Winner Of Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize

SALFORD-born actor Simon Bradbury has won the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize. Simon took away £10,000 and the opportunity to have his work considered for production by Liverpool’s Royal Court, for a comedy that charts the last hours of playwright and actor Moliere’s life. A Highly Commended Award of £1500 went to writer and lecturer Gerry Linford from Ellesmere Port, for his play A Prayer to Saint Cajetan, set in Liverpool during the 1978 World Cup. Simon’s winning play, The Last Act of Love of J B Moliere, is set in the year 1673, when playwriting and acting was a risky business. It imagines the playwright Moliere’s last days as, knowing his death is near, he prepares to put on a performance of ‘The Imaginary Invalid’. Moliere’s servant and wife try to dissuade him from performing, and ask him to sign a document renouncing the acting profession, in the hope of saving his soul and affording him a Christian burial. Both his friends and enemies alike conspire to keep Moliere from the stage in the madcap romp. This year’s judging panel included Frank Cottrell Boyce (Screenwriter and author), Alistair Smith (Print Editor, The Stage), Catherine Jones (Arts Journalist, formerly Liverpool Echo Arts Editor), Amanda Whittington (Playwright), Kevin Fearon (Chief Executive, Liverpool’s Royal Court), Katie Mulgrew (comedian and writer), Paul Allen (Playwright and critic), Les Dennis (Comedian and actor) and Dr John Bennett (Principal Lecturer, Drama and Theatre Studies, Liverpool Hope University). Dr John Bennett, Chair of Judges, said: “This is a truly remarkable play. It manages to combine broad slapstick humour, detailed historical knowledge and witty, original dialogue to great comic effect, whilst achieving moments of genuine pathos – an impressive feat of comic writing.” Frank Cottrell Boyce said: “As soon as I started reading it, I was seeing it in my mind’s eye, and as soon as I started to see it in my mind’s eye, I wanted to see it on a stage. I wanted to see it sitting next to someone I really love and with a box of chocolates in my hand…the winner is not just a really good play but also a really good night out.”  Simon’s play is inspired by his own years on stage in the US, UK, and Canada, which has included a role in Moliere’s Tartuffe at The Stratford Festival. Simon said: “I sent my play in because it is rare to see comedy highlighted for a competition. It tends to be the poor cousin of tragedy and other genres. This specialization is exciting, because it harkens back to the days of the Aldwych farces, which led to a golden era of English theatre comedy. Comedy is damned serious business! The association of a highly regarded academic institution with a respected theatre company lends credence to this idea. That is why this competition is unique and very important.” A Highly Commended Award of £1500 was presented to writer and lecturer Gerry Linford from Ellesmere Port, for his play A Prayer to Saint Cajetan. Set in 1978, A Prayer to Saint Cajetan charts what happens when an eccentric priest teams up with an unemployed man to place a series of outlandish bets on the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Gerry is a lecturer in Screenwriting at the University of Central Lancashire and has written a number of films, including Buddha Boy for BBC Wales and What’s The Story. Dr John Bennett, Chair of Judges, said of Gerry’s play: “This play is one of the most original I have seen in a long time, an intriguing concept, fully realised with some laugh out loud moments. It is a funny and heartfelt situation comedy.” Gerry said: “A Prayer to Saint Cajetan is inspired by actual events from my childhood – although obviously I used creative license to develop the story seeds into something much bigger. I was motivated to enter the competition after seeing a poster in a coffee shop in Liverpool last year. “I’d been kicking the story around with a view to a screenplay but thought it lent itself very well to the stage. When I heard I was shortlisted, I was absolutely thrilled.” Find more information and the full shortlist: http://www.playwritingprize.com/