
Touring theatre company Theatre Centre's commissions have won a double award from The Writer’s Guild of Great Britain, taking home Best Play for Young Audiences for both Rise Up by Lisa Evans and What The Thunder Said by Ed Harris at last night’s ceremony. With two plays nominated in the category, Vicky Ireland MBE, Vice Chair at Action for Children Arts, presented both Theatre Centre commissions with the award, celebrating the company's commitment to nurturing the very best in new writing for children & young people.
The UK’s longest established touring company, Theatre Centre have introduced some of the nation’s finest playwrights to the TYA sector, including Roy Williams, Bryony Lavery and most recently Sabrina Mahfouz. Founded in 1953, new plays have been the mainstay of the company for over 60 years and are central to its founding principles of making work which is contemporary and age-specific, consulting and involving young audiences throughout the writing process.
Rise Up by Lisa Evans tells the story of the Freedom Riders in 1961 when groups of young people rode the public buses and risked their lives to desegregate the Southern States, a story of ordinary people becoming a civil rights movement and challenging the establishment. Rise Up follows on from The Day the Waters Came, about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on a city and a community, which won the WGGB Award in 2011. Rise Up toured to schools and theatres across the country to great acclaim.
What The Thunder Said by Ed Harris emerged when a head teacher from an inner-city London primary school shared her concerns with Theatre Centre about the high levels of violent crime that her pupils were witnessing and the children’s unwillingness to talk about what they had seen. The project set out to create a space for children to explore their feelings around violence through creative writing workshops and small group discussions. From these sessions What The Thunder Said began to grow, with Ed drawing heavily on the articulate and surprising ways children responded.
Theatre Centre’s Artistic Director Natalie Wilson said “When both our writers were called out as winners, I was ecstatic. It’s a real testament to the hard work of the writers and the teams that have supported them to create excellent original new writing for young audiences. I feel so proud of Theatre Centre to have its work recognised by the writing community after the precious investment we place in writers, both new and established.”
Theatre Centre continues to create work that explores complex themes, relevant to young people’s lives, empowering young audiences into activism. Their 2017 commission Twist welcomes a collaboration with Chino Odimba who was recently shortlisted for The Bruntwood Prize. Twist is a radical adaptation of Dickens’ classic novel, transforming Oliver’s struggle for sanctuary into the tale of a young refugee, set against the global phenomenon fast defining the 21st century. Twist will follow one boy’s search for sanctuary, asking young audiences to humanise the anonymous plight of the nameless millions we call ‘migrant’.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
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Theatre Centre empowers young leadership and youth activism through the arts, supporting and transforming children and young people to change the world by enriching their learning and leadership potential with theatre productions, creative projects and resources. A registered charity, Theatre Centre has been empowering young people through the arts since 1953. The company has worked with award-winning writers Lisa Evans, Noël Grieg, Mike Kenny, Bryony Lavery, Brendan Murray, Philip Osment, Manjinder Virk, Roy Williams, Benjamin Zephaniah and many others. Theatre Centre is supported by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation.
Praise for Theatre Centre
“The work of Theatre Centre has enriched our students’ lives for many years now.” – Charlotte Grosvenor, Head of Drama, Cardinal Newman School
“I have long admired Theatre Centre’s work in producing fine plays for young audiences and doing everything possible to promote the genre through new writing.” – Susan Elkin, The Stage
“Theatre Centre defies clichés” – The Guardian
The Writer’s Guild Awards were held on 23 January 2017, at the Royal College of Physicians in central London. Full list of winners here.
Lisa Evans trained as an actor at the Guildhall School of Speech and Drama after which she worked in radio, stage and TV. She performed with the National Theatre, in the West End and in theatre in the USA before becoming a playwright. She was Resident Writer at Theatre Centre in 1983/4 and at Temba Theatre Company in 1986/7. From 2009-11 she was Associate Writer at Theatre by the Lake Keswick. She is currently Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Brunel University.
Praise for Rise Up, Lisa Evans
“The ambition of Theatre Centre to try to provoke a younger generation into political action is never shied away from.” ***** - Morning Star
“Theatre Centre have chosen a compassionate and uncompromising way forward.” – Children’s Theatre Reviews
“Enraging, educational and thought-provoking.” – A Younger Theatre
Ed Harris is an award-winning playwright, radio dramatist and poet. He has written extensively for theatre and radio, most notably Soho Theatre commissioned Mongrel Island, which opened Steve Marmion’s first season as Artistic Director in July 2011. His play Troll won the Writers’ Guild Award in 2011, his first radio series, The Resistance of Mrs Brown, won the Sony Radio Academy Gold Award in 2013 and in 2014 he won the BBC Audio Drama Award for his radio play Billions.
Praise for What The Thunder Said, Ed Harris
“Ingenious take on the complexities of bullying” – Susan Elkin, The Stage
“The children were captivated […] often playful, hilarious and slapstick; sometimes sinister and scary; but ultimately thought-provoking and engaging.” – Theresa Fortune, The Guardian
“Lucky are the schools that get to see it as it tours the country.” – British Theatre Guide
Chino Odimba is currently under commission with the National Theatre. She is a winner of the Channel 4 Playwright Scheme and has previously been shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award, The Bruntwood Prize and the Adrienne Benham Award.