Is it harder to break through as an emerging playwright over the age of 26?

“My advice would be not to write until after 35. You need some experience, and for life to knock you about a bit. Growing up is so hard you probably won’t have much emotion to spare anyway.”

Joanna Trollope

On Friday, I was asked to deliver a provocation on whether it’s harder to break through as an emerging playwright over the age of 26.

It was one of several questions posed by artists invited to the Ovalhouse Theatre, London, to speak as part of an event called This Thing Called Artist Development. The theatre wanted to hear from artists on the following questions:

What does Artist Development mean? Why is it important? And how could we all take a small bit of responsibility for it working a bit better?

The issue of ‘mature’ emerging playwrights is an important question that should be addressed, particularly as people are now changing careers later in life. Although I wholeheartedly support youth schemes for those under 25/26 and believe they’re vitally important, it’s easy for anyone trying to break through over that age to disappear into a funding black hole. With the funding cuts the arts seems to be becoming ever more marginalised, but there is something theatres can do to help, and that’s remove age criteria on their development schemes.

Late bloomers have an experience and wisdom that makes their work every bit as valuable.

On the day, I got strong responses in support of the topic, so it’s a question I thought it might be of benefit to share.

You can see my full 5 minute presentation on the topic here:



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