The spiralling popularity of screen-to-stage adaptations calls for an investigationfunnytools via pixabay / Public Domain via

To stage or not to stage – that is the question prompted by my decision to binge-watch Inside Number 9, again, as the show promises a ‘theatrical experience like no other’ upon its arrival on the West End. The nation’s best-loved television shows are being adapted for the theatre more frequently than ever. Only Fools and Horses, Stranger Things, Spongebob Squarepants – you name it, it’s probably being revamped for Broadway right now. The spiralling popularity of screen-to-stage adaptations calls for an investigation into the recipe for their success.

I should start with a disclaimer. Obviously, the industry’s survival depends on major investment in homegrown talent, and filling theatres’ calendars with screen-to-stage adaptations makes it difficult for newer voices to flourish. At the same time, their domestic familiarity broadens the appeal of the theatre to wider audiences. But that’s what makes the relocation to the stage so risky: no armchair critic will pay to see their favourite TV show butchered centre stage.

“Can our favourite TV shows really withstand the scrutiny of the most discerning theatregoers?”

In theory, the theatrical imagination is boundless – but I think that these adaptations thrive best when reconstructing an already spatially small world. Although the stage feels much bigger than a television screen, it takes nerve to recreate such a tiny world under the spotlight’s magnification. It’s time to shift these claustrophobic screenscapes onto an imagined stage. Can our favourite TV shows really withstand the scrutiny of the most discerning theatregoers?


It might seem unconventional to stage a play in which eight of the ten characters are dead. But I’m sure there are plenty of theatre-bound spirits queuing up to be cast in Ghosts: The Musical – this queue just happens to be invisible to Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe), who cannot interact with the ghosts which Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) befriends. Staging the BBC sitcom would generate pantomime-esque tensions between the living and the dead: think ‘he’s behind you! ’, except he is an invisible Regency-era Romantic poet trying to seduce your wife. Our paranormal friends are already restricted to the grounds of Button House, so why not squeeze them onto a stage? (I’ll take any excuse for another Horrible Histories reunion).

Feel Good

Continuing the Charlotte Ritchie theme here: Mae already feels that their relationship only exists behind the closed doors of their apartment, so this cramped dynamic seems ripe for theatrical adaptation. The show’s fast-paced passion explores how space and seclusion interact, particularly for queer couples. Beginning on Channel 4 before Netflix renewed the romcom, Feel Good is no stranger to adaptation. By positioning the audience on an uncomfortable boundary between sympathy and voyeurism, we’d become another roommate, watching on as the drama unfolds – and what audience wouldn’t love to be aligned with Phil, the easygoing, worm-keeping lodger?

"The show’s exploration of the socioeconomic condition of rural England could be reshaped under a spotlight"

This Country

Fixed firmly in the rural Cotswolds, This Country is a mockumentary symptomatic of the small-town syndrome which confines Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe to their eccentric village. The show’s compactness is reflected in the real-life siblingship of our protagonists. Their bickering over an oven shelf should, rightly, be given an open-ended run, soundtracked by the offstage screeches of Kerry’s mum. In a political context, the show’s exploration of the socioeconomic condition of rural England could be reshaped under a spotlight, mapping the lives of these marginalised communities with a new sensitivity on the stage.

I May Destroy You

According to Metacritic, I May Destroy You was the most critically acclaimed television programme of 2020 – the brain behind the operation is Michaela Coel. Her Channel 4 sitcom, Chewing Gum, emerged from a stage play, so a reversal of this process would surely yield the same resulting masterpiece. Intensely psychological and often troubling, I think the series would make an excellent one-woman play, likely taking a similar form to that of Suzie Miller’s Prima Facie. Showcasing Coel’s talent for yoking comedy and tragedy together, a stage adaptation would make it impossible to look away from a story that deserves to be seen.

“Imagine experiencing an episode as a piece of immersive theatre”

Black Mirror

Offering short vignettes of near-future dystopias, Black Mirror unpacks the tensions between claustrophobia and the cosmic insignificance of humankind in terrifying ways. As already mentioned above, the BBC anthology series Inside Number 9, to which Black Mirror is closely compared, is already making the jump. We are yet to see if this is successful, as it makes its debut in 2025. Black Mirror has previously experimented with audience interaction through Bandersnatch: now, imagine experiencing an episode as a piece of immersive theatre… dare you actively participate in one of Charlie Brooker’s twisted narratives?


Mountain View

Fairview: the game-changing play shifting the way we watch theatre

So, while it’s clear we need to learn where to draw the line with screen-to-stage adaptations (I’m looking at you, The Great British Bake Off Musical), here are a few claustrophobic TV spheres which gesture towards their own successful adaptation. Perhaps these shows are coming to a stage near you. The prospect of a Black Mirror escape room experience will haunt me eternally (but I’d pay good money to see an all-Mucklowe cast in Waiting for Godot).