Top Ten Plays for 2015 revealed

Monday, February 01, 2016

What an exciting year 2015 has turned out to be!

There is a real appetite for new work, and we are so pleased that not only many new writers have made it onto our Top Ten list, but also that 70% of the writers most performed in 2015 are women – which is bucking the trend of female representation on stage elsewhere in the theatre.

Thank you for this brilliant endorsement of our writers, and thank you too for your loyalty – so many theatre companies return to us year after year which is wonderful.

Looking at these plays, what catches the eye most is the role ratio. If we take the minimum cast requirements from all ten plays, this leaves us with 43 roles for women, and 22 roles for men, which is nearly twice as many female roles than male.

At NHB Plays To Perform we have long been aware of the need for good drama that offers substantial (and multiple) roles for women. If you are not yet aware of our initiative with Tonic Theatre aimed at redressing the gender imbalance in the theatre by offering well-written dramas by award-winning writers with a majority of parts for women, please have a look at

What else does this list tell us?

Amanda Whittington is the undoubted queen of amateur dramatics, with three of her plays on the top ten list, her latest dark drama The Thrill of Love topping the chart; Jessica Swale is a contender for her crown with Blue Stockings at Number Two, and new play Nell Gwynn about to be released (write to me if you’re interested –; Dominic Cooke’s Arabian Nights remains ever popular, weaving its magic quite literally around the world. Kindertransport by Diane Samuels is being newly discovered as the current refugee crisis reminds us of other times of upheaval. Stones In His Pockets by Marie Jones has become available again and shot straight to Number Five. We then have two more of Amanda Whittington’s: Ladies’ Day and Be My Baby, and Conor McPherson’s atmospheric haunting tale The Weir follows close behind at Number Eight. Lilies on the Land by the Lions part looks at WWII’s Land Army Girl’s experiences through letters and interviews with the original girls while Evan Placey’s Girls Like That is a feminist trope about the challenges young people face with ever-developing technologies.

And here it is, in all its glory: our Nick Hern Books Top Ten Most Performed Plays of 2015 list:


1. The Thrill of Love by Amanda Whittington

A gripping drama about Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, which takes a fresh look at the woman behind the headlines and who she was trying to protect. ‘Tense and engaging throughout… a triumph’ The Stage.


2. Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale

Set in Girton College, Cambridge, in 1896, this is a moving, comical and eye-opening story of four young women fighting for education against the wider background of women’s suffrage. ‘Thoroughly researched and grippingly dramatised’ The Stage.


3. Arabian Nights by Dominic Cooke, with music by Gary Yershon

An imaginative adaptation of seven of the 1001 classic tales, including Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Sinbad the Sailor. ‘The best demonstration of the living power of theatre’ Observer.


4. Kindertransport by Diane Samuels

A modern classic about one woman’s struggle with her past – brutally separated from her German-Jewish parents at the age of 9 and brought to England with the promise of a new life… ‘A powerful contribution to Holocaust literature’


5. Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones

This hilarious multi-award-winning two-man show about the filming of a Hollywood epic in rural Ireland features a pair of film extras who take on all the roles themselves, including the role of the starlet. ‘Magical... a moving and heartfelt tribute’Guardian


6. Ladies’ Day by Amanda Whittington

A light-hearted comedy about four lasses from a fish-filleting factory in Hull, whose lives change forever when they find themselves at Royal Ascot the year it relocated to York. ‘Has all the warmth of a Calendar Girls or a Full Monty Yorkshire Post.


7. Be My Baby by Amanda Whittington

Set in a Mother-and-Baby Home in the Sixties, this is the moving story of young unmarried mothers sent away to have their babies in secret. A wonderful ensemble piece for younger female actors, with songs from the period by The Ronettes, The Dixie Cups and the Shangri-La’s ‘Immensely touching’ The Times.


8. The Weir by Conor McPherson

Spellbinding, beautifully observed multi-award-winning drama. In a remote rural pub, the local lads are swapping spooky stories to impress a young woman who recently moved to the area. But Valerie has her own tale to tell that’ll stop them all dead in their tracks. ‘The best play I’ve seen in years’ Sunday Telegraph


9. Lilies on the Land by the Lions part
A revealing, funny and wonderfully moving portrait of four women who sign up to join the Women’s Land Army during World War II, based on hundreds of letters and interviews with original Land Girls. ‘Impossible not to be awed.’ The Stage.


10. Girls Like That by Evan Placey

An urgent and explosive play that explores the pressures on young people today in the wake of advancing technology. When a naked photograph of Scarlett goes viral, she becomes the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons. ‘A well-written, immaculately crafted and brave piece of energetic theatre.’ A Younger Theatre

Top Ten Plays for 2015 revealed