Published: Thu 16 Nov 23

Verity Bargate Award-winner to premiere at Soho in spring

BOYS ON THE VERGE OF TEARS, the winner of our prestigious new writing award, will have its world premiere at Soho Theatre next spring. Tickets go on priority sale to members today, and on general sale this Friday.

A father waits for his son. Kids hang around skipping school. Fights break out after nights of drinking. Featuring six actors in multiple roles, the play is a bold, kaleidoscopic tale of violence and vulnerability, set entirely in the confines of a men’s public toilet.

Sam Grabiner’s ‘brutal, tender’ exploration of what it is to be a man is directed by James Macdonald, whose highly acclaimed productions include premieres by Caryl Churchill, Annie Baker and Sarah Kane. It is produced by Soho Theatre.

BOYS ON THE VERGE OF TEARS was selected from 1,500 entries to the Verity Bargate Award, which is sponsored by Character 7, the producers of The Night Manager and Culprits. The award’s main prize is a fully staged production at Soho Theatre.

The judging panel included industry experts James Graham (Dear England; The Crown), April de Angelis (Jumpy; Royal Court; West End), and BAFTA-nominated Theresa Ikoko (Girls). Previous panellists have included Phoebe Waller Bridge, Laura Wade and Russell T Davies.

Stephen Garrett, chair of the judging panel and founder of Character 7, said:

“There has never been a more urgent time to make sure that new, young, vibrant writers are heard. BOYS ON THE VERGE OF TEARS is a thrilling, zeitgeisty, provocative play, exactly the sort of work that the Verity Bargate Award was set up to champion. Sam is a dazzlingly original new voice. Character 7 could not be prouder to be a part of this.”

BOYS ON THE VERGE OF TEARS is Sam’s professional debut. He is a graduate of École Philippe Gaulier, and holds an MFA in playwrighting from Columbia School of the Arts, where he studied with the playwrights Lynn Nottage and David Henry Hwang. He is a MacDowell fellow, and his plays are published by Faber & Faber.

On bringing his play to Soho Theatre, he said:

“There’s something about the building that feels very fitting; it’s a loud play, all about the world we live in now. But it’s also really exciting to be bringing work that comes out of a playwrighting tradition to a theatre that has often been associated with one-person shows, comedy and cabaret. It feels like we are fitting into the identity of the theatre, but expanding that identity too.”

Launched in 1982, the Verity Bargate Award is Soho Theatre’s flagship playwrighting competition, sponsored by Character 7. It is one of the longest-established playwrighting awards in the UK and the only award to guarantee the winning play a fully staged production in one of Soho Theatre’s three spaces. The award honours Verity Bargate, Soho’s co-founder who passionately championed new writing during her time at the small but hugely influential fringe theatre company, Soho Poly.

For 50 years Soho Theatre has championed new writing, from lunch time plays in the 1970s to today’s commissions, attachments, Writers’ Labs and awards. Open to new and emerging UK and Irish writers, the Verity Bargate Award uncovers the best new plays and launches the careers of some of Britain’s most established playwrights and screenwriters. Previous winners and nominees include Sam Grabiner (for the forthcoming Boys on the Verge of Tears at Soho, 2024), Nathan Ellis (Super High Resolution at Soho, 2022), Amanda Wilkin (Shedding a Skin at Soho, 2021 & 2022), Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), Vicky Jones (Touch at Soho, 2019), Toby Whithouse (Doctor Who) and many, many more.

The biennial award is judged by a panel of industry experts and attracts approximately 1,500 submissions. Previous judges include Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Laura Wade, Theresa Ikoko, James Graham, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (all former Soho Theatre playwrights), screenwriter Russell T Davies, actress and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti (Hamnet, Life of Pi) and writer April De Angelis (Jumpy, Royal Court and West End). The award is chaired by Stephen Garrett, founder and Executive Chairman of Character 7, a multi-award-winning production company whose recent credits include The Night Manager, The Rook, The Undoing, and Culprits.

The Verity Bargate Award will next open for submissions in April 2024.


"A fearless, funny, heart-stopping play about being a boy and becoming a man"
April De Angelis
"Wild, thrilling, brutally honest and beautifully tender. This is a truly extraordinary new play"
Lucy Kirkwood