The Mercury Playwriting Prize – the first winner

Sandra Giorgetti

Actor Oliver Bennett has won the inaugural Mercury Playwriting Prize with his play Europe After The Rain, described as "a darkly surreal and highly theatrical exploration of the world we live in now. It offers up a dark mirror to the concerns of contemporary Britain: immigration, enfranchisement, globalisation, loss and love."

Dan Sherer, associate for new work and one of the judges, said, "Europe After The Rain is a tremendous script—a worthy winner of the Mercury Playwriting Prize 2017. Oliver Bennett has written something timely, beautifully layered, and highly theatrical. We are delighted to be able to work with Oliver over the coming year as an Associate Artist, as part of our absolute commitment to nurturing new work and emerging artists at the Mercury Theatre.”

The two runners-up for the prize are writer and performer Berri George for her play Shadow Kingdoms, and playwright Phil Tong for his play The Furrow. The student prize went to Ryan Cogman for his play Floodgate.

The Prize supports new plays and new playwrights and is offered in association with the University of Essex whose students were entered for the student prize.

As well as an award of £2,000, Oliver Bennett will have a 12-month attachment to the Mercury Theatre Colchester as an Associate Artist, and will be supported to take the winning work to a production at the Mercury’s Studio Theatre.

Rehearsed readings of the plays by the winners and runners up may be seen as part of the Mercury 2017 New Talent Festival which runs for the first two weeks of July. Tickets for the rehearsed readings are free but must be booked in advance.