SISTER and South of the River pictures today announce that 31 year-old Bahraini/British performer Jenna Al – Ansari has won SCREENSHOT. Writing duo Dawn Sievewright & Brennan Reece, sisters Madelyn & Rose Smedley, Krishna Istha (performing via video link from New Zealand), Sophie Bentinck and Natasha Brown were confirmed as the five runners up in the initiative designed to seek out the next generation of comedy writer-performers for TV. Lolly Adefope, Rosie Jones, Phoebe Waller – Bridge and Olivia Colman led the judging panel at a closed-door showcase held at The Royal Court Theatre on Saturday 1st May.
Produced by Tamasha theatre producer Debo Adebayo alongside the Sister and SOTR Development teams, the initiative is a direct response to the impact Covid-19 has had on the performing arts, designed to create essential opportunities for emerging comedy writer-performers to showcase their work. First announced in October 2020, SCREENSHOT received an extraordinary response with over 600 entrants. These were whittled down to the 13 finalists who performed at the live, socially distanced showcase.
Jenna Al- Ansari fought off stiff competition on a day of phenomenal performances, with her one-woman searing political satire Protect and Survive being described by the judges as “full of big ideas, so silly, heartening and brave”. Al – Ansari, who only started writing in 2019, took to the stage as newly minted Conservative MP Bambi Buttery-Potts battling to have her Protect and Survive nuclear protection campaign taken seriously, with Olivia Colman saying “it’s one of the best, most complete performances I’ve seen in a long time.” The Bahraini/British 31-year-old will be brought onto the SISTER/ SOTR development slates and commissioned to write a pilot episode of Protect and Survive.
The calibre of performances was so high that two of five bursaries up for grabs for the runners up were elevated to treatment commissions: Dawn Sievewright & Brennan Reece and Madelyn & Rose Smedley will now work with the development teams at SISTER and SOTR to produce a television outline for their projects.
On Sievewright’s and Reece’s Step Nine the judges said - “It was such a clear conceit with amazing writing and a performance so electric you could have heard a pin drop.”
On the Smedleys’ Stray Cats – the judges said “We just absolutely loved them! The energy on stage was so raw, dynamic, and frankly hilarious we just couldn’t let them go”
Runners up Krishna Istha, Sophie Bentinck, and Natasha Brown will receive a contribution towards the development or budget of their next live theatrical show.
The judging panel was comprised of acclaimed writer-performers Lolly Adefope (Ghosts, Shrill) Rosie Jones (Live at the Apollo and Sex Education S3) and Phoebe Waller – Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve) whose extraordinary careers have all been built on the foundations of self-penned, solo stage shows. They lined-up alongside inspirational industry experts including comedy dignitaries Olivia Colman (The Favourite, Peep Show), BBC Commissioning Editor Tanya Qureshi (I May Destroy You, Dead Pixels, Flowers), Channel 4 Head of Comedy Fiona McDermott (Stath Lets Flats, Derry Girls, Maxxx) and Sky Commissioning Editor Tilusha Ghelani (Breeders, Urban Myths, Bloods). SISTER was represented by Co – Founder and Chief Creative Officer Jane Featherstone (Chernobyl, Giri/Haji and Utopia) and Executive Producer Naomi de Pear (Flowers, Don’t Forget the Driver, The Power) and South of the River Pictures co-founder and writer Ed Sinclair (Landscapers).
Jenna Al – Ansari says – “Being able to perform in a theatre for the judges, and to watch so many talents onstage was a delight and a privilege in itself. I am absolutely thrilled that now I have the opportunity to develop this project with these incredible teams and take this experience further. This has meant so much to me, and I am so grateful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to get started.”
SOTR and SISTER say “We could not be more delighted with how the SCREENSHOT Final unfolded. What a joy it was to be reminded of the vital, visceral magic of the theatre, and its unique ability to generate shared laughter. Our heartfelt thanks and congratulations go out to all our talented, dedicated and extremely funny finalists. We can't wait to build on the relationships we have formed, and to continue to reach out a hand of friendship and support from TV to theatre.”
Performer Judges – Olivia Colman, Lolly Adefope, Rosie Jones and Phoebe Waller-Bridge say: " It was truly magical to be back in the theatre. Thank you so much to all 13 Finalists for allowing us to laugh and cry together for the first time in too long!”
Tanya Qureshi, Fiona McDermott and Tilusha Ghelani say - “Spending the day watching such a talented group of writer-performers was an enormous privilege. The standard was unbelievably high and served as a vital reminder to nurture emerging voices, given all the industry has suffered over this past year. Congratulations to these future stars of stage and screen!”
Screenshot Scheme Producer Debo Adebayo says “Protect and Survive is as much belly achingly funny as it is brave. Jenna’s performance was outstanding; she is a thoroughly deserving winner and I can’t wait to see what she develops. Huge congratulations to all the finalists for making it down to the last 13. Each and everyone one is a wonder.”