Sonia Friedman Productions, Screenstage and Granada Television.
In May 2005, Channel 4 launched a search for a new British playwright who will see their work produced in a West End theatre in early summer 2006. Previously un-produced writers were invited to submit their work for a four-part television series, THE PLAY'S THE THING.
Sonia Friedman agreed to take on this challenge in association with Channel 4. Sonia along with literary agent, Mel Kenyon and actor, Neil Pearson, have whittled down the submissions to a shortlist of three before the winning play is selected to be staged.
Viewers will gain unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the world of commercial theatre. The first three episodes of the series will be broadcast on 12th, 17th and 19th June 2006 and will follow the writers as they discover just how difficult it is to get a play – let alone a new play by a new writer – produced in the West End. With help from a variety of theatre professionals, however, their ideas will be developed and one of them will see their play staged. The fourth and final episode of the series will focus on the run-up to the world premiere, with transmission scheduled to coincide with the play's opening night.
London's West End theatres are world famous for their productions of musicals and revivals of classics but it is extremely rare for a new play to be produced in the West End. Most new plays, which go on to have commerical success, are transfers (usually from the subsidised sector), or have been produced in another context first.
"Theatre critics constantly bemoan the fact that there are not enough new plays in the West End," says Sonia Friedman. "I agree. Coming from a subsidised, new writing background but now working exclusively in the comercial sector, I find it frustrating that so few new plays premiere in the West End. The reason why is obvious: the financial risks are too high and the pressure to succeed is too intense. Therefore I am excited by the prospect of hunting for that exclusive new play from that first-time playwright, and then producing it to the highest standards and seeing if it is possible for the play to go on to enjoy critical and financial success."
The winning playwright will experience all the drama of public scrutiny and first-night nerves as the curtain goes up, not only on their stage debut, but their West End debut. Every step of the way has been filmed for the accompanying Channel 4 series from first day of rehearsals to set building to the opening night.
The winner of The Play’s the Thing was a Sonia Friedman Productions and Channel 4 co-production “ON THE THIRD DAY”, a new play by Kate Betts.
The series The Play's The Thing was commissioned by Jan Younghusband, C4's Commissioning Editor Arts and Performance, whose recent credits include awarding-winning and innovative arts series such as Operatunity and Musicality as well as the BAFTA nominated Howard Goodall's 20th Century Greats. The Play's The Thing is produced for C4 by ScreenStage and Granada, with Ben Gooldas Series Producer, and Simon Flind (ScreenStage) and Michele Carlisle (Granada) as Executive Producers.
"I am delighted to encourage new writing talent for the West End and to make a series with the professional theatre community in collaboration with Sonia Friedman," says Jan Younghusband. "She has an excellent track record for striking and innovative productions."