Soho Theater Announces 2022 Tony Craze Award Winner

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From a shortlist of plays featuring stories of grief, loss, the Parsi diaspora, metaphorical ghosts, hooliganism, the black British dating experience, gentrification in London and the Homosexuality was a story about the virtual reality grief game, All My Friends Are Dead by Somebody Jones, which won the 2022 Soho Theater Tony Craze Award for Emerging Writing.

Named for the former artistic director of the Soho Theater and first-ever Verity Bargate Award winner, the Tony Craze Award is open annually to playwrights in Soho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab, an entry-level course designed to help new writers to create a play over nine months. Previous winners include Fran Bushe with A Gig for Ghosts, which wrapped up its run at the Soho Theater last week, Louis Emmitt-Stern with Slippery, Farah Najib with Dirty Dogs, Adam Narat with New Pacific, Phoebe Eclair-Powell with Fury, Charlie Josephine with Bitch Boxer, and Patrick Russel with Antlers.

Speaking about this year’s dynamic mix of stories, Soho Theatre’s Creative Learning Producer Jules Haworth said: ‘It’s an honor to celebrate these talented early-career writers, whose voices have leapt from the page and aroused the enthusiasm and curiosity of our panel. The Tony Craze Award recognizes brave new writers from the Writers’ Lab program. We’re excited to see how these writers and theater makers will continue to thrive in the industry for years to come.

Somebody Jones’ All My Friends Are Dead will be receiving a workshop at the Soho Theater early next year. When It All Turns To Dust by Iona McTaggart, a modern ghost story about loss, life and community inspired by the true stories of the residents of Elephant & Castle’s Heygate Estate, was highly praised.

2022 TONY CRAZE AWARD SHORTLIST

All My Friends Are Dead by Somebody Jones – WINNER

GUSH by Abby Vicky-Russell

A Piece of My Liver by Rebecca Banatvala

Talking Steps by Mwansa Phiri

Two Tribes by Simon Castle

When Everything Becomes Dust by Iona McTaggart – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD – SOMEBODY JONES (her) – WINNER

Bloom, a video game developer, is about to pioneer a new invention – Death Tech Entertainment. To help his partner Zara deal with the recent deaths 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 she wants to return to the real world.

Somebody Jones is a playwright/playwright originally from Los Angeles, currently living, working and dreaming in London. She earned a BA in Theater with a major in Drama from the University of Southern California and an MA in Drama and Writing for Performance from Goldsmiths University in London. His work celebrates and defends black culture in all its charms and complexities. Jones works primarily in the genres of horror, magical realism, verbatim and, more recently, dark fantasy. It is currently under commission at bush theater.

The name Somebody Jones means the more you run from your past, the more you will encounter it.

GUSH – ABBY VICKY-RUSSELL (her)

GUSH follows a plumber who has come to the theater unannounced to fix a leak, so 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? Deliciously silly yet intensely moving, GUSH is a single-character comedy exploring the dynamics of a father-daughter relationship and how a family survives a sexual assault.

Abby Vicky-Russell is an actress, writer and comedian from Sheffield.

His solo show GUSH, written on Writers’ Lab, had its sold-out premiere at Camden People’s Theatre. Abby was a resident artist at both the Sheffiled Crucible and the Roundhouse Theater where she wrote and performed Community. She was heralded as an up-and-coming Briton by NYFA and co-wrote the short film Kindred which premiered at BFI Imax, 2019. Abby is a NYT REP Company alum and has filmed for ITV, Channel 4, BBC, Disney+ and Amazon TV.

A PIECE OF MY LIVER – REBECCA BANATVALA (her)

Natalie Sorrowalla is as non-confrontational as can be, but when her grandfather dies, she’s unwittingly forced to come to terms with who she is, what she wants, and whether she’ll finally introduce her non-binary partner to her family. Meanwhile, navigating 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 are boiling over, family taboos are shattered, and the circumstances surrounding Sorab’s death are starting to seem a little strange…

A Piece of My Liver chews on family, grief and belonging against the backdrop of the ever-diminishing Parsi diaspora.

Rebecca Banatvala is an actress and at the start of her writing career. His first TV treatment Zoo House was shortlisted for the 2020 Nisha Parti/BBC Asian Writer’s Award. Previously, she co-wrote and performed Rapport with Tatty MaCleod at the Caravan Theater and with her company Korupt Kabuki is currently co-creating BOXTICKERS with support from CPT. She also wrote for drag king Louis Cyfer (The Arts of Glory and the Phoenix). A Piece of My Liver is his first play.

STAGES OF TALKING – MWANSA PHIRI (her)

“The dating pool contains piss”

Lelani wants to meet the man of her dreams. Elijah wants to be the kind of man women dream of. After hooking up on a dating app, their attempt to live happily ever after is derailed by the endless relationship advice being debated on Twitter. Talking Stages is a romantic comedy examining themes of heteropessimism, classism, bitch-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 TCN’s 2020 Amazon Prime Video and WriterSlam for her television pilot Killing Time, and was shortlisted for a Hidden Beast Award in 2021 for her short screenplay Mother-Daughter Dance. Her first piece Talking Stages was shortlisted for VAULT Five 2023, and she was awarded a Seeding Space artist residency by London Performance Studios to develop her second piece while waiting for a train at the bus stop. As a playwright, Mwansa has had work staged at Pleasance London, Golden Goose Theatre, Arcola Theater 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?

This is what she told me…”

Two Tribes follows two rival companies of football hooligans who arrive in Leeds in 1987, to watch football and fight. But it traces the journey of two opposing football fans who fall in love, which aims to answer the question: can love survive where masculinity thrives?

Simon Castle is an actor and writer specializing in queer storytelling.

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 theater) is published by Team Angelica Books, in the queer monologue anthology, FIERCE. His piece, Changeling, premiered at the Amplify festival (Nottingham Theater). He is an alumnus of the Soho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab, the National Theatre’s Playwriting Program and the NYT.

WHEN ALL BECOMES DUST – IONA MCTAGGART (her) – HIGHLY APPRECIATED

Bill feels more and more like a ghost these days. Billy feels like a ghost because he’s dead. Tomorrow, the doomed estate they inhabit will be dust. Tomorrow, the council presses the big red button and their world changes forever.

A modern ghost story, When It All Turns To Dust is a funny and poignant look at what it’s like to be a Londoner when London no longer feels like home. It’s an exploration of loss, life and community for our changing times, inspired by the true stories of the people who have called Elephant & Castle’s Heygate estate home for over 40 years.

Iona McTaggart is an East London-based writer, actress and poet. As a writer his work has been performed at the Pleasance Theater 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 shortlisted 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 his first playwright.

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