"A play should give you something to think about. When I see a play and understand it the first time, then I know it can't be much good." —- T. S. Eliot
Secrets, Lies & Spies
Based on the true story of two women code breakers, Mavis Lever and Margaret Rock, at Bletchley Park, this play by Lou Beckett is set in the early years of WWII. Tension mounts early on in the play, since, with Germany having defeated six countries in nine months and intelligence suggesting they were now planning to invade Britain through Operation Sea Lion, the pressure is on the codebreakers to crack Hitler’s code quickly.
Mike Greenman directed the play and I produced it. It was performed at Montpellier Hall, St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, Cheltenham on 15 and 16 September 2018 and also included as part of the Cheltenham Literature Festival’s Lit Crawl events.
A Tale of One City
was one of several tiny plays with characters inspired by life in Gloucester. Produced as part of The Gloucester Citizen project by the Gloucester Scriptorium group of writers, it was performed on 31 May 2018 at the Fountain Inn, Gloucester. A video is available here.
The Parrot, the Poet and the Philanderer
This play, written by Lou Beckett and myself, was partly inspired by my book ‘Literary Cheltenham’. Its first performances took place on 7-8 September 2017 as part of Cheltenham's Heritage Open Days events. The story focuses on Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett and Alfred Tennyson, three world-famous English writers who all spent time in Cheltenham during the middle of the 19th century; their true stories include scandal, competition for an important literary prize and a fight for women’s higher education. The play asks whether a young woman can change not only the lives of the three authors but the story of Cheltenham as well.
This play, written collaboratively through weaving together the words of twelve writers from the Gloucester Scriptorium group of writers, was performed at Gloucester Cathedral on 11 May 2017.
We started by each creating characters who might find themselves in the cathedral, and then worked in three teams to see how we could bring them together. We also thought about the life events that are marked in the cathedral so the play has three sections:
Birth - about new beginnings and about learning to communicate.
Life - about dealing with relationships and supporting each other.
Death - about battling our demons and questioning what lies beyond...
I was the lead writer for the 'Birth' section.
All three stories were woven together using the inspiring poem 'Invictus' by Gloucester poet W. E. Henley, and the final script was edited and directed by Jarek Adams. For more information see the Tapestry page.
Talking Objects (Gloucester Life Museum Monologues 2016)
Created by Gloucester Scriptorium writers, 'Talking Objects' was a series of recorded monologues that gave voice to objects from the Gloucester Life Museum. The stories were inspired by objects from Gloucester’s past that the Scriptorium writers discovered at the museum. In my case, the ‘A Matter of Time’ monologue was inspired by an eel trap! Actors then brought to life the stories that we created. With thanks to Oliver Babbage, the actor who brought 'A Matter of Time' to life.
To hear the monologue simply follow this link and click on the bar below the image of the eel trap.
Selected scenes of this play were first performed in May 2016 as part of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival.
All seems well for the poet Alfred Tennyson. The London literati are beginning to take note of his burgeoning talent and, after inheriting a substantial family fortune, he becomes betrothed to marry Emily, his beloved sweetheart. But that’s when his problems begin. Still pining the loss of his Cambridge friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, Tennyson struggles to break free from the twin demons of depression and hypochondria that have tormented his mind since childhood, fuelled in part by his fear that he’s inherited the ‘black blood’ of his family. To make matters worse, a foolish financial decision throws him closer to the edge and, suddenly, his whole world threatens to cave in around him. In desperation, he flees to Prestbury to try the Water Cure. Largely based on true events from Tennyson’s life, this psychological drama explores the poet’s struggle to achieve success in the face of fear and adversity, and to find enduring love despite suffering deep personal loss. What will Emily think when Tennyson suddenly breaks off their engagement? How will he tell her his reasons? And why does he decide to bribe a station official in Cheltenham to acquire a highly educated parrot?