Plays by Lucy Kirkwood

Beauty and the Beast (adapt. Kirkwood)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's delightful version of the classic fairytale, first seen in a production devised and directed by Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre for Christmas 2010.

The theft of a single rose has monstrous consequences for Beauty and her father. Because this is no ordinary rose... and this is no ordinary fairytale. Narrated by a pair of mischievous fairies, a very helpful Rabbit, and a Thoughtsnatcher machine, this timeless story is sure to surprise, delight and enchant.

A wild and twisted tale, full of exciting and intriguing challenges for drama groups wishing to stage their own production.

Bloody Wimmin

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood’s Bloody Wimmin is a short play written for the Tricycle Theatre’s Women, Power and Politics season, staged at the Tricycle, London, in June–July 2010. The play examines the impact of the 1980s Greenham Common protests and the fight for nuclear disarmament. It was first performed at the Tricycle on 4 June 2010, in rep with short plays by Marie Jones, Moira Buffini and Rebecca Lenkiewicz.

It’s 1984 and the peace camp at Greenham Common is in full swing. Mother-to-be Helen is torn between her commitment to the cause of nuclear disarmament and her expectant husband back home. Twenty-five years later and her now adult son, James, is an environmental activist, railing against what he perceives as sexual exploitation in the way the media is covering their protests.

The Tricycle Theatre production was directed by Indhu Rubasingham with a cast including Niamh Cusack, Stella Gonet and Kika Markham.

The Children (Kirkwood)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's play The Children is a near-future drama about the aftermath of a catastrophe at a nuclear power station, exploring the responsibilities we have towards future generations. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London, on Thursday 17 November 2016.

The play is set in 'a small cottage on the east coast', where Hazel and Robin, two retired nuclear scientists in their sixties, are living in the wake of a disaster at the local power station where they used to work. Even though electricity is rationed and a Geiger counter is on hand to check for signs of radiation, they seek to preserve a semblance of normality: Robin now farms, while Hazel practises yoga and the pair keep in touch with their eldest daughter, Lauren. But when Rose, a fellow nuclear physicist whom they haven’t seen for 38 years, suddenly turns up, their precariously ordered existence is disrupted, and they are forced to consider the impact of their lives on the next generation.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by James Macdonald and designed by Miriam Buether, with Francesca Annis as Rose, Deborah Findlay as Hazel and Ron Cook as Robin.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A powerful play about international relations and the shifting balance of power between East and West, Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica is both a political examination and an engaging personal drama.

Tiananmen Square, 1989. As tanks roll through Beijing and soldiers hammer on his hotel door, Joe – a young American photojournalist – captures a piece of history with his camera: the moment when a lone man steps in front of the tanks.

New York, 2012. Joe is covering the presidential election, marred by debate over cheap labour and the outsourcing of American jobs to Chinese factories. When a cryptic message left in a Beijing newspaper suggests that the so-called 'tank man' is still alive and living in America, Joe is driven to discover the truth about the unknown hero he photographed.

The play asks urgent questions about the emergence of China as a global superpower, the impact and legacy of authoritarian government, and the decline of Western supremacy. It also explores the personal price paid by those who pursue the truth, whatever the cost.

Chimerica premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2013 in a co-production with theatre company Headlong. It was an immediate critical success, receiving a clutch of five-star reviews. It subsequently transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End in June 2013 and was awarded the Evening Standard, Critics' Circle and Olivier Awards for Best New Play as well as the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now is a play about modern-day sex trafficking. It was commissioned by Clean Break and first performed by the company at the Arcola Theatre in London on 7 October 2009.

The play centres on the lives of two women: young Croatian mother Dijana, who has been brought to England by a man called Babac, promising the world but eventually forcing her into prostitution; and Gloria, an opinionated West African migrant. Babac has told Dijana that once she has earned £20,000 she will be released from her duties and free to find the child she was forced to give up. Today she is only one client away from making the total she believes will earn her freedom.

The premiere at the Arcola Theatre was directed by Lucy Morrison and designed by Chloe Lamford, with Hara Yannas as Dijana and Madeline Appiah as Gloria. It was staged as a promenade production featuring a series of installations.

The play won the John Whiting Award in 2010 (jointly awarded with Tim Crouch's The Author).


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's Mosquitoes is a play about families and particle physics. It was first performed in the Dorfman auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 25 July 2017 (previews from 18 July).

The play revolves around the difficult relationship between two sisters: Alice and Jenny (age 41 and 39 respectively at the start of the play). Alice is a scientist based in Geneva, working on the Large Hadron Collider as it starts up in 2008, and is embarking on the most exciting work of her life, searching for the Higgs Boson particle. Her clever, if disturbed, son Luke is fiercely critical of the environmental consequences of his mother’s work. Jenny, meanwhile, lives in Luton, sells medical insurance, looks after their aged mum, Karen, and loses a baby daughter after scare stories about the MMR vaccine. When tragedy throws them together, the collision threatens them all with chaos.

