Stiles and Drewe Success for UCW


Huge congratulations are in order for the writers and performers of new musical, The Circle which won the esteemed Stiles and Drewe Best New Song 2023 prize! The prize is awarded by Mercury Musical Developments. Held in a prestigious ceremony in London at the beautiful Other Palace theatre near Buckingham Palace. 

Winning this prize is an incredible achievement. Each year, a total of 12 songs from a wide range of impressive new musicals are shortlisted. The shortlisted song, Drown Without Water was written by Rachel Walker Mason and Nina Sundstrom (Rachel is Grammy voting member and winner of ISSA Best International Female Album 2023). Rachel’s website describes her as “a multi-award-winning musician, currently writing songs with Grammy nominees, Billboard Hot 100 artists, alumni from The Voice UK and American Idol, Emmy winners and independent country music association awards winners.” 

The song has previously been sung and recorded by current UCW student Poppy Morley but was performed at the award ceremony by world-famous Renee Lamb, best known for the West-End hit Six playing Catherine of Aragon.  

Collaborating with Rachel Walker Mason is UCW’s very own Eloise Hodder. Eloise is the bookwriter (someone who writes scripts for musicals) for The Circle, the musical that the song is performed in. Eloise and Rachel started writing The Circle two years ago, a quicker turnaround than most musicals which typically take around five to seven years to complete.  

Eloise is a performance maker, typically choosing to create by using movement and devising techniques. This meant that sitting down and typing out a musical scene by scene was a different experience to previous work. However, we can say with certainty that she has been successful! The musical was expanded from ninety minutes to over two and a half hours following a workshop performance with BA Hons Musical Theatre UCW students in the Berkoff Theatre, going from eleven songs and is currently eighteen.  

The narrative of The Circle revolves around the lives of eight women who have become virtually invisible within the complexity of their roles as mothers, wives, daughters, teachers, and friends.   

The characters seek solace and empowerment by joining a songwriting group called The Circle, where they find not only a supportive community but also the courage to reclaim and reframe their identities.  

Eloise refused to shy away from hard hitting issues such as misogyny, maternal issues and hitting glass ceilings alongside many others in the musical, writing powerful scene alongside Rachel’s music to capture the emotions that these issues evoke.   

Therefore, it can be said that Drown Without Water is truly deserving of winning the Stiles and Drewe Best New Song 2023 prize. This is not only a victory for Rachel and Eloise, but also for the students of UCW, who have played such an important role in bringing the musical to life.    

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