The History Boys named UK's favourite play

Back row: Russell Tovey, Andrew Knott, Jamie Parker Middle row: Samuel Anderson, Dominic Cooper, James Corden Front row: Sacha Dhawan, Samuel Barnett Alan Bennett's play is set in an English boys' grammar school

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Alan Bennett's The History Boys has been named the nation's favourite play.

The poll, commissioned by the English Touring Theatre to mark its 21st anniversary, asked people to vote for their favourite English language play.

Michael Frayn's farce within a farce, Noises Off, came second, followed by Shakespeare's Hamlet - one of four Shakespeare plays in the top 10.

The History Boys, first staged at the National Theatre in 2004, made stars of James Corden and Dominic Cooper.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner, and featuring Richard Griffiths in a lead role, it was adapted into a hit film in 2006.

Winning both Laurence Olivier and Tony Awards, the play follows a group of pupils at a northern grammar school as they prepare for their Oxbridge exams under the guidance of three eclectic teachers.

More than 7,000 theatregoers voted in the online poll, open to people in the UK and abroad. Musicals, adaptations and translations were not included.


1. The History Boys by Alan Bennett

2. Noises Off by Michael Frayn

3. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

4. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

5. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

6. Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth

7. An Inspector Calls by J B Priestley

8. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

9. Macbeth by William Shakespeare

10. King Lear by William Shakespeare

Alongside established classics such as Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, and JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls, modern plays including Sir Tom Stoppard's Arcadia and Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem featured in the top 10.

English Touring Theatre's director Rachel Tackley called the results "astonishing" - with more than 1,400 plays named by voters.

"It's wonderful that two such glorious playwrights as Alan Bennett and Michael Frayn sit alongside Shakespeare at the top of the list," she said, adding that it spoke "volumes about the health of British theatre and the variety on offer to audiences".

A regional analysis of the poll revealed that voters in the Midlands, East, North East and North West of England all favoured the Bennett play.

Scottish voters showed a preference for Priestley, and Welsh voters plumped for Sir Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.

Northern Ireland and the south-west of England both singled out Hamlet, while voters in London and the South East backed local boy Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem.

The English Touring Company plans to perform nine of the most popular plays in its coming 2014 season.

"I'm very much looking forward to announcing how, where and when English Touring Theatre will be presenting the most popular productions across the country," said Ms Tackley.

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