Popcorn Awards honour Edinburgh Fringe plays that never were

The Popcorn Award judging panelThe Popcorn Award judging panel
The Popcorn Award judging panel
THEY are the new plays that should have been vying for five star reviews in the Capital right now.

Yes, despite all the comedy, chaos and commercialisation of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival over the last decade, it remains one of the most important platforms for new playwrights when it comes to showcasing their work. After all, long has the Fringe been the place where the next generation of great writers are uncovered. So, in a year when there is no Fringe, The Popcorn Award is determined to recognise that talent and to honour the ever illusive Spirit of the Fringe.

Organisers Charlotte Colbert and Jessica Malik of Popcorn Group, say, “We believe in the bold and adventurous spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe and although it has been cancelled this year, we wanted to help to find a way to keep its spirit alive.”

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In order to do that, all 133 new plays due to open in Edinburgh this August were entered for the Award and have now been whittled down to a shortlist of just eight. The final shortlist is, Daddy, by Camilla Whitehill (Pleasance), Little Miss Burden, by Matilda Ibini (Traverse), Sticky Door, by Katie Arnstein (Pleasance), Silkworm, by Vlad Butucea (Assembly), Burn, by Chris Thompson (Assembly), Es and Flo, by Jennifer Lunn (Traverse), Denouement, by John Morton, (Traverse) and Autopilot, by Ben Norris (Summerhall).

Colbert and Malik add, “The standard of work entered this year was incredibly high. If this process is indicative of the quality of the emerging writers in this country, the future is very bright.”

The shortlist champions marginalised communities, shining a light on people who have stories that are just not heard or seen. The works explore subjects ranging from the mental, emotional and physical challenge of learning to live with a disability, overcoming grief and depression, and celebrating the complexity and joy of love in all it’s multitude of forms?

A 15-strong judging panel described as ‘a carefully selected group of mavericks from theatre, film, TV and beyond’ will evaluate each play. Judges include two-time Olivier Award winner Ruth Wilson, Norwegian singing sensation Aurora and BAFTA-winning actress Wunmi Mosaku. Also on the committee are actor Kerry Fox, Bryony Kimmings, winner of last year’s inaugural Popcorn Award, award-winning Fleabag producer Francesca Moody and Academy Award winner Gonzalo Maza.

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The good news for this year’s entrants is that the prize fund has doubled to £5,000 and there will also be three further awards of £2,500, £1,500 and £1,000.

Last year, I’m A Phoenix Bitch, by Bryony Kimmings, won the inaugural award. She reflects, “The Popcorn Award is special as it buys a writer or artist one of the most scarce and undervalued commodities... time.”

Anthony Alderson, Director of Pleasance Theatre Trust is also a member of the judging panel - many of the plays competing for the Award would have debuted in one of the Pleasance spaces. He says, “Given the tragic state that the theatre industry is currently in, awards such as this - the first of its kind at the Fringe - help highlight and give recognition to a group of hugely talented writers who need all the support we can offer.”

The Fringe has long been the starting point for many of the biggest names in the industry. One such name is Phoebe Waller-Bridge, best known for Fleabag, which premiered as a one-woman show at Underbelly during the 2013 Fringe. She says of the annual arts festival, “It’s a vital part of our culture and our future. Without it, we lose the voices of artists who bring inspiration to our lives and success to our shores.”

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The winner of the Award and the runners up will be announced on Monday 24 August.

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