“The word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder. When combined with the word play, this indicates someone who has wrought words, themes, and other elements into a dramatic form… someone who crafts plays…”

PlayWROUGHT is Arcola’s annual festival of new writing. We accept unsolicited submissions for a short period, and select 12 unproduced scripts for the festival. These receive a small amount of development funding, working towards a rehearsed reading.

We are looking for unique voices that haven’t been heard before. Previous graduates include Clarion by Mark Jagasia, Scenes from 68* Years by Hannah Khalil, and Love, Bombs, and Apples by Hassan Abdulrazzak, which have all premiered at Arcola. Other graduates have seen their work presented at theatres across London and the UK.  Other PlayWROUGHT writers have gone on to join the BBC Writers Room, Headlong Writers Group, Theatre 503 Five.

Applications for PlayWROUGHT #5 are now CLOSED. Stay tuned for an announcement of successful applicants and full details about the New Writing Festival, due for Spring 2017.

Click here to join our writers mailing list and stay in contact.

playwrought-5PlayWROUGHT#5: Brief to Writers

Please note applications are now closed for PlayWROUGHT #5.  

PlayWROUGHT is Arcola’s New Writing Programme. This programme is about working on, developing and redrafting an existing work and not about writing a new play for the Arcola.

Playwrights are asked to submit a full length play and we are looking for the hidden gem stashed in the bottom of the drawer, or the promising but troubled play that needs some love and support. Whilst we look to take some of the final 12 plays into development or production, one of the great successes of the programme to date has been in advocating for the writers and plays more widely, with many going onto future lives at other theatres. There is no guarantee that even if the play is successful in making the final 12, that it will be produced or programmed by Arcola Theatre.

Each play is read twice and the team from the Arcola will select 12 plays to take forward. These 12 plays will make up the PlayWROUGHT # 5 Festival, which will run from Monday 10th – Saturday 15th July, with rehearsal periods this week and the week prior.

In the weeks running up to the festival, successful playwrights will receive:

  • A feedback report from our readers;
  • The opportunity to work with a dramaturg one to one to refine their work and a new second meeting to touch base during the redrafting period;
  • Space at the Arcola Theatre to workshop their play and rehearse their reading
  • Support from the Arcola Theatre (marketing, technical and production based)
  • Have a technical and dress rehearsal, culminating in a rehearsed reading as part of PlayWROUGHT #5 in Studio 2
  • A group de-brief session with the Arcola Theatre and dramaturg following the Festival

We are only looking for applications that can be seen as new writing for the stage. No work for the screen, translations or adaptations, radio plays, poetry, musicals or comedy skits will be considered.

We do not have any specific guidance around content of plays, and we welcome plays in all genres and subject matter. We are however keeping an eye open for plays in four priority areas:

  • Comedies and satires;
  • Plays with a strong contemporary political and social resonance;
  • Stories from, or that speak to the LGBT+ community;
  • BAMER (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugees) writers.

You can only submit one play, and you cannot resubmit or amend scripts once submitted. If your play is chosen, you must be available for all the dates which will be provided in due course.

All submissions must be type-written using the font style Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri and on A4 paper in font size 12. Ensure the pages are numbered and that you include a title page with a list of characters. Please include your name on the title page only. Please include the title of the play on the footer of each page (but not your name). Please only submit script in PDF format.

If you are successful, there is programme registration fee of £150.00. This covers the time and advice of mentors, one-to-ones, the use of Arcola rehearsal and performance space and technical and marketing costs. This fee is heavily subsidized by the theatre as part of our commitment to new writing. A limited number of part bursaries are available, and information on how to apply will be provided for successful applicants


We aim to be back in touch in mid – March 2017.

Any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us –

playwrought4PlayWROUGHT #4

February 2016

The PlayWROUGHT Festival #4 took place at Arcola Theatre from the 22nd to the 27th of February 2016. Across the week, twelve exciting new plays premiered as a series of rehearsed readings, attracting an audience of 877 including five sold out readings. This was an increase of 22% on previous years, indicating the Festival’s growing stature among audiences. The plays were politically, culturally and socially diverse; from mental illness (Tortoise by Naomi Westerman), racism and white privileged (It Always’s Matters, by Bejnamin Kuffour), the charity sector (Giving by Hannah Patterson), and Jewish cultural heritage (Birthright, Laura Poliakoff).

The playwrights worked with acclaimed directors including Bethany Pitts, Matthew Dunster, Lisa Goldman and Ellen McDougal.

“I’ve found the Arcola to be far more approachable and committed than the other London new writing theatres – and I am certain the Arcola is going to reap large rewards from this strategy.” – Participant.

