Neil Coppen awarded the Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama for Tin Bucket Drum

The competition’s adjudication panel was unanimous in its decision to score Tin Bucket Drum as the winning entry for the play’s “astounding content and contribution in breaking new ground, as well as its depth of thinking in addressing socio-political issues in contemporary South Africa"

15 February 2019 - 13:16

Wits University Press is delighted to announce that Neil Coppen’s play, Tin Bucket Drum, has won the English Academy of Southern Africa Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama (2018).

The Olive Schreiner Prize for drama forms part of a larger annual competition in creative writing of English expression, which includes prose and poetry. The award is named after Olive Schreiner, the South African author and activist.  The award will be presented to Neil Coppen at an event still to be announced.

The competition’s adjudication panel was unanimous in its decision to score Tin Bucket Drum as the winning entry for the play’s “astounding content and contribution in breaking new ground, as well as its depth of thinking in addressing socio-political issues in contemporary South Africa.”

The adjudication panel was also impressed by the play’s innovative use of the one-hander technique in line with Africa’s long tradition of storytelling using multimedia in a way that greatly enhanced the performability of the text. 

Congratulating Coppen on winning the award, Roshan Cader, commissioning editor of Wits University Press said, “It is a prestigious award for a wonderful play and we hope it will now attract more readers.”

In Tin Bucket Drum, Neil Coppen weaves together elements of magical realism, shadow puppetry, Kabuki theatre and live percussion.

Tin Bucket Drum offers a fresh twist on the traditional conventions of African story telling. Through his lyrical script and the creative use of lighting and sound, one woman, the Narrator, succeeds in evoking a host of characters as this allegorical tale of oppression and liberation plays itself out. It is a story that offers a host of lessons for many places and many times.

Neil Coppen is an award-winning playwright who lives between the cities of Durban and Johannesburg where he works as a writer, director and designer.

He won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Drama in 2011 and nominated one of the 2011 Mail & Guardian’s 200 most influential Young South Africans. His play Abnormal Loads won the 2012 Naledi Award for Best South African Script. Other works include Tree Boy, Sugar Daddies and Animal Farm.

Ismail Mahomed, former Artistic Director of the National Arts Festival, South Africa said about this play in 2016 when it was performed: “Tin Town is a metaphor for our current political situation. It could be the Zuma (…) compound, Nkandla, as much as it could be the rest of South Africa. The Censor could be the parliamentary Bill that seeks to control information.

“We, the citizens of South Africa, who have kept in office a president with so many human weaknesses, could be the apathetic Inhabitants of Tin Town. Could the rising young voices that are increasingly speaking out against the status quo be Neil Coppen's young girl, Nomvula, whose passionate heartbeat cannot be silenced? Or could Tin Town be in Zimbabwe? Or in Syria? Israel? Pakistan?

“Tin Town is everywhere. It is a global village. As more youth-driven movements across the globe make their voices heard in the political landscape, Tin Town is a powerful and compelling reminder of the power of young people to change the world.”

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