About the Prize
We’re agitating to bring about – and sustain – a more equitable sector.
The Women’s Prize for Playwriting is one step in the movement towards redressing the gender balance of plays produced in our theatres.
By seeking out, championing and staging extraordinary new plays by women, we hope to redefine and revitalise the canon for future generations.
”We’ve got a long way still to go in terms of parity between male and female writers on major stages and I hope that the exceptional plays brought together under the banner of this Prize demonstrates that there’s no shortage of talent – only, in some places, a reluctance to recognise it or give it a chance."
”...It is time for the theatre industry to make sure it’s putting as much faith in female writers as they have to put in themselves to get plays written.”Ellie KeelFounder and Director, Women's Prize for Playwriting
The Women’s Prize for Playwriting was founded by Ellie Keel and Paines Plough to do things differently. In early 2019, it had become clear that the situation for women playwrights in the UK was both dismal and untenable. Only 26% of new main-stage plays in 2018 were by women, and the National Theatre had just announced a season of 6 plays, all by men. Things had to change.
After six months spent exploring different ways of tackling this urgent problem, Ellie Keel approached Charlotte Bennett and Katie Posner (Joint Artistic Directors of Paines Plough) with an idea. A prize to champion and celebrate female playwrights, but also to produce the play that won the prize in a high-profile theatre. The prize would be £12,000 – thought to be enough to enable a writer to devote themselves to a project for a few months without the need to find other work – and the play would be produced by the Founding Partners and other collaborators. Ellie, Charlotte and Katie worked quickly, and the Prize was launched on 4 October 2019, less than two months after their original conversation.
In its first year, the Prize received 1,163 submissions. A team of dedicated readers worked through the coronavirus pandemic to process these plays and send a shortlist to the judging panel, chaired by Mel Kenyon and including the actors Maxine Peake, Monica Dolan and Adjoa Andoh, the writer Ella Hickson, producer Kate Pakenham and directors Sarah Frankcom and Indhu Rubasingham. The panel awarded two First Prizes of £12,000: to Amy Trigg for her hilarious and moving one-woman play Reasons You Should(n’t) Love Me, and to Ahlam for her epic six-hander, You Bury Me.
Within six months, Reasons had premiered at London’s Kiln Theatre, directed by Charlotte Bennett and co-produced by the Prize, Kiln Theatre, Paines Plough and 45North. It played a critically-acclaimed run and was subsequently made into an audio production by Audible with Ellie Keel Productions. It was also published by Concord Theatricals as part of our Publishing Partnership. In 2022, Reasons toured the UK with Paines Plough and returned to Kiln Theatre for a three-week revival run. In the meantime, You Bury Me had three staged readings at the Edinburgh International Festival and was developed for a major production in early 2023 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Bristol Old Vic and the Orange Tree Theatre, directed by Katie Posner and co-produced with WPP, Paines Plough and 45North.
The winner of the 2021 Prize, Consumed by Karis Kelly, was selected from 850 submissions by a judging panel chaired by Mel Kenyon and including the actors Nicola Walker and Jodie Whittaker, playwrights Lucy Kirkwood and Winsome Pinnock, the critic Arifa Akbar, dramaturg Nina Steiger and directors Jenny Sealey and Indhu Rubasingham. Kelly was awarded the £12,000 Prize in a ceremony at the London Library, and her play is currently in development for production in 2023.
As we look ahead to the 2023 Prize, the Women’s Prize for Playwriting is hugely grateful to the Sponsors, Partners and Associate Partners who have made delivering the prize possible, in particular our Publishing Partner Concord Theatricals and our 2020-2021 Principal Partner and co-producer of Reasons and You Bury Me, 45North. We are also very grateful to our sponsor Private Equity Recruitment Ltd and our 2020-21 Associate Partners Sonia Friedman Productions, as well as to the London Library.
”“At this juncture in history it is of paramount importance that women support other talented women to excel, and I hope this prize will do just that.
For everyone's sake, we need to level the playing field.”Mel KenyonChair of the Judges, 2021