Albert Belz wins the 2023 Adam NZ Play AWard


Playmarket is pleased to announce the ADAM NZ PLAY AWARD winner for 2023 is Albert Belz (Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Pokai) for his play Supernova. Albert also received the award for Best Play by a Māori Writer (an accolade he first received in 2018 for his play Cradle Song). The Adam NZ Play Award recognises and celebrates the best in new unproduced writing for the theatre.

Supernova is a homage to all the dance movies ever made. It’s 1990 and despite all her efforts, modern dance obsessed Natalie Te Rehua has failed to score a place in the New Zealand School of Dance. She’s still licking her wounds when she encounters Tawhai at her gym. Tawhai, has recently been kicked out of his kapa haka group. They had enough of his diva-like perfectionism and brutal task-mastery. They both spot an advertisement for the NZ Aerobics champs. Before they know it, they’ve formed an uneasy, highly creative, alliance that’s constantly on the brink of imploding. That is, until during one of their more intense head-to-heads they discover their secret weapon – Haka-fusion! A new, unique (for 1990) style of dance that only they could bring to the Aerobics champs.

Judges comments included: This is a comedy with giant heart that absolutely leaps (aerobicises?) off the page. Natalie's fight is our fight, and her sorrow is our sorrow. This play brings a high level of humour and cool and heart and rock-solid storytelling. The playwright captures an era with such generosity -– and allows the kitsch to be kitschy without taking away from any of the play's urgency.

Albert Belz has been a professional writer for television, film and theatre since 2001. His first script for theatre, Te Maunga, was performed in 2001 to critical acclaim. His next hugely successful play, Awhi Tapu was produced by Taki Rua in 2003 and revived again in 2011. In 2006 Yours Truly won Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for Best New New Zealand Play, and Most Original Play amidst many other awards that year. Raising the Titanics toured New Zealand and won The New Zealand Listener’s Best New New Zealand Play 2010. In 2018 his play Astroman premiered at both The Court Theatre and Melbourne Theatre Company on the same day. Astroman was later staged by Auckland Theatre Company. He has been writer-in-residence at Waikato University and Victoria University of Wellington and was the University of Otago’s Robert Burns fellow in 2022. 

Runner-Up and Best Play by a Woman Playwright was won by Keagan Carr Fransch for Mitochondrial Eve. Shannon and Charlie are two immigrant sisters living in Aotearoa in 2019. Having lost touch with their homeland since emigrating to Aotearoa in the early 2000s. Shannon writes/performs a show about her and her sister being part of the diaspora of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. In it she uses the stories and characters of her people to confront her personal struggles with who she is and what she stands for. One of the judges said: This is a stunning play that tickles the theatrical imagination. Its scale is mythic, and mythic storytelling is something we have been missing so much in the theatre of recent years.

Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright was won by Samoan playwright Viki Moananu for their play Icky, a dramedy about a struggling university student processing their father’s death. This dark yet humorous play was described by the judges as ‘a breath of fresh air’ and ‘a wild little ride.’

The Dean Parker Adaptation or Non-Fiction Award (in memory of playwright Dean Parker) was won by Sam Brooks for Em, a queer retelling of Jane Austen’s masterwork Emma set in Queenstown. Judges said that Em was a delight to read and called the play a beautiful, modern classic with the playwright infusing the bright, snappy world of well-heeled Queenstown with warmth and heart.

Invercargill playwright Steven Page won the McNaughton South Island Play Award (awarded to a South Island resident in memory of Howard McNaughton) for Give Way – The Musical - a musical satire telling the uncensored, fictitious story behind the 2012 change in New Zealand's Give Way rule. Judges described the musical as hilarious and unique – an inherently Kiwi story with a universal message. 

The Adam NZ Play Award, now in its sixteenth year, is the only one of its kind for new playwriting. Playmarket’s only entrance requirements are that the playwright be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and that the play has not yet had a professional production. The award is generously funded by the Adam Foundation. Playmarket is also very grateful for the support of our major funders Foundation North and Creative New Zealand.

ADAM NZ PLAY AWARD WINNER 2023 and Best Play by a Māori Playwright: Albert Belz for Supernova

Runner-Up and Best Play by a Woman Playwright: Keagan Carr Fransch for Mitochondrial Eve

Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright: Viki Moananu for Icky

Dean Parker Award: Sam Brooks for Em adapted from Emma by Jane Austen

McNaughton South Island Play Award: Steven Page for Give Way – The Musical

Other Finalists:

Lads on the Island by Sam Brooks
Nicola Cheeseman is Back by Kathryn Burnett
The Valentina by Anders Falstie-Jensen
Dimensions in Black by Keagan Carr Fransch 
Pōhutukawa by Maraea Rakuraku
New Gold Mountain Woman by Cassandra Tse
The best of Tūhoe by Tainui Tukiwaho