1. Lovesong by Abi Morgan
Inspired by The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S Eliot, Abi Morgan weaves a heart-wrenching tale of a couple both at the beginning of their journey together and as they reach their final pages. It’s a story of life not always reaching your expectations but embracing the people who walk it with you. This was the first play we read in tandem and it cemented our knowledge that we share similar passions and hold the same desire to create poetic and touching stories about the nature of human relationships.
2. Red by John Logan
A passionate and intense story of the artist Mark Rothko and an apprentice of his. I (Suzy) just love John Logan’s language in this stark play. The exploration of art and philosophy which are revealed through such a graphic and vivid production made my mind buzz with inspiration both when reading this play and when seeing it performed. I also never cease to be amazed when I find out all the things John Logan has written (screenplay for Gladiator, Skyfall, Sweeney Todd, The Last Samurai, and yes, he’s even made it to another play on this list!).
3. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
A marriage becomes a battleground where lovers become disenchanted, cynical enemies tearing away the masks of their public faces. I (Jen) first read this play at about 16 and have often returned to it each time understanding more about these incredibly complex characters. What’s so inspiring to me is that the play is largely plotless, for me a captivating character is more important than anything else and it’s what I strive for in my own writing.
4. The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen
I (Suzy) was originally intrigued by this play back in my acting days (that didn’t last long!). It is a psychological play about the dangers of the imagination and the conflict of duty versus desire, which came at the heart of the transition from realism to symbolism. The characters are so intricate and relatable, whilst also being bizarre and ridiculous: the perfect combination for a gripping story.
5. Wasted by Kate Tempest
For me (Jen) Kate Tempest is the most inspiring writer walking on the planet – gushy I know, but I can never overstate just how incredible a talent I think she is. Wasted was her first play and is the story of three friends growing up in modern London. Written in the most incredible poetic structure, expertly weaving monologues between the three characters, it is a style that is simply enchanting.
6. W;t by Margaret Edson
No I (Suzy) didn’t misspell the title! It can also be written as Wit, but the version I went for encompasses the pedantic nature of the main character Dr Vivian Bearing who is an English Professor, diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The harsh duality of humour and pathos make this play one of my ultimate favourites. It’s ironic comparisons between the poetry of John Donne and the reality which is being faced are so clever that you find yourself laughing or crying at things you really didn’t expect.
7. All My Sons by Arthur Miller
I (Jen) am a huge fan of Miller and choosing just one of his works was very difficult! What ultimately led me to choose the story of The Kelly Family over all the others is it’s gripping exploration into the themes of morality & deceit and the complex interplay of family dynamics. I (Suzy) also had the pleasure of working on this play at The Watermill Theatre directed by Douglas Rintoul in 2014 and loved the dramatic unveiling of exposition throughout, very thrilling.
8. Peter and Alice by John Logan
Another play that captured both of us in its beautifully surreal world. We actually first watched this one together when it debuted in London back in 2013 and were both transfixed by the incredibly moving use of language and immediately had to read the script. It’s the story of the real life people who inspired the characters of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. The play explores their struggle with identity and ownership of their lives when the fictionalised versions of themselves become more celebrated than their own reality.
9. Play by Samuel Beckett
Yep, existentialism. It can be hit or miss if you like exploring it or not! I (Suzy) love delving into difficult questions, but of course there’s always limits as to what my head can handle! In this play, three figures are encased in urns with only their faces visible; they can neither see nor hear each other. The characters’ lines cleverly intertwine and overlap and form a story together. It is an interesting play about the uncertainty of existence and the importance of our own individual life story.
10. The Encounter by Complicite
A slightly different final number, neither of us have read the script but we were both so blown away by the performance that it became our main topic of conversation for about two weeks. It is the tale of a photographer/explorer “encountering” an Amazonian tribe told by one man and a breadth of sound technology. I (Jen) was lucky enough to be sat in the third row on opening night and have never been so transfixed by a moment (if you can call 2.5hrs of constant storytelling a moment!) it was one of those special times when you wish everything would slow down because you aren’t ready for the experience to become a memory yet. I (Suzy) only managed to catch the live stream of the production but still felt like I got the full effect of the show. The intimacy created by the use of headphones made it feel like Simon McBurney was whispering in my ears.
Have you read or seen any of these plays? Let us know what you think about them and tell us your favourites in the comments!