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The Greatest Play in the History of the World... transfers to Trafalgar Studio 2

The Greatest Play - Julie Hesmondhalgh. Photo by Jonathan Keenan.

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING its success at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018, one-woman show The Greatest Play in the History of the World… is transferring to the West End.

Performed by Julie Hesmondhalgh, this story of love and hope that transcends space and time runs at Trafalgar Studio 2 from November 26, 2019 to January 4, 2020.

The Greatest Play in the History of the World… takes audiences on a heartfelt journey that starts and ends in a small, unassuming house on a quiet suburban road.

Hesmondhalgh narrates this story of two neighbours and the people on their street, navigating the nuances of life, the possibilities of science and the meaning of love.

Written by the actress’s Bruntwood Award-winning writer husband Ian Kershaw (Coronation Street, Cold Feet, Shameless), the production reunites her with award-winning director Raz Shaw who she worked with on the critically-acclaimed production of WIT at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in 2016. Hesmondhalgh was awarded The Stage Edinburgh Award for her performance.

A man wakes in the middle of the night to discover that the world has stopped. Through the crack in his bedroom curtains he can see no signs of life at all…other than a light in the house opposite where a woman in an over-sized Bowie T-shirt stands, looking back at him…

Performer Julie Hesmondhalgh said: “I had a notion, a romantic notion, that my husband, the writer Ian Kershaw, should write a one woman show for me and we could tour it together into our dotage, like travelling troubadours (or something). A couple of Christmasses ago he kept disappearing to the cellar for an hour at a time, wrapping presents maybe, I thought.

“And then he presented me with this lovely thing. A beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one (literally!) about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark on the world (and maybe beyond) that shows us, the human race, in all its glorious messiness, confusion and joy. It was the best present I ever got.

“In these dark and confusing times, it offers a bit of love and hope. We hope it feels like a present from us to the audiences who come and see it at Trafalgar Studios.”

Julie Hesmondhalgh is best known for her award-winning portrayal of Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, a role she left after 16 years and for which she won multiple awards including an RTS Award for Best Performance (2013), a National TV Award for Best Serial Drama Performance (2014) and a Best Actress Award at the British Soap Awards (2014).

Her theatre credits include The Report with Lemn Sissay and God Bless the Child (Royal Court) and Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, Blindsided, WIT, The Almighty Sometimes and Mother Courage (Royal Exchange Theatre).

She has also starred in television shows including Catastrophe, Doctor Who, Broadchurch, Happy Valley and Black Roses (RTS Award for Best Actress 2015) and upcoming Glass Houses and The A Word (Series 3). Her film credits include Peterloo.

Ian Kershaw is an award-winning writer whose credits include The Mist in the Mirror, Star-Cross’d (Manchester Theatre Award winner), Union Street and Bread & Roses (all Oldham Coliseum). His television work includes Coronation Street, Cold Feet, EastEnders, Death In Paradise, Shameless, The Mill and the BBC2 film Castles in the Sky. Radio includes Lost & Found (Radio Academy Award winner) for BBC Radio 4.

Raz Shaw is an award-winning director whose credits include The Producers, WIT (Best Director – UK Theatre Awards 2016), Things of Dry Hours and The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek (all Royal Exchange Theatre), The God of Soho, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (P.E.N. Award) and Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare’s Globe), Wie Es Will Gefallt (Bremer Shakespeare Company), The Talented Mr Ripley (Theatre Royal, Northampton), Othello, Woman in Mind and Be My Baby (Salisbury Playhouse), Factory Girls and Torn (The Arcola) and Gambling (Royal Court/Soho Theatre).

Shaw’s first book, Death and the Elephant: How Cancer Saved My Life, was released last year.

The Greatest Play in the History of the World… was first produced in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

Produced by Tara Finney Productions, The Greatest Play in the History of the World… is designed by Naomi Kuyck-Cohen, with lighting by Jack Knowles and sound by Mark Melville.

Image: Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play. Photo by Jonathan Keenan.

Tickets: £35 (£20). o book, call the box office on 0844 871 7632 or visit

Times: 7.45pm, with Saturday performances at 3pm and 7pm (no shows on Sundays and on December 24 and 25 and January 1).

Also at Trafalgar Studios: New Perspectives’ adaptation of Chigozie Obioma’s Booker Prize-nominated novel, The Fishermen (September 3 to October 12) and Peter Nichols’ funny and moving masterpiece A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (September 21 to November 30, 2019).