Steve Waters

Steve Waters


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Personal profile


I am a playwright who works for stage, radio and screen; I am also very involved in the new playwriting scene and have written about the pedagogy of playwriting, the nature of plays and been a participant in shaping arts policy in this area; I have been described as ‘one of the UK’s most accomplished political playwrights’.

Having written The Contingency Plan, a diptych of plays in 2009 about climate change I have been at the forefront of artistic practice and reflection on climate change and was a co-convenor of the Writing and Science Project at UEA.  I returned to climate change with my solo show 'In a vulnerable place' performed in 2014-2015 and an AHRC Leadership Fellowship funded leave called 'The Song of the Reeds: Dramatising Conservation' which is an 18 month long collaboration with Wicken Fen and Strumpshaw Fen nature reserves.

I teach at undergraduate and post-graduate level in LDC and convene the MA in Creative Writing: Scriptwriting programme and supervise 5 Creative/Critical PhDs.


Work for the stage

Current and forthcoming

Dodo, Phoenix, Butterfly - three scenarios for the future, a collaboration with Rupert Read, Lucy Farrant, Kay Michael and Norwich Arts Centre; workshop version Norwich Arts Centre, July 2022; currently planning a tour for Spring 2024 supported by PVC Impact Fund

Translation/adaptation of Brecht's 'The Caucasian Chalk Crcle'  October 2022, Rose Theatre, Kingston, nominated for two Whatsonstage Awards

The Contingency Plan, revived and re-written for Sheffield Theatres, Oct-November 2022


Song of the Reed outputs for theatre:

'Murmurations' - site-specific play created in collaboration with Tangled Feet theatre company at Wicken Fen and Strumpshaw Fen, September 2021 and North Gare, Hartlepool, July 2022, nominated in top ten Outdoor Theatre shows by Outdoor Theatre conference

'Rothschild's Walk' - solo play performed at St Mary's Church Ely as part of Ely Literary Festival June 2021; UEA as part of CO26 theatre festival October 2021; Wicken Fen Jan 2022

'Voices from the Reeds' performed as site-specific show on UEA campus Autumn 2021 as part of COP26 festival


Other major theatre work

Adaptation of Giles Foden's 'The Last King of Scotland' for the stage, Sheffield Theatres Sept-Oct 2019, published Nick Hern Books

Limehouse (2017) Donmar Warehouse, pub NHB

The Play About Calais (2016) Cambridge Junction, epublished NHB

Temple (2015) Donmar Warehouse, pub NHB

Europa (2013) – October, 2013. Birmingham Rep in collaboration with theatres in Croatia, Germany and Poland. Published by Methuen/Bloomsbury, October 2013

Far From the Sea (June 2014) Three short plays for Theatre Absolute, Coventry

Why can’t we live together? July-November 2013; A one-act play for Menagerie Theatre company, Hotbed Festival Cambridge, performed at The Junction, Cambridge, The Mercury Theatre, Colchester, Soho Theatre and Theatre 503, London.

‘Ignorance/Jahiliyyah’, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 2012, published by Nick Hern Books
'Capernaum' - a short play in response to 'The Gospel According to Mark' for The Bush Theatre's '66 Books', October 2011,published by Oberon

'Little Platoons', The Bush theatre, 2011, published by Nick Hern books.
'Amphibians' with Offstage Theatre company, developed at the National Theatre Studio 2010, staged as site-specific show at The Bridewell Theatre in London, 2011
'The Contingency Plan' (On The Beach and Resilience)The Bush Theatre, London April-June, 2009; shortlisted for John Whiting Award, 2009; published by Nick Hern books; subsequent productions in the USA, Australia; adapted for Radio 3, broadcast December 2009;  adapted to Film by Film Four and Cowboy Film Productions.
'Scribblers' commissioned by National Theatre; currently in development with Out of Joint theatre company.
'Out of Your Knowledge', 2008, Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh and East Anglian tour (2007) by Menagerie Theatre Company.
'Fast Labour', West Yorkshire Playhouse and Hampstead Theatre (April-June 2008); published Nick Hern Books; longlisted for The John Whiting Award.
'06/07/05', for Arcola Theatre March 2007, ‘Miniaturist’ evening; also ‘Hotbed’ festival for Menagerie 2006.
'Flight without End' (adaptation of Joseph Roth’s novel) for LAMDA ‘long project’, May 2006.
'The Unthinkable', Sheffield Crucible Studio, Oct/Nov. 2004;published by Nick Hern Books.
'World Music', June 2003, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield transferred Donmar Warehouse, Feb/March 2004; published Nick Hern Books; runner up to Meyer-Whitworth Award 2004; translated into French, produced by TheatreFirst in Oakland California, May/June 2006.
'Habitats' translation/adaptation Philippe Minyana’s play The Gate Theatre, London, December 2002; published by Oberon books; revived at Tron Theatre, Glasgow, November 2004.
'After the Gods', Hampstead Theatre, May/June 2002,published by Faber; translated into German.
'English Journeys', Hampstead Theatre 1998; revived by Weaver-Hughes Theatre Company at Edinburgh Festival 2003.

