A panel of judges is working through the shortlist after more than 2,000 plays were submitted to our nationwide playwriting competition, 37 Plays.

Acting Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Erica Whyman, will chair the judging panel. 

The search for plays closed on 31 January 2023, attracting more than 2,000 submissions from across the UK. Every play has been read by a panel of 24 readers recruited from across the UK.

The judges are now reading through the shortlist to select the final 37 plays, which will be announced on Thursday 18 May 2023.

Erica Whyman, 37 Plays Chair and RSC Acting Artistic Director

“We have all been blown away by the calibre and genuine diversity of our 70-strong shortlist. There are intriguing and exhilarating plays from every region of the UK, from every age group and representing a wide range of backgrounds and life experience. A notable number of the plays tell stories we have not seen on our stages before. There are flights of wild imagination, tragedies, histories, experiments in form and delightful comedies - everything that makes it possible to survive hardship and thrive in changing times."


Erica Whyman is Acting Artistic Director of the RSC. A a theatre director with many years' experience all over the UK, Erica led the team which reopened The Other Place in March 2016, a creative hub dedicated to daring theatrical exploration.

RSC credits include: The Winters Tale (broadcast on BBC Four and iPlayer); A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation (with 18 professional actors, 14 amateur theatre groups and 580 school children from across the country); The Ant and the CicadaRevolt. She Said. Revolt Again.The Christmas TruceHecubaA Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the NationThe Seven Acts of MercyThe Earthworks; Romeo and JulietMiss LittlewoodA Museum in Baghdad.

Erica was previously Chief Executive of Northern Stage in Newcastle upon Tyne (2005-2012), Artistic Director of Southwark Playhouse (1998-2000) and Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill (2000-2004). In the 2012 New Year’s Honours List, she was awarded an OBE for services to Theatre in the UK.


Rachel Bagshaw is Associate Director at the Unicorn Theatre where work includes: Grimm Tales (Unicorn Digital), The Bee in Me and Aesop’s Fables. Other film work includes Let Loose (Unicorn Digital / ENB) and BBC Culture in Quarantine commission Where I Go When I Can’t be Where I Am. She is currently Peter Hall bursary Associate at the National Theatre. Theatre credits include: A Dead Body in Taos (Fuel / Bristol Old Vic), Augmented (Told by an Idiot); Midnight Movie (Royal Court); The Shape of the Pain (BAC / UK tour); Icons (WOW Festival, Hull); Resonance at the Still Point of Change (Unlimited Festival, Southbank); The Rhinestone Rollers, Just Me, Bell (Graeae).


Ray Fearon was born in London and trained at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. He was awarded the Carlton Hobbs Radio Award and the George Benson Award for his portrayal of Othello at the National Theatre while still at Rose Bruford. Ray is an RSC Associate Artist.

His extensive theatre credits inlcude, for the RSC: Hecuba, Julius Caesar (Award for Best Actor in a Visiting Production), Pericles, Othello, Don Carlos, Romeo and Juliet, The White Devil, Troilus and Cressida, Moby Dick and The Merchant of Venice (RSC).

Television includes: Da Vinci Demons, Moving On, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Above Suspicion, Silk, Death in Paradise, Homicide, Missing, Doctors, Coronation Street, Revelations, Keen Eddie, Waking the Dead, The Life and Times of Shakespeare.

Film includes: Macbeth, Beauty and the Beast, The Hooligan Factory, The Chef’s Letter, Beate Uhse, Morlocks, Hamilton, Lulu and Jim, Summer in Cape Town, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Clandestine Marriage, Hamlet and The Therapist.


Lyn Gardner is associate editor for The Stage and has written for many national and international publications. She is a recipient of a UK Theatre Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre, a Total Theatre Significant Contribution Award, and a Tonic Award for theatre journalism.


Juliet Gilkes Romero is an award-winning writer for stage and screen. She is the recipient of the 2020 Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play with The Whip, the Roland Rees Bursary 2019, (named in honour of the co-founder of the Alfred Fagon Award) and the BBC World Service Alexander Onassis Research Bursary.

