Ken Duncum has been writing for theatre and television since the 80s, and is recognised as one of New Zealand’s leading playwrights. A ‘Top 30’ list of New Zealand plays as voted by theatre professionals in 2003 featured three of Ken’s plays (Blue Sky Boys, Flipside and Horseplay), the highest tally of any playwright. Similarly, his work for television has won awards in New Zealand and has been screened internationally.
His plays include a loose trilogy (published by VUP, 2011) looking at the impact of music on New Zealand—from 50s rock'n'roll vs Beatles-era British Invasion (Blue Sky Boys), 70s Glam (John, I'm Only Dancing) and Punk (Waterloo Sunset). He has also written plays about men lost at sea (Flipside), Polish saints (The Temptations of St Max), unsolved murders (Trick Of The Light) and dark goings-on in small-town New Zealand (Horseplay). These plays were published in Small Towns and Sea by VUP in 2005.
Cherish (published by VUP, 2004) won Best New New Zealand Play at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards in 2003—making it two in a row for Ken, as his play Trick Of The Light won the same award the previous year.
Ken has also written extensively for television drama series such as Duggan and Cover Story (Best Script for Drama at the NZ Film and Television Awards) as well as television comedy (Best Writer—Comedy at the 2002 TV Awards for Willy Nilly).
He was awarded the 2010 New Zealand Post Mansfield Prize. In 2017 he received a New Zealand Writers Guild Mentorship Award.
In 2001, Ken was appointed Director of the MA Scriptwriting programme at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington—in which position he continues to foster emerging New Zealand scriptwriting talent.