Discover the Top 10 Most-Performed Plays of 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What an exciting and historic year 2018 has been for us at Nick Hern Books! We celebrated our 30th Anniversary, hosted the inaugural Amateur Theatre Fest where we were joined by hundreds of passionate amateur theatre-makers for workshops and talks with leading names such as Mike Bartlett, Amanda Whittington and Jez Butterworth, and we've published more fantastic books and plays than ever before.

We know that you've been incredibly busy yourselves, as we've licensed thousands of performances of Nick Hern Books plays over the past 12 months! We can't wait to see the brilliant work you come up with next year, but for now let's take a look back and get inspired by our Top 10 Most-Performed Plays of 2018.

1. Nell Gwynn by Jessica Swale

Holding the top spot for the second year running, this explosive, extravagant, warm-hearted comedy is an unending delight. Boasting a large cast and a charming lead role for a female performer, Nell Gwynn won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. 'Bawdy and brilliant... a wonderful, warm-hearted and generous piece of theatrical history' The Stage


2. Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale

Jessica Swale holds the top two places in this list of exceptional plays to perform. Her moving, comical and eye-opening historical drama Blue Stockings is a defiant story of four young women fighting for education against the backdrop of women's suffrage. 'Cracking... leaves you astonished at the prejudices these educational pioneers had to overcome' Guardian


3. Ladies' Day by Amanda Whittington

This is the first of three fantastic, female-led plays on this list by Amanda Whittington. This high-spirited comedy about four likely lasses from the Hull fish docks on a day trip to the races has been a hit with amateur companies for years. With its warm heart, relatable soul and fabulous roles for women, it's not hard to see why. 'Exuberantly up-to-the-minute comedy' Guardian


4. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson

A gloriously funny makeover of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most celebrated Sherlock Holmes story, from the hit comedy team Peepolykus. The Hound of the Baskervilles is an energetic spoof, offering abundant opportunities for silly comedy and slapstick for three male performers. 'A masterclass in madcap energy… a fun and fresh Sherlock Holmes romp' The Stage


5. The Thrill of Love by Amanda Whittington

A gripping, female-led drama about Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Holding a place in our Top 10 for the fourth year running, The Thrill of Love dramatises an absorbing true story and takes a fresh look at the woman behind the headlines. 'Tense and engaging throughout... a triumph' The Stage


6. Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth's hugely acclaimed powerhouse of a play won the Evening Standard Award for Best Play and the Critics' Circle Award and WhatsOnStage Award for Best New Play. Jerusalem offers an outstanding lead role for a male performer, and an energetic cast of characters for a company of 14, plus a few chickens. 'Unarguably one of the best dramas of the twenty-first century' Guardian


7. Arabian Nights by Dominic Cooke

A simple and delightfully inventive re-telling of the stories from the Arabian Nights, with an original music score by Gary Yershon that can also be licensed for performance. Dominic Cooke's enchanting Arabian Nights was originally produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and has been hugely popular with amateur companies ever since. 'A truly magical piece of theatre that delights all the senses' WhatsOnStage


8. Handbagged by Moira Buffini

Opening the clasp on the antipathy between two giants of the twentieth century, Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher, Handbagged speculates on the relationship between these very powerful and private women. Brilliantly funny, and featuring two exceptional roles for female performers, this text is available as both a full-length and a one-act play. 'Hilarious and moving... raises serious questions about the balance of power' Guardian


9. Be My Baby by Amanda Whittington

Forcibly sent to a Mother-and-Baby Home, Mary has to cope with the dawning realisation that she will have to give her baby up for adoption whether she likes it or not. This poignant and moving drama about attitudes to teenage pregnancy in 1960s Britain is our most-performed all-female play this year. 'Immensely touching' The Times


10. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, adapted for the stage by Mike Kenny

This story of a prosperous Edwardian family who nearly lose everything captures the anxieties and exhilarations of childhood with great tenderness and insight. Mike Kenny's imaginative adaptation of the much-loved children's classic offers three plum roles for young performers, and is eminently suitable for schools, youth theatres and drama groups. 'This glorious adaptation never for a moment runs out of steam' Guardian


Take a look at more of our popular titles over on our Most Performed page, rounding up our Top 20 Plays to Perform. From Mike Bartlett's award-winning future history play King Charles III, to Sam Steiner's beautiful dystopian rom-com Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, to Ladies Down Under, Amanda Whittington's heart-warming sequel to Ladies' Day, we hope that these hit plays will inspire your search for your perfect next play to perform!

if you're interested in finding out more about these plays, or need any other help or advice, be sure to get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable Performing Rights team for information and to request your free inspection copy. Call us on 020 8749 4953 or email

Discover the Top 10 Most-Performed Plays of 2018