Dukes Director Wins National Award

10 December 2015

The Dukes Artistic Director has won a national award for bringing new plays to the Lancaster theatre.

Joe Sumsion received his Olwen Wymark Theatre Encouragement Award during a ceremony at London’s Royal Court Theatre on Friday.

The Olwen Wymark Awards, the brainchild of playwright Mark Ravenhill, were set up to give Writers Guild of Great Britain members the opportunity to publicly thank those who had given them a positive experience in new writing over the previous year. 

Joe said: “I’m delighted to accept the award on behalf of The Dukes.  We try to act like a magnet for ideas here, encouraging writers to create ambitious new `made in Lancashire’ plays which wouldn’t exist if we didn’t support them.”

He was nominated for the award by Coronation Street scriptwriter Debbie Oates who has adapted Treasure Island, A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist for The Dukes over recent years. 

Debbie said: “At a time when many theatres feel they must play safe and work with tried and tested existing plays, Joe has been working hard for seven years to reposition The Dukes as a centre of encouragement for writers.

This has not been done simply as a development exercise but has translated into fully realised commissions and productions. Writers are valued, encouraged, developed, supported and, ultimately, produced, and this is down to the drive and vision of Joe.”

Joe is one of only three people to have won this Writers Guild award twice. Prior to joining The Dukes in 2007, he was recognised for his work on The Bomb, a new play which he subsequently directed in Lancaster a year later.

The Dukes has recently created a Writers Hub to develop work and make links with up-and-coming writers.

The theatre is currently staging a new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast by Lancaster writer, Eddie Robson, and soon will be premiering a play by one of the cast, Polly Lister.

Joe said: “It’s fitting that we receive this award at the same time as we are putting the final touches to Polly’s brilliant new play, I Was a Wife. Polly’s play is a funny and moving account of the rise and fall of a marriage and I’m delighted that it will be premiering here in Lancaster from January 28-February 6.”

Polly herself won a UK Theatre Award for her recent performance in Abigail’s Party at Keswick’s Theatre By The Lake.

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