WHAT WE DO
Theatre503 is the home of groundbreaking plays. We produce work that is game-changing, relevant, surprising, mischievous, visually thrilling and theatrical. We create this work for you, our audience, a place where you can reflect on your place in the world with others doing the same.
Paul Robinson is our Artistic Director. We have been a flagship fringe venue for over thirty years and we specialise in new writing which we hope will thrill our loyal audience. We are proud to be one of London’s few destinations for high quality new writing. We also offer more opportunities to new writers than any theatre in the country.
In a more recent move we have introduced more established writers to the programme. Twice a year we revive in only its second production a groundbreaking but overlooked play from the 1980s or 90s. This is called ‘Second Look’. The thought here is that we establish the future by igniting the past and reflect on where we are by seeing where we’ve been. We have also asked today’s most esteemed living playwrights to present their own stars of the future in another new strand of work called ‘Playwright Presents’. The aim is for Theatre503 to be seen as a curator of new writing for the last thirty years, documenting a modern world through drama.
In 2012 Theatre503 (formerly The Latchmere Theatre) reached its thirtieth
anniversary. It has survived because of an unswerving commitment to its home, its
practice, its audience and its artists. 503 is still bursting with opportunity and we’re thrilled
at the prospect of extending our vision and continuing to forge a community of artists and
audience built around this hub of creativity. We’re really grateful to our incredible
team, tireless volunteers and most importantly our loyal audience. Do spread the word and we look forward to seeing you down here to share in the next exciting chapter with us.
WHAT WE DO – FURTHER INFO
This idea of drawing a dotted line from unknown to established artists might best be
illustrated by the fact that Dennis Kelly has recently joined our Board of Directors.
Dennis had his first play produced by Theatre503 in 2003 and is now perhaps best
known for co-writing Pulling for TV more recently Matilda The Musical and the six-part
Channel 4 drama series Utopia. It is my hope that Dennis, and writers like him can
lead and inspire a new generation of 503 writers to think more boldly and bravely than
ever before. He said:
“In 2003 Theatre503 put on my debut play, Debris. The play had been rejected
by pretty much every other theatre around but 503 saw something in the play and
decided to abandon common sense and produce it. For me it was one of the most
important moments in my life and I will always be grateful that a theatre above a pub
in Battersea decided to take a chance…it really is an interesting time to be part of this
theatre and I’m grateful to have been asked.”
New plays by first time writers are the cornerstone of our work. New work is
indisputably the lifeblood of 503 and indeed the theatre. 503 will continue to be the
venue where you see the next generation of new writing talent, where promise turns
Whilst it would be useful financially our aim isn’t for all our plays to become modern
classics. We are interested in taking the temperature of the time and in so doing
furthering the art and practice of writing plays. Audiences demand invention and
diversity and this means an imaginative exploration of new forms of playwrighting.
So you’ll hopefully see ever more theatrical work staged here, work that dares to be
emotional first and cerebral after.
We will continue to take artistic risks. After all, it is this brave, inventive work – and it’s
implicit right to fail – that you the audience is seeking out and which is increasingly
appearing on our major subsidised stages and in the West End.
NEW PLAYS POLICY
Unlike a number of new writing houses who tend to batten down the hatches in terms
of unsolicited submissions, we operate a year-round open submissions policy. We will
also continue to produce a high proportion of unsolicited work.
Theatre503 receives around 1,500 unsolicited scripts annually and we read all of
them. Reading unsolicited scripts is vital to keep industry access open. Without
funding, we’re doing it anyway. Led by our brilliant Literary Manager Steve Harper,
Graeme Thompson and a panel of readers (the latter all volunteers) we’re doing it
anyway. Why? Because we’re the best chance a first-time writer has and we believe
that the most suitable organisation to engage with them is the one most likely to
We also seed-produce more work by first time writers than any other venue through
our Foundations Programme – Rapid Write, The Lab and LabFest. Well over a
thousand writers have been through our development programmes in the last six
years. Moving forward, we will be seeking to formalise our crucial position as the
place that not only reads every play we’re sent but gets back to writers quicker than
We will also produce new plays by mid-level and established writers – and in
particular, to see writers we have launched return to the theatre where their second
and third plays can cement their reputation. The 503/5, our in-house writers are going
from strength to strength, a model so influential it has been emulated by such brilliant
organisations as Soho Theatre with their Soho 6. Of the current five, selected from
800 applicants, we promise at least one a production and look to promote the rest
however we can. In-house writers help us be more artistically led, with their diverse
visions energising ours.
We consider it our duty to source the playwrights who are dynamiting perceived
notions of how to write a play in the way Churchill, Brenton or Wertenbaker were
a generation ago. And we need to try really hard to be sure that the stories we’re
telling are a true reflection of the world in which we live. We want to transform the way
theatre in London is created and make 503 the most significant theatre for nurturing
and developing talent in the capital. We’re opening the doors to London looking for
talent in places nobody has ever looked before. We passionately believe in ensuring
that the next generation of British playwrights is sourced from a dramatically wider
field than before to reflect a more diverse ethnic and social model, producing fresher
and broader visions of the world in which we live.