Writing for Film/TV

Adapted 'The Contingency Plan' for Film 4/Cowboy Films

'Safe House' BBC4 2002

Writing for Radio 

HashTagPublicEnemy, a version of Ibsen's Enemy of the People, Radio 3 January 2023

Song of the Reed - 4-part seasonal drama series for Radio 4 recorded on location at Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk, starring Mark Rylance - June 2021- March 2022 (and on BBC Sounds), nominated for Best Series or Serial for BBC Audio Awards 2023

Miriam and Youssef, BBC World Service, 10 episodes April-July 2020, available on BBC Sounds

Fall of the Shah, BBC World Service, 9 episodes January-March 2019, available BBC Sounds and nominated for Best Fiction Podcast by British Podcasting Society 2020

Saving the Blue' R4 Afternoon play November 2017

'Deep Swimmer' R4 Afternoon play March 2016

'Scribblers' R3 July 2015

'Bretton Woods' R3 July 2014
'The Air Gap', Saturday play for Radio 4, October 6th 2012. 
‘Little Platoons’ Radio 4, June 18th as Saturday Play. 
‘The Contingency Plan’ broadcast Radio 3, December 2009.
‘The Parliament of Rooks’ , ‘From Fact to Fiction’, Radio 4, May 2009.
‘The Family Project’ broadcast on ‘The Verb’, Radio 3, March 2005.
‘The Moderniser’ afternoon play, Radio 4, September 2001.

Key Research Interests

Academic Writing

A Life in 16 Films: How Cinema Made a Playwright - Methuen/Bloomsbury, 2021

''An insistence in my mind': Pinter's Writing Ethic' in 'Harold Pinter - Stages, Networks, Collaborations ed Basil Chiasson and Catriona Fallow, Methuen, 2021

Edited and contributing to a forum in 'Contemporary Theatre Review' May 2013, ‘Teaching Playwriting’. 
‘Border Crossings’, paper at the University of Reading, September 2013
Contributed to ‘My First Play’, ed. Nick Hern, 2013, Nick Hern Books
'The Career of Playwrights' in 'Body of Work: 40 Years of UEA'.
Contributed to 'Close-Up Magic: 40 years at The Bush' to be published Autumn 2011.
‘Political Theatre: The Art of Thinking in Public’ for TOPOI, Autumn 2011.
‘The Secret Life of Plays’, Nick Hern Books, (2010).
‘Bergman’s Rigour’ and ‘Winchester Fragments’ in ‘Studies in Theatre and Performance’, June 2010.
‘The Pinter Paradigm’ in The Cambridge Companion to Pinter, ed. Raby, Peter (second edition), Cambridge (2008).
‘Sarah Kane: From Terror to Trauma’, Blackwells Companion to Modern Drama, ed. Luckhurst, Mary, Blackwells (2006).
‘The Proof of the Pudding:Teaching Practitioners’, Teaching Drama 11-18, ed. Nicholson, H., Cassell (2000).

Conferences/Impact Work

Convenor of 'Song of the Reed: Re-wilding Drama' conference at UEA July 10th 2022

