No first prize for this year's 24-Hour Playwriting Competition by TheatreWorks

A university student and a chief investment officer were the joint second-prize winners of the open category of this year's 24-Hour Playwriting Competition, organised annually by theatre company TheatreWorks' Writing Laboratory.

No one won the first prize. The judging panel felt that none of the scripts "was strong enough to occupy that position", and that "a first prize should reflect a strong craft of writing, a rich sense of story and a deep feel for theatre as a medium... with a little something extra that cannot be defined or prescribed".

Clarilyn Khoo, 19, from the National University of Singapore, wrote about an archivist's investigations into the life of an early Malayan pioneer, who grows increasingly fascinated with her life as he discovers curious inconsistencies in her journals. Footprints Investments' Joanne Tan, 39, dashed off a satirical script about what unfolds when the Sultan of Singapore goes bankrupt and has to move from his palace to a tiny HDB flat.

Theatre academic Dr Charlene Rajendran, one of the judges, said: "These two scripts stood out because the writers indicated a mature sensibility and lively imagination, able to move across different ideas, images and situations, to create a script that merits a second look, and hopefully a future staging.

"They also take on the contemporary Singapore context, and deal with complex questions that emerge in the landscape of local cultures and concerns, such as what it means to value heritage, and why the need to consume culture can be riddled with irony."

Freelance drama trainer Muhammad Hafidz Bin Abdul, 25, clinched third place with his play titled Lanang (Boy).

In the youth category, 16-year-old Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Jolene Gina Abelarde took first place; David Cornelius Singh, 16, from St Joseph's Institution International came in second; and Zenda Tan, 17, from Catholic Junior College was third, with a special mention for Raffles Institution student Tharun Suresh, 15.

The winners were announced in a cosy ceremony at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road on Saturday, with mayor of South East District, Dr Maliki Osman, as guest of honour.

The competition itself took place at the Malay Heritage Centre on June 21 and 22, and the judging panel comprised Dr Rajendran, theatre director Natalie Hennedige and playwright Ovidia Yu.

Some of the quirky stimuli that contestants had to work into their scripts included "bubbles", "two potted plants", and the words "Orange, Chick, Inch, Inside" which had to be included in one sentence.

Follow Corrie Tan on Twitter @CorrieTan