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New theatrical talent

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Will Gompertz | 13:42 UK time, Wednesday, 21 July 2010

There's not a system of handicapping in the arts, no concessions given to the young and inexperienced, the poorly funded or to the degree of artistic or technical difficulty.

Everything is judged on the same criteria - is it any good? Which is tough when you are an 18-year-old rookie playwright who has just finished her A-levels and has Tom Stoppard, Terrance Rattigan, Arthur Miller and Shakespeare as benchmarks to be judged against.

All these playwrights have had their plays produced in London in the last couple of months and have enjoyed decent reviews. This is the context into which Anya Reiss finds her work being assessed.

For the critics her play Spur of the Moment, which opened at the Royal Court last night, will be seen in light of everything else they have watched.

This explains why Anya looked a bit tense last night at the premier of her first-ever professionally produced play; a story about a 12-year-old girl who has a crush on the lodger that shares her house with her argumentative parents.

She is a graduate of the Royal Court's remarkable Young Writers Programme, a 12-week evening course that takes wannabe playwrights to the threshold of professional theatre - if they're good enough.

The alumni is impressive: Laura Wade (Posh), Polly Stenham (That Face, Tusk, Tusk), Lucy Prebble (Enron) and Simon Stephens (Harper Regan) among them.

This is a list of successes that puts ever more pressure on Anya, especially as Polly Stenham was at a similar age and stage when she had a huge hit with That Face, her play about the domestic tensions between teens and parents. The productions even share the same director.

So this morning the reviews will start. I'm not a critic but having seen the play last night would have thought Anya has nothing to fear.

As the Guardian's Michael Billington suggests in his review of the play this morning, she has the talent to create scenes that reveal universal truths of the human condition. And that's a gift she shares with all good playwrights from Shakespeare to Stenham.

I made this film for Newsnight recently about the Young Writers Programme that features Anya in pre-production mode for Spur of the Moment.

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