Juliet was Writer in Residence at the National Theatre attached to the New Work Department for 2022/2023. 

Her plays include: The Gift (Jermyn Street Theatre); The Whip (RSC), Day of The Living (RSC) Upper Cut (Southwark Playhouse); At The Gates of Gaza (Birmingham Repertory Theatre & tour, winner of the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain Best Play Award 2009).  

Screen and audio includes: Soon Gone; A Windrush Chronicle (BBC) and One Hot Summer (BBC Radio 4).


Bally Gill is originally from Coventry and graduated from Rose Bruford College in 2015. In 2019, Bally won the Ian Charleson Award for his portrayal of Romeo in the RSC's Romeo and Juliet.

Film includes: Allelujah (Pathe/BBC) and Bus Driver (Batavia Productions).

TV includes: Sherwood (BBC); Slow Horses (Apple/See Saw Films); This is Going to Hurt (BBC); The Lazarus Project (Sky); Manhunt (ITV1); Around the World in Eighty Days (Federation Entertainment); Wanderlust (BBC) and NW (BBC).

Theatre includes: When the Crows Visit (Kiln Theatre); Romeo & Juliet; Macbeth; Coriolanus, Salome; Vice Versa, Always Orange, Fall of the Kingdom, Rise of the Foot Soldier (RSC); The Island Nation (Arcola Theatre); A Local Boy (The Arts Theatre); Dinner with Saddam (Menier Chocolate Factory); Table (Stratford Circus) and Elijah’s Violin (JW3).


Sharna Jackson is an author and artistic director who creates work to encourage children and young people to participate in arts, culture and publishing. She lives on a ship in Rotterdam.

Sharna’s latest book, The Good Turn, is a slightly spooky mystery with themes of social activism as a trio of young friends start their own scout troop in Luton. 

Her debut novel, High-Rise Mystery won numerous awards and accolades including Best Book for Younger Readers at the 2020 Waterstones Book Prize. She released two art activity books with Tate in 2014 before writing Black Artists Shaping the World in 2021. She was Southbank Centre’s Imagine A Story Author in 2019/20 creating London/Londoff with over 1200 school children. She curates Ensemble – a show highlighting ethnic minority talent and achievement in the UK games industry.


Mark Ravenhill is a playwright. Work for the RSC includes: Candide, Galileo (version from Brecht) and The Boy In The Dress (with Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers).

His other plays include Shopping and F***ing and The Cane (Royal Court), Mother Clap's Molly House and Citizenship (National Theatre) and The Cane (Donmar). 


David Threlfall is an Olivier and BAFTA award-winning actor and an RSC Associate Artist. Theatre for the RSC includes Smike in Nicholas Nickleby (1980) London, NY, (Olivier award, Tony Nomination) Don Quixote 2016/19. Other theatre credits include: Bed of Roses, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, The Rehearsal (Roundabout) The War At Home (James Duff) The Traveller (J-C van Itallie), Hamlet, (Blue/Orange), Oedipus, Count of Monte Cristo, Present Laughter, Peer Gynt. Hedda Gabler, Beckett’s The Old Tune, Faith Healer and Hangman B/way (Tony Nomination)

Television includes: Frank Gallagher in original Shameless (5 RTS Awards), Housewife 49, (BAFTA) Sam Beckett in Waiting For Andre (Sky), Nightingales, Ripper Street, Troy, Tommy Cooper; The Queen’s Sister, Conspiracy (HBO) Paradise Postponed, Edgar in Laurence Olivier’s King Lear, Dodger and Funny Woman (2022) 

Film includes: Master and Commander, Nowhere Boy, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Chunky Monkey, Patriot Games, Russia House, Black Sea and Hot Fuzz 

Radio: Sony Awards for Spike and the Elfin Oak & Ken Dodd in Happiness!

The panel will also include Harry and Ella from our Youth Advisory Board, which was established in 2019 to reflect the diverse voices of young people from across the UK. The Youth Advisory Board consists of 26 young people from the RSC’s Associate Schools programme who believe passionately in why the arts matter and are active champions of theatre and the arts within their communities.

Published 27 April 2023
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