503 NEW WRITING AWARD
It is with great delight that we are launching the 503 New Writing Award, a biennial
national prize that will honour an emerging, unproduced writer who will be guaranteed
a production as part of the main programme. We believe that the best learning
experience for a writer is having their show on, not being trapped in development for
years. The award is generously funded by the Richard Carne Trust – Philip and Chris
Carne, whose son Richard Carne was a brilliant young man who died tragically at 18
while studying at Harvard. For his family, helping young, talented people to have the
chance to fulfill their potential in life is the best way to remember him. The award will
open for applications in autumn 2013.
As we consume the new we’re in danger of overlooking the recently brilliant. A
chance to open up the recent past by doing the second major productions of
groundbreaking plays by writers from the 80s and 90s. Jack Bradley, ex-Literary
Manager of The National Theatre, curates the programme.
Reviving a play that is old enough to merit revisiting but too young to be called a
classic carries a certain risk. But there is a stunning array of plays which a generation
who come to 503 for their theatre fix missed out on. Anyone over 35 – and we’re
happy to take suggestions – has their favourite theatre memory from the Bush, the
Traverse, the Abbey, any number of regional theatre studios and is wondering why it
was never revisited. Again, the aim is to establish the future by igniting the past.
An established playwright will present a rehearsed reading of a new play by a young,
undiscovered playwright. Some readings will be directed by the playwright, while
others will be followed by a Q&A between the playwright and their mentee. It will be
curated by one of 503’s Associate Director, Tom Littler.
The first season (Spring 2013) will be launched with Howard Brenton, Timberlake
Wertenbaker and Caryl Churchill.
Speaking about her involvement Timberlake Wertenbaker said: “I’m extremely happy to be part of this great project supporting young playwrights. It’s always invigorating to hear new voices in the theatre and I’m very much looking forward to working with my protégée. I’m sure I’ll learn as much from her as she will from me.”
What so many esteemed writers apparently share is the unselfish desire to promote
the future generation of playwrights and an endorsement from a trusted mentor gives
a fledgling writer a special advantage at a time when getting your first play on is more
difficult than ever.
The trajectory of Theatre503 writers has been exceptional, with work being produced
at the National, RSC, Bush, Hampstead, Royal Court, Old Vic, as well as other
media, including the BBC and Channel 4. The only logical next step is a longer term
funding relationship. With tiny resources, Theatre503 has successfully proven itself
to be locally and internationally significant. Without Theatre503′s commitment to the
widest range of first time playwrights, there is a serious gap in the ecology, both for
new writing and the future of the fringe. Theatre503 does not wish to ‘move up the
ladder.’ Rather we see our crucial presence as twofold: championing the fringe and
being the entry-point into theatre for audiences and artists alike.
The Arts Council’s intervention has made a success story of new writing. But future
sustainability can only be guaranteed by a genuine commitment to this very breadth
of engagement. As Theatre503 matures, it must do so by audaciously creating
vigorous, groundbreaking art underpinned by a secure business model. We will be
seeking National Portfolio Funding from ACE in 2015 but in the meantime we need
In 1982, the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill expanded to include a brand new custom-
built studio theatre above The Latchmere Pub, on the south side of Battersea Bridge
Road, London. The theatre, subsequently renamed the Grace Theatre, immediately
established itself as one of London’s leading fringe venues.
In 2002 The Latchmere was relaunched as a home for new writing by Johnnie Lyne-
Perkis and Paul Higgins. Another name change – to Theatre503 (the theatre is
located on 503 Battersea Park Road) – led to the premiere of a number of plays by
now seminal playwrights, including Dennis Kelly, Phil Porter, Duncan Macmillan and
Rachael Wagstaff. It went on to win the Peter Brook Empty Space Award and was
nominated for a Time Out Live Award in 2006.
In 2006 Tim Roseman and Paul Robinson were appointed Joint Artistic Directors. Their vision was to develop 503 as an entry-level new writing theatre, providing that vital launchpad into public performance. During their tenure Theatre503 was placed firmly on the map as a destination theatre and fearles new writing theatre. In 2010 they received the theatre’s first ever Olivier award for The Mountaintop by Katori Hall, which started life at Theatre503 then transferred to the West End. It opened on Broadway the following year starring Samuel L Jackson. Tim left in September 2012 and is now working as Artistic Director at Playwrighting Australia.
Awards and nominations include
Winner – Off West End Awards:
Most Welcoming Theatre
Best New Musical (Porn – The Musical)
People’s Choice Best Female Performance (Jessie Cave for Breed)
Nomination – Most Promising Playwright (Gabriel Bisset-Smith for The Charming Man)
Winner – Off West End Adopt A Playwright Competition – Sarah Grochala
Winner – Olivier Awards, Best New Play, The Mountaintop by Katori Hall
Nominated – Olivier Awards, Best Actress, Lorraine Burroughs for The Mountaintop
Nominated – WhatsOnStage Awards – Best Actor, David Harewood for The Mountaintop
Nominated – WhatsOnStage Awards – Best New Play, Katori Hall for The Mountaintop
Nominated – Alfred Fagon Award – Rex Obano for Slaves
Nominated – Evening Standard Awards, Most Promising Playwright, Katori Hall for The Mountaintop
Shortlisted – Evening Standard Awards – Best Actor, David Harewood for The Mountaintop
Nominated – TMA Awards, Best New Play, The Lifesavers by Fraser Grace (co-production with Mercury Theatre, Colchester)
Winner – Meyer Whitworth Award, Ali Taylor for Cotton Wool
Nominated – Peter Brook Empty Space Award