37 Plays - RSC Announce Results
Erica Whyman. Photo (c) Sara Beaumont.
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) have announced details of the final 37 Plays selected for its nationwide playwriting search: an ambitious new initiative open to anybody from anywhere in the UK.
The search for plays closed on 31 January 2023, 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. From the longlist, a total of 71 plays were shortlisted for commendation.
The final 37 plays come from writers all over the United Kingdom: from Craigavon to Dawlish, from Cardiff to Edinburgh and Skipton to Wolverhampton and from writers ranging from age 9 to 65. Nearly a third of the selected 37 plays are by writers who have identified as first-time writers.
Erica Whyman, RSC Acting Artistic Director commented on “the wonderful variety, originality and quality of the plays on the shortlist."
She 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.”
The judging panel was chaired by Erica 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.
Erica Whyman continued; “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.”
Photo (c) Sara Beaumont.
Pippa Hill, Head of New Work at the RSC, added: “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.”
Play submissions were divided into three age categories of up to 11 years old, 11 to 17 years old and 18 years old and above. Multi-authored plays were invited to nominate a lead writer or average age of writers.
A full list of the 37 winners and the 71 shortlisted play titles and writers, can be viewed online here: www.37plays.co.uk.