Published: Tuesday, 13 June 2023

Young playwright Jack McGee has taken the top prize in Playmarket’s 2023 Playwrights b425 competition supported by Auckland Live, a division of Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, with his play Boys and Girls at the School Silent Disco. Jack’s play follows a group of Year Six students from Ngaio Primary at their end of year silent disco. The ten-year-old characters speak as if they are the hyper-eloquent-tragi-romantic heroes of their own inner monologue, adults are all but non-existent, friendships are hard fought, and minor humiliation can mean the end of the world. 

The Playwrights b4 25 competition, run by Playmarket, the agency for New Zealand playwrights, recognises the best new writing for the stage by writers under the age of 25. Auckland Live is the sponsor of the main prize of $1,500 towards the development of a new work.  

The play’s central conceit is that the characters have the vocabulary of their grown adult selves as they deal with the trials and tribulations of ten-year-old love, loss, and disco. Judges described the play as “a rare work of originality”, “an impressive accomplishment” and “wholly unique and inventive”. 

Jack’s previous plays, Music Sounds Better Out Here and The Adults are Talking were both shortlisted for Playwrights b4 25 in 2022 and both debuted to sold-out seasons at BATS Theatre. Jack has a Master of Arts in Scriptwriting from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. He is part of the Wellington theatre company Squash Co. Arts Collective.  

Two playwrights were named as Runners-up: Teherenui Koteka for Pane Provocations and Tia Hibbert for The Patupaiarehe. Kūki ‘Āirani playwright Teherenui Koteka came to Aotearoa in 2017 to attend University. Her play was described by the judges as “naturally funny” and “honest and heartfelt”. Teherenui was also shortlisted for her play Kaveinga.  

Ōtepōti playwright Tia Hibbert is a recent graduate of the University of Otago and a member of the emerging theatre company, dollhouse. Judges described her work as “inventive and heartful” with “incredibly sharp dialogue.” 

Four other plays were shortlisted for the award. The plays and their writers are: 

  • Cosmic Fuckery by Melanie Allison 
  • Elara by Freya Gardener 
  • A Seat at the Table by Kayden Leftly 
  • Icky by Viki Moananu 

Playmarket is very grateful for the partnership with Auckland Live for their generous funding of the prize money and continued support of young playwrights. Playmarket’s major funders are Creative New Zealand and Foundation North. 

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