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8 pucker plays to read now

Here's a novel idea! Plymouth's Laureate of Words, Laura Horton, is exhorting us to read a play over a book for World Book Day 2022. These are her top picks.

Looking for a new read this spring? Muddy was chatting to author and playwright, Laura Horton (above), Plymouth Laureate of Words (yes, Plymouth has a Laureate!) when she mentioned she thought more people should read playwrights. We love to get our head stuck in a good novel, so why not plays?

Laura says plays are perfect for anyone too busy to get the theatre or who maybe doesn’t have a theatre nearby, and is a cheaper, but equally fulfilling way of getting your theatre fix. Plus, Muddy’s thinking is often they’re shorter reads than a novel, so ace for fitting into a busy schedule.

So, with World Book Day this week (Thursday 3 March 2022) we asked Laura to come up with her all-time favourite plays. Here’s her pick of the page-turners…and a chance to get your mitts on a free copy of Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful.

The Flick by Annie Baker

This is set in a run down cinema in Massachusetts where three ushers do the humdrum and tedious work needed to keep it afloat. I love Baker’s slow and deliberate style of writing and the dialogue is sizzling.

Ear for Eye by Debbie Tucker Green

Debbie Tucker Green’s Ear for Eye is a wonderfully experimental play, following characters navigating their way through society today. It reveals experiences of protest; violence vs non-violence, direct action vs demonstrations.

Dance Nation by Clare Barron

This is terrific. Barron plays with form in really interesting ways as the play follows an ensemble of young dancers taking part in a competition, following each character to the showcase denouement. 

Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine

One of my all-time favourites, Willy Rusell’s play sees Shirley leaving the mundanity of her life, reigniting her dreams on a trip to Greece – it’s very funny.

Fabric by Abi Zakarian

A searing monologue – a nuanced and moving play about one woman’s experience of sexual violence and trauma. It cleverly breaks down how a million little things – seemingly harmless – can result in one terrible act.   

Emilia by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm

About the seventeenth-century poet Emilia Bassano Lanier, Shakespeare’s muse and more importantly the first woman to publish a book of poetry in England. It’s extremely rousing; when I read it with a friend we held hands and welled up at the final speech.

Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls

An absolute classic. Written in the 80s, the play is just as resonant today as it was when first staged. It’s ingeniously crafted to explore what it takes for women to be successful and at what cost. 

Her Naked Skin by Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Centred around a love-affair between two suffragettes from different socio-economic backgrounds in 1913 this beautiful play melds the micro and macro with the historic backdrop of suffragism in a magnetic way.

Want more playwright inspo?

Laura will be unveiling a new modern plays section at Plymouth’s Proprietary Library, donated by Concord Theatricals and Paines Plough and reading from her new play, Breathless, on Thurs 3 March

The stage is also set for more from Laura at Plymouth Central Library on April 23, World Book Night. For more information, visit @plymlibraries and @laurachorton.

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