Rochdale stand-up comedian Katie Mulgrew took away £10,000 and the opportunity to have her work considered for production by the Royal Court Liverpool, with a comedy that examines the effect of soap operas on our lives.
Katie, the only woman shortlisted for the inaugural Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize, won for her play Omnibus which centres on housemates Nell, Lauren, Mark and his girlfriend, Jessica. All four of them are enjoying a soap opera marathon on what they think is a typical Sunday afternoon, until an unexpected visitor arrives to give them an episode to remember.
The Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize is the UK’s second largest playwriting prize after the Bruntwood Prize. Katie’s play was chosen by a team of expert judges including actress and director Kathy Burke, screenwriter and novelist Frank Cottrell Boyce, playwright John Godber, critic and writer Paul Allen, Liverpool Royal Court Chief Executive Kevin Fearon, Liverpool Hope University Drama Academic Dr John Bennett, and Liverpool Echo Arts Editor Catherine Jones.
Katie describes herself as a “stand-up comedian, writer and lover of chicken kievs.” She has written and starred in two Edinburgh Fringe stand up shows, most recently Happily Ever After in 2014.
Comedy runs in the family – Katie’s father is legendary entertainer Jimmy Cricket. Her debut Edinburgh show, Your Dad’s Not Funny was about her experience of growing up with a comedian for a dad, and how she found her way into the industry.
Katie also provides regular support at shows for Matt Richardson, Lee Nelson and the internationally award-winning The Boy With Tape on His Face. She was featured on the BBC Radio 2 documentary seriesThe History of British Comedy and hosts The FunnyGirl Podcast where she discusses musicals with guest comedians such as Tim Vine, Tom Allen and Pippa Evans. Katie has had three plays commissioned to be performed by a Special Arts College and a primary school in North Manchester, and last year she appeared on the CBBC show The Dog Ate My Homework. Katie writes a blog at https://katiemulgrew.wordpress.com/
Katie said: “When I saw the award advertised I loved the fact that it was a chance to work with the Royal Court, which is a fabulous theatre. So many great writers come from Liverpool and the North West as a whole. When I saw the list of judges, I knew I’d love my work to be judged by those people. I thought that even to get feedback would be incredible, but to win is unbelievable.
“The fact that it was judged anonymously also means a lot to me. It means that there was no positive discrimination and that everyone’s work was judged on its merits, which makes me feel amazing.
“I hope that this play will be a platform for my comedy writing and a chance to really break into the comedy world. It would be an absolute dream to have my play performed at the Royal Court.”
Dr John Bennett, Principal Lecturer in Drama at Liverpool Hope University said: “On behalf of Liverpool Hope University, I would like to congratulate Katie Mulgrew on winning the first Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize. Her play made me laugh out loud and is a skilful, deft combination of classic farce with contemporary urban mores; all judges agreed it was a worthy winner. I hope that this success helps Katie in her writing career and I look forward to following her progress from this point. I am sure we will be hearing more from her in the future.”
Gillian Miller, Chief Executive of the Royal Court Liverpool Trust said: "This announcement is the end of a long process that has seen some great scripts submitted and Katie is a worthy winner. The other great thing to take out of this is the working partnership between The Royal Court and Liverpool Hope University. Professor Gerald Pillay and the team at Liverpool Hope have been hugely supportive and it bodes well for this prize in future years."
Playwright John Godber, who was also on the judging panel, said of Omnibus: “There was an honesty about it. There was a truth about the situation. In the end, there was a unanimous decision on the winner.”
Katie beat competition from both established and amateur playwrights to take the top prize. More than 200 scripts were received from across the country and were judged anonymously.
Milo Bell from Preston was Highly Commended in the Over 21 category for his play Baggage, in which four people, each from different generations and with varying aspirations, spend the night shift in a hotel awaiting the arrival of a big shot TV producer. Milo used his own experiences of working as a hotel porter to inspire his play.
Freelance Journalist and Playwright Ian Salmon, from Netherton in Liverpool, was Highly Commended in the Over 21 category for his play The Comeback Special in which a Liverpool lad finds himself talking to the ghost of Elvis.
Writer, comedian and theatre practitioner Robert Cooke was Highly Commended in the 21 and Under category for The Box, which centres on two men stuck in a room with no obvious way out and a magic box that contains whatever they want it to.
Liverpool Hope University student Jonathan Cheriyan from London was Highly Commended in the 21 and Under Category for Happily Ever After? in which Prince Charming and Cinderella are having marriage problems, and the ageing Fairy Godmother seems to have lost her power to help. Sleeping Beauty is now a shopaholic, and the wicked witch is determined to finally win the day.