Plays by Jack Thorne

2nd May 1997

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's play 2nd May 1997 is a drama set over the course of the 1997 UK General Election in which the Labour Party under the leadership of Tony Blair won a landslide victory over the Conservatives. The play presents three separate personal stories from different points on the political spectrum as the scale of Labour's victory becomes clear. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 8 September 2009 in a co-production with nabokov theatre company, in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester.

The action takes place in three bedrooms over the course of the night following the election, and the morning after. In Part One, set just before midnight, Tory MP Robert prepares to attend the electoral count. With defeat looming large, he fears becoming a forgotten man, while his wife Marie counts the cost of her sacrifice to politics. In Part Two, set in the early hours of the morning, Lib Dem footsoldier Ian has brought home party-crasher Sarah from an election get-together, but they’re about to connect in a way neither of them expected. Lastly, in Part Three, teenage best friends Jake and Will wake up to a new political reality, with a new set of Cabinet ministers to memorise before their A-level Politics class. Jake dreams of Number 10 and a life in politics, while Will dreams of Jake.

In his introduction to Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes: '2nd May 1997 was and is my attempt to write a political play without the politics. ... I wanted to tell the story of that election from all sides. I was also frustrated by my inability to write a play about anyone else but me, so doing a triptych – inspired by David Eldridge’s Under the Blue Sky – felt like an opportunity to force myself outside of my comfort zone. Three political parties, three love stories, one night.'

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by George Perrin and designed by Hannah Clark. It was performed by James Barrett, Geoffrey Beevers, Linda Broughton, Jamie Samuel, Hugh Skinner and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The production then embarked on a regional UK tour.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Bunny is a coming-of-age drama for a solo female performer that tackles teenage sexuality, racism and gang culture. It was first produced by nabokov and Escalator East to Edinburgh in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Mercury Theatre, Colchester, at Underbelly Cowgate at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on 5 August 2010.

The play's action is narrated by eighteen-year-old Katie, an ordinary girl from Luton who plays clarinet in the orchestra and is applying for a place at university. When her boyfriend Abe, a black 24 year old, gets involved in a violent street altercation following a perceived racial slight, the situation escalates alarmingly. Katie finds herself in a car riding across the city as Abe and his mates Jake and Asif attempt a revenge attack. Amidst the baying for blood and the longing for love and excitement, Katie is forced to decide her future.

In his introduction to Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes: 'Bunny is my love note to Luton [where he lived for a number of years]. ... My local Post Office was run by a Pakistani gentleman, and twice I was standing in the queue behind two different young kids, looking quite confused about life, wearing English Defence League tops. The strange thing is, both were polite to the Pakistani shopkeeper, and he was polite back. I wanted to tell a story about that racial complication. How it’s not about race per se, but something much more intricate than that.'

The premiere production was directed by Joe Murphy and designed by Hannah Clark. It was performed by Rosie Wyatt, and featured projected line drawings by Jenny Turner (reproduced in the playtext). The production won a Fringe First Award and subsequently toured the UK from June 2011 before a run at Soho Theatre, London, in October 2011.

Burying Your Brother in the Pavement

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Burying Your Brother in the Pavement is a play that tackles the story of a teenage boy grieving for his dead brother with emotional honesty and imaginative flair. Written specifically for young people, it was commissioned as part of the 2008 National Theatre Connections Festival and premiered by youth theatres across the UK, including a performance at the National Theatre in July 2008.

The play revolves around Tom, 'an ordinary-looking teenager in his early teens'. He is first encountered hiding in the attic to escape the traumatic funeral wake for his brother, Luke, which is taking place in the house below. Luke died on the streets of the dingy, crime-ridden Tunstall Estate, his neck slashed by a broken bottle. The world outside, reflected through Tom's vivid imagination, is colourful and surreal: he is the second coming of Christ; his teacher, Mr Wilkins, has sex with a blow-up doll; people break out unexpectedly into music-hall routines. Tom hatches a plan to bury his brother under the pavement where he died, and camps out there, meeting a succession of characters: planning officials, tramps, undertakers, police officers, sisters, mothers, estate agents, ghosts, pavement elephants, sky dragons and a boy called Tight who wants to sell him a Travelcard. It transpires that Luke had sneaked off to the Tunstall Estate because he was secretly gay and had a crush on a poor boy there. In a further twist, Tom discovers that his brother's death wasn’t in fact a street crime but suicide born of shame. As the ghost of his dead brother says, “I felt crushed, so I crushed myself.”

