RSC announces winners of 37 Plays initiative

The Royal Shakespeare Company has revealed the final 37 Plays selected for its nationwide playwriting search, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio.

The shortlist of 71 plays was announced in early May 2023, after attracting over 2,000 submissions.

Over a six-week period, 24 readers read 31 plays per week to create an initial longlist of 350 plays, before this was shortlisted to 71 plays by a judging panel.

The panel was chaired by RSC Acting Artistic Director Erica Whyman, and included theatre-maker and Associate Director of The Unicorn Theatre Rachel Bagshaw, actor and RSC Associate Artist Ray Fearon, Theatre Critic and Associate Editor of The Stage Lyn Gardner, RSC Youth Advisory Board members Harry and Ella, Best-selling author Sharna Jackson, 2018 Ian Charleson Award-winner Bally Gill, award-winning playwrights Mark Ravenhill and Juliet Gilkes Romero and actor/writer and RSC Associate Artist David Threlfall.

The final 37 plays come from writers all over the United Kingdom, with writers ranging in age from age 9 to 65. Nearly a third of the selected 37 plays are by writers who have identified as first-time writers.

37 Plays aims to explore who we are as a society and inspires conversation about what the future of dramatic writing might look and feel like, on and off our stages.

All of the 37 plays selected will be awarded a fee for publication, performance and/or broadcast, and any submission subsequently commissioned for production will be subject to usual commission processes approved by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

The initiative is in partnership with the RSC’s Associate Regional Theatres, who are: The Grand Theatre, Blackpool; The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford; The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; Hall for Cornwall; Hull Truck Theatre, Hull; Intermission Youth, London; New Vic Theatre, Stoke on Trent; Northern Stage, Newcastle; Nottingham Theatre Royal, Nottingham; Norwich Theatre; Silhouette Youth Theatre; and the York Theatre Royal, York.

The winners of the initiative will see their work published by the RSC in a collection this autumn, by creating staged readings of every play, rehearsed and performed at all of their associate theatre partners and in Stratford at The Other Place. The plays will also be shared online. Ahead of that, each writer in the 37 will receive bespoke dramaturgical support to take their play to the next draft.

Read quotes from the RSC’s Erica Whyman and Pippa Hill, below.

37 Plays – winners

Under 11 Category:

Alfie and War
By Molly Sue Cartwright
England. Now and 1066. Alfie meets King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

By Dylan Punch
A bedroom. Now. Greg and Wally’s gaming afternoon is interrupted by an unexpected visitor who is on a quest to find their friend.

By Maximilian Kufuor
Out of the water. Now. A whimsical journey of two talking fish who come to land to have an incredible adventure.

By Edward Keppel
Northamptonshire. Now. A group of friends learning to be kind in retaliation to the dark forces of a new social media app.

By Grace Hemmings-Buckler
A quiet village. The past. Against the orders of the king, a young girl looks up at the night sky.

11 to 17 Category:

By Felicity Williamson
An Island. Now. A young autistic girl meets an islander who teachers her to accept herself for who she is.

Land Wreck
By Mia Lloyd
West Midlands
A Geography School Trip. A group of year four students reject the rigid approach of their school to embark on a creative adventure.

Life Goes On
By Isabella James
A House. Now. Grief and new opportunities collide when a home is passed on.

Momentary Masters
By Jacob Thomas
Planet earth. Now. Shawn’s amateur astronomy club reaches for the stars and brings him closer to his son.

By Abigail White
Outside the School Counsellor’s Office. Now. Two students acknowledge their fears and anxieties, attempting connection.

18+ Category:

And I Dreamt I was Drowning
Amanda Wilkin
An island at war. The future. Kiya and Danny are looking for a boat, but how far will they go to get out?

By Billie Collins
A Wood. Now. A sprite befriends a teenager as the future of the woods hangs in the balance.

By Rob Thorpe-Woods
Scrubland. Now. Charlie encounters a wood spirit who offers a dark but tempting exchange.

Dreaming and Drowning
By Kwame Owusu
Bristol University & under the ocean. Now. Malachi is desperately trying to keep his head above water.

By Hayley-Rose Jarman-Norris
England. The future. A dystopian vision of society, sofas, relationships and a jumping tree.

Evie of Windrush
By Joan Jackson-Callen
London. Now. One woman’s odyssey through the absurdity of the hostile environment.

Friday at the masjid
By maatin
West Midlands. Now. Zaid’s plan to save his local mosque proves provocative but surprisingly successful.

From Lewisham to Llandudno
By Samantha Robinson
The UK. Now. Helen’s journey across two countries through the eyes of the people she met on her way.

Go Back Home!
By Hannah Shury-Smith
London. Now. A beautiful story about a lost Guyanese man searching for home.

Godmodders and Metagamers
By Hannah Kennedy
The SS Medusa & Slough. Now. Dan escapes the noise to soar through space.

