Birkbeck University of London Michael Ross Award 2023 / 2024 Winner: Negin Heidari


The winner of the Birkbeck 2023 / 2024 Michael Ross Award is Negin Heidari.

“I’m truly honoured to receive this award. I wish to convey my sincere thanks to the Ross family for their invaluable support. Michael Ross not only lives eternally through the plays he gifted to the world of theatre but also his prize breathes life into the dreams of those passionately pursuing the art of theatre.

This accolade from the College holds immense significance for me personally. The endorsement by the esteemed name of Michael Ross adds credibility, shaping my future career in script writing. It serves as a validating seal I can proudly showcase wherever recognition is sought. This is the commencement of my professional journey.

The MA in Text and Performance has been my guiding compass, seamlessly integrating critical development, creativity, theory, and practice to align with my aspirations. Navigating uncharted waters was made possible by the incredible support from Birkbeck tutors. Amid exceptional professors, I discovered a realm where theory harmoniously dances with practice. Choosing to step into this new realm with the steadfast support of Birkbeck has proven to be the best decision of my life.

As a Middle Eastern woman with English as a second language, the initial steps were daunting. However, the unwavering support from Birkbeck empowered me to embrace the journey, reinforcing the notion that dreams know no boundaries. My time at Birkbeck also afforded me the opportunity to collaborate on two other projects, “Woman Life Freedom” and “the Old Price Riots”, presented during Arts Week 2023.

I eagerly anticipate the future with a mix of emotions—sadness concluding my transformative experience at Birkbeck, and elation in the view to graduating, ready for the next phase of my personal and professional development.

I wish to extend my special thanks to Professor Fintan Walsh.”

  • Negin Heidari

The Shy Manifesto at The Melbourne Fringe, 20 – 23rd October 2022

The director Gavin Roach is putting on The Shy Manifesto starring Jake Matricardi at the Victorian Pride Centre – Theatrette, Melbourne, Australia 20 – 23rd October 2022.

https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/the-shy-manifesto-by-michael-ross

Here are some publicity stills for the event.

Jake Matricardi at Callum, Directed by Gavin Roach.

Here’s a review of the February 2022 performance from the UMSU website:

https://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/news/article/7797/Review-The-Shy-Manifesto/

Written by Michael Ross and directed by Gavin Roach, the Australian premiere of The Shy Manifesto opened in Melbourne as part of Midsumma Festival. British playwright Michael Ross has enjoyed a string of accolades in the UK, including being shortlisted for the 2014 Off West End Adopt a Playwright Award.

Upon walking in to The Bluestone Church Arts Space in Footscray, I was struck by the size of the performance space. Situated in a relatively unassuming church hall, there were no elaborate sets or backdrops to give any indication as to how The Shy Manifesto would unfold. The only sign that this was indeed a play and not, say, a council meeting, were two lights on trusses at the back, throwing a warm shade of pink over the audience.

In defiance of its venue’s size, The Shy Manifesto greeted a surprisingly robust audience, and for good reason. The show is presented as a solo monologue, and Jake Matricardi delivers an utterly arresting performance. He plays Callum, a proudly shy person, who rebels against the conscriptions of a loud, extroverted society. Despite how vehemently Callum insists that other people shun him, we as the audience can’t help but find him likeable. Matricardi is a charismatic actor, armed with Ross’ beautiful turn of phrase and with an air of Hugh Grant about him, his performance makes Callum a charming character, for all his quirks and foibles.

Callum is dry-humoured, eloquent, and articulate; over the course of the hour, Matricardi didn’t stumble over a single word. Callum recounts amusing anecdotes about the times various people tried forcing him out of his skin, including his aunt Libby the “ruthless character assassin”, and his Drama teacher Ms Cherry, who tried to convince him that “all the best actors were shy people”. Callum derides these attempts, unable to believe or accept that people could be interested in having him around. The self-referential irony interwoven throughout the play enables us to clearly see the cracks in Callum’s shy sheathing.

Callum takes great pride in his social exclusion, revels in his anonymity, and gathers his self-professed shyness around him like armour. The arrival of a new kid at school, David ‘Gilby’ Gilbert, threatens shake the very foundations of Callum’s existence as a “fundamentalist shy separatist”. While his entire year level dismisses him, Gilby, to his horror, is nice to him. Why would this boy be nice to him, Callum frets. Matricardi deftly navigates the emotional range of a shy, overwhelmed teenage boy grappling with his sexuality, as we as an audience see exactly where Callum’s self-imposed shy lifestyle leads. His preoccupation with Gilby leads to a chain of events which culminates in Callum revealing more about himself than he ever wanted to.

Ross, Matricardi, and director Gavin Roach masterfully manipulate complex themes surrounding identity, coming of age, and coming out, in a perfect little gem of a production. As an audience, we can see that shyness, in Callum’s case, is not so much a choice as a defence strategy, a manifestation of his anxiety. Callum grapples with coming to terms with himself and his identity. The play culminates in a bittersweet ending, as what began as a manifesto is gradually revealed to be more of a self-imposed exile.

