A SOUTHEND High School for Girls' student has won a National Theatre nationwide playwriting competition.

Eloise Pennycott's winning, original play Barrier(s) will be staged in the Dorfman Theatre at the National Theatre’s New Views Festival next month.

The 17-year-old student's work was selected from over 400 entries from 99 secondary schools and colleges nationwide by a panel of judges from across the theatre industry.

These included NT Head of Play Development Nina Steiger, theatre director Denzel Westley-Sanderson and actor Debbie Chazen.

Barrier(s) will be staged as a full production with professional actors at the National Theatre on Wednesday July 6 and Thursday July 7.

Eloise is a Deaf British Sign Language user and was inspired to write her play to showcase 'D/deaf' culture on stage, via the story of two women who fall in love and begin their life together overcoming communication, social and political barriers because of hostility to sign language users.

'D/deaf culture' with its use of capital and small 'd', is widely used self-identifying term used by the Deaf community, to include those who are medically deaf and those who identify as being part of Deaf culture.

Eloise said: “Barrier(s) is really a play that stemmed from what I have always wished I could see as a piece of theatre.

"Whilst it’s awesome and so exciting when I see D/deaf actors on stage, seeing Deaf culture is much rarer.

"It’s also still surprisingly rare to see a lesbian love story on stage, which is why I want to keep the characters’ relationship forefront, against everything in the background.”

Barrier(s) will include professional actors from the Deaf community and will be performed in a mix of British Sign Language and spoken English. It will be directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson.

Denzel Westley-Sanderson, theatre director and judge said: “I was hooked from the very first page of Barrier(s), such a clear, well thought out and important piece of writing.

"The characters were so well developed with many layers to them, a great piece of writing and storytelling.

"The plays this year were all so strong, such expressive and imaginative writing. It makes me so excited to be working in this industry knowing how much great talent is coming through!"

Alice King-Farlow, Director of Learning at the National Theatre said: "We received hundreds of brilliant original plays this year from young writers across the UK, a testament to the talent and hard work of this year's participants and the support of their schools.

"New Views offers a platform for young people to share their views on important issues, develops their creativity and self-expression and nurtures a new generation of writers and theatre makers. We're hugely excited to bring Eloise's winning play to life on the Dorfman stage alongside readings of an exceptional group of shortlisted plays at the New Views Festival this summer". 

To book tickets visit nationaltheatre.org.uk