Debut play by Nathan Queeley-Dennis wins overall 2022 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting
● Birmingham-born actor takes home £16k prize for first play Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz, ‘a joyful galloping hymn to Black friendship and love and tender masculinity'
● Three further scripts win the Judges Award for a ‘runner up’, the North West Original New Voice Award and Residency, and the International Award
Nathan Queeley-Dennis’s first play, Bullring Techno
Makeout Jamz, has been named the overall winner of the 2022 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. The
prize – which seeks scripts from established, emerging and debut writers to develop for the stage – is a
partnership between leading commercial property developer Bruntwood, a major supporter of the arts,
and world-class producing theatre, the Royal Exchange Theatre, in Manchester.
Born and raised in Erdington, Birmingham, Nathan Queeley-Dennis is an actor whose credits include
Black Love (Kiln Theatre) written by Chinonyerem Odimba, Really Big and Really Loud (Paines Plough)
written by 2019 Bruntwood Prize winner Phoebe Eclair-Powell and Bijan Sheibani's production of A
Taste of Honey (National Theatre).
Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz follows the fictional Nathaniel, a young man approaching what appears
to be his quarter life crisis as his student dream of being a ‘hybrid, edgy, sexy kind of brum town
Basquiat with a garnish of Banksy and national treasure potential of David Hockney' start to evaporate in
the grim reality of his mounting debts and post-university call centre job. Described by the judges as 'a
joyful, galloping hymn to Black friendship and love and tender masculinity' (Julie Hesmondhalgh), 'a
vibrant, laugh-out-loud, and ultimately moving tribute to being young and on the rise in Birmingham' (Kimber Lee), and for bringing ‘Black Joy in abundance’ (Amanda Parker), the play follows Nathaniel on a
journey of self-discovery as he explores Black masculinity through Beyoncé lyrics, techno raves and the
deeply intimate relationship a man has with his barber. When he was shortlisted for the prize in October
2022, Queeley-Dennis said he wanted to share ‘a story to the country and world that I think is very
rarely shown, but is so prominent in making me and the people I grew up with who we are.’
Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz was selected from a shortlist of nine plays from the UK in the running for
two categories: overall winner of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting (£16,000) and the Judges Award
(£8,000) for a ‘runner up’. The latter was won by Ipswich-based writer, producer and actor, Martha
Loader, for Bindweed: a ‘skilfully crafted, gripping inquiry that attempts to go to the root of violence
against women’ which explores domestic violence from within a community-led perpetrator group
programme and its effect on individual lives. In addition, Patrick Hughes - a playwright, dramaturg and
script reader based in Liverpool – has been announced as the winner of the new North West Original
New Voice Award and Residency, launched in recognition of the Prize’s Manchester home, for Leave the
Morning to the Morning, a story exploring family dynamics, speaking the truth, and the right to live and
die on your own terms which the judges praised for its ‘intimate exploration of the wrenching
complexities of mental health.’
Also announced today was the winner of the International Award: The Red Lead 红铅 by Hong Kong-
born, multidisciplinary artist Roshelle Fong, who is based in Naarm/Melbourne, Australia. Chosen from a
shortlist of five plays submitted via partners in Australia, Canada and the US, The Red Lead 红铅 is a
portrait of sisterhood, survival and an attempt to rise up in 1542 Ming Dynasty China, described by the
judges as ‘bold and surprising in its visual imagery’ and its ‘sharp, contemporary voice [that] slices
through layers of sexual politics and class, upending preconceived notions on a massive scale without
ever losing sight of the young women at the centre, their humanity and bravery in the face of systemic
oppression, and the hope that comes through collective action.’
The winning plays were judged and chosen from a 14-strong shortlist of established, emerging and debut playwrights. All four playwrights will now enter a development process with the Royal Exchange Theatre in an endeavour to bring their work to production, with the winner of the North West Original New Voice Award and Residency also having access to an additional £10,000 fund dedicated to their professional development at the Royal Exchange Theatre during a bespoke one-year residency in partnership with Bruntwood and the Oglesby Charitable Trust.
Amanda Parker, Chair of the 2022 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting Judging Panel, said: “The Bruntwood Prize, yet again delivered plays that speak to the urgent issues of our times, in ways that are unexpected, fresh, thrilling and compelling. The judging panel would like to thank all who entered the competition and congratulate the shortlisted 14 whose creative energies gave us such a rich feast of imagining.
“Through tough debate - because all were excellent - and deep reflection, because we felt passionately about all of them - we landed on the winning entries. Our winners offered us challenge, a new lens on universal concerns, made us laugh at the dizzying truth of the worlds they created, and weep in sympathy with the horrors portrayed. Thank you to Bruntwood, to the entrants, to the winners. We can't wait to see these words come to life on our stages!”
Roy Alexander Weise, Joint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre and judge for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, added: “The Prize is such a vital snapshot of the nation's story. The plays: a cross-section of ideas and visions from all over the country and parts of the world. As readers and judges, we've learnt so much about the states of various wide-ranging worlds and perspectives. In all the stories a longing: for better, for more, for space, for revolution, for love, for peace - cries that echo across the planet. Six hours of debate lead us to a pin-droppingly silent democratic voting process led delicately and fairly by Chair of the Judges, Amanda Parker. We all left the room pleased and pleasantly surprised.”
