Nuns, AI and Electrifying Performances
The Bruntwood Prize is a playwriting competition which has been running since 2005. The competition is an opportunity for writers of any background and experience to enter unperformed plays to be judged by a panel of industry experts for a chance to win part of a prize fund totalling £40,000. This year’s Bruntwood Prize is open for entries until 6th June, so we’re taking a look at the latest production to emerge from the competition: ELECTRIC ROSARY.
Winner of the 2017 Bruntwood Prize Judges’ Award Tim Foley’s new play ELECTRIC ROSARY is sharp, timely and gloriously funny. Bringing nuns and robots together on the Royal Exchange stage for the first time - this brand-new piece of comedy writing was inspired by Foley’s youthful trip to a monastery with his dad, where the monks rode quad-bikes.
Directed by Jaz Woodcock-Stewart ELECTRIC ROSARY sees the world of prayers and hymns collide with that of glitching and binary. This acutely observed play places questions of faith, spirituality and humanity alongside technological advancement and a robotic future. Mary, the council-funded robot, is played by Breffni Holahan who is joined on stage by Suzette Llewellyn, Olwen May, Jo Mousley, Yandass Ndlovu and Saroja-Lily Ratnavel who complete the cast. Electric Rosary opens on 23 April and runs in the Theatre until 14 May.
Behind the crumbling walls the Sisters of St Grace Convent are dwindling in numbers, divine inspiration is at an all-time low and a council-funded robot-nun has just been invited to join their convent. Practical and surprisingly funny, for some a blessing, for others a curse - could she be the revelation they have all been praying for? Set in a time where nuns are scarce and robots are commonplace, this new play explores how artificial intelligence influences what we choose to believe in and what it is to be human in tomorrow’s world.
2017 Prize judge Russell T Davies said….
“I love this play, it's such a radical mix of ancient and modern, old traditions colliding with brand new technology. And for a piece which could sound experimental - it's got a robot nun! The writing is actually tender, honest and insightful. It’s a beautiful examination of faith, no matter what you believe in.”
Tim Foley is a playwright based in Manchester. His work includes ASTRONAUTS OF HARTLEPOOL (2017 VAULT Festival, winner of the VAULT Origins Award for Outstanding New Work); and THE DOGS OF WAR (Old Red Lion Theatre, 2015). In 2016 he won the OffWestEnd award for Most Promising New Playwright. Tim also writes audio drama set in the worlds of Doctor Who for Big Finish Productions. His original podcast, North West Footwear Database, was featured on BBC Radio 4 Extra.
Director Jaz Woodcock-Stewart makes her Royal Exchange debut with this award-winning world premiere. She is a Theatre Director and Artist and is Artistic Director of award-winning arts company, Antler. She won the Jury Prize for her production CIVILISATION at Fast Forward Festival and has been the finalist for several directing awards; Genesis Future Directors Award 2017 and 2019, the RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award 2018 and the JMK Award 2016. Her theatre credits include: GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (Unicorn), FEN, (LAMDA); LEARNING PIECE (The Place); CIVILISATION (Hellerau/New Diorama/HOME Manchester); LANDS (Bush Theatre); WIFMON - writing attachment (National Theatre Studio) and IF I WERE ME (Soho Theatre, Antler). Other credits include; as Assistant Director ALL ABOUT EVE (Noel Coward Theatre, Sonia Friedman Productions); as Staff Director, NETWORK (National Theatre) and as Resident Director, LAZARUS (King's Cross Theatre).
Playing Mary, the Royal Exchange’s first robot nun, and making her Exchange debut is Breffni Holahan. She has won multiple awards such as The Stage Award for Acting Excellence 2019, and Best Performer Dublin Fringe 2019. Recent theatre includes: COLLAPSIBLE (The Bush Theatre, The Abbey Theatre, and HighTide). She is joined on stage by Olwen May as Constance. Olwen has worked across theatre, television, radio, and film. Theatre credits include: SAINT GEORGE (Royal National Theatre); OPERATION BLACK ANTLER (Blast Theory) and BAND OF GOLD (Rollem Productions). Her television credits include: LEAVING (Apple TV); A VERY BRITISH SCANDAL, CARE, BODYGUARD and Series 1&2 of HAPPY VALLEY (BBC).
The cast also includes Suzette Llewellyn as Philippa. Her theatre credits include RUNNING WITH LIONS (Talawa); CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (ETT); CHIGGER FOOT BOYS (Tara Arts) and for Television EASTENDERS, HOLBY CITY, DOCTORS among others. Playing Elizabeth is Jo Mousley, she is part of Hear The Picture, an actor-led creative and immersive audio description company. Her theatre credits include HELLO AND GOODBYE (York Theatre Royal); FOUR MINUTES TWELVE SECONDS, THE FATHER, DAVID COPPERFIELD (Oldham Coliseum). Former Young Company member Yandass Ndlovu returns to the Exchange stage following roles in MACBETH and JUBILEE, Yandass is the founder of I M Pact Collective a community of dancers. Completing the cast is Saroja-Lily Ratnavel who makes her Royal Exchange debut, her theatre credits include: NAME, PLACE, ANIMAL, THING, and THE KEY WORKER’S CYCLE (Almeida).
The creative team for Electric Rosary includes Designer Charlotte Espiner, Lighting Designer Simisola LuciaMajekodunmi, Sound Designer Anna Clock, Voice Leader Michael Betteridge, Casting Director Julia Horan CDG and Assistant Director Darren Sinnott.
ELECTRIC ROSARY is open until 14th May - click here to book tickets!