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Papatango New Writing Prize 2021

We sat down with these award-winning playwrights to discuss winning and their plays!


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We will be hosting an audio listening station where you will be able to access Papatango New Writing Prize-winning plays.

This is a new reimagined iteration of the annual awards, in partnership with English Touring Theatre where the plays will be available in audio productions from free listening stations or via a QR code at Theatre Royal. Each audio play lasts roughly an hour, perfect for a quiet moment with a tea and cake in Café Royal. So come and enjoy these plays between 15 – 18 February.

Nkenna Akunna (NA) – Some of Us Exist in the Future
Tom Powell (TP) – The Silence and the Noise
Tajinder Singh Hayer (TSH) – Ghost Stories from an Old Country


Congratulations on winning Papatangos’ Thirteenth New Writing Prize. What does it mean to you to be selected as one of the winning writers?

TP: It makes my heart swell, not in a worrying medical way, but with pure joy.

NA: Winning the Papatango Prize has been such a wonderful and welcome experience. I’m appreciative of the recognition and hopeful for any future opportunities it may bring, but right now, more than anything I‘m just really grateful to have my work supported and produced when such opportunities feel so out of reach for new writers.

TSH: It means a huge deal. The chance to make work alongside my fellow theatre professionals after COVID – it’s never felt sweeter to sit in a rehearsal room.

Tell us about your play and the characters and themes in it.

NA: Some of Us Exist in the Future explores ideas of home, spirituality, and the experience of being embodied. It follows Chiamaka, a Londoner who has just moved far far from home to Brooklyn, in hopes of finding and embracing the once quiet parts of herself. The journey is unexpected, at times one she’d rather avoid, but ultimately it is one where she must decide what it means to be whole in a world that is not geared toward her wholeness, or comfort. It sounds deep but I promise it’s funny too.

TP: The Silence and the Noise is about Daize, the tough teenage daughter of a heroin addict, and Ant, a cocky teenager who’s started moving gear up and down a county line. Ant’s a foot soldier in the taking over of Daize’s house as a hub for dealing from, and they’re natural enemies. They might also be each other’s only hope of escape. It deals with kids and drugs, an impossible friendship, and growing up before your time. What happens to children when all the adults in your life fail you? There’s a fair bit of humour, too – I don’t know about you, but the hardest moments in my life have also been some of the funniest.

TSH: Ghost Stories from an Old Country is a play about two estranged brothers, Amar and Dal, who struggle to reconnect during lockdown. Amar is grappling with the legacies of his older brother’s mental health problems and his family’s attitude towards this issue. Woven through the narrative are ghost stories told by Dal; classic ‘English’ chillers that just happen to feature Asian foundry communities, haunted taxi drivers and spectral Sikh RAF pilots. It’s about the power of stories; not just the ghostly kind, but the ones we tell (or don’t tell) about our own lives and families. The two brothers are at the heart of the piece, but it’s also about the way that their wider communities – Bradford’s Sikh communities, Yorkshire and 21st Century Britain – are haunted by the past.

In what ways, if any, has writing an audio piece influenced your approach to writing this story?

TSH: Ghost Stories from an Old Country was knocking around my head for a few years; I knew I wanted to write ghost stories from a British Asian perspective, but I just couldn’t find the correct shape for the project. Then the Papatango call came, and I found that audio drama was the perfect medium; there was something about the immediacy, the intimacy of hearing the stories in this format that just worked. I ended up writing it in a month.

NA: Writing for audio gave me license to tap into a different kind of specificity in my writing. So much of a story can exist in the sound around its words, in timing, in breath, and realising this helped me think more expansively about what it means to be embodied, which is a significant theme in the play.

TP: Audio is eavesdropping. Audio is secrets. Audio is a chance to hear the most wild, intimate and dangerous moments of Ant and Daize’s lives.

How does it feel knowing that your play will be heard and broadcast widely across the UK?

TP: I’m delighted. I’m going to ask people to take photos of listening to it, not as proof they have but because I can’t quite believe it’s happening. More seriously, stories like The Silence and the Noise are happening in communities across the UK. I hope it speaks to them.

NA: Exciting, daunting, and really great actually.

TSH: It feels great. I want to put pins in an Ordinance Survey Map tracking the tour.

What do you hope audiences will take away from your audio play?

NA: I would love for audiences to come away feeling a little less afraid of that part of themself they’d learnt to make quiet.

TP: I don’t want to give it away, but I hope they really feel something for these characters, for their situation. The plays I love make people laugh and cry.

TSH: I hope they’ll feel sad and afraid at times, but not alone.