Writer’s new award for a 40 year old adaptation

27/8/14- Steve Gooch from Robertsbridge, winner of the 2014 JEFF Award. SUS-140827-132817001
27/8/14- Steve Gooch from Robertsbridge, winner of the 2014 JEFF Award. SUS-140827-132817001

A PLAYWRIGHT from Robertsbridge has won a prestigious award for a play that he first adapted for the stage 40 years ago.

Steve Gooch was delighted to scoop the Joseph Jefferson Award for Outstanding Achievement in the category of New Adaptation for The Mother.

But the play, dramatised by Bertolt Brecht from the book by Maxim Gorky, first enthralled audiences four decades ago, before it was subject of a revival by the National Theatre in the 1980s.

Steve, from Langham Road, said the news that he had been nominated for a Jeff, Chicago’s answer to the Tony Awards, came as a surprise.

He said: “I got an email from out the blue from Oracle Productions asking if I could attend the ceremony.

“I was about to do a season of new plays of mine up in London, so I was really very busy.

“On the evening I would have had to fly out there to do the ceremony and fly right back straight away, so that was not possible.

“Then I heard I had actually won it, which was fabulous.”

The award comes amid a fresh wave of interest in Steve’s work. He explained: “This second spring has been going on for a while.

“Last December, again I got an email out of the blue and it turned out this company in Lima, Peru, wanted to do the play Female Transport, which is probably my best known work.”

Female Transport, which tells the story of six female convicts being transported to Australia, has seen 500 productions around the world in half a dozen languages.

Steve’s first professionally performed work was the 1971 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, in the Liverpool Playhouse.

Since then he has written around 20 plays, not including adaptations and translations.

And even though his plays are performed to audiences all over the world, Steve has also entertained audiences a bit closer to home.

Steve penned the Millennium play for Robertsbridge, the village he has called home for the past 19 years.

British Beauty, which was performed at St Mary In The Castle in Hastings, told the story of Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s encounter with wild Sussex beauty Sophie.

And Steve is continuing to produce new material with plays Dark Glory, Asking Rembrandt and Eve and Adam (and the Boys), plus he recently released The Cut Shakespeare, a series of complete texts of The Bard’s plays with optional editing for public reading and performance.

He is also working on a jazz musical and is currently seeking mature, black actor-musicians, while looking for a new theatre space in Hastings.

Speaking about his award, Steve said: “On a personal note it’s very nice at my stage in life that work is going out across the world, with Female Transport in Peru and this in Chicago.

“You are always, as a writer, working more or less all the time, but not necessarily earning money all the time.

“When things like this happen, it’s a great boost. All I need now is a publisher to pull all these different works together.” Steve previously won the Writer’s Guild Award for Best Radio Play in 2007.