In a production note accompanying the text, Thorne states: 'The most important thing is that this play is kept scruffy – nothing is beautiful – everything is quick and swiftly accomplished. This should look like a piece of theatre achieved on the bounce and stuffed full of life.'

the end of history…  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne’s play the end of history... is a domestic drama focussing on the lives of two political idealists and their children. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 27 June 2019.

The play is set in a family home in Newbury, Berkshire, belonging to married couple Sal and David. The first act, set in 1997, sees Sal trying to cook dinner for the family. She and David have pulled off a coup and gathered their three children back home for the weekend. Eldest son Carl is bringing his new girlfriend Harriet to meet everyone for the first time; middle daughter Polly is back from Cambridge University for the occasion; and youngest Tom, still at school, will hopefully make it out of detention in time for dinner. But Sal and David would rather feed their kids with leftist ideals and welfarism than fancy cuisine, and as the action skips forward, first to 2007, and then in the final act to 2017, the impact of their idealism on the younger generation is both critiqued and celebrated.

The premiere production was directed by John Tiffany and designed by Grace Smart. It was performed by Kate O’Flynn, Lesley Sharp, David Morrissey, Sam Swainsbury, Zoe Boyle and Laurie Davidson. 

Fanny and Faggot

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's play Fanny and Faggot presents two distinct moments in the life of Mary Bell, the eleven-year-old Newcastle girl who was convicted of the manslaughter of two toddlers in 1968. It was first performed at the Finborough Theatre, London, on 30 January 2007. (A version of the first part of the play, Two Little Boys, was staged at the Lift venue at the Pleasance as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2004).

The play is in two parts, which 'can be performed together or separately'. Part One: Two Little Boys is presented as an exercise in theatrical game playing, with two actors identified primarily with Mary Bell and with her friend Norma Bell (no relation, also involved but ultimately found not guilty of the crimes) playing childish games that gradually reveal the facts of the case. The two actresses step in and out of several other roles including judges, parents and abusers. Part Two: Superstar takes place ten years later in 1978. Mary and a friend from the open prison where she is serving her sentence abscond for the weekend to Blackpool, where they meet two young soldiers on leave from Northern Ireland.

The Finborough Theatre premiere was directed by Stephen Keyworth and designed by Georgia Lowe. It was performed by Sophie Fletcher, Elicia Daly, Diana May, Christopher Daley and Simon Darwen.

Greenland (Buffini, Charman, Skinner, Thorne)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

What on earth is happening to our planet? And who knows what to do? Certainties are few: every living thing is related to every other living thing; our actions have consequences; change is continual and inevitable.

The National Theatre asked four of the country's most exciting writers to investigate. The team spent six months interviewing key individuals from the worlds of science, politics, business and philosophy to create a fast-paced and provocative new play.

Greenland premiered at the National Theatre, London, in February 2011.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's play Hope is about the pressures on a local council to carry out funding cuts imposed by the government. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 26 November 2014.

The play's action is set in the present day (winter 2014), predominantly in and around a council office in a working-class town where the Labour council is faced with having to cut £22 million from its budget. Hilary, the pragmatic council leader, proposes cuts across the board, with the intention of sharing the misery. Mark, her deputy, is a thwarted idealist who fights for the library, the museum and street lighting. But a more urgent problem arises over the closure of a day centre for adults with learning difficulties. Gina, Mark’s ex-partner who runs the centre, organises a petition that becomes national news and embarrasses both the local authority and the Labour party. In a dramatically rebellious gesture designed to get themselves out of this policy hole, the council finally takes the rare step of refusing to sign off the budget at all.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by John Tiffany and designed by Tom Scutt. It was performed by Rudi Dharmlalingam, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Jo Eastwood, Christine Entwisle, Tom Georgeson, Stella Gonet, Paul Higgins, Tommy Knight and Nisha Nayar.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Junkyard is a play, with music by Stephen Warbeck, about the creation of a playground out of junk. It was first performed at Bristol Old Vic Theatre on 2 March 2017 (previews from 24 February), in a co-production between Headlong, Bristol Old Vic, Rose Theatre Kingston and Theatr Clwyd.

