Celebrating the 400th anniversary of the First Folio, 37 Plays is a nationwide search for the most exciting new voices of today. The chosen plays will be performed, script-in-hand, across the UK this autumn.

37 Plays

Our nationwide search for emerging playwriting talent has reached a conclusion with the announcement of 37 new plays exploring themes including class, faith, race, war, consent, the climate crisis and living life online.

The ambitious project was open to anyone across the UK, inviting the public to write the stories of today, predominantly presented in English, or in British Sign Language, or with a translation provided for any text not in the English language. We worked in partnership with regional theatre partners across the country on the project.

The search attracted more than 2000 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.  

Authors 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. 

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

The plays will be shared this autumn through staged readings, rehearsed and performed at the RSC associate theatre partners and at The Other Place in Stratford-upon-Avon. They will also be published online.

A full list of the 37 play titles and writers is available to view via www.37plays.co.uk

Erica Whyman for 37 Plays
Erica Whyman, Acting Artistic Director, Chair 37 Plays judging panel
Erica Whyman, Acting Artistic Director, Chair 37 Plays Judging Panel

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.

In a normal commissioning year we do not have the resources to read unsolicited plays 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."

The judging panel was chaired by Acting Artistic Director of the RSC, Erica Whyman.

Also on the panel were 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.

Pippa Hill, Head of New Work RSC

“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."

You are in: About us