Thomas Eccleshare has won the 2011 Verity Bargate Award for his first script and will take up a residency at the Soho Theatre.
Awarded for the best new play by an emerging writer, the gong is named in honour of the founder of Soho Theatre and is presented biennially. Previous winners include Bonnie Greer, Nina Raine and Matt Charman, who went on to become a writer in residence at the National Theatre.
Eccleshare won the £5,000 award for his futuristic play Pastoral, which was picked from around 900 applications. The play will now be produced at Soho in early 2012, where Eccleshare will also take up a writer’s residency.
Although Pastoral is Eccleshare’s first full script, he is founder and co-artistic director of Dancing Brick, a visual theatre company.
He said: “I had never written something that I myself had not performed, that I hadn’t defended myself on stage, that I had written and given to people I didn’t know to read and to judge. When I put it in, I had no confidence whatsoever that it would be the kind of play that would win a prize like this.”
Soho Theatre artistic director, Steve Marmion, praised Pastoral’s “amazing bravery, its stunning theatricality and its pure originality”.
He added: “Nearly 900 plays from all over the country, from so many different voices. What really interests me are the recurring themes across the work – a lot of plays about people in flux, or about to leave their home, or plays with long journeys at their heart. A fascinating sample of where people’s minds, obsessions and fears are at the moment.
“What is utterly stunning is that our team of nearly 20 readers and our panel of judges all came to the same conclusion about which play should win.”
The judging panel for this year’s VBA included former winner Insook Chappell, director Kathy Burke, playwright Roy Williams and Headlong producer Henny Finch.