For those of you who are isolating and itching to get a good recomendation for a play to read then look no further. We’ve put together our top 10 plays to read while in isolation. This article is written during the craziness of the coronavirus which we hope will subside. Our parent company has published a collection of poems called “Sunshine in Your Pocket” by Denise Redford and 100% of the proceeds go towards Equity’s Benevolent Fund. Please consider buying the book if you want an uplifting collection of light-hearted poems – you’ll be donating to a good cause.
The theme of these plays is that they are a great read as well as a great production. The authors are known for their poetic and character-led soliloquies.
#10 Jerusalem – Jez Butterworth
Jez Butterworth writes a cracking, dark & witty play about a “vision of life in England’s green and pleasant land.” The play won the Evening Standard Award for Best Play when it aired. It also won the Critics Circle and Whatsonstage.com Awards for Best New Play. The play opened at the Jerwood Theatre of the Royal Court in 2009 with Mark Rylance as Johnny “Rooster” Byron.
#9 Look Back in Anger – John Osborne
It is unbelievable to think that this was John Osborne’s first play – he certainly made an impression with it. Look Back in Anger premiered in 1956 and changed the course of British Theatre in the process. Filled with quick dialogue and with a dark & ascerbic tone. Apart from being Osborne’s best play it is possibly the most impactful modern play ever written. It revolves around the tempestuous Jimmy Porter and is a cutting review of societies attitude towards the disaffected working-class.
#8 The Acid Test – Anya Reiss
Anya Reiss unveiled her stunning debut play “A Spur of the Moment” at the Royal Court theatre in 2009. She followed up with the equally well received The Acid Test in 2011. She won the Most Promising Playwright Award at both the Critics Circle and Evening Standard awards that year along with Best New Play at the TMAs. Reiss completed the prestigious Royal Court Young Writers Programme with the Guardian saying she “proves a wily observer of domestic disharmony.” This quick four hander delves into substance abuse, loss and coming to terms with adulthood.
#7 Country Music – Simon Stephens
Simon Stephens is as close to rock and roll music as you can get in theatre. Stephens taught the Young Writers’ Programme at the Royal Court for many years and is now the Artistic Associate at the Lyric Hammersmith. His first play debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1997 after he studied at the University of York. Country Music is a gritty look at escapism and premiered at the Royal Court in 2008. Filled with his razor-sharp dialogue it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
#6 Three Sisters – Anton Chekhov
Chekhov was a Russian playwright born in 1860 who wrote short fiction and is considered by many to be the greatest of modern history. He wrote some fantastic plays and none of them is more famous than Three Sisters. It premiered in 1901 at the Moscow Arts Theatre and was directed by the legendary Konstantin Stanislavski. Alongside The Cherry Orchard, The Seagul and Uncle Vanya these plays contain the restrined writings of a genius playwright.
#5 NSFW – Lucy Kirkwood
For those of you who don’t know, NSFW stands for “Not Safe For Work” and this play lives up to that original title. When it premiered in 2012 Michael Billington called it “bright, sharp, funny” which is a testament to Kirkwood’s electric dialogue. The play is an attempt to satirize media attitudes to sexuality and personal privacy. Whether watching in the theatre or reading alone you’ll be chuckling at the embarrassing moments and jaw-dropping scandals in this play.
#4 The Caretaker – Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter is known as one of the best British playwrights of the 20th century and The Caretaker was his first commercial success when it premiered in 1960. A Nobel Prize-winning author, Pinter wrote famous plays such as The Birthday Party (1957), Betrayal (1978) and Sleuth (2007). In The Caretaker Pinter delves deep into the dark avenues of the human psyche and showcases the best of his unique writing style.
#3 Posh – Laura Wade
Posh premiered at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs in 2010 and struck a note with the public during the ensuing general election that followed. After working at the Playbox Theatre and putting on 16 Winters at the Bristol Old Vic Basement Laura Wade went on to write Breathing Corpses and Other Hands which showed at the Soho Theatre and the Royal Court. Posh follows ten members of “The Riot Club”, an exclusive Oxford University dining club. The Riot Club film was later adapted from the laser-like dialogue in this play.
#2 Top girls – Caryl Churchill
Caryl Churchill wrote Top Girls in 1982 and took the theatre world by storm. At the time of writing this in 2020, she is considered one of, if not the, greatest living playwright. Top Girls was ranked by The Daily Telegraph as one of the 15 greatest plays ever written. The play follows Marlene, a career-driven woman who is concerned with women’s success in business. Churchill’s delving into the role that women play in society was groundbreaking at the time and inspired many playwrights in the latter half of the 20th century.
#1 Macbeth – William Shakespeare
Considered one of the greatest writers in the English language there are not many that match the prestige of William Shakespeare. Macbeth is not only a great play to watch but a fascinating read due to the pointed relevance it had to James I at the time. It dissects the dark corners of the mind and looks at the motivations that drive us all. Filled with ghosts, ghouls, prophecies, and war – Macbeth is a quick read that will remind you of why Shakespeare wasn’t all that bad writer.