The National Theatre production was directed by Rufus Norris and designed by Katrina Lindsay. It was performed by Olivia Williams (as Alice), Olivia Colman (as Jenny), Paul Hilton, Joseph Quinn (as Luke), Sofia Barclay, Amanda Boxer (as Karen), Yoli Fuller, Vanessa Emme, Cait Davis and Ira Mandela Siobhan.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's NSFW is a comedy satirising media attitudes to sexuality and personal privacy. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs on 25 October 2012.

The first part of the play is set in the editorial offices of Doghouse, a fictional lads mag that, amongst other things, runs photographs of topless women. It has just proudly unveiled the winner of its Local Lovely 2012 competition, sent in by a reader; but the buxom Carrie, 18, turns out to be only 14 years old, and her father is taking legal action. In an attempt to save the magazine (and his own career), Aidan, the editor of the magazine, sacks the well-meaning junior, Sam, who sanctioned the use of the shots. But Carrie's irate father is not so easily mollified...

In the second part of the play, Miranda, editor of a glossy women's mag called Electra, interviews the now-destitute Sam. As part of the interview she requires him to look at pictures of famous, glamorous women and identify their physical flaws, thus demonstrating her own, more insidious objectification of women.

The play's title refers to a website acronym meaning 'not safe for work', applied to online material (typically pornographic in nature) which the viewer may not want to be seen accessing in a public or formal setting such as work.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Simon Godwin and designed by Tom Pye, with a cast including Julian Barratt as Aidan, Sacha Dhawan as Sam and Janie Dee as Miranda.

small hours

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

small hours is a collaborative theatre piece created by playwrights Lucy Kirkwood and Ed Hime with theatre director Katie Mitchell. It explores, in a direct and immersive way, the claustrophobic world of a new mother struggling to cope on her own. It was first performed in the Michael Frayn Studio Theatre (downstairs) at the Hampstead Theatre, London, on 11 January 2011.

The play is written for a single female performer. An unnamed woman spends the night in a flat while her baby sleeps fitfully in the next room. The woman's husband is away and she cannot sleep. She talks on the phone. She watches TV. She hoovers. She dances to loud music. The neighbours bang on the walls and she is reduced to silence. Then her baby wakes. She leaves the room and soon the baby is crying no more. She returns. The show ends.

In her introduction to Lucy Kirkwood Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2016), Lucy Kirkwood writes: 'small hours was entirely inspired by a request from Katie Mitchell to write a one-woman show for downstairs at the Hampstead Theatre, with Franz Xaver Kroetz’s Request Programme as a reference. Ed Hime and I wrote it in Brussels, taking it in turns to type. ... [S]o many people at the time seemed bewildered by the idea of playwrights writing stage directions, not just dialogue. Here is the proof.'

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Katie Mitchell and designed by Alex Eales. It was performed by Sandy McDade.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood’s first full-length play, Tinderbox is a dystopian comedy set in a Bradford butcher's shop in a future version of England that is afflicted by riots and separated from Scotland by a 38-mile-wide Hadrian's Channel. The play was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 23 April 2008.

It is sometime in the 21st century, and England is crumbling into the sea. Perchik, an outlawed Scottish artist on the run from the police in Bradford, takes refuge in a traditional butcher's shop belonging to Londoner Saul Everard, a sadistic, bloodthirsty English patriot. Saul will do anything to preserve his little empire, including feeding his assistants into a cement-mixer to keep the meat supply running. Meanwhile Saul's good-natured but much-abused wife, Vanessa, acts out scenes from the X-rated movies in which she once appeared, and soon catches the eye of Perchik.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Josie Rourke with a cast including Bryan Dick as Perchik, Jamie Foreman as Saul and Sheridan Smith as Vanessa.

Picture of Lucy Kirkwood

Lucy Kirkwood is a multi-award-winning playwright and screenwriter. Her play Chimerica premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London, in 2013, in a co-production with theatre company Headlong. It transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End and won the Critics’ Circle, Evening Standard and Olivier Awards for Best New Play and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for best play in the English language by a female writer.

Her other work includes NSFW (Royal Court, 2012); small hours (co-written with Ed Hime; Hampstead Theatre, 2011); Beauty and the Beast (with Katie Mitchell, National Theatre, 2010); Bloody Wimmin, as part of Women, Power and Politics (Tricycle Theatre, 2010); it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now (Clean Break at the Arcola Theatre, 2009; winner of the John Whiting Award); Hedda (Gate Theatre, 2008) and Tinderbox (Bush Theatre, 2008).

Lucy Kirkwood’s work for television includes E4’s series Skins (2007-13) and her original series The Smoke (Kudos/Sky One, 2014). She was also the co-recipient of the inaugural Lee Berwin Award, designed to promote the craft of playwriting in the UK and the US.