First Commissions: Meet the Writers

First Commissions: Meet the Writers

Posted on May 24th, 2016

We’re delighted to announce the successful writers who have been chosen as the finalists for our inaugural First Commissions Scheme.

What is the scheme? The HighTide First Commissions scheme is a new initiative supported by the Martin Bowley Charitable Foundation to aid playwrights under 30 in creating their first commission. Each of the finalists put forward fantastic submissions bursting with ideas and we’re delighted to be able to introduce you to them.

Nina Segal

Nina is a playwright with a particular interest in form and risk. Her debut play; In The Night Time (Before the Sun Rises) premiered at the Gate Theatre in February 2016 and she has completed writers programmes at the Royal Court and Soho Theatre. Nina will write a play with us called Touch Me Don’t Touch Me which explores Morgellons’ Disease – a disease of delusion whereby the sufferer believes they are infested with insects, parasites or itching hairs. Touch Me Don’t Touch Me will be about the need to be believed, and the consequences of disbelief, as well the the notion of negotiating the distances between ourselves, bodies, brains and everyone else.

Christopher York

Christopher is a Yorkshire born-and-bred playwright who was long listed for this year’s Old Vic 12 and has had short plays performed at Arcola Theatre, Arts Theatre and VAULT Festival. Christopher’s writing is predominantly jukebox – drawing narrative inspirations from albums and music in structurally poetic, broken verse. His play Honestly will follow Yasmin from Middlesborough who becomes pregnant by a runaway father and is forced to raise her child alone. The play aims to capture what it is like to raise a child in the working class North East. Honestly asks if every child is born equal. Could a young lad from the North East, raised in a council house become a doctor, astronaut or even Prime Minister?

Healah Riazi

Healah is a playwright from London who has spent the previous five years working with refugees as an advisor – helping people settle in the UK. Her first play was shortlisted for Soho Theatre’s Young Writers’ Award in 2014 and she has had short plays performed at Tristan Bates Theatre, Camden People’s Theatre, Battersea Arts Centre and RichMix Cinema. The play she would like to write is as yet untitled but will focus on two people – a 25 year old Afghan asylum seeker, and a British mother and son living in a soon to be demolished estate. The play seeks to give a voice to the lesser explored view of the refugee crisis, looking at who is left behind and what might happen to an entire, young undocumented generation who may go underground in their search for a new life – unable to seek asylum through conventional routes.

Jon Barton
Jon was one of the writers of the Old Vic New Voices 24 Hour Plays, and also appeared at the Old Vic New Voices Festival. IN 2013 Jon was selected for the Kudos/Bush Theatre Writers’ Scheme and recently developed his first feature film with the BFI and Creative England. Jon is a writer who has been a victim of funding cuts. Whilst his plays have previously been optioned for production by several theatres, they are yet to be produced for lack of finances and the general risk of producing new plays. Jon’s play tells the story of a Liberian woman and her relationship with a nurse during the 2014 Ebola Outbreak, detailing the fallout and the recovery of their relationship during this time, with a focus on the future for both women now that the crisis is over.

Sophie Ellerby

Sophie is a young writer whose main interest lies in every day people, from ‘the old lady with the funny eye clutching the tartan shopping trolley on Holloway Road, to the young girl on the Victoria line licking the McDonalds BBQ sauce straight out of the pot’. Sophie’s play is inspired by her time working in prisons during her studies in Manchester where she learnt about Theatre in Prisons. Her play Birds will focus on Bex, a young girl who has grown up without solid parental figures. When she becomes fast friends with Ruth she is taken in by their family… especially by her father who offers her protection like she’s never experienced. However Bex is on the cusp of puberty and the discovery of her womanhood and discovers she is most powerful when naked – a sad reality that may ruin her chances of simply being loved as she is.

We’re working with Nina, Christopher, Healah, Jon and Sophie over the coming 18 months to create their first commissioned plays, and we’ll be keeping you updated on the journey. For all the latest, please head to our twitter and Facebook feeds.