Growing Pains
By Hannah Eggleton
Now. A deeply textured meditation on one woman’s relationship with her school years.

Human Resources
By Chloe Banks
A hospital. The future. A horrifyingly tense look at healthcare by the highest bidder.

Jack in a Box
By Joanne Thomson
Kingsmead Police Station. Now. A surrealist comedy about the ultimate virtue signal.

By Amy Bethan Evans
Now. An exploration of the lives of three generations of neurodivergent women; Lil, Lilian and Lily.

North Star
By Tom Murray
Scotland. 1941. A man falls from the sky with dark and terrifying consequences.

By Lisa Parry
North Walian School. The 19th century and the present. An atmospheric play that asks how a country can find its future without a deep examination of its past.

Pram Talk
By Rosanna Jahangard
A Park. Now. A witty, enlightening and powerful play about Bronte navigating the new terrain of motherhood.

Radiant Boy
By Nancy Netherwood
North East England. January 1983. A priest and a haunted boy meet in his mother’s house.

Re: Jane Doe
By Patty Kim Hamilton
A play about intimacy, consent, and our language around boundaries, assault, and healing.

By Eoin McAndrew
Northern Ireland
An isolated Farm. Now. After a divine intervention, Michal joins a new community; but rural paradise is not what it seems.

Still Life (with mangos)
By Ruby Kitching
London. Now. A British Bangladeshi woman has an awakening and joins an art class.

Something to Take Off the Edge
By Errol McGlashan
Prison. 1980’s. Terry and Ezra navigate prison politics with tragic consequences.

The Doris Effect
By Tim Wallers
Shropshire. Now. Doris crucifies herself on a solar panel to challenge local politics.

The Ever-Changing Sea
By Jordon Grant
Echo Beach. Then and now. A moving, shape-shifting story of friendship.

The Filleting App
By Alex Oates
North Shields. Now. A comic yet heart-breaking story of a family using all their ingenuity to stay afloat.

The Last Picture
By Catherine Dyson
A Theatre. Now. Sam is a support dog and takes us on a journey through pictures to witness the past.

This Is A Gift
By Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir
Edinburgh. Now. A silver-tongued stranger offers Zoe and her dad one wish after saving his life.

The Quotes

Erica Whyman, RSC Acting Artistic Director said: “Every one of the shortlisted plays deserves attention and a production, so the decision-making was really hard. We chose the 37 to represent the widest range of ideas, voices and stories, deliberately including plays by accomplished writers alongside plays that showed enormous promise by first-time playwrights. We prioritised distinctiveness, invention, and whether the play offered a particular insight into life in the UK now. We chose big-hearted comedies, unusual romances, dark and particular tragedies and fresh takes on our shared history.

“It was an honour to chair the distinguished judging panel. We were struck by a number of recurring themes, from climate crisis, to living life online, to questions of class, faith, race, war and consent. From our youngest writers to our most experienced a picture emerges of a country wrestling with big questions, sharing a sense of loss, exploring new identities, striving for happy healthy communities and finding new ways to laugh at ourselves. The collection moves wonderfully and wildly from the domestic to the supernatural, from conventional structures used to tell wholly new stories, to plays that take place inside a gamer’s paradise. In a normal commissioning year, we do not have dedicated resources to read unsolicited scripts, so together with our partners nationwide we feel very privileged to have come to know so many writers new to us or plays by writers we already admired. But the collection is not only for us – it is designed to be a gift to anyone, from the most prominent stages in the country to community stages, schools, amateur companies and anyone who is looking for excellent and intriguing new work. It has always mattered to the RSC to celebrate and listen to the instincts and voices of living writers alongside our house playwright. To do so on such a scale and hand-in-hand with our brilliant partners has made for a truly inclusive project on a giant scale. We will publish the collection this autumn by creating staged readings of every play, rehearsed and performed at all of our associate theatre partners and in Stratford at The Other Place and sharing them online. Ahead of that each writer in the 37 will receive bespoke dramaturgical support to take their play to the next draft.”

Pippa Hill, Head of New Work at the RSC, said: “From a field in Scotland where a fish falls from the sky; to a still, dappled woodland containing a sulky wood sprite; from a coral fringed island to the artificial sunlight on the deck of a spaceship via a futuristic hospital, to a horror filled box of muffins on a police station reception desk, this folio of 37 plays takes us absolutely everywhere. We have plays written from the perspective of mischievous fish; a woman covered in butterflies; an emotional support dog; a dancer in the early days of motherhood; a protesting farmer’s wife tied to a solar panel; musicians in a mosque; a family in North Shields; a dreaming, drowning man; a teenager who becomes a whale; a lost Guyanese man; and a boy who suddenly finds himself at the battle of Hastings; to name just a selection of extraordinary characters that have been created by the writers of our 37 Plays.”

👤 📅23 May 2023
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📷 Main photo: RSC initiative 37 Plays Photo by Sara Beaumont

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