WhatsOnStage Logo
Home link

The top 20 characters from stage plays – as voted for by you

Audiences have spoken!

Some of the winning characters
© All except David Tennant: Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage, DT: RSC, photo by Ellie Kurttz

Last month we wanted to hear your list of favourite play characters, and the results are in!

The top 20 characters from stage plays are below, with the musical list to follow later today.

Time to find out who came "curious"-ly near the top, and who was happy to be (or not to be) in the top five! Some of these results even a psychic wouldn't predict – but after all, it's a public vote so you guys have to have your say.

In a funny twist of fate – the character of Juliet has also successfully managed to make both lists for stage plays and musicals (which is coming up in the next few hours) – only a few characters that would be able to full off such a feat!

Nb. a special shout-out must go to whoever voted for The Goose from War Horse.

20 - 11

20. Juliet – Romeo and Juliet
19. Johnny "Rooster" Byron – Jerusalem
18. Emilia – Emilia
17. Prospero – The Tempest
16. Abigail Williams – The Crucible
15. George – Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
14. Madame Arcati – Blithe Spirit
13. Jean Brodie – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
12. Olga – Three Sisters
11. Garry Essendine – Present Laughter

The top ten

10. Lady Macbeth – Macbeth

Beating out her bloodthirsty husband is the equally scheming and tortured Lady M – one of Shakespeare's most iconic characters.

9. Scorpius Malfoy – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Having Albus Potter's best friend at Hogwarts be the son of his father's school nemesis may have raised a few eyebrows when The Cursed Child first premiered, but Scorpius has won hearts and minds since the show premiered in the West End.

8. Willy Loman – Death of a Salesman

One of the most devastatingly brilliant performances last year was Wendell Pierce as the mighty Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, and the character is often considered one of Miller's finest. It's no surprise to see Loman on this list but we'd've expected he'd finish higher, in all honestly.

Wendell Pierce (Willy Loman) during the curtain call of Death of a Salesman
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

7. Inspector Goole – An Inspector Calls

The mysterious inspector is a terrifying, powerful figure in J B Priestley's play about blasé British attitudes among the upper classes before the First World War. He is a firm favourite in the UK school curriculum, so it's no surprise to see him here.

6. Vanya – Uncle Vanya

The disillusioned layabout in Chekhov's great play spends his days cooped up in an old house – a solid fit for the Covid times we live through. The West End revival received rave reviews when Toby Jones took on the titular role, so it's great to see the character honoured here.

5. Lady Bracknell – The Importance of Being Earnest

The handbag-clenching genre-defining dowager is as sharp as a knife and an iconic stage presence. She has some of the best lines in Earnest and it's no surprise to see her performing admirably well on this list.

Penelope Keith (Lady Bracknell) and Rebecca Night (Cecily Cardew) in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville Theatre
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

4. Beatrice – Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare's heroine pulls off some of the best verbal sparrings of any character not simply in her own time, but in the history of the stage. Coupled with her romantic partner Benedick, she is truly a crowd favourite.

3. Hamlet – Hamlet

He was close, but he did not deliver the goods! Shakespeare's trusty tragic figure will, ironically, not make it to the throne and instead has to settle for third place. Intriguingly, Ian McKellen is set to play the Dane soon in a new age-blind revival.

2. Christopher Boone – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The central figure in the gigantic stage production based on Mark Haddon's critically-acclaimed novel, Christopher uses his imagination to transform life into a kaleidoscopic journey of sensory excitement. The show aims to return for a new tour soon.

Gillian Anderson
© Johan Persson

1. Blanche DuBois – A Streetcar Named Desire

And in at number one is Tennessee Williams' tortured sister Blanche DuBois, who, escaping the horrors of her past, visits her sister and her new husband. The part has been brought to vivid life by the likes of Gillian Anderson, Maxine Peake or Rachel Weisz of late, in what is considered one of the most challenging roles out there.

Why does Blanche resonate so strongly in the UK today? What is the appeal of watching a once-wealthy figure cowed, isolated and desperately clinging to remnants of her old life? We could have dozens of possible explanations, but the fact Blanche is so multi-faceted is a testament to Williams' writing.