A (Short) History Of Papatango
Founded in 2008 and registered as a charity in 2013, Papatango has swiftly risen to become arguably the leading new writing company in UK theatre.
“Remarkable unearthers of new talent.” The Evening Standard
Our mission is to find and champion the best new playwrights, with an absolute commitment to producing them on big stages and using their success to inspire creativity in communities nationwide. Access is at the heart of what we do. We directly support more grassroots playwrights than any other organisation – each year giving free, tailored dramaturgy to over 1500 writers and providing free and accessible training and seed funding to a further 3000 artists nationwide.
Writers given their breakthrough by Papatango have gone on to win BAFTAs, OffWestEnd, Alfred Fagon and Royal National Theatre Foundation awards, while our acclaimed shows have transferred to or been remounted worldwide. In the last year alone, our team, productions or artists have:
– Won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre
– Won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright
– Won The Times Breakthrough Award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards
– Won The Genesis Foundation Prize
– Won OffWestEnd Awards for Most Promising Playwright and Best Sound
– Been nominated for the WhatsOnStage Award for Best OffWestEnd Production
– Been nominated for the Writer’s Guild Award for Best New Play
– Been named in The Stage 25, a highly selective list of theatre-makers shaping the sector
Such impact was unthinkable when we began as an unfunded start-up, launched by three working-class young actors supporting themselves with jobs in pubs and retail. That we have thrived, without any insider connections or private income, is testament to our motto: all you need is a story.
Some particularly significant moments in our journey include:
Papatango Theatre Company is founded by George Turvey, Matt Roberts and Sam Donovan.
The Papatango New Writing Prize is launched. The first – and still the only annual – playwriting award to guarantee an emerging writer a full production, publication, commission and royalties, it receives 80 entries and is won by debut writer Dominic Mitchell (who will go on to win BAFTAs for his BBC show In The Flesh).
Foxfinder, written by Dawn King and directed by Blanche McIntyre, is a sensational hit, winning OffWestEnd and Critics’ Circle awards and being named in The Independent’s top 5 plays of the year; it will go on to premiere worldwide.
George becomes sole Artistic Director, with Chris Foxon joining as Executive Director; both continue to work multiple other jobs to support themselves.
Papatango receives its first Arts Council England grant.
Papatango becomes a registered charity.
Papatango launches the Resident Playwright scheme, winning a BBC Fellowship to commission May Sumbwanyambe, whose debut play After Independence will be directed by George in 2016, winning the Alfred Fagon Audience Award and being adapted by Papatango for BBC Radio 4.
The final Papatango New Writing Prize at the Finborough Theatre is won by Fiona Doyle’s Coolatully; it will go on to productions in America and Canada.
The Papatango New Writing Prize moves to Southwark Playhouse; that year’s winner, Tomcat by James Rushbrooke, is directed by Kate Hewitt, features an Olivier Award-winning cast and is nominated for multiple OffWestEnd awards.
The Papatango New Writing Prize receives over 1000 entries for the first time. Despite this volume, Papatango makes a new and unrivalled commitment: to give personal feedback to every entry, investing in grassroots playwrights across the country.
Papatango launches GoWrite, a completely free and accessible creative learning programme. Providing workshops, productions and publications in state schools, regional venues and community centres in every region of England, by 2021 it will reach over 3000 people a year and have developed or funded new productions in London, Newcastle, Bristol, Luton, Havant, Taunton, Plymouth, Bury St Edmunds, Liverpool, Manchester, Somerset, Devon, Dorset and even Copenhagen.
Papatango become the first non-venue-based company to win a Channel 4 Playwright’s Scheme bursary, commissioning new Resident Playwright Samantha Potter.
Chris and George become salaried, full-time staff – a significant achievement for a company founded with nothing, with every penny won from competitive funding applications or box office.
Papatango’s first national tour, of Hanna by Samantha Potter, is directed by George and visits 10 venues across England and Wales.
Papatango’s book Being A Playwright: A Career Guide For Writers is written by Chris and George and published by Nick Hern Books. Demystifying routes into playwriting and helping anyone break into theatre, it is an Amazon bestseller.
A symposium is held at London City Hall to mark Papatango’s tenth anniversary, with speakers including Sheila Atim, Lilli Geissendorfer, James Graham, Winsome Pinnock and Natasha Tripney.
Papatango’s first co-production, with English Touring Theatre, sees Iman Qureshi’s Prize-winning The Funeral Director premiere in London before touring to Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and Oxford.
Papatango commence WriteWest, following years of research and mapping of playwriting provision in South-West England (George’s home region). Working with a range of local partners, WriteWest redresses major gaps in provision and provides playwriting and producing resources – including productions and funding – in communities otherwise at risk of cultural exclusion.
Sarah Emily Parkes joins Papatango, initially as Assistant Producer and then as Education and Engagement Producer. The company continues to expand.
The final Papatango New Writing Prize at Southwark Playhouse is Shook by Samuel Bailey, directed by George. It is nominated for 7 OffWestEnd Awards and The Stage Debut Award, earns rave reviews and embarks on a sell-out national tour.
Papatango lead the industry’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, launching Isolated But Open: Voices From Across The Shutdown within 12 hours of theatres closing. This open-application scheme generates paid work for writers and actors, inspires over 2000 new short plays, and produces and publishes 12 in free digital streams watched by over 12000 people. This pioneers a digital response to venue closures. The recordings are later enshrined in the British Library’s permanent archive as a major cultural achievement.
The coronavirus pandemic forces the cancellation of Shook’s West End premiere. Instead, we collaborate with BAFTA-winning Hollywood director James Bobin to film the production, and release it on our own custom-built streaming platform. Named critic’s pick in The New York Times, it is watched in 24 countries and broadcast on Sky Arts. Samuel Bailey wins The Times Breakthrough Award – named the most promising emerging artist in any form – at the Sky Arts Awards in 2021.
The Papatango New Writing Prize receives over 1500 entries for the first time. It continues to be unique in offering feedback to all.
The Papatango New Writing Prize moves to the Bush Theatre, its first main stage. The production of the winner, Old Bridge by debut British-Bosnian playwright and refugee Igor Memic, directed by Selma Dimitrijevic, is postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic. It is also streamed digitally. A scheduled transfer to Amsterdam is cancelled due to a new coronavirus outbreak.
Papatango relocates to Gloucestershire, building on our longstanding commitment to South-West England (George’s home region, where he and two-thirds of our team live). Our new headquarters are in Cirencester.
The Papatango New Writing Prize is reimagined to respond to the ongoing closure of theatres. It expands to award three writers audio productions, publication and commissions, recruiting their casts and creatives from open applications. The winning plays by Nkenna Akunna, Tom Powell and Tajinder Singh Hayer tour to 15 venues in free listening stations, accompanied by braille scripts.
GoWrite expands to include free workshops in Pupil Referral Units and for refugee and carer groups. More people benefit from our completely free education offer than ever before.
George and Chris are named in The Stage 25, a select list of artists shaping theatre’s future.
George wins The Genesis Foundation Prize, using the £25,000 to launch a new commissioning model. The first year sees Shook playwright Samuel Bailey commissioned, with the support of director Sally Cookson and Bristol Old Vic, to write a new play for main stages.
Igor Memic wins Most Promising Playwright (shared jointly with Zadie Smith) at the Critics' Circle Awards, for Old Bridge.
Our production of Old Bridge wins an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.