Celebrating Female Playwrights

To celebrate International Women’s Day, join us in an exploration into the past to highlight a few of the incredible female writers to have their shows featured at the Bush.

We have put together some fun-facts regarding these women, and the work they have created.

1) F*ck the Polar Bears, written by Tanya Ronder

Photo Credit: Helen Murray

Image by: Helen Murray

In 2015, Ronder brought her smart and funny new play about a family who have the world at their feet to address the pressing issue of climate change.

The play was inspired by anger
In an interview, Ronder claimed ‘One morning I saw a picture of a white man in his fifties who was the boss of a water company, taking home a massive, massive bonus, and I thought I really need to write into this to understand this man better […] So it came from a really (makes angry noise) start.’ We know that feeling…

The set was designed by the fabulous Chiara Stevenson
When asked to give advice to aspiring designers, Stevenson said: ‘I would advise any budding theatre designers to go for it. Take risks, stay up all night to get it done and stick with it. Don’t waver. Put in enough hours and you will succeed at it.’

Read more about the play in the Bush Education Pack

2) We Are Proud to Present…, written by Jackie Sibblies Drury

Image by Keith Pattinson

Image by Keith Pattinson

In 2014, Sibblies play premiered at the Bush Theatre, depicting the story of a group of actors trying to tell the little-known story of the first genocide of the 20th Century.

The play’s title is wonderfully wordy
The full-title is ‘We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915’.

Drury went on to be recognized for her incredible skill
She was awarded the 2019 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play Fairview, with a cash-price of $25,000.

3)Three Birds, written by Janice Okoh

Image by Jonathan Keenan

Image by Jonathan Keenan

In 2013, Okoh’s startling and darkly comic drama about childhood, family and fantasy transferred to the Bush.

Grief lies at the centre of the text
In an interview, Okoh claims that ‘Three Birds is about grieving, and about how people cope with it. We all cope in different ways, but everyone hates letting go.’

Read the article here.

Three Birds was a turning point Okoh’s career
The play won the the 2011 Bruntwood Prize, the UK’s biggest national competition for new writing.

Strong women were central to the project
Actress Susan Wokoma raved about director, Sarah Frankcom. She claimed ‘Three Birds was a very special experience, as I had to play a character who frightened me on paper[…] I think I managed to pull it off because director Sarah Frankcom is one of the best directors around right now. I had a ball on that show and gained a lot of confidence’.

Read the article here

4) Islands, written by Caroline Horton

Image by: Ed Collier

Image by: Ed Collier

In 2015, Horton brought her ink black comedy about tax havens, enormous greed, and the few who have it all to the Bush.

The play certainly rocked the boat
In her mission statement, Horton claims that the show ‘It’s about provoking disgust and horror about this ever so accepted, ever so establishment practice’. The play opened to huge controversy in its run at the Bush, sparking heady debate on its bright, grotesque satire.

Controversy didn’t dampen spirits
Horton and the production took backlash in their stride. In a retrospective interview with The Guardian, Horton claimed that the debates only further served as evidence for the necessity of subversive, uproarious and debate-inducing theatre.

Read the article here

5) Nine Parts of Desire, written by Heather Raffo


In 2003, Nine Parts of Desire opened at the Bush, challenging both the rapidly changing Iraqi feminine identity and the western view of what such women must be thinking.

The entire play was inspired by one piece of art
The show was inspired by the piece “Savagery” by Layla Al Attar displayed at the Saddam Art Centre.

The show was driven by a collaboration of female voices
Raffo constructed the play by piecing together interviews with Iraqi women from various social backgrounds, that she had carried out over 10 years.

6) Pumpgirl, written by Abbie Spallen


In 2006, Pumpgirl debuted at the Bush Theatre as an explosively comic play, taking the audience deep into the unspoken thoughts and darkest desires of three lives destined to collide.

The play earned Spallen huge success
It was a co-winner of the 2007 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

The awards didn’t stop there
Spallen went on to win the Windham-Campbell Prize, one of the world’s richest literary awards worth an astounding £118,000 (to compare, The Man Booker Prize is worth £50,000).

The play’s reputation lived on
Pumpgirl went on to an Off-Broadway transfer at the WP Theatre (previously Women’s Project Theatre). The venue serves as America’s oldest and largest theater company dedicated to developing, producing and promoting the work of women at every stage in their careers.

You can purchase these books in our Women’s History Month Bundle