Manchester theatre company wins prestigious award following online shows during pandemic

A Manchester theatre company has won the Olwen Wymark Award after releasing a series of online performances during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Elysium Theatre company released five new plays on Friday after being announced as Olwen Wymark Award-winners by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, for its work in supporting new writing.

The company, which also has a base in Durham, began producing The Covid-19 Monologues last year on its new YouTube channel after the pandemic closed all theatres, as a way to bring the Arts to audiences on-screen.

Actress Hannah Gilmore said: “I am fascinated by the current obsession with YouTubers, where people will spend hours watching someone talking into a camera and sharing their thoughts.

“It is not unusual for someone nowadays to sit and watch someone speaking almost directly to them, and I guess that is why the Covid-19 Monologues work so well.”

The five new online plays share the stories written by a range of playwrights.

The monologues range from 15-20 minutes long and are reflective of situations which many people have faced during the pandemic.

The monologues were rehearsed and directed over Zoom and social distancing measures were upheld whilst filming.

Rani Moorthy is one of the writers at the company and wrote a monologue from the perspective of a son who had to watch his father on a tablet whist he was in ICU.

She said: “I have been part of four Zoom pieces in the past year now, and haven’t done anything live for almost two years.

“It’s not film, it’s not TV, it’s not theatre – it’s a kind of hybrid that came out of necessity. We are all just trying to do what we can do in the circumstances.”

Elysium co-founder and Director Jake Murray can’t wait for the world to see the next five Covid-19 Monologues.

Speaking about the award he said: “I was completely stunned and very honoured. New writing is the life blood of theatre. We’re all trying to find the Shakespeare of the future.

“People forget that the classics we have been watching for years were all new plays once.”

The five monologues include:

FAKE by Chris Barlas and performed by Karren Winchester which is centred around conspiracy theories.

ONE SMALL GLOBE by Janet Plater and performed by Jake Jarratt and is the story of a play write.

OH BY THE WAY, I HATE MYSELF by Hannah Ellis Ryan, performed by Laura Littlewood is a comedic monologue centred around a mother and daughter relationship.

I JUST CALLED TO SAY, by Rani Moorthy, performed by Alex Townson.

BLACKMAIL: A REIVER TALE by Steve Byron, performed by Micky Cochrane, with singing by Sarah Boulter, a drama between different families.

The monologues can be viewed on Youtube and accessed by clicking this link.

Main photo credit: Elysium Theatre Company

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