Plays by Ella Hickson

The Authorised Kate Bane

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson’s The Authorised Kate Bane is a play about families and how we're defined by shared family memories, both real and invented. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 12 October 2012 in a production by Grid Iron Theatre Company.

Kate Bane, a 30-year-old playwright, returns home to her parents' house in Kelso, Scotland, for a winter weekend to introduce her new boyfriend, Albin. As the snow falls, she finds herself searching with increasing desperation for the truth about her family’s past. Are her memories fact, or are they continually shifting acts of imagination? Unable to pin down the truth, she attempts to write a version of the family mythology that might ensure her own future happiness.

The playtext indicates four different settings: Kate’s flat in London, where she is writing a play; the imagined Bane family home in Kelso, where the action of Kate's play takes place; Kate's memory; and edited versions of the play as Kate rewrites it.

The premiere production was directed by Ben Harrison and designed by Becky Minto. The cast was Nicky Elliott, Jenny Hulse, Anne Kidd and Sean Scanlan.

The production transferred to the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, with performances from 30 October 2012.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's play Boys is about a group of young men making the tricky transition from university to adult life. It was first performed at the HighTide Festival, Halesworth, Suffolk, on 3 May 2012, before transferring to the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, and Soho Theatre, London.

The play is set in the kitchen of a student flat in Edinburgh over an unusually hot summer. The class of 2011 are about to graduate and Benny, Mack, Timp and Cam are due out of their flat. Hedonistic Timp has been stuck in a dead-end job for as long as he can remember whilst Cam is struggling with the pressures of a nascent classical music career. Benny is just trying to make sure everyone is alright, much to the chagrin of cynical Mack. Stepping into a world that doesn’t want them, these boys start to wonder if there’s any point in getting any older. Before all that, though, they’re going to have one hell of a party.

The premiere production was directed by Robert Icke and designed by Chloe Lamford. The cast was Samuel Edward Cook, Danny Kirrane, Lorn Macdonald, Tom Mothersdale, Alison O’Donnell and Eve Ponsonby.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's Eight is a play comprising eight monologues which together offer a state-of-the-nation group portrait of a generation growing up amidst a consumerist boom. It was first performed at Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh, during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on 2 August 2008.

The eight different characters in the play (there is a ninth, Buttons, included in the published script) range in age from seventeen to their early thirties. Each of them, as Hickson writes in an introduction to the published script, is the product of 'a world in which the central value system is based on an ethic of commercial, aesthetic and sexual excess'. Millie is a jolly-hockey-sticks prostitute mourning the loss of the good old British class system. Miles is a survivor of the 7 July London Tube bombings. Danny is an ex-squaddie who makes friends in morgues. Teenager Jude finds himself attracted to an alluring older woman. André’s boyfriend has just committed suicide. Bobby is struggling to make ends meet for her two young children. Mona is trying to keep her secrets safe from prying eyes. Astrid is cheating on her boyfriend. Buttons is being released from jail tomorrow, having served ten years.

The premiere production was directed by Ella Hickson and designed by David Lookin. The cast was Henry Peters as Danny, Simon Ginty as Jude, Michael Whitham as André, Holly McLay as Bobby, Alice Bonifacio as Mona, Solomon Mousley as Miles, Ishbel McFarlane as Millie and Gwendolen von Einsiedel as Astrid.

In each performance of this production, only four of the monologues were performed, selected by the audience. As Hickson describes in her introduction, 'When I directed the first production of the play, I offered the audience short character descriptions of all eight characters before the play began. I then asked them to vote for the four characters whom they wanted to see. As the audience entered the auditorium, all eight characters were lined up across the front of the stage – but only the four characters with the highest number of votes would perform. The other four characters would remain onstage, reminding the audience that in each choice we make we are also choosing to leave something behind.' Hickson also gives her rationale for staging the production in this way: 'One of the central characteristics of the commercial world that Eight explores is ‘choice culture’. From channel-surfing to Catch-Up TV and X-Factor voting – we are a choosy bunch, we get what we want when we want it. Eight reflects this in its set-up.'

The play was awarded a Fringe First Award and the Carol Tambor ‘Best of Edinburgh’ Award.

The production transferred to Performance Space 122, New York, as part of the COIL Festival, on 6 January 2009, and Trafalgar Studios, London, on 6 July 2009.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson’s short play Gift was first performed as part of Decade, a cycle of plays commissioned and produced by Headlong, at Commodity Quay, St Katharine Docks, London, on 1 September 2011.