Convenor of Writing and Climate Change: The Story so Far, May 25th, UEA
Contributor to ‘What do Playwrights Need? Event, University of Essex, October 2013
Running workshop for young playwrights at Arcola Theatre, London on dramatising climate change
Contributed to ‘Tipping Point’ forum on ‘Dramatising Climate Change’, March 2013
Founder member of ‘British Theatre Conference’ with David Edgar, Dan Rebellato, Janelle Reinelt and Julie Wilkinson; co-convenor of conferences:
‘Next Act: The Future of New Writing’ at MMU, November 2010.
‘2020: Teaching Playwriting’, at the University of Birmingham, March 2010 ‘All Together Now? Theatre after Multiculturalism’, University of Warwick, June 2009, ‘How was it for you? Theatre under Blair’, December 2007.
Co-author of report with BTC on Theatre Writing for The Arts Council, ‘Writ Large’, published 2009.
Interviewed by BBC World Service about theatre and climate change, February 2011.
Book launch event for The Secret Life of Plays at The Bush theatre, January 2011.
External examiner for BA in English/Drama and Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge 2010-2011.
Panellist at the Bush theatre on ‘Teachers to Playwrights’ January 2011.
Interviewed Steven Berkoff for Cambridge Word Festival November 2010.
Interviewed by Aleks Sierz for ‘TheatreVoice’ about The Secret Life of Plays (November 2010) and Fast Labour and new writing (May 2008).
Panel member at ICA on ‘Theatre and Climate Change’ July 2010.
Panel member on ‘Dramatising Climate Change’ at ‘High Tide’ festival in Halesworth, Suffolk, June 2010.
Talk on dramatizing Climate Change for CRASSH at the Faculty of English, Cambridge, November 2009.
Convenor of ‘From Fact to Fiction’ conference at Birmingham University, September 2007.
‘Heatmapping: dramatising climate change’ at conference on ‘Writing and Globalisation’ at Bath Spa University, March 2007.
‘The Career of the Playwright’ paper at conference at Manchester Metropolitan University, March 2007.
Gave paper on ‘Clare’s Walk’ at a conference on Historical Reconstruction, at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, October 2006.
Paper on ‘Drama and Stereotypes’ for CRASSH conference on ‘Stereotypes’, Cambridge, June 2005.
Reconstructing ‘The Golden Rump’; co-convened ‘Stage and State’ conference Cambridge, May 2004; paper on Henry Fielding; directed and wrote reconstruction of lost play The Golden Rump which prompted 1737 Stage Licensing Act.
‘Elective Affinities and Long Shadows: Intertextuality in Contemporary Playwriting’ paper given to ‘In-Yer-Face Theatre’ conference in University of the West of England, September 2002.


For The Guardian Theatre Blog:
‘Aristotle Knew Nothing about Theatre’ (September 2010), ‘Double Trouble: when writers direct’, ‘We need theatres not soulless complexes’, ‘Where are the Public Intellectuals?’, ‘Taking Liberties with Theatre’, ‘Can Theatre do anything about climate change? (Sept-November 2009).

For The Guardian ‘Comment and Analysis’ page: ‘Beyond the Theatre of Fact’ (Feb ’04); ‘The Case for Complexity’ (June ’04);‘Dangerous Minds’ (October ’04); ‘The Paralysis of Creation’ (Oct. ’06), ‘Narrative nailed.
Dead’ (Dec. ’06).

For New Statesman:
‘Where the SUV is king’ November 2006; ‘The Future Lasts a Long Time’ article on Louis Althusser June 2002; ‘In Theory: A Play on Words’ in The Times Higher Education Supplement June 2002.
‘Spot the Sign’ article on Roland Barthes for New Statesman in 1990;consultant on Late Show BBC 2 documentary on Barthes.


Workshop on ‘The Secret Life of Plays’, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, January 2013; also for Menagerie Theatre, Cambridge, July 2013
Co-running an Arvon week long workshop at Lumb Bank in August 2011 on ‘Dramatising Worlds’.
‘Associate Artist’ at Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, May-July 2011.
Honorary Teaching Fellow at Grinnell College, Iowa, USA, September 2010.
Talks on playwriting at University of York, January 2010, and University of Nottingham, November 2009.
Participant in ‘Coming Up’ a three-day development course for selected TV writers for Channel 4, August 2009.
Invitee to ‘Tipping Point’ conference, Oxford September 2008.
Co-ran a week long Arvon Writers Course on ‘Realism and Naturalism’ at Totleigh Barton, Devon, July 2008.
Participated in ‘Writing Space’ a weekend on narrative and theatre, University of Winchester, March 2008.
Resident playwright for LAMDA ‘long project’ 2005/6.
‘Attachments’ at National Theatre Studio July 2010, June 2003, summer 2005.
Ran day long workshop on playwriting at Chapter House theatre in Cardiff for Theatre Clwyd, Spring, 2007.
Ran workshop and led new writing scheme at ‘Hall for Cornwall’ theatre in Truro, December 2006.
Playwright tutor for Old Vic New Voices ‘Twenty-Four Hour Plays’ Scheme 2005.
Tutor for Theatre Royal, Haymarket Masterclass writing scheme July 2002-05.
Junior Judith E. Wilson Fellow 2000, University of Cambridge, Fellow Commoner at Jesus College.
Pearson Television Resident Playwright at Hampstead Theatre,1999-2000.
Led London New Writing Scheme for writers 14-18; with Hampstead Theatre 1999-2000.
Donmar Warehouse/Theatre Museum/Mousetrap Foundation workshops with teachers and students on playwriting 2000-2002.
Residency in Bury St Edmunds Upper School developing play with Year 10 students on Medicine for Creating the Debate Festival in June 2000 for Y-Touring/NT education.
2000/01 Year of the Artist residency at Drama Centre/Junction theatre Cambridge coordinating new writing projects in Writing the City initiative.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Media Expertise

  • Climate Change
  • Creative Writing
  • Drama
  • Environment