Sheers' War Play in Fight for PS30,000 Dylan Prize

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 5, 2014 | Go to article overview

Sheers' War Play in Fight for PS30,000 Dylan Prize


Byline: Nathan Bevan Reporter nathan.bevan@walesonline.co.uk

ACCLAIMED Abergavenny writer and poet Owen Sheers has been named as one of seven authors shortlisted for this year's prestigious International Dylan Thomas Prize.

The Resistance scribe, who turns 40 later this month, just scraped onto the final run-down after organisers decided to raise the age limit for entrants from 30 to 39 - the same age as Thomas when he died in New York in 1953.

As a result he becomes Wales' sole homegrown hope to scoop the PS30,000 award, which was announced at Dylan Unchained, a major international conference of Thomas experts held at Swansea University last night.

Fiji-born Sheers was spotlighted for his recent, much-feted Mametz, a WWI-based rumination on the plight of Allied soldiers caught up in the Battle of the Somme, a production brought vividly to life in the alfresco setting of ancient woodland near Usk earlier this year by National Theatre Wales . A factual counterpoint to 2007's Resistance, which imagined an alternate outcome to WWII in which the Nazis successfully invade Britain, Mametz was adapted from a previous Sheers' poem and draws on written material by those who fought in or witnessed the carnage of the trenches, in particular the Mametz Wood of the title where thousands of troops from the 38th (Welsh) Division were killed or wounded. Indeed, among the soldiers who took part were several key Welsh and English war poets, including Robert Graves, David Jones, Siegfried Sassoon and Llewelyn Wyn Griffith, and Sheers' own great, great uncle, William Cross.

The piece, written to commemorate the centenary of The Great War, is his third stage drama and his sophomore outing with National Theatre Wales, having scripted Michael Sheen's 72-hour drama The Passion which took place in Port Talbot during Easter 2011.

However, Sheers is set to face strong competition from a host of international hopefuls from places as far flung as New Zealand, Jamaica and the USA. Among them are Joshua Ferris from Illinois, whose 2007 debut novel Then We Came To The End (a comedy about the mundanities of life in a Chicago ad agency) marked him out as a name to watch - promise he's now capitalised upon with To Rise Again At A Decent Hour, the tale of an insomniac dentist in the grips of a religious quandary. …

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