Jessica Swale

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Jessica Swale
BornFebruary 1982 (age 39)[citation needed]
  • Playwright
  • Theatre director
  • Screenwriter

Jessica Swale is a British playwright, theatre director and screenwriter. Her first play, Blue Stockings, premiered at Shakespeare's Globe in 2013. It is widely performed by UK amateur companies and is also studied on the Drama GCSE syllabus. In 2016 her play Nell Gwynn won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, after it transferred from the Globe to the West End, starring Gemma Arterton as the eponymous heroine.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Reading, Berkshire, Swale completed her secondary education at Kendrick School, Reading, before studying drama at the University of Exeter. She completed her training at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (MA Advanced Theatre Practice), where she trained as a director.


After drama school, she worked as Max Stafford-Clark's associate director at Out of Joint, on productions including The Overwhelming at the National Theatre and Andersen's English at Hampstead. In 2006 she set up Red Handed Theatre Company with Katie Bonna, to perform new works and revive lost classics. She was nominated for an Evening Standard Award (Best Director) for her production of The Belle's Stratagem and received the Peter Brook Empty Space Award for Best Ensemble for Red Handed in 2012.

Swale is also an associate artist with NGO Youth Bridge Global, using theatre as a development tool in war-torn countries.

She is the author of a series of drama games books, published by Nick Hern.

Swale lives in South London with a photographer, Michael Wharley.

Stage directing[edit]

For Red Handed :The Busy Body, The Rivals, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me (Southwark Playhouse); The School for Scandal (Park Theatre) and Palace of the End (Arcola). Other credits include Fallen Angels (Salisbury Playhouse), Bedlam (Shakespeare's Globe), Winter (Theatre Newfoundland, Canada) and Sleuth, Sense and Sensibility and Far from the Madding Crowd (Watermill Theatre).


As a playwright, Swale's first play Blue Stockings premiered at Shakespeare's Globe in 2013 and won her an Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright nomination. Nell Gwynn premiered at Shakespeare's Globe in 2015, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and transferred to the West End starring Gemma Arterton. The production received four Olivier nominations, winning Best New Comedy, and is currently being developed as a feature film with Working Title.

Other plays includes All's Will that Ends Will (Bremen Shakespeare Company), Thomas Tallis (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), The Playhouse Apprentice (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse) and The Mission about illegal adoptions in the 1920s. Her adaptations include Sense and Sensibility, Far From the Madding Crowd (Watermill), The Secret Garden and Stig of the Dump (Grosvenor Park, Chester).


In 2012, she won the BAFTA JJ Screenwriting Bursary for which she developed an original screenplay, Summerland. She is currently[when?] writing the feature film Nell Gwynn for Working Title, alongside an original feature with Blueprint and Studio Canal and other projects for Fox Searchlight and Monumental Pictures.

Selected works[edit]




  • Drama Games: For Rehearsals (2016)[4]
  • Drama Games: For Devising (2012)[5]
  • Drama Games: For Classrooms and Workshops (2009)[6]


Directing credits[edit]


  1. ^ "Thomas Tallis by Jessica Swale featuring Harry Christophers' The Sixteen". Shakespeare's Globe.
  2. ^ "Blue Stockings By Jessica Swale". Shakespeare's Globe.
  3. ^ "The Secret Garden". Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. Summer 2014.
  4. ^ "Drama Games for Rehearsals". Nicky Hearn Books.
  5. ^ "Drama Games for Devising". Nick Hern Books.
  6. ^ "Drama Games for Classrooms and Workshops". Nick Hern Books.
  7. ^ "Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd". The Watermill Theatre.
  8. ^ "Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility". The Watermill Theatre.