Submarine play wins Sam Heughan creative contest for students

The Sam Heughan Creative Commission was designed to inspire students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Submarine play wins Sam Heughan creative contest for students iStock

A play about three officers on a nuclear submarine has won a new award created by Outlander star Sam Heughan for students at his former drama school.

Write Start: The Sam Heughan Creative Commission was designed as an annual award to inspire collaboration across music, drama, dance, production, film and education at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year.

John Black, a second-year BA Filmmaking student, has won the contest with his entry, Bucket Of Sunshine, a stage play about three naval officers in a Vanguard-class submarine, that questions the moral and ethical dilemmas of nuclear weapons.

Mr Black, writer and producer of the play, will receive a £5000 bursary and mentoring from Heughan and industry experts to develop the work, which is due to be staged this summer.

He is collaborating with fellow second-year film student Sophia Ralston, who will direct the play, and set designer Rachael Orr, a third-year Production Arts and Design student.

Heughan said he was impressed with the standard of entries from across the institution.

He said: “Magic can happen when artists join forces to share ideas – it sparks inspiration and an outpouring of creativity.

“That’s the whole ethos of Write Start – to see the potential in new ways of working, to take chances and for everyone to bring their own unique talents to the table.

“A spirit of collaboration runs through the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, a place where people from all backgrounds, with a shared passion, come together under the same roof.

“Congratulations to all the entrants who impressed with their imagination and originality. Special mention goes to our first Write Start winner, John Black, together with Sophia Ralston and Rachael Orr, who delivered a clear, professional and intriguing pitch.

“Bucket Of Sunshine encapsulates the goals of Write Start as it offers opportunities to collaborate across the disciplines at RCS. It’s also topical and the visuals are terrific with light and sound playing a major factor.

“I can see this play being an immersive and intense audience experience and it has great potential to be both a stage play and a film in the future.”

The action in the play starts after Britain has been destroyed by a nuclear attack and is about the crew on the Vanguard-class submarine, which carries the UK’s nuclear deterrent, deciding whether they should retaliate or retreat.

Mr Black said: “Winning is a shock but we’re all really excited to get working on it and we can’t thank Sam Heughan and the Write Start team enough for giving us the opportunity.

“Because Bucket of Sunshine is a theatrical piece and I’m a filmmaker, I brought in Sophia Ralston, who’s also on the filmmaking course but she’s done a lot of directing in the past.

“I also brought in my good friend Rachael Orr, who I’ve known for quite some time, who is a brilliant set and costume designer.

“Runner-up Meghan de Chastelain, who is studying on the MFA (Directing) Classical and Contemporary Text programme, will receive £1000 to progress her work ‘A Cocktailer’s Guide To Surviving A Pandemic’, a one-woman show “using cocktails to make hard stories easier to swallow”.

The launch of Write Start in October 2021 came after the announcement last July of Heughan’s commitment to a new 10-year drama scholarship at RCS.

Heughan, who graduated from the BA Acting degree course in 2003, is personally funding three annual scholarships for undergraduate students in the School of Drama, Dance, Production and Film.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, principal of RCS – which is located in Glasgow, thanked Heughan for “his vision and his generosity” in establishing the prize.

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