FORMER Yorkshire journalist Michael Davies has won a national award – for playwriting.

In a case of poacher turned gamekeeper, the professional theatre critic picked up the prize with his debut play, Rasputin’s Mother.

Funded by the Ronald Duncan Literary Foundation in memory of one of the co-founders of the Royal Court Theatre, the award is made annually to the best script written for the stage.

Davies, a sub-editor on the Scarborough News in the 1990s, is a regular contributor of programme notes to theatres all over the country and the West End, and writes reviews for the website

His play takes an alternative ‘fantasy’ look at the infamous Mad Monk, whose sinister charisma cast a shadow over the final days of the monarchy in pre-Communist Russia.

The competition judges praised the “cracking dialogue and fascinating ideas”, concluding that it was “a very powerful drama telling a great story”.

“It’s a comedy,” said Davies. “Given the subject matter, there’s obviously some serious stuff in it, but it’s also got plenty of laughs and some emotional moments too.”

Davies counts some theatrical big-hitters among his fans. Legendary playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn described the play as “bristling with theatrical ideas”, while veteran actor Sir Derek Jacobi has also offered his support.

“It’s hugely exciting and a great honour,” said Davies. “When people of that kind of stature start getting behind your work, you have to think maybe you’re doing something right.”