2014 seems to be a good year for playwrights. There is a sudden burst of interest in our craft. Competitions are springing up all over the UK and many of them with prestigefull regional companies as part of the headline. The latest include The Royal Court Liverpool. I applaud these initiatives and efforts to publicise the event . I think this sort of competition can be worthwhile and an excellent way to get playwrights to rise to the challenge of getting new material in front of new managements. However I must explain why I will not by entering or recommending anyone I know to enter despite the lure of a £10,000 prize.
I disagree strongly with the idea of paying a fee to enter. In the case of one it is £15 and Liverpool Hope Prize it is a whopping £20. Not an earth shattering amount but quite a chunk for some of us who are struggling to make ends meet. What I really object to is the reduction in the relationship between the playwright, director and company. In the past this has always been one of equals. By charging the playwright a fee you are saying, in effect, “you are an appellant, a lesser part in the process”. Playwriting has now become a vanity hobby rather than a serious craft. I have seen the status of playwrights whittled away over the last few years. A writer who has spent his or her lifetime wrestling out the details of a craft and an art form is no longer considered part of a team who creates something new and thrilling. As a director I have worked with new and emerging writers, they are indeed, the future, they are the ones who will shake up the industry but there is also something to be gained from those who are serious about their art and craft. Neither should be charged for the privilege of reading their work. In the case of the Liverpool prize one of the judges is John Godber. Would the Royal Court charge him £20 to read one of his plays?
You will undoubtedly counter by saying that this small fee goes towards administrative costs. This, of course, is a nonsense. I believe it is up to you to raise the money to fund the exercise properly. Did you not include “administrative costs” in your original budget?
In future I ask you to accord due respect to the artists and crafts people you rely on to create your programme and not expect playwrights to subidise it.
Please don’t think my in any way antagonistic towards you, your company or the competition. I merely argue against the underlying assumptions. Best of luck.