Best One Person Plays

27th February 2023

Best One Person Plays
Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

When you are searching for plays for one person and need some guidance, then you have come to the right place. We are to give you the best one person plays to check out and take your career to the next level. They can be exhilarating and you earn a great deal about yourself from them. So let’s stuck in and see which is the best. 

One Person Plays

This is a performance of a play that is acted out by one person. There can be a full set to work with or the stage can be completely blank. It really depends on the style and themes of the piece the creator is trying to evoke. I have seen both one man plays and one woman plays in my time which have nothing to work with as it were, just one solitary stool and I have been completely transfixed by their performances.  

One person shows mean that all the responsibility is given to the performer, in terms of carrying the whole show, with the use of physical expression, narration, effects – if this is something you would want to use. And the actor will be on stage for the entirety of the show, and speak directly to the audience, compared to using the other characters as their main focus point. The fourth wall is completely broken and they must keep the audience’s attention for the whole show. So in all, it takes a lot of guts and energy to perform a one person play. Let’s see who has managed to do genre justice. 

Fleabag – Phoebe Waller-Bridge (2013) 

If you have been a fan of the tv series, then you will probably know that the show was first a play performed by Waller-Bridge back in 2013 at the Edinburgh fringe. I will be forever gutted not to have seen this one person show live, but it was shown online during the pandemic which I got the chance to see. If you don’t know the story – where have you been?! – it centres on a woman living her life, who also owns a guinea pig cafe. Her strained relationships with her family and friends, her sex life and all delivered in a rip-roaring unfiltered, comedic tone made it a hit. We see her struggling to keep afloat and we find resonance within the themes of the play. After the hit of the tv series between 2016 – 2019, there was a sold-out run in New York in 2019, it transferred to Wyndhams theatre in the west End in the same year. 

Prima Facie – Suzie Miller (2019)

We all know Jodie Comer from the hit tv show Killing Eve – again if this name is new to you, where have you been?! In this knockout of a one person play, and a female led one person show may I add, Jodie was a hit amongst critics and audiences. The play will be transferring over to Broadway in the Spring of this year, with Jodie in the titular role of Tessa once again. The story is about a barrister called Tessa who has fought her way up through the legal system to get where she is, overcoming gender and class inequalities. She loves to win. Her career has been made up of defending, cross examining and lighting up the shadows of doubt in any case. An unexpected event forces her to confront the lines where the patriarchal power of the law, burden of proof and morals diverge. 

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit – Nassim Soleimanpour (2010)

This ingenious concept for a play, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit revolves around a different actor playing the solo role each night. They have not been able to see the play beforehand and they are given it in a sealed envelope on the night of the show. There is no director, no set, no rehearsal and it is a purely cold performance by the actor in all its entirety. With its off- broadway run in 2017, it has been performed by the likes of John Hurt, Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane, Stephen Rea, Sinead Cusack, Marcus Brigstocke, Dominic West and even film director Ken Loach. It is about contemporary Iran and of Nassim’s generation. A generation born amidst the hardship of the Iran-Iraq war. A generation of computer-literate, well-informed young people who have never known an Iran other than the Islamic Republic. I would love to tell you more, but having not seen the play and it is supposed to be kept under wraps, you will have to see when it is next on and find out the synopsis for yourselves. 

Krapp’s Last Tape – Samuel Beckett (1958)

The solitary figure within this play, written by Samuel Beckett, is named Krapp, who on his 69th birthday revisits tapes recorded by his younger self in which he encountered a life of lost hope, despair and regret. It was even delivered by the great Harold Pinter in 2006, and is one to keep your eye out for if it is being performed anywhere. It was inspired by Beckett’s experience of listening to Magee reading extracts from Molloy and From an Abandoned Work on the BBC Third Programme in December 1957. There are plenty of characters mentioned in the play, such as ‘the girl in the punt’, ‘krapp’s mother’, Krapp (as a boy) and even the the tape recorder, Beckett has applied character to non-human elements in the play, and even asked actor Pierre Chabert in his 1975 Paris production of the play ‘to become as much as possible one body with the machine. 

Death of England – Clint Dyer and Roy Williams (2020)

A family in mourning. A man in crisis. After the death of his dad, Michael is powerless and angry.

In a state of heartbreak, he confronts the difficult truths about his father’s legacy and the country that shaped him. At the funeral, unannounced and unprepared, Michael decides it is time to speak.

Rafe Spall performed this fearless one-person play which asks explosive and enduring questions about identity, race and class in Britain in 2020 at The National Theatre to rave reviews. ‘Rafe Spall dazzles. This is truly a play for today.’ / ‘An electrifying, turbo-charged, powerhouse performance.’   I would truly love to see a performance of this play when it is on again. This one person play was performed just before covid hit, so Rafe was lucky to be able to be part of it before the whole world shut down. You could say that it would mirror a future to come. 

A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf (1929)

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction…” ‘Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is a key feminist text, a monologue, that explores the relationship between women and literature and economics. It is a signal essay when considering the history of modernist studies after the Second World War, when very few female authors were admitted to the academy’s discussion of modernism, and Woolf’s reputation itself was quite low among critics. It is itself a critical piece about authenticity in a male dominated world in terms of literature and art. It is classed as a vital feminist work, one that was performed by Eileen Atkin in 1991. Woolf addressed the status of women, and women artists in particular, in this famous essay. According to Woolf, centuries of prejudice and financial and educational disadvantages have inhibited women’s creativity.

Closing Thoughts

Now, I do realize that there are many more one person plays that we haven’t had the chance to discuss here today, but I hope I have given you a brief insight into the genre and maybe you will take up one of these yourselves to perform this year. We need exceptional writers, directors and actors to bring them to life. They are intimate, engaging pieces of theatre and long may they continue. 

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