Kate Vokes, Non-Executive Director at Bruntwood, and Chair of Trustees at the Oglesby Charitable Trust, said: “At Bruntwood, as we continue to build thriving communities across the UK’s regions, we remain focused on championing new and emerging talent and contributing to the cultural vibrancy of the towns and cities that we operate within. The Bruntwood Prize represents an opportunity to meaningfully engage with communities across the UK and support the often-underserved arts sector, while also pushing boundaries and aligning with wider social themes. This year’s winner, Nathan Queeley-Dennis, is a perfect example of this and his story will resonate with many, while also challenging our perceptions. On behalf of Bruntwood, we would like to congratulate Nathan and look forward to seeing Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz come to life!”
The Prize was chaired this year by Amanda Parker, Founder of Inc Arts UK, a national centre for advocacy for the creative, contractual and economic rights of the UK’s ethnically diverse arts sector workforce. In addition to Roy Alexander Weise, Joint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre, she was joined on the panel by prestigious names from across the arts industry, including: Miranda Cromwell, Olivier Award winning Theatre Director; Julie Hesmondhalgh, award-winning actor and supporter of the Royal Exchange Theatre; Kimber Lee, winner of the inaugural Bruntwood Prize International Award in 2019; Farai Matekenya Nhakaniso, Local Exchange Ambassador for the Leigh area for the Royal Exchange Theatre; Kate Vokes, Non-Executive Director at Bruntwood.
Launched in 2005, The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting is recognised as a launch-pad for some of the country’s most respected and produced playwrights, many of whom are completely new to playwriting – one third of the entrants to the 2022 Prize had never written a play before. It has a proven record of finding new talent and helping established writers bring their stories to new audiences. Since its inception in 2005, over 15,000 scripts have been entered, £304,000 has been awarded to 34 prize- winning writers and 26 winning productions have been staged in 38 UK wide venues.
THE WINNING PLAYS
1. Overall Winner:
Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz by Nathan Queeley-Dennis Nathan Queeley-Dennis is an actor born and raised in Erdington, Birmingham. His acting credits include Black Love (Kiln Theatre) written by Chinonyerem Odimba, Really Big and Really Loud (Paines Plough) written by Phoebe Eclair-Powell and A Taste of Honey (National Theatre). Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz is his first play, which follows Nathaniel; a young man on his journey of self-discovery as he explores Black masculinity through Beyoncé lyrics, techno raves and the deeply intimate relationship a man has with his barber.
The judges said:
“Nathan's voice bursts off the page in this vibrant, laugh-out-loud, and ultimately moving tribute
to being young and on the rise in Birmingham. In a moment when joy is so easily diminished,
this absolutely joyful shout feels like the most radical, political statement of all: to remind us
that our birthright as humans is not just to survive, but to thrive.”
2. Judges Award:
Bindweed by Martha Loader
Based in Ipswich, Martha Loader is a writer, producer and actor, who won the Award for Promising Young Playwright presented by Richard Curtis at INK Festival 2019. She is an alumni of the Mercury Playwrights, Soho Writers Lab and HighTide Writers programmes. Bindweed follows the facilitator of a perpetrator programme for domestic abusers, whose life outside of work begins to buckle.
The judges said: “A skilfully crafted, gripping inquiry that attempts to go to the root of violence
against women, mapping the many pathways it takes through our society. With an unflinching
determination, the writer takes us through the painful realities that continue to plague our
communities, refusing to simplify and demanding that attention be paid.”
3. North West Original New Voice Award and Residency:
Leave the Morning to the Morning by Patrick Hughes
Paddy Hughes is a playwright, dramaturg and script reader based in Liverpool, who seeks to support and develop new writers in the North-West of England. Leave the Morning to the Morning is a story of heartbreak, speaking the truth and the right to live and die on your own terms.
The judges said: “An intimate exploration of the wrenching complexities of mental health, this play grapples with how we care for each other and ourselves, and what it means to have the dignity of choice in the midst of impossibly painful decisions.”
4. International Award:
The Red Lead 红铅 by Roshelle Fong (Australia)
Hong Kong born multi-disciplinary artist Rochelle Fong wrote, directed and produced the Melbourne Fringe award-winning immersive show ‘nomnomnom’ in 2018, and is currently completing a Master of Theatre (Writing) at University of Melbourne’s Victoria College of the Arts. The Red Lead is set in 1542 Ming Dynasty China, painting an anachronistic portrait of sisterhood, survival and an attempt to rise up.
The judges said: “At once epic and intimate, this entertaining play immerses us in 16th century China palace intrigue. Bold and surprising in its visual imagery and with a sharp, contemporary voice the story slices through layers of sexual politics and class, upending preconceived notions on a massive scale without ever losing sight of the young women at the centre, their humanity and bravery in the face of systemic oppression, and the hope that comes through collective action.”