The play is set in the present day, in New York City. Jason is from Panama but grew up in the southern states of America. With his dark skin, he can pass as an Arab. He works as a gift shop attendant at The Tribute Centre at the former World Trade Centre, which operates guided tours of Ground Zero. He takes a particular interest in certain vulnerable women who come for the guided tours, offering them comfort and solace in return for sex.

The Headlong production of Decade was directed by Rupert Goold and designed by Miriam Buether, and performed by an ensemble cast.

Hot Mess

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson’s Hot Mess is a dark, lyrical play about twins who share a single heart, examining contemporary society's paradoxical need for emotional connection and sex without emotional investment. It was first performed at the Hawke & Hunter Below Stairs Nightclub, Edinburgh, on 6 August 2010, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Twins Polo and Twitch were born with only one heart between them. Twitch was the lucky recipient and therefore cannot stop falling in love. Polo, on the other hand, is literally heartless – a cold and clinical creature who shies away from intimacy of any kind. As they return to the island of their birth for their twenty-fifth birthdays, they meet up with Twitch’s new American boyfriend, Billy, and her feisty best friend, Jacks, for a night on the town and some trips down memory lane.

The premiere production was directed by Ella Hickson with Gwendolen Chatfield as Twitch, Michael Whitham as Polo, Kerri Hall as Jacks and Solomon Mousley as Billy.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's Oil is a play about the global implications of our dependency on oil, and tackles subjects including empire, energy and the environment, as well as mother-daughter relationships. It was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 14 October 2016 (previews from 7 October).

The play's action spans 150 years, beginning in Cornwall in 1889, proceeding via Tehran in 1908 and Hampstead in 1970, to Baghdad in 2021, and finally returning to Cornwall in the year 2051. The action focuses on a woman called May and her daughter Amy, who age as the play progresses but whose lives seem uncoupled from calendar time. We first see May as a 19th-century Cornish farmer’s wife, three months pregnant. When a mysterious American salesman arrives at her isolated, freezing, candle-lit home, his demonstration of the newly invented kerosene lamp lights something within her, and soon she is off to pursue her destiny, resurfacing at key junctures in the history of the oil industry. In Part Two, she is working as a servant in 1908 Tehran, at a time when the British are desperate to exploit Persia’s natural resources. By 1970, in Part Three, she has risen to become CEO of an international oil company threatened by Libya’s proposal to nationalise its assets. But, as May rises in the world, difficulties with her daughter Amy intensify and become deeply problematic as they head into a nightmarish future.

The Almeida Theatre premiere was directed by Carrie Cracknell and designed by Vicki Mortimer. It was performed by Anne-Marie Duff (as May), Yolanda Kettle (as Amy), Nabil Elouahabi, Brian Ferguson, Ellie Haddington, Patrick Kennedy, Tom Mothersdale, Lara Sawalha, Sam Swann and Christina Tam.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson’s short play PMQ, created with Gwendolen Chatfield, was first performed as part of Coalition at Theatre503, London, in November 2010.

The play is set in a Westminster dressing room, where Prime Minister Dave is nervously preparing for his first ever bout of Prime Minister's Questions. As he rehearses his lines, he is continually mocked and interrupted by Speaker, a young woman who sits in a large green-leather armchair suspended high above the floor, strumming a guitar.

The Theatre503 production was directed by James Dacre and performed by Gwendolen Chatfield and Richard Lintern. 

Precious Little Talent

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's Precious Little Talent is a play about the struggle of young people in their twenties to find their way in an increasingly hostile world. It was first performed at the Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh, on 6 August 2009, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The play begins in New York in December 2008. Joey, a 23-year-old English woman with a first-class degree and £20,000 worth of debt, has just been fired from her waitressing job, so she has come to New York on a whim to visit her estranged father, George. Once there, she discovers that he's suffering from dementia. George's carer is an American teenager called Sam, as optimistic in outlook as Joey is cynical. They fall in love, leaving Joey with a choice of returning to the rat race in London or staying in America.

The premiere production was directed by Ella Hickson with Emma Hiddleston as Joey, John McColl as George and Simon Ginty as Sam.

A revised, full-length production opened at the Trafalgar Studios, London, on 5 April 2011, directed by James Dacre and designed by Lucy Osborne. The cast was Anthony Welsh as Sam, Olivia Hallinan as Joey and Ian Gelder as George.