Beginning with a group workshop the writers were able to meet each other, discuss common problems and share ideas. This was then followed by a one on one meeting with Barney Norris (winner of the Critics’ Circle and Off West End Most Promising Playwright Awards) in which the writers were able to take a closer look at developing their plays. Each writer was then given a three week writing and redrafting period in the lead up to the festival where the plays were presented as staged readings, many to sold out houses.



January 2015

The PlayWROUGHT Festival took place at Arcola Theatre from the 12-17 January 2015. Across the week, twelve exciting new plays premiered as a series of rehearsed readings, attracting an audience of 868 including five sold out readings.

The plays were politically, culturally and socially diverse; from the Rochdale child grooming scandal (Child Z), through the last 20 months in the life of PC David Rathband, told through the vapour trail of data he left online (What Happens When You Click On It?) , to the lives of four young people in a post-apocalyptic Bradford (North Country). 

The playwrights worked with exciting directors including Jessica Edwards, Alex Chisholm, and Rosemunde Hutt, as well as actors such as Asif Khan (Multitudes, Tricycle Theatre), Michael Edwards (The Dog, The Night and The Knife, Arcola Theatre), David Kirkbride (Shrapnel, Arcola Theatre), Ryan Wichert (Clarion, Arcola Theatre) and Anna Bolton (Goneril in the UK Tour of King Lear, Royal Shakespeare Company).

PlayWROUGHT #3 was supported by the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, without whom this would not be possible.

Selected feedback from participants:

“I’ve found the Arcola to be far more approachable and committed than the other London new writing theatres – and I am certain the Arcola is going to reap large rewards from this strategy.”

“It meant that an older writer got a chance – a good thing”

“It has been incredibly positive in terms of the process and the recognition by/relationship with the Arcola”


PlayWROUGHT # 2: Middle Eastern, Asian and North African Writers

July 2014

The second PlayWROUGHT Festival of new writing took place at Arcola Theatre from Monday 7th July – Saturday 12th July. The second festival focused specifically on writers of Middle Eastern, Asian and North African backgrounds, bringing together six exciting new voices.

The writers backgrounds were varied and wrote on issues such as the Palestinian experience during the occupation (Scenes from 66* Years by Hannah Khalil), The Hijra or Third Gendered communities in India (A Fire of Small Virtues by Sevan K. Greene), a dystopic future directed impacted by government cuts (The Cu*ts by Rena Brannan) and Islamophobia in Britian (Combustion by Asif Khan).

The readings attracted both establish actors and directors (Tracy-Ann Oberman, Adam Levy, Nona Sheppard, Chris White, Sophie Ward and Nick Rowe), as well as new faces. The playwrights were mentored by Shenagh Cameron and underwent a process of guided redrafting, spending two days in development and rehearsal at Arcola before sharing their work with the public. Industry attendance was also strong with representatives from theatres across London and film and television.

This project was produced in association with Nick of Time Productions Limited and the writers were invited to form part of the inaugural Arcola BAMER Writers Group. This project was supported by Arts Council, Backstage Trust, John S. Cohen Foundation and Potter Foundation.

Selected feedback from participants:

“It was a pleasure and an honor to be a part of this and I look forward to continuing my relationship with Arcola. It’s not often programs come along that are dedicated to artists of colour. Most of the others out there pay lip service but never follow through.”

“I’ve enjoyed the chance to look at a play that I haven’t worked on for a while again, I’ve really enjoyed connecting with the other writers and with the Arcola and I’m excited that this isn’t the end but the beginning of a relationship with the theatre, it’s team and the other participants.”



January 2014

Our pilot PlayWROUGHT Festival took place at Arcola Theatre from the 20th-25th January 2014. Across the week, twelve exciting new plays premiered as a series of rehearsed readings, attracting an audience of 750 including four sold out readings. The plays were politically, culturally and socially diverse.

The playwrights worked with acclaimed directors including Phil Davis, Yael Shavit and Kate Saxon as well as actors such as Aimee Ffion-Edwards, (E4’s Skins), Elliot Cowan (Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe), Michelle Terry (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Globe), Allan Corduner (Sir Arthur Sullivan in Mike Leigh’s film Topsy-Turvey) and Sheila Reid (ITV’s Benidorm).

Praise for PlayWROUGHT:

“An ambitious but certainly admirable affair…A great initiative from the Arcola, recognising that their lack of a literary department has created a developmental gap and actually doing something about it.” Ian Foster, There Ought To Be Clowns

Playwright Feedback:

“Amazing. I learned more than I did in the course of my MA – I have never worked as hard as I did during the rehearsal week and this was because I knew 99 friends, family & strangers were going to be sitting in the beautiful Arcola to see my play – could not have asked for a more daunting but inspiring motivation.”