We are delighted to announce the 8 Finalist plays for The Women’s Prize for Playwriting 2021, selected from 850 submissions. 

The judges for this year’s Prize are Arifa Akbar, Mel Kenyon(Chair), Lucy Kirkwood, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Winsome Pinnock, Indhu Rubasingham, Jenny Sealey, Nina Steiger, Nicola Walker and Jodie Whittaker.

These 8 plays will be considered by the judges at their meeting on 27th January 2022:

  • MOUNTAIN WARFARE by Abi Zakarian
  • Birdie by Alison Carr
  • A Bouffon Play About Hong Kong by Isabella Leung
  • FURIES by Isley Lynn
  • Consumed by Karis Kelly
  • upright enuf by lydia luke
  • 4 Decades by Paula B Stanic
  • HOW I LEARNED TO SWIM by Somebody Jones

By Abi Zakarian

When the horrors of the past are denied, who decides which histories are remembered?

Hugh and Liv Bryce have found their perfect (second) home: The Blue House sits on a remote hillside, isolated and beautiful. It’s a place to escape their busy lives and plan for their future family. But the house is haunted by secrets and Mariam and Davit Martirosian, the previous occupants, refuse to let go of their home without a fight. Exploring the denial of the Armenian Genocide, what drives the cycles of ethnic cleansing, and how blood can bind you to a place, Mountain Warfare asks what you’d be prepared to do to keep your home, your heritage, and your history alive.

Abi Zakarian is co-founder of Terrifying Women; a theatre company dedicated to women writing horror. Her work includes Found (45North), Perfect Myth Allegory (Jermyn Street Theatre), I am Karyan Ophidian (Shakespeare’s Globe), Fabric (Soho Theatre) and I Have a Mouth and I will Scream (VAULT Festival).


By Alison Carr

In this dark drama, a family fractured by an unforgiveable crime are reunited and no one emerges unscathed. 

Karen and her partner Lynn arrive at a tatty hotel to meet Karen’s younger sister Suzanne. The sisters haven’t seen each other for over 30 years and the difficult reunion is made even worse when Suzanne unexpectedly turns up with her thirteen-year-old daughter Della in tow.

It’s Della who forced her Mam to arrange this get-together after stumbling upon their family secret – that when Karen was her age she was convicted of an unforgiveable crime and spent over a decade in prison before being released with a new identity. Della is desperate to find out what makes Karen tick, and Karen is terrified she’ll tell her.

Alison Carr is part of the BBC writersroom writers’ development group for North East Voices. Her work includes Tuesday (National Theatre Connections Festival), The Last Quiz Night on Earth (Box of Tricks Theatre Company), Caterpillar (Theatre503) Iris and The Soaking of Vera Shrimp (Live Theatre).


By Isabella Leung

A darkly absurd parade through a silenced city. 

Set against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s skyscraper, the bouffons emerge from the swamp to tell the truth about their home.  They must be careful with their choice of words, they must conceal their fear and anger, they must put those who abandoned them in their rightful place, and their weapon is humour. Laughter helps the bouffons to find freedom in an absurd world where politicians are comedians, soldiers, and police are troubled poets, and at the centre of it all, a woman with all the power, living a glamorous life of empty daydreams.

Isabella Leung is an actor, theatre maker and writer. A Bouffon Play About Hong Kong is her first full-length play that was written in response to the political movement in her home city, Hong Kong. Her writing has been featured in Written on the Waves (45North), Freedom Hi, Tiananmen 30 (Papergang Theatre), Creating Apart (Exit Pursued by Panda), and Silence is Compliance (Young Blood Initiative).

By Isley Lynn

Sick of tweets and vigils, two young women take retribution into their own hands.

Meg and Ally do bad things to bad people. They’re not professionals, but when justice is unserved, they decide to address the balance themselves: no more tweets or vigils, it’s time for an eye for an eye and everything else.

They recreate the acts of violence exactly – an unorthodox attempt to save their souls and set protective boundaries. And they fast find supporters: sources for their targets in Maggie, a therapist who has heard too much, and Tim, a doctor who has seen too much.

But as the work begins to endanger and brutalise them all, one by one the team abandon the project, leaving Meg to reconcile with the insane ambition of what she wants to achieve: to freeze the seemingly endless wave of violence by directing that violence back on itself. It’s impossible for her to continue alone. But it’s unthinkable to her to go back.

Isley Lynn is currently under commission with the Donmar Warehouse. Her work includes The War of the Worlds (New Diorama Theatre/International tour), Albatross (Paines Plough) and Canace: A Good Story (Jermyn Street Theatre) 


By Karis Kelly

Four generations of Northern Irish Women: a house full of hungry ghosts, with more than one skeleton in the closet. 

Bangor, Northern Ireland. It’s Eileen’s 90th birthday, and her neurotic daughter Gilly is fussing, trying to organise her impending party. Gilly hasn’t finished unpacking the shopping when her high-flying daughter Jenny arrives from London with her worryingly thin daughter Muireann in tow. That makes four generations of Gillespie women in one room, and you could cut the tension with a knife. As the women prepare for a party that no one seems to want, the atmosphere turns decidedly sinister as deep-rooted recriminations and accusations fly out of the women like weapons. Obsessions and compulsions have spread through the lineage like poison. This is a house full of hungry ghosts and there’s definitely a few skeletons in the closet…

Karis Kelly is a playwright, theatre maker and educator. She has previously been the Literary Assistant at the Bush Theatre and Literary Associate at Theatre503 and has been awarded the 2022 Peggy Ramsay Bursary to be the writer in residence at The Lyric, Belfast. Her short plays have been performed at Hampstead Theatre, Gate Theatre and Arcola Theatre, and presented by Hightide Theatre and Headlong.


By lydia luke

Micaela is hardworking, nurturing and can push thru severe pain, but what happens when it hurst too much and no one is listening?

Michaela is experiencing severe pain in her womb. Each time she visits the doctor, they dismiss her concerns. And in turn, she dismisses it herself. But the pain persists until she has to reckon with it. 

Lydia Luke is a poet, playwright and facilitator. She was in the Royal Court Theatre’s Introduction to Playwriting 2020/21 cohort and is co-facilitator of Prism Writers; a writer’s group for Black women and non-binary people.


By Paula B Stanic

Four women, two wars, one referendum, four decisions and decades of the same questions – a play about love, betrayal and feeling anger for the country you were born in.

Leona is a patriot determined to prove her loyalty. Amy wants to keep what’s left of her family close. Esther’s just desperate to sing wherever she’ll get the change while teenager Amber’s anxious to follow her late mother and put the world right. Over decades, these black British women push to live the lives they choose as public events leave their mark and private relationships are shattered. Through two wars to the 2016 EU membership referendum, we experience the four most significant decades in the lives of the Cleary women.

Paula B Stanic is a previous winner of the Alfred Fagon Award and has been a writer in residence at Soho Theatre and writer on attachment at the NT Studio. She has written plays for Red Ladder, Theatre Centre, Soho Theatre, Tangle, Almeida Projects, and Mama Quilla. 


By Somebody Jones

A coming-of-adulthood play that explores Black people’s relationship to water, while finally answering the question: Are there really sharks in the deep end of the pool?

Jamie wants to learn to swim, which wouldn’t be so scary, except for the fact that she just turned 30. In an attempt to find closure after her brother’s disappearance, she decides to finally face her fear. 

Somebody Jones is a Los Angeles native playwright and dramaturg. Jones’ is currently a part of Soho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab and was previously Creative Associate at Jermyn Street Theatre and a part of Boston Court’s first Playwright’s Group.