The play's action takes place in a playground in Lockleaze, Bristol, in 1979. A group of kids from a Bristol school, seen as misfits and disregarded simply for coming from troubled backgrounds, are invited by a man named Rick to join him in building an adventure playground on a plot the headmaster has earmarked for the new maths block. Initially suspicious of the project, they nonetheless hang about watching Rick at work, feigning lack of interest but making bonds. By the end of the summer, they would die to defend the playground, and one of them almost does.

In an Introduction to the published script, Jack Thorne writes that the play was inspired by his own father and the 'junk playground he built with some kids at Lockleaze School in Bristol... But Junkyard is not about my dad... Rather,

it’s an attempt to walk the high wire he walked – and to tell the truth about the type of kids who built these playgrounds, the places they come from, the lives they lead.'

The premiere production was directed by Jeremy Herrin and designed by Chiara Stephenson. It was performed by Scarlett Brookes, Calum Callaghan (as Rick), Josef Davies, Erin Doherty, Kevin McMonagle, Enyi Okoronkwo, Seyi Omooba, Lisa Palfrey, Jack Riddiford and Ciaran Alexander Stewart


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Mydidae is a play for two actors that lays bare a complex relationship over twenty-four hours. It was commissioned by DryWrite theatre company and first performed at Soho Theatre, London, on 5 December 2012.

The play, set entirely in a bathroom, follows a young couple – Marian and David – through the course of a day, from morning ablutions through to a horribly failed attempt at a candle-lit romantic bath in the evening and its chastened aftermath. It is gradually revealed that this is the anniversary of a devastating event, and the fissures in the couple's relationship are finally exposed.

The play's title derives from a family of short-lived stinging flies.

The premiere production was directed by Vicky Jones and designed by Amy Jane Cook, with PhoebeWaller-Bridge as Marian and Keir Charles as David. The production subsequently transferred to the Trafalgar Studios, London, on 5 March 2013.

In his introduction to Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes of Mydidae: '[The play] came out of my obsession with [actor] PhoebeWaller-Bridge. ... She and [theatre director] Vicky Jones came to me with a commission to write a play set in a bathroom. I thought I might enjoy that and said yes as long as Phoebe would be in it. ... I think it’s less a play about intimacy than about fear of intimacy. It’s a play about exposing your wounds to someone else and hoping they don’t say "You’re horrendous."'

Red Car, Blue Car

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Red Car, Blue Car is a short play about guilt, grief and responsibility. It was written for and first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, as part of their Where’s My Seat? season, in June 2011.

The play is structured as two overlapping monologues by characters, Phil and Marie, who are linked in a way that isn't immediately apparent. What appears to be the story of a couple who met on the internet and lived happily ever after is anything but. What they are in fact recounting is their separate experience of the night Marie's boyfriend is run over by Phil's car.

In an introduction published in Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes: 'Red Car, Blue Car came out of my time at the Bush [Theatre], the only place that’s ever felt like a theatrical home to me. If such a thing is possible. When the time came to move from the old building to the new, the great Josie Rourke [Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre] wanted to work out what the theatre could do, so she commissioned three writers to write three plays which could be staged in three different ways. To make things more complicated, she also gave us a set of props we had to include, and had luminaries of the theatre nominate stage directions which we had to include in the text. I cheated slightly by absorbing these into spoken word'.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Tamara Harvey and designed by Amy Cook and Lucy Osborne, with Hugo Speer as Phil and Nina Sosanya as Marie.

Jack's plays for the stage include Bunny (Underbelly, Edinburgh, 2010; Soho, 2011); 2nd May 1997 (Bush, 2009); When You Cure Me (Bush, 2005; Radio 3's Drama on Three, 2006); Fanny and Faggot (Pleasance, Edinburgh, 2004 and 2007; Finborough, 2007; English Theatre of Bruges, 2007; Trafalgar Studios, 2007); and Stacy (Tron, 2006; Arcola, 2007; Trafalgar Studios, 2007). His radio plays include Left at the Angel (Radio 4, 2007), an adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (2009), and an original play People Snogging in Public Places (Radio 3's Wire slot, 2009). He was a core writer in all three series of Skins (E4, Channel 4, BBC America), writing five episodes. His other TV writing includes The Fades, Shameless, Cast-Offs and the thirty-minute drama The Spastic King. He wrote the short film A Supermarket Love Song (shown at Sundance, 2006), and the feature film The Scouting Book for Boys, directed by Tom Harper (Film4, Celador and Screeneast, 2009), which won him the Star of London Best Newcomer Award at the London Film Festival 2009.