Winning the Bruntwood Prize has got to be the single most exciting moment of my life so far. I was so proud to be shortlisted that I promised myself that was enough, having my work read by people like David Eldridge and Marianne Elliot. I didn’t dare entertain the thought that I would win. So it was a big and brilliant shock.
Writing is certainly a long game. I started in 2007 with a one-act play about two strangers meeting on the roof of a tower block. Finishing a play gave me an incredible sense of ownership and creative power – as an actor I had been used to depending on agents or casting directors but here I was in control of my creativity. I got such lovely feedback on my first couple of plays I thought surely it wouldn’t be long before I could carve out a paid career for myself as a writer. But I was wrong. I’m still not there yet, but I hope that’s about to change.
With YEN I challenged myself to tackle large, uncomfortable and painful subjects whilst, I hope, maintaining truthful characters which the audience will fall in love with. I’m interested in exploring what young people have to deal in today’s world; the sex-saturated media, celebrity worship, lack of sex education and the constant presence of online pornography. Someone once wrote “Write about what keeps you awake at night”. And that does. I can’t imagine how I would have made it through my teenage years with all the pressures young people have to deal with now. I take my hat off to them.
If I could give advice to aspiring writers, young and old, it would be to write from the heart; write about what interests you and excites you. See research as part of the process – not something you have to get over with before the real work starts. My friend Chris Urch, who was awarded one of the judges’ prizes at Bruntwood for his play Rolling Stone, wrote recently that while developing a play it is important to hear your words spoken and I would totally advocate this. I am so grateful to all the actors I’ve worked with over the years who have given their time to help develop my work. I would never have made it to this point without them.
The Bruntwood Award is a fantastic initiative. Plays are entered under a pseudonym so your writing is all you are judged on. 60% of this year’s shortlist and the last three winners of the overall prize have been women, interesting when only 17% of published playwrights are female. There is no age limit and I do not have to um and ahh about whether I consider myself an “emerging” playwright or not. I hope that this is going to be the beginning of many new things; next year Epsilon Productions is putting on my play Chicken Shop and I hope to take something to the Fringe. And of course in 2015 there will be the full production of YEN at The Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre. But at present, I am just trying to get my head round the last week… And it’s an absolute pleasure.
Anna Jordan is the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting winner for her fourth play YEN. Anna trained as an actor at LAMDA before she started writing. Her work has been performed at the Bush Theatre, Soho Theatre and Riverside Studios in London. She is also a freelance director, acting tutor and Artistic Director of award-winning Without a Paddle Theatre.
Photo (c) Joel Chester Fildes.