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Brand New Playwriting Programme Launched in Colchester

The Mercury Theatre Colchester and Josef Weinberger Plays are delighted to announce the participants joining their new Mercury Playwrights development programme, designed to nurture creative talent in the East of England, which has taken a considerable hit from Covid-19 uncertainties. The development programme was launched as part of the Colchester based theatre’s Mercury Online programme which has been offering a range of free online opportunities to support theatre makers during this challenging period.

Over 120 submissions were received and the Mercury & Weinberger team have selected 15 emerging playwrights to take part in the 9-month programme led by award-winning writer, Kenny Emson, who will mentor them through the process of creating their own full-length play or piece of theatre.

The selected writers include:

  • Waleed Akhtar, a director, writer and actor based in Redbridge who is best known for his role as Essad in the Golden Globe nominated film, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
  • Sarah Baxter, a writer and director who won the Mercury Theatre’s Poetry Slam in May 2020.
  • Gail Egbeson a playwright and actress from Essex whose first play Jollof Court has been performed at the Lyric Hammersmith and had a sold-out run at the VAULT Festival 2020.
  • Jazz Ely, a writer, director and performer from Walton on the Naze who recently performed her autobiographical piece Unhinged at Colchester Arts Centre.
  • Matt Gurr a playwright from Witham who was one of the winners of the Mercury Monologue competition.
  • Kelly Jones, a playwright from Essex whose plays have been performed at the Sherman Theatre.
  • James McDermott, a writer based in Holt, currently working on an LGBTQ themed pantomime for Norwich Playhouse.
  • Ethan Moorhouse, an actor and writer from Steeple Bumpstead who recently starred in Peter Pan Goes Wrong with Mischief Theatre.
  • Chileya Mwampulo, a writer based in Colchester and an associate artist at the Mercury Theatre.
  • Michelle Payne, a director and playwright from Rainham who is also Artistic Director of Caspa Arts, providing actor training for underrepresented voices.
  • Ava Pickett an actress and writer from Clacton-On-Sea who wrote BBC Radio 4 comedy Roots starring Vicky McClure.
  • Charlie Platt, an actress and writer from Southend whose work has been staged at the Park Theatre and Lyric Theatre.
  • Jacko Pook, a theatre practitioner and artist living in Felixstowe who leads Youth Theatres and Musical Tuition across Essex and Suffolk.
  • LLoyd Shankley, an actor and playwright from Colchester whose play Perhaps? was performed at the Mercury Theatre Scratch Night.
  • Jess Woo, an actress and writer based in King’s Lynn who is also a Tamasha Developing Artist.

The participants will meet once a month from June 2020 for a series of online workshop sessions led by Kenny Emson. He will also be joined in the sessions by special guest writers including Anya Reiss, Rachel De-Lahay, Vickie Donoghue, Guleraana Mir and David Eldridge, all of whom will offer
additional guidance and expertise.

I am delighted that Josef Weinberger Plays and Mercury Theatre continue to partner on exciting and engaging initiatives, unearthing new writers and helping to develop exciting new voices. Theatre should be a medium of perpetual creativity and Josef Weinberger Plays is at the forefront of inspiring and developing playwrights and supporting the realisation of new plays to be enjoyed by audiences across the globe.

James Cawood, Head of Plays at Josef Weinberger

Over the past two weeks, we have been blown away by the number of entries we’ve received from writers from the East of England. Each writer has a unique story to tell. After a tough judging process, the panel is thrilled
with the 15 talented writers selected to join this year’s programme. It is our mission to raise the East based playwrights of tomorrow and we are looking forward to starting the journey with this first cohort.

Dilek Latif, Talent Development Producer at the Mercury Theatre

We want to put the Mercury Theatre at the centre of the conversation of new writing in the East of England. Offering a diverse and eclectic range of voices a home to develop their talent and create pathways to having their work staged.

Kenny Emson

To find out more about the participants please head to

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