Wendy & Peter Pan

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's version of J.M. Barrie's much-loved story puts the character of Wendy firmly centre stage and is thoroughly modern in tone, but retains much of the detail of Barrie's original play and subsequent novel. It was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and first performed in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 10 December 2013. It was revived by the company in this revised version on 17 November 2015.

The play opens in the winter of 1908 in the children's nursery of the Darling family in London. When Wendy's youngest brother, Tom, dies of a fever, the family are consumed by grief. Wendy becomes convinced that her 'lost' brother is in a place called Neverland, and sets off with the mischievous Peter Pan and her two other brothers – Michael and John – to bring him back. Once in Neverland, Peter Pan proves unable to protect Wendy from the assaults of her female rivals: a fairy called Tink, and the surly Tiger Lily. But the three girls eventually bond and become infinitely more effective than Peter in defeating the villainous Captain Hook.

The premiere production was directed by Jonathan Munby and designed by Colin Richmond. It was performed by Fiona Button (as Wendy), Jolyon Coy, Brodie Ross, Colin Ryan, Rebecca Johnson, Andrew Woodall, Arthur Kyeyune, Sam Swann (as Peter Pan), Charlotte Mills (as Tink), Josh Williams, Jack Monaghan, Dafydd Llyr Thomas, Will Merrick, Guy Henry (as Captain Hook), Gregory Gudgeon, Guy Rhys, Richard Clews, Dodger Phillips, Andrew Woodall, Jamie Wilkes, Michelle Asante (as Tiger Lily), Simon Carroll-Jones, Matt Costain, Susan Hingley, Emily Holt and Jack Horner.

The 2015 revival (with the same director) was performed by Simon Carroll-Jones, Cavan Clarke, Sam Clemmett, James Corrigan, Darrell D’Silva (as Captain Hook), Mariah Gale (as Wendy), Adam Gillen, Susan Hingley, Jack Horner, Rebecca Johnson, Paul Kemp, Arthur Kyeyune, David Langham, Douggie McMeekin, Jordan Metcalfe, Charlotte Mills (as Tink), Mimi Ndiweni (as Tiger Lily), Dodger Phillips, Laura Prior, Rhys Rusbatch (as Peter Pan), Patrick Toomey, Harry Waller, Lawrence Walker, Jay Webb and Dan Wheeler.

The Writer  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson’s play The Writer is a meta-theatrical drama about a young writer who challenges the status quo but discovers that creative gain comes at a personal cost. It was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 24 April 2018 (previews from 14 April).

The play starts in a theatre auditorium with an encounter between a Young Woman, who has come to watch a play, and an Older Man, who is part of the theatrical establishment. Pushed to say if she enjoyed the play, the Young Woman concedes that she has a different view of theatre from that which prevails: she sees it as a sacred space with a political purpose, and rails against the patriarchal orthodoxy that sexualises female performers and fails to reflect real life. The Older Man responds by suggesting she might write something herself, and in subsequent scenes, operating at several different levels of reality, we see how the suggestion plays out as the Writer faces up to the many obstacles in the way of realising her vision.

The Almeida Theatre production was directed by Blanche McIntyre and designed by Anna Fleischle. It was performed by Romola Garai, Michael Gould, Lara Rossi and Samuel West. 

Picture of Ella Hickson

© Casarotto Ramsay & Associates Ltd

Ella Hickson’s debut play Eight (Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2008) won a Fringe First, the Carol Tambor ‘Best of Edinburgh’ Award and was nominated for an Evening Standard Award. It transferred to the Trafalgar Studios, London, and PS122, New York.

Her other plays include an adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan called Wendy and Peter Pan (RSC, 2013); Boys (Headlong/Nuffield Theatre/HighTide, 2012); The Authorised Kate Bane (Traverse Theatre, 2012); Precious Little Talent (Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh Festival and Trafalgar Studios, 2011); PMQ as part of Coalition (Theatre 503, 2010); Soup (Òran Mór, 2010) and Hot Mess (Hawke & Hunter, Edinburgh and Latitude Festival, 2010).

Ella Hickson has also written plays for radio and her short film, Hold On Me premiered at the 55th BFI London Film Festival in 2011.

Ella completed an MA in creative writing at the University of Edinburgh and spent a year working with the Traverse Theatre as their Emerging Playwright on Attachment. She was the 2011 Pearson Playwright in Residence for the Lyric Hammersmith and was the recipient of the 2013 Catherine Johnson Award.