What makes a good play?

I’ve just been on another visit to Gaza, this time to Beit Hanoun and Rafah areas, where I ran a series of drama workshops with children. I’ve come back invigorated and brimming with ideas, and this is down, in no small part to the incredible energy, the creativity, and the life giving force that so many people have there. In the words of the Palestinian poet, Rafeef Ziadah, ‘We Palestinians teach the rest of the world life, sir!’

boys Beit Hanoun

I wanted to use these workshops as a way for children to generate some ideas for our five minute playwriting competition. We now have a large international panel of judges who will be assessing the plays after the deadline of 31st December, including some very well known actors and ELT methodology writers, and education specialists from Palestine and around the world. Many people have been asking me about the rules and assessment criteria for the plays. So here is a checklist of key points to remember when writing and performing your play…


  • The written version of the play (the script) and the video of the play must be sent to us by 31st December 2017.
  • The topic of the play is very flexible. It must be an original piece of writing done by students but it could be based on a traditional story, a story about a famous person, a proverb, a reflection on life in Palestine, or anything else really. Teachers may help learners in correcting and reformulating the students’ work.
  • The video of the play must be a maximum of 5 minutes long and it must have a maximum of 5 people acting in it (including narrators if these are used). All the actors must attend UNRWA or Ministry of Education schools and they must be under the age of 16 before the 31st December 2017
  • The main language of the play must be English.


The judges will pick one overall winner, and a number of runners up from those which comply with all the above rules, using the following criteria.

  • The ability to speak clearly and intelligibly in English, bearing in mind the international audience who will be watching the plays.
  • Being close enough to the camera so that other qualities of the play can be easily assessed.
  • The ability to tell a good story (using suspense, voice range, appropriate speed of delivery and pausing etc)
  • The ability to act (use of gesture and physicalisation, emotional engagement, interaction with the camera etc
  • If these other points are achieved then the level of English of the participants does not matter in terms of assessment. Learners with a low level of English could be the overall winners.

So here’s an example which in my view fulfills the performance criteria very well. It was done by Batool Sager, Zaheya Arafa and Salma Shammout in Khan Younis, Gaza and was directed by their teacher, Amal Mukhairez. I should emphasise that this is not an entry for the competition since it was not written by students but by me.

The judging panel are very much looking forward to seeing your plays. Good luck to everyone!

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