Sarah Grochala has won The Women’s Prize for Playwriting 2023 for her script Intelligence, a historical time-jumping sci-fi play in which Ada Lovelace, inventor of computer software and AI pioneer struggles to be recognised in a male dominated world. The piece is set in 1840s London, 1940s America and 1980s Silicon Valley.
Sarah Grochala is a neurodiverse Anglo-Polish playwright who writes female-led dramas exploring the darker aspects of life with humour and heart. She’s best-known for her Amnesty award-winning play S-27, but also writes audio episodes of Doctor Who, specialising in stories featuring alien invasions in historical settings, and robots – sometimes both.
Launched in 2019 and produced by Ellie Keel and Paines Plough, the Prize is the only national prize to champion and support exceptional playwrights who identify as female or non-binary. The winning play was announced at an awards ceremony held at the iconic London Library in front of an audience of invited guests and leading lights within the UK theatre industry.
This year’s competition opened on 16 January 2023 and received over 1000 entries which were judged by the newly appointed Director of the National Theatre Indhu Rubasingham (Chair); journalist Samira Ahmed; playwrights April de Angelis and Chris Bush; actor Noma Dumezweni; literary agent Mel Kenyon; journalist and critic Anya Ryan; Head of Play Development at the National Theatre, Nina Steiger; and Guardian Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner.
The Prize is for a full-length play (defined as over 60 minutes in length), written in English and the winning playwright wins £12,000 in respect of an option for Ellie Keel Productions and Paines Plough to co-produce the winning play. The Prize is sponsored by Samuel French Ltd, a Concord Theatricals company, who are the official publishing partner of the prize, and by commercial theatre producers Fiery Angel. The Founding Sponsor is the leading recruitment agency, PER.
Ellie Keel, Founder Director of The Women’s Prize for Playwriting, today said, “Sarah Grochala’s Intelligence is one of the plays I’ve been dreaming of finding since the idea for this prize first came to me. It is powerful, original, expansive, ambitious – all the things that audiences hope for and deserve when they book to see a new play. Sarah’s writing is witty and luminescent, vividly bringing to life her detailed research into the story of a fascinating and overlooked scientist and computing pioneer, Ada Lovelace, whose struggle to be recognised and fulfil her full potential sadly is, or has been, shared by so many women throughout history.
“It feels particularly poignant for the Women’s Prize for Playwriting to be awarding the prize to Intelligence in the building next door to Ada’s London home for many years, 12 St James’s Square. Thank you to all of the judges, readers, partners, sponsors and supporters who make this prize possible, and particularly to our Chair of Judges, Indhu Rubasingham, whose contribution to the Women’s Prize for Playwriting in our first three years has been immeasurably valuable.”
Katie Posner, Charlotte Bennett and Debo Adebayo, Joint Artistic Directors and Deputy Artistic Director of Paines Plough, added, “We are thrilled to be celebrating the finalists and the winner for the third year of this incredible prize, which not only champions outstanding talent, but continues to actively diversify our national theatrical landscape. We feel so lucky to have read these plays, and to consistently be bowled over by the talent, uniqueness and imagination of so many writers. At Paines Plough, we are so proud of these finalists, and thrilled to celebrate Intelligence by Sarah Grochala as this year’s winner. It blew us away with its boldness of storytelling and ambitious structure, which sees a central character cross centuries and discover what continues to inhibit female success. Sarah is an outstanding writer, and we are looking forward to working with her to produce and platform this play.”