My playwriting group in London Player-Playwrights hosted an excellent talk last night by Chris Campbell, deputy head of the literary department at the National Theatre. It was refreshing to hear how much effort they put into reading the 1500 or so unsolicited scripts they get every year. 'We're like a whaling factory ship, sucking up absolutely everything,' he told us. About 90 per cent are read in full -- which makes a nice contrast to the BBC, who seem to rely on reading synopses and treatments in stage one of their commissioning rounds for radio drama. The BBC is looking for writers it can use on its existing shows, at least for TV, and the National is looking for plays to put on -- which may sound a fairly meaningless distinction, but it isn't. Chris took us through the kind of plays that are suited to the Cottesloe, the Lyttelton and the Olivier stages. Plays for the Olivier have to put bums on the theatre's 1100 seats, but don't necessarily have to have enormous casts. They have to have big parts that will fill the theatre -- perhaps The Emperor Jones would be a good recent example of a play with a small cast but a huge central role. Other advice from Chris: the National isn't much interested in one-act plays or musicals (not at the moment, anyway) and is looking for plays that have something important to say. Don't write lengthy covering letters with your scripts -- they are more likely to do harm than good. Sometimes plays get passed on to other smaller theatres on the fringe who often ring up and ask if the National has any good plays that aren't quite right for its three stages or don't fit its programming. I was interested to hear that Chris played a large part in getting Clare Bayley's interesting revival of The Enchantment staged in the Cottesloe. I think we continue to disagree about the relative merits of Andrew Upton's version of Philistines and Gorky's original text, but no matter. Since Nick Hytner took over, the National's collective eye for a good play has improved a lot; Richard Eyre sometimes struggled to fill the Olivier with the right plays and Trevor Nunn, while a star in so many ways, wasn't a great judge of new writing. One further tip from Chris for aspiring playwrights hoping to improve their chances: avoid plays about Rasputin. There's one nameless author who has sent in 13 plays about the mad monk in the last 10 years and the team aren't reading any more!