Michael Ross Award 2021: Aiden Strickland

Aiden Strickland performing.

Aiden is a theatre maker who grew up in Berkshire, before moving to Bristol to work for Theatre Bristol, an umbrella group that supports performers and producers. He read Performing Arts at Bath Spa University, where he found his voice as a solo performer, and is also an alumnus of both The Watershed’s Future Producers program and Marisa Carnesky’s Radical Cabaret School. As a writer and performer, Aiden has toured shows at UK theatre festivals based on Great Expectations, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, and Katie Hopkins.

During his time on Birkbeck’s MA Text and Performance course, Aiden discovered that he can write earnest and personal work that is still provocative and worthwhile. His final dissertation piece, The Sodomite, for which he receives the Michael Ross Award, is both a tongue-in-cheek retelling of the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and an earnest reflection on Catholicism’s relationship to the LGBTQIA+ community. Aiden is passionate about gender and performance, including how queer aesthetics such as drag and cabaret can tackle cultural accessibility.

Because he tends to make solo performances, Aiden splits his time between producing and writing and devising in the studio. The support and advice Aiden has received from the staff and his peers, both at Birkbeck and RADA, has supported him in these endeavours, but due to the pandemic, his experience of developing The Sodomite has felt solitary at times. With the help of the Michael Ross Award, Aiden will be able to give The Sodomite the attention it deserves, while also exploiting his classmates’ creativity and tenacity more equitably.

The Shy Manifesto shown at CPH Stage and World Pride 2021 in Copenhagen – October 13 – 31, 2020!

The Shy Manifesto Poster, HIT - Copenhagen

Michael’s very successful play The Shy Manifesto was shown at the biggest Theatre festival in Denmark, CPH Stage and World Pride 2021 in Copenhagen from the 13th to the 31st of October 2020.

The play was produced by HIT – Copenhagen and starred Daniel Neil Ash. It was directed by Jeremy M. Thomas and produced by Dina Rosenmeier.

Production photo: Benny Thaibert (instagram : bitamin.dk )
Production photo: Benny Thaibert (instagram : bitamin.dk )
Production photo: Benny Thaibert (instagram : bitamin.dk )
Production photo: Benny Thaibert (instagram : bitamin.dk )
Production photo: Benny Thaibert (instagram : bitamin.dk )
Production photo: Benny Thaibert (instagram : bitamin.dk )

The Shy Manifesto opened to great reviews and several 5 stars. Most of them in the Danish Language, however this one from CPH Post is in English from the opening night:

Photo credit Benny Thaibert (instagram : bitamin.dk )

Very successful run of ‘The Shy Manifesto’ in Copenhagen

The director Jeremy M Thomas of Down The Rabbit Hole and House of International Theatre have recently finished putting on a very successful run of Michael’s play ‘The Shy Manifesto’ in Copenhagen. The audience loved it and it won several 5 star reviews!

The reviews are on the House of international Theatre’s home page: http://www.houseofinternationaltheatre.dk

Director: Jeremy M. Thomas

Actor: Daniel Niel Ash.

Lights: Igor Halicki

Video and Sound Design: Karl Heding

Produced by Down the Rabbit Hole and House of International Theatre

Performed at Bøssehuset, Copenhagen, Denmark (Oct 13-Nov 7, 2020)

Photos by Benny Thaibert

The Shy Manifesto in Copenhagen – 1
The Shy Manifesto in Copenhagen – 2
The Shy Manifesto in Copenhagen – 3
The Shy Manifesto in Copenhagen – 4
The Shy Manifesto in Copenhagen – 5
The Shy Manifesto in Copenhagen – 6

Work Makes You Free on at the Brighton Fringe.

Work Makes You Free By Michael Ross. 6-10th May at Rialto Theatre as part of Brighton Fringe 2019.

Adam is absolutely loving being Employment Minister, singer-songwriter Kirsty cries in the shower every morning before heading off to work at the Job Centre, struggling actress Willow must toil unpaid in a pound shop or lose her benefits, and banker Jane is disgusted by the sight of closed curtains as she leaves for Canary Wharf every morning.

Michael Ross’s biting and very funny satire delivers a piece very much for our times, reflecting on the dignity – and many indignities – of labour. It explores how some people are defined by their job, whilst for others it’s the main obstacle to becoming who they truly are. It is a funny, smart and ingenious examination of what work means in Twenty-First Century Britain.

“A current, relevant commentary on the aspects of life we see every day – it touches the full spectrum of working life in the modern age.” **** (LondonTheatre1)

***** (Remote Goat)
***** (Fringe Guru)

https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/work-makes-you-free-by-michael-ross-135501/