Top New Writing Theatres in London

National Theatre, night shot, Southwark, London, England, Great Britain
National Theatre, night shot, Southwark, London, England, Great Britain | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Jamie Moore

Like New York and other international cultural hubs, London is replete with theatres that support, curate and cultivate new writing. Here is our guide to some of the best.

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Bush Theatre

Perched alongside the Uxbridge Road in Shepherds Bush, the Bush Theatre is an established powerhouse of new writing. The theatre receives in excess of 2,000 scripts per year, each of which is carefully read and considered for production at the theatre itself. Literary agents sling most scripts to the theatre, but twice a year, Bush Theatre accepts unsolicited submissions in an attempt to give every budding playwright a chance. The theatre also annually hosts a new playwriting event known as RADAR; one noteworthy play from the 2014 event was Standby for Tape Back-Up by Ross Sutherland. Playwright Barney Norris’ Visitors is showing at Bush Theatre until January 10.

Arcola Theatre

The Arcola Theatre on Ashwin Strete in trendy Dalston, in east London, England, UK

Alight in Dalston and trot over the road to one of London’s most exciting off-West-End theatres, the Arcola Theatre. The Arcola runs a scheme for burgeoning playwrights called PlayWROUGHT, open to applicants of all ages and experience, offering new talent a creative platform. Successful applicants get the opportunity to receive feedback on their piece and to work closely with an established playwright or dramaturge to develop their play further, culminating in a rehearsed reading. Amongst the diverse productions staged at the Arcola are a range of UK and London premieres such as Clarion by Mark Jagasia, showing in April and May 2015. The Story Project, ten new stories created by new writers, is on at Arcola until January 10th.

Royal Court Theatre

Royal Court Theatre, London, UK

A stalwart of the London new playwriting scene, the Royal Court Theatre, located on Sloane Square, London, is a paragon of support for new talent. Famous for its controversial inaugural play, Look Back in Anger by John Osborne staged in 1956, the Royal Court has always styled itself as the ‘writer’s theatre.’ Today the theatre still adheres to this founding raison d’etre; its in-house literary office reads and considers over 3,500 scripts annually. The studio at the Royal Court Theatre was established as a place where new writing talent could be discovered, cultivated and hoisted into life. One of the programmes run is called Rough Cuts, a biannual workshop and showcase of works-in-progress, a chance for playwrights to see their words transformed into live stagecraft. One notable play that has emerged from this program is Laura Wade’s Posh, recently converted into feature film The Riot Club.

National Theatre

The Royal National Theatre, London, England, UK

The National Theatre is the pulsating heart of the British theatrical establishment, and sits contiguous to the Thames on London’s South Bank. The National Theatre Studio serves as an incubator for zesty new artists, from directors to playwrights. The Studio is responsible for the overseeing the development of new projects from their embryonic beginnings to the performance-ready piece, many of which end up on one of the National Theatre’s stages. Croatian playwright Tena Štivićić currently has a play staged in the Lyttelton Theatre entitled 3 Winters – a wildly ambitious piece that tracks the past half century of Croatian history to profound effect. The play was developed at the National Theatre Studio, as was Štivićić’s previous play Invisible that was met with critical acclaim. 3 Winters plays until February 3rd.

Theatre 503

Sequestered away on the top floor of the Latchmere Pub in Battersea, Theatre 503 is a veritable hotbed of striking new writing. This Olivier Award-winning theatre boasts a vibrant in-house literary department that prides itself on being open and accessible to all writers, irrespective of experience or background. A proportion of these plays end up being staged at theatre, while others are given assistance and advice on how to develop the work. A recent success story is Stuart Slade’s topical and hilarious two-hander play, Cans, which was developed and put on at Theatre 503 at the end of 2014. This January, be sure to catch some of 503Fusions: collaborative short plays that fuse ‘storytelling, spoken word, playwriting, performance and live soundscape scores’ to create enrapturing experimental theatre.

Soho Theatre

Located on the arterial Dean Street in Soho, the Soho Theatre beckons passing theatregoers with neon winks and the promise of exemplary new writing. The Soho Theatre’s Writer’s Centre is an institution dedicated to the providing sustenance and support to writers in the nascent stages of their careers. The Centre runs a series of programs designed to aid writers of all ages and backgrounds, such as ‘The Soho Six:’ six commissioned writers who are in residence at the theatre for the year, producing and staging their plays. There are also a series of clinics and open access workshops run over the year that writers are able to attend with a view to honing their craft. Kraken by Trygve Wakenshaw is playing at the Soho Theatre from the 6th –18th of January.

Hampstead Theatre

Hampstead Theatre viewed from the street The two auditoria seat 325 and 100. Credit: Wendy Booth/Alamy

Sprint out of Swiss Cottage station and cross the threshold of the Hampstead Theatre, a venue that strives to keep new plays at the core of its enthralling program of events. The theatre’s literary department is slung over 1,000 plays per year that are fastidiously pored over to ensure the very best are spotted and earmarked for development. Unsolicited plays are accepted from the UK and will receive feedback if selected for development. Now playing at Hampstead Theatre is Tiger Country, written and directed by Nina Raine. The play unearths the difficult reality of contemporary life in hospital for overburdened NHS staff. Tiger Country is running until January 17th and tickets can be purchased from the theatre’s website.

Finborough Theatre

The award winning Finborough Theatre in LondonOs EarlOs Court is under threat of closure after 30 years.

Another theatre secreted away high in the rafters of a rosy-cheeked boozer is the Finborough Theatre, situated in Earls Court. The multi-award winning theatre, established in 1980 by Artistic Director Neil McPherson, employs an in-house literary team who are committed to weeding out the best and brightest new theatre from the reams of scripts they receive every year. This small-scale theatre is run completely unfunded and has brought some arresting pieces of theatre to the attention of the public. The fruits of the team’s labors were evident in a recent production of Eve Leigh’s Silent Planet: an intense, heartfelt and painfully gripping play.

White Bear Theatre

Described as ‘South London’s New Writing powerhouse,’ the White Bear Theatre is an essential part of the London support network available to burgeoning playwrights looking to refine their prodigious talents. The literary department of the White Bear Theatre welcomes unsolicited scripts with open arms. Submissions that are read and accepted are then developed further through script workshopping, rehearsed readings or full-production. Tickets for plays at the White Bear can be bought via Ticket Source.

Tricycle Theatre

Since opening in 1980, North London’s Tricycle Theatre has brought progressive and broad-minded theatre to irrepressibly eager audiences. Each year, the Tricycle presents six productions that are either produced in-house or as collaborative efforts involving other domestic and international partners. Playing from February 19th to 21st, John Hollingworth’s new play Multitudes will make its world premiere. The play interrogates the once popular notion of multiculturalism in the UK, a concept that has come under attack of late; a salient play in light of the fast-approaching general election that is likely to have immigration policy at its heart. Tickets can be booked on the theatre’s website.

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