Mercury Musical Developments and Stiles + Drewe are delighted to announce the winner of the 2023/2024 MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award is Maz O’Connor with her new musical The Wife of Michael Cleary. 

The MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award was launched in 2016 by the multi award-winning musical theatre writing partnership George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Honk!, Mary Poppins, Betty Blue Eyes, Half A Sixpence, Identical) and Mercury Musical Developments. Generously supported by Musical Theatre International (Europe), the Mentorship Award is presented biennially to a writer or writing team who have submitted the first full draft of a new musical. Stiles + Drewe, along with a panel of judges, select the winning project – the writers of which then benefit from bespoke mentorship and support over a 12-month period.

The selection process has been lengthy, with 5 writing teams shortlisted for the award. The shortlisted applicants were Mark Anderson, Graham Lappin & Lee Freeman for Proud, Jonathan O’Neill & Isaac Savage for Stay, Neil Bastian for The Rise and Fall of Vinnie and Paul and Jack Miles & Rebecca Simmonds for In Clay. 

The Wife of Michael Cleary is a new folk musical inspired by the true story of Bridget Cleary. Bridget was a young dressmaker from Co. Tipperary, Ireland, who in 1895 was burned to death by her husband and family because they believed her to be a fairy changeling. The story was widely covered in the press in Ireland and Great Britain. It has previously served as inspiration for music and literature, but this is the first time the story has been addressed in musical theatre. The Wife of Michael Cleary explores faith, superstition and imperialism at a decisive moment in Irish history, whilst shining a light on the pressing contemporary issue of violence against women.