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Victoria Wood Playwriting Prize for Comedy

The Birmingham Rep. Photo Ross Jukes.

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre announce the creation of the Victoria Wood Playwriting Prize for Comedy – and the UK premier of Bhangra Nation – a new musical, from the producers of the Tony Award winning Hadestown.

On 19 May 2023, what would have been comedy legend Victoria Wood’s 70th birthday, Sean Foley, the double Olivier Award Artistic Director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre announced the creation of the first ever major playwriting prize dedicated to the art of comedy and the UK premier of Bhangra Nation – A New Musical, part of a World Class season of plays at The Rep for 2023/4.

Sean Foley. The REP Portraits. Photo Kris Askey.

A fitting tribute to Victoria Wood’s trailblazing comic talent, this will be the first major playwriting Prize for narrative stage comedy in the world, and will be open to all. The Rep is proud that the home of the Prize is in the UK’s most diverse and youngest City, the city of one of Victoria’s major collaborators, Dame Julie Walters, and the city of so many contemporary comedians and writers such as Sir Lenny Henry, Joe Lycett, and Meera Syal, CBE, FRSL. It is of course also the city where Victoria Wood herself went to university to study Drama.

Of the twin masks of drama – Comedy and Tragedy – often the focus from this industry, across acting, directing and writing, is on the latter. The Rep has been a pioneering force in UK theatre for over 100 years, and with the creation of this Prize is once again opening up new possibilities. As a major theatre that celebrates the difficult art of making people laugh, they hope to become a national home for theatrical comedy – where writing, developing, and creating that art is taken seriously.

This Prize has been made possible thanks to the generous support of The Victoria Wood Foundation, a charity set up as a result of Victoria's last will and testimony. Many of the trustees were friends of Victoria, and they support aspects of the arts that interested Victoria in her lifetime.

The winner will receive £25,000 (£10,000 of which will be the play commission.) Submissions will be accepted from September 2023, and the winner announced in Spring 2024. Full competition rules and regulations will be on the Birmingham Rep website in due course.

La Jolla Playhouse's Bhangin' It. Photo Rich Soublet.

The UK Premiere of Bhangra Nation – A New Musical is a powerful and pulsating new show about competitive Bhangra dancing which will run in The House from 1 February to 9 March 2024. With a book by Mike Lew and Rehanna Lew Mirza, music and lyrics by Sam Willmott, directed by Stafford Arima and choreographed by Rujuta Vaidya, this ambitious and exhilarating new musical will be built and rehearsed at The Rep. It originally premiered in 2022 at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego under the title Bhangin’ It.

The Tony award-winning Producers Mara Isaacs (Hadestown) and Tom Kirdahy (Hadestown and The Inheritence) said: “Bhangra Nation – A New Musical is a joyful, exuberant celebration of Bhangra and a deeply felt exploration of identity and community among young people finding their own way forward in the world. We can’t imagine a better home to help launch Bhangra Nation than in Birmingham!”

When Mary and Preeti’s Bhangra team qualifies for nationals, they set off on opposing quests to dance to their own beat. Drawing from competitive Bhangra and mixing it with other Indian and Western dance forms, Bhangra Nation – A New Musical is a brash, intoxicating and joyous musical comedy for today.

Also announced is Little Red Riding Hood, a REP Original Production, which will run in The Door from 7 December 2023 to 6 January 2024. With a modern twist on the children’s classic fairy tale, a new version of Little Red Riding Hood Is being created by The Rep especially for children aged 3 to 6 years old. The show takes place in the The Rep’s smallest performance space, The Door, offering an intimate introduction to the theatre and a special experience for young audiences.

Little Red Riding Hood loves adventures. Blazing a trail on her scooter, carrying a basket of goodies for grandma and wearing her signature bright red coat, she sets out for what will be her most exciting one yet! All performances feature some integrated Makaton signing. The full creative team is yet to be announced. Little Red Riding Hood is generously supported by The Barry Jackson Trust.

Sean Foley added: ‘‘To be partnering with Bhangra Nation’s world class creative team, and co-producing this new musical with Mara Isaacs and Tom Kirdahy in the City that is the home of modern Bhangra is a thrill for everyone at The Rep. Little Red Riding Hood is our second Christmas show produced especially for young audiences, and we’re excited to welcome the newest of theatre-goers through our doors. We hope Birmingham will take both these extraordinary shows to its heart.”

For tickets please visit call the Box Office on 0121 236 4455.


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