The JMK Trust has announced the winner of its JMK Award 2023, celebrating the work of emerging theatre directors and designers.
The winner is Kalungi Ssebandeke (he/him) with his production of Meetings by Mustapha Matura.
The winner of the Prize, who has to be 35 or younger, gets to stage a full-scale professional production of their work.
For Ssebandeke that means directing Meetings with designer Olivia Jamieson, hosted by the Orange Tree Theatre as part of their 2023 Autumn programme, which is new Artistic Director Tom Littler’s inaugural season.
Meetings is Mustapha Matura’s razor-sharp comedy about identity, belonging and the cost of progress.
Kalungi Ssenbandeke is a director, writer, and actor, and his director credits include Attempts on Her Life at the Bristol School of Acting, and NT Connections play Remote for White City Youth Theatre at Lyric Hammersmith.
Eight people were shortlisted for this year’s prize.
The JMK Trust was founded in memory of James Menzies-Kitchin, a young director who died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 28.
JMK’s National Directors Programme works in partnership with 14 regional theatres, and the programme at each partner venue is run by the JMK’s Director Practitioners who are established, locally-based directors.
Previous winners of the prize include Thea Sharrock, Orla O’Loughlin, Bijan Sheibani, Joe Hill-Gibbins, Natalie Abrahami, Roy Alexander Weise and Polly Findlay; and its patrons are Dame Judi Dench, Baroness Howe, Sir Ian McKellen, Tom Morris OBE (Founding Chair) and Clare Menzies-Kitchin MBE, with trustees Stephen Fewell (Chair), Robert Gill (Secretary), Cordelia O’Neill, Lucy Popescu and Jonathan Kemp (Treasurer).
Kalungi Ssebandeke said in a statement: “Winning the JMK is one of the major highlights of my creative career. Meetings by Mustapha Matura is such a funny, and deliciously thought-provoking play and I can’t wait for audiences to get another taste of Mustapha’s writing. Getting the chance to return to the Orange Tree, this time as a director rather than performer, is a dream come true. Thank you to the JMK team for giving me this wonderful life changing opportunity and to everyone that has helped my directing journey take shape.”
Stephen Fewell, Chair of the JMK Trust, said: “We were thrilled to be able to run the JMK Award this year, our third since the pandemic. In the current climate, when opportunities for emerging theatre makers feel more precious and precarious than ever, it is a deep privilege to be able to support Kalungi and his intellectual and practical understanding of this great Trinidadian play. I’ve no doubt that it will thrill audiences with a fire and passion that Kalungi shared with everyone who was involved in the selection process.”
Tom Littler, Artistic Director of the OT, said: “In a very talented field of over a hundred young directors, Kalungi stood out. His connection to Mustapha Matura’s brilliant writing and his inspirational presence in the rehearsal room were remarkable. We cannot wait to produce his staging of Meetings this autumn.”