Every year, we license thousands of amateur performances of NHB-published plays, helping amateur groups, schools, youth theatres and others create their own brilliant productions.
With over 1,500 titles on our list, there’s no shortage of options to choose from. However, there are certain shows we see companies are drawn to time and time again. We’ve looked back at the stats from the past twelve months, and put together a list of the shows we most often licensed for amateur performance in 2022. Can you guess which plays might feature? Read on to find out…
10. Wendy & Peter Pan by Ella Hickson
Cast: 4f 17m doubling (up to 6f 22m); version for smaller cast also available
First seen at the Royal Shakespeare Company, this delightful version of J.M. Barrie’s much-loved story puts the character of Wendy firmly centre stage, in an adaptation that is refreshingly modern but never loses the charm of the original.
With large and smaller cast versions available, it’s perfect for any theatre company or youth group looking to stage a classic tale, full of magic, adventure and strong female roles.
Loved this play? Take a look at: Swallows and Amazons, adapted by Helen Edmundson (with songs by Neil Hannon) from the novel by Arthur Ransome
9. Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales, adapted for the stage by Philip Wilson
Cast: first set: 4f 4m, doubling; second set 8f 8m doubling (entire script offers roles for 42f and 100m)
Full of deliciously dark twists and turns, master-storyteller Philip Pullman’s version of the classic tales brings them life in all their glittering, macabre brilliance. They’re a delight for children and adults alike.
The script offers dramatisations of twelve different tales arranged in two complementary groups – enough material for two complete productions – with the option to license as many as you want for your production.
Loved this play? Take a look at: Arabian Nights, adapted by Dominic Cooke
8. Machinal by Sophie Treadwell
Cast: 10f 14m, doubling
First seen on Broadway in 1928 – with numerous major professional revivals since – this is a powerful expressionist drama about the dependent status of women in an increasingly mechanised society. The author was a campaigning journalist in America between the wars, and this play is based on one of her assignments: a sensational murder involving Snyder, who with her lover, Judd Gray, had murdered her husband and gone to the electric chair.
In addition to the full-length version, authorised one-act and ten-minute abridgements of the play are also available for performance.
Loved this play? Take a look at: The Thrill of Love by Amanda Whittington
7. Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons by Sam Steiner
Cast: 1f 1m
The average person will speak 123,205,750 words in a lifetime. But what if there were a limit? A huge hit every year with student companies, this clever, funny play about language, relationships and connection is the perfect easy-to-stage, easy-to-love studio show for any group.
First seen at Warwick Arts Centre and the National Student Drama Festival, it has gone on to draw sold-out audiences at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in London and elsewhere – with a West End transfer, starring Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner, opening in January 2023.
Loved this play? Take a look at: Lava by James Fritz
6. The Hound of the Baskervilles, adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson from the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle
Cast: 3m (playing various roles)
Packed full of verbal and visual ingenuity, this gloriously funny makeover of the most celebrated Sherlock Holmes story always ranks amongst our most popular shows for amateur performance!
It’s easy to see why: with three actors playing multiple roles, and offering abundant opportunities for silly comedy and slapstick, this perennially popular show is a guaranteed good time for groups and audiences alike.
Loved this play? Take a look at: Jeeves & Wooster in ‘Perfect Nonsense’, adapted by The Goodale Brothers from the works of P.G. Wodehouse
5. Nell Gwynn by Jessica Swale
Cast: 5-7f 7m
London, 1660. King Charles II has exploded onto the scene with a love of all things loud, extravagant and sexy. And at Drury Lane, a young Nell Gwynn is causing stirrings amongst the theatregoers. This exhilarating play charts the rise of an unlikely heroine, from her roots in Coal Yard Alley to her success as Britain’s most celebrated actress, and her hard-won place in the heart of the King.
First seen at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, later transferred to London’s West End – where it won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. It’s been beloved by amateur groups ever since its release.
Loved this play? Take a look at: Anne Boleyn by Howard Brenton
4. Brainstorm by Ned Glasier, Emily Lim and Company Three
Cast: flexible – as big or small as required
Created by an award-winning youth-theatre group in collaboration with neuroscientists, this is a unique theatrical investigation into how teenagers’ brains work, and why they’re designed by evolution to be the way they are. The play is designed to draw directly on and incorporate the personal experiences of the young people taking part – meaning no two productions are ever the same!
The published version contains a series of exercises, resources and activities to help your school, youth-theatre group or young company create and perform your own, unique Brainstorm. It also features the complete script of Company Three’s original production which played at Park Theatre and the National Theatre, London.
Loved this play? Take a look at: The Changing Room by Chris Bush
3. Around the World in 80 Days, adapted by Laura Eason from the novel by Jules Verne
Cast: 3f 5m, doubling (very large cast possible)
Join fabulously wealthy Victorian gentleman Phileas Fogg and his hapless valet Passepartout as they set out on a dazzling, dizzying journey around the globe – from the misty alleys of London to the exotic subcontinent and on to the Wild West – on a succession of trains, steamers, a wind-propelled sledge and an elephant.
Packing in more than fifty unforgettable characters, this imaginative version of the classic novel was originally written for an ensemble cast of eight, but can be performed by a much larger cast – making it perfect for any theatre company or drama group looking for a high-spirited adventure.
Loved this play? Take a look at: Dracula: The Bloody Truth by Le Navet Bete and John Nicholson, adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker
2. Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale
Cast: 8-10f 8-14m (plus 2 extras)
A regular fixture near the top of our Most-Performed list, this is a moving, comical and eye-opening story of young women fighting for education and self-determination against the larger backdrop of women’s suffrage. Set in 1890s Cambridge, the play follows the course of one tumultuous academic year as Tess and her fellow first years at Girton College battle for the right to graduate – and overcome the hurdles in their way.
First seen at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, Blue Stockings is regularly performed by amateur groups, schools and others around the world. Accompanying music by Laura Forrest-Hay is also available for companies to license.
Loved this play? Take a look at: Emilia by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
1. Ladies’ Day by Amanda Whittington
Cast: 4f 1m (doubling, or up to 6m)
This exuberant comedy, about four likely lasses from the Hull fish docks on a day trip to the races, has been a permanent fixture on the amateur-theatre scene for fifteen years now – and returned to the top of our Most-Performed list in 2022.
Audiences and groups have long loved following the exploits of fish-filleting foursome Pearl, Jan, Shelley and Linda – and in addition to the hilarious sequel Ladies Down Under (which also ranks in our top 20 most-performed shows!), a third play in the series, Ladies Unleashed, is now available for performance.
Loved this play? Take a look at: Di and Viv and Rose by Amelia Bullmore
A word from NHB’s Performing Rights Manager, Tamara von Werthern…
Nobody loves a Top Ten more than me, but this one is especially exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly it rounds off the first year since the lockdowns of the pandemic and gives us a clear indication that amateur theatre is back and thriving. Secondly, it’s such a wonderful selection of plays, which shows off the variety and range that exists in the amateur community.
From fairy tales to neuroscience, slapstick humour to state-of-the-nation, historical drama, to finger-on-the-pulse present-day commentary, there’s something here for everyone. Thank you to everyone who staged one of our plays in 2022! It’s been a pleasure working with you, looking forward to hearing from you in 2023.
Congratulations to all of the NHB authors whose shows made our Top 10 Most-Performed plays. To see the full, extended list – featuring lots more well-known names, plus some exciting new entries – head to our website.
Thanks so much to all of the ambitious, passionate amateur companies whom we helped create fantastic productions in 2022. We’re always inspired to see your incredible work, and can’t wait to help you stage more brilliant shows this year, too.