London-based playwright and children’s author - and primary school headteacher - Colin Dowland has won the third Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize.
He was announced the winner of the £10,000 award, the second largest playwriting prize in the UK, at a special event at Liverpool’s Royal Court.
His play Headless beat five other shortlisted entries in the hotly-contested competition which attracted almost 200 scripts.
The anonymous submission playwriting prize - a collaboration between the Royal Court and Liverpool Hope University - is run every two years and provides a platform for new comedy plays and writers across the UK.
To qualify, scripts must be original, unperformed…and funny.
In Headless, it’s the most difficult day in the life of a school; an Ofsted inspection is about to begin.
But in the headteacher’s office, there is one tiny glitch. The head is missing.
Found drunk, unconscious and locked in the toilet, the school is effectively ‘headless.’ With their reputations at stake and compromising revelations of a dominatrix, an illicit affair and a wayward gap student, the staff decide the inspection must go ahead without him.
Speaking after the announcement, the elated winner said: "This is just incredible.
"I've always thought of myself as a fulltime writer in my head, but in my 'spare time' I'm a headteacher. The play is actually around what would happen in my worst nightmare!"
Since 2015, The Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize success stories include winners and highly commended writers who go on to have their plays commissioned at theatres and auditoriums across the UK.
Colin Dowland (third right) with the other finalists of the 2019 prize
Top: Colin Dowland with his winner's cheque. Photo by Mathew Rogers
The judging panel for 2019 included actor and comedian Les Dennis, author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, and playwrights John Godber and Maurice Bessman, and writer and producer Barbara Phillips.
Royal Court Executive Producer, Kevin Fearon said: “We’ve been delighted to be involved with the Playwriting Prize for the last five years. We’ve seen a huge number of entries for both of the previous competitions from all around the country and this year was no different. The playwriting prize has been a great way of finding new writing talent.”
Liverpool Hope University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerald Pillay added: "The continued success of this competition highlights a real wish among playwrights and audiences to see more comedies on stage.
"It also reiterates Liverpool Hope's commitment to the arts, and hopefully inspires our students to pursue their own creative talents even further."
The other finalists were:
CUTTINGS by Oliver Clark, Berkshire
YouTuber turned model turned actor, Arthur Moses, accepts the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Play, and moments later goes on to drunkenly deliver the most offensive, profanity laden and outrageous speech in the ceremony’s history.
His three personal publicists must defend the indefensible and write a statement on his behalf, apologising and hoping for forgiveness from the public and his fans. Maybe. He’s still drunk.
Cuttings is a satirical look at public perceptions, fandom & fame and what it means to be ‘sorry’ in the twenty first century.
ON THE EDGE OF PARADISE by Mark Lee, Whiston
Five people wake up in a windowless house in an unknown location. A witty but cynical everyman, a woman in a loveless long-term relationship, a selfish fool, an elderly lady with no regrets and the personification of toxic masculinity find themselves trapped together, unable to recall what brought them there.
Quickly, they are subjected to a series of tests, questions they must answer, which force the characters to psychoanalyse themselves. If they do not answer the questions which are pushed beneath the door by their unknown host, dangerous things happen.
FUN RUN by Joe Graham, Oxfordshire
Sometimes charity not only has to be done... it has to be seen to be done.
Libby has a new pet charity, set up in honour of husband Ed. She believes that, through her planned charity fun run, she could be finally launched into ‘Lenny Henry’ territory. Keen to show the world her supreme talent for charitable caring, she needs a campaign concept.
Relax, loosen your trainers and prepare to see the fun side of running for charity. If you like to run, like to watch others run, or if you were simply ‘born to run’…this is the one for you.
DOING WELL by Emily Jupp, London
Things start to go wrong when celebrity lifestyle blogger and YouTube star Lucy realises she’d rather stay in bed than write another blog post about nine new ways with kale – and her sweet and simple boyfriend, Chad, suggests they should consolidate the power of their social media channels by getting married IRL (that’s internet-speak for ‘in real life’).
Worst of all, Lucy becomes suddenly and inexplicably allergic to avocados and starts to question whether there’s more to life than talking to her fans about the benefits of flax seeds and having the arse of an angel.
KONIGSBERG (a love story) by Anthony Green, Liverpool
Following the death of his beloved wife a grief-stricken, suicidal psychiatrist finds the will to live through the efforts of one of his patients, an Indian man, who’s under the delusion he’s Woody Allen.
As he helps his therapist cope with his existential crisis, he also becomes romantically entangled with a woman who works at the psychiatric clinic. Surely there’s no way this unusual romance can blossom?