Asa Haynes, Joe Kerridge, Melis Aker, Rachel-Mae Brady and Shona Bukola Babayemi are announced as the 503Five, Theatre503’s pioneering programme for early career playwrights. Established in 2009, the 503Five is a scheme for UK-based writers who have developed their craft to a high standard but are not yet professionally produced.
Chosen from 400 applicants, the 503Five each receive a £2,000 seed commission to write their full-length professional debut, as well as creative support from Theatre503 over 18 months. The 503Five is made possible through the support of the Philip Carne MBE and Christine Carne, and The Orseis Trust.
Previous 503Five commissions include Yasmin Joseph’s award-winning J’Ouvert, which transferred to the West End, won the James Tait Black Prize 2020, and was screened by BBC Arts in 2021; Ross Willis’ Wolfie – winner of the 2020 Writers’ Guild Award for Best New Play; and the Olivier Award-winning Rotterdam by Jon Brittain. The 503Five has yielded two Evening Standard Award winners, an Olivier Award winner, and a BAFTA nominee. To date it has launched 30 playwrights who are now writing for a wide range of stage and screen productions.
Zak Zarashan’s 503Five commission The Boys are Kissing, produced in January 2023, was a finalist for Best Writer at The Stage Debut Awards, Most Promising New Playwright at the Offies, and Best New Writing at the London Pub Theatre Magazine Awards.
On the impact and importance of the 503Five, Zak Zarafshan says: "The 503Five has been the highlight of my writing career. Theatre503's commitment to championing new artists, voices and stories is second to none. It is a truly unique and career-defining opportunity, where you are welcomed into a family and have your wildest ambitions encouraged by a team whose generosity is boundless.”
Steve Harper, Theatre503’s Literary Manager says: “We are excited to see our new 503Five build upon the impeccable level set by the alumni of the scheme. In terms of our new writers’ unique voices and diverse forms, they promise to enrich and challenge how we work as a theatre, and through their commissioned plays offer us global stories that dive deep into what it is to be human in the 21st century.”
INTRODUCING THE 503FIVE:
Asa Haynes is a writer and actor from South London. Since graduating from the BA Acting Course at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, they have focused on writing. They were shortlisted for the 2023 Yale Drama Series for their play RACISM: an unfocused theatre essay and were subsequently invited to be one of the first fellows on the Substratum residency led by Jeremy O.Harris.
Joe Kerridge is a writer from South East London. His work has been performed at Sheffield Theatres, MAC Birmingham, STYX and VAULT Festival, where he won an Innovation Award, as well as rehearsed readings at the Almeida & Albany theatres. He has been longlisted for the Verity Bargate Award, Theatre503 International Playwriting Award, and Papatango Prize. He is a graduate of the Royal Court Theatre Writers' Programme & recently developed an original drama series with BBC London Voices 2023.
Melis Aker is a writer, actor and musician from Turkey based between London and New York. She currently has a series in development with Skybound Entertainment, and is the recipient of the Sundance Interdisciplinary Program grant and the New York Community Trust/Van Lier Fellowship. She was recently named the LaunchPad resident playwright at the Signature Theatre Company.
Rachel-Mae Brady is an Irish writer living in Brighton. Also a theatre director, she co-runs new writing theatre company Savage Heart with Joy Forsythe and was an actor for over ten years. Her autobiographical solo show Wolf Tamer was a finalist for New Writing South’s Best New Play Award and Voice Magazine Best Newcomer Award in Brighton, and was shortlisted for the International Stephanie Lehr Playwriting Competition. Rachel was on attachment with Oxford Playhouse for the Playhouse Playmaker scheme in 2019.
Shona Bukola Babayemi is a Writer and Actor of Nigerian heritage, born and bred in London. She is alumna to the Royal Court Writers’ programme in 2019/2020 as well as the Soho Theatre Labs 2022/2023. Her play boxes has been shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award 2023 for Best New Play of the Year.
The 503Five alumni are: Dare Aiyegbayo, Mahad Ali, Jon Berry, Brad Birch, Jon Brittain, Ella Greenhill, Charlene James, Annie Jenkins, Yasmin Joseph, Chris Hogg, Tabby Lamb, Gemma Langford, Benedict Lombe, Zak Zarafshan, Richard Marsh, Sorcha McCaffrey, Brian Mullin, Rex Obano, Neasa O'Callaghan, Vinay Patel, Lou Ramsden, Nimer Rashed, Martha Reed, Kaamil Shah, Beth Steel, Joel Tan, Chloe Todd Fordham, Chris Urch, Ross Willis and Aisha Zia.