Eight writers have been shortlisted for the inaugural Hope Prize by Arch468. With an incredible number of submissions, the Covid-19 pandemic featured heavily in many; individuals overcoming dystopian reality to create a new world for themselves was another theme. Many explored coming to terms with mental health issues, dealing with drug addiction and reconnecting with family and loved ones. A sense of climate responsibility also pervaded, with a strong showing of plays engaging with visions of a more environmentally sustainable future.
Offering a £10,000 commission, the Arch 468 Hope Prize was an open call out for a new play that offered a vision of hope. Hope is the fuel that drives every innovation, every attempt to advance the sum of human knowledge, every revolution and every leap of faith. Arch 468 are working to ensure that hope is not allowed to fade from public discourse.
Selecting from the Hope Prize longlist, the readers who chose the shortlist were Clarissa Widya (co-founder and Artistic Director, Papergang Theatre), Lucy Atkinson (director, A Hundred Words for Snow by Tatty Hennessy; MEAT by Gillian Greer), Belinda Clarke (producer, Fuel and Lagahoo Productions; Artistic Director, Leading Light Collective), Natalie Chan (Creative Youth Charity; Dumbledore is so Gay, VAULT Festival), Sarah Jordan Verghese (producer, Every Sinner has a Future, Catalyst; Fester, Camden Fringe), Hannah Farley-Hills (HFH Productions; Executive Director, Toucan Theatre), Alice Rush (CB4 Theatre), Alex Ferguson (producer, Homotopia; host, A Lovely Word), Nassy Konan (Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster, Beatbox Academy; Not I, UK and international tour) and Kimberley Sanders (producer, The Marlowe).
The final panel selecting the winner from the shortlist are Suba Das (HighTide), Richard Twyman (English Touring Theatre), Suzanne Bell (Royal Exchange), Tamara Harvey and Nick Stevenson (Theatr Clwyd), Stewart Pringle (National Theatre), Chloé Nelkin (Chloé Nelkin Consulting), Sofia Stephanou (Arch 468) and Rebecca Atkinson-Lord (Arch468, An Tobar and Mull Theatre).
Rebecca Atkinson-Lord commented: “We have been almost overwhelmed by the volume and quality of submissions received for the Hope Prize Commission. What has been most thrilling about reading through the submissions, has been the sheer breadth and diversity of things we can find to feel hopeful about. From tiny individual triumphs to stories imagining the future of the entire cosmos, it’s clear that even in these darkest of times, there is a rich seam of hope within us all.”
From the many entries, a final shortlist was selected:
Andrew Thompson’s One Hundred Oxen examines how a seismic change can cause unprecedented ripples through our lives. It explores the scientific premise that our body renews on a cellular level every seven years, looking at how we develop as people and change and grow in relationships. Fundamentally, the piece is about finding the strength to shake off setbacks.
In Wildfires (Spark), Annie Fox looks at the recent wildfires in California and how these demonstrate the conflict between capitalism and nature. The play looks at various locations affected by the fire, the huge variety of people living in the state and how we survive such a catastrophic event.
Cataclysm by Beth Noonan-Roberts considers the point when the planet is deemed unfit for further life and what might be left. The human race prepares to upload into a new digital realm they have spent their entire lives creating. But 5% of the population are left behind and must reconnect with the world they thought they knew in order to rebuild their lives.
Carla Grauls explores environmental guilt and our transgressions against nature in The Unseeing. This play asks how we could co-exist better with ‘non-human’ animals – to recognise their rights and dignity and to look after our collective wellbeing. It explores ideas of love, freedom and ownership.
I Will Still Be Dreaming by Catherine Dyson intertwines three narratives in a time-travelling, genre-busting story about our potential to rebuild ourselves. What would happen if we could look at ourselves from a great distance? If we could face the limits of our knowledge with honesty and courage?
In The Earth is in the Sky Tonight, Elsie Loades and Megan Mumby follow two siblings as they grow up together and develop their own identities; we see their everyday struggles, their late-night conversations, their disagreements, their fears, their dreams, and their future plans. Part sci-fi, part family drama, this two-hander is a love letter to both the human desire for growth, innovation, and advancement and our instinct for tradition, history, and home.
Fool’s Gold by Matthew Gabrielli is a science-fiction comedy about money, creativity and how we decide something’s value. Telling the story of two sisters living in a northern town, once part of the nation’s industrial heartlands, but now affected by decade of austerity, this funny and hopeful drama asks complicated questions about finance, class and family.
Magical realism, shadow puppetry and original live music come to the foreground in Tabitha Mortiboy’s Kissing Rice. It presents a spellbinding new world drawing on the radical and seminal legal text Should Trees Have Standing?. When an old oak tree provides a safe space for three new friends, they embark on a painful battle to protect her ancient life and to not accept the status quo.