A home truth

A moment of truth

Truth is stranger than fiction



Pinnochio by Pepe Aveni


A grain of truth


Half the truth is often the whole truth


A liar is not believed when he tells the truth



Pinnochio by Kenton Wilson


A nugget of truth


The greater the truth the greater the lie



Pinnochio profile by David Wiles


The naked truth


The truth will out


Truth, justice and the American way




The death of Pinnochio by Gottfried Heinwein


Production shots; a genre guide


A bit of theatre related fun as fundraising displacement activity…


The drinking tea top turn two shot


Modelled here by Dames Dench and Smith and Sirs McKellen and Stewart only ever to be attempted by the ennobled theatrical. Note the casual mugs in the first photograph and the formal teacups in the second, contemporary and classic drama encapsulated in pot and