Preview: Project E: An Explosion, Battersea Arts Centre, London

Collective bang on with award project
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The Independent Culture

The Work Theatre Collective is this year's winner of the prestigious Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award of £35,000, set up in 2003 to support artists at the start of their careers. Their production explores explosions as a metaphor for the world we live in today, by combining a B-movie detective story with interviews with film-makers and philosophers.

"Sadly it is no longer possible for emerging artists to properly experiment with theatrical form without funding," says Tom Morris, associate director at the National Theatre. He was part of the judging panel which picked the winning show out of more than 100 proposals.

As artistic director of Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) for nine years, Morris has helped to develop many stage shows, even Jerry Springer: The Opera, as part of his "scratch" programme.

"Twenty or so years ago, people like Stephen Daldry and Mark Rylance made work while they were on the dole in a rent-free room above a pub. By the time I had started at the BAC in 1995, it was incredibly difficult for new artists to experiment. So it is vital that this opportunity continues," he says.

With no finished piece of work to judge for this award, the process of selecting a winner is "splendidly difficult", says Morris. "It's like buying a car that hasn't been built yet." But the whole spirit of the award is about risk and innovation, he adds. "You are inviting people to think quite wildly about how they might create a piece of theatre, yet there is quite a lot of public attention on the winner."

What stood out about this year's winning proposal? "A clear method combined with an approach to the project which seemed to have the opportunity of going anywhere. A combination of their own distinct theatre-making craft and aflexibility of form in relation to the subject which the panel felt might make for an extraordinary piece of theatre. I am intrigued as to what they will come up with."

28 October to 18 November (020-7223 2223; www.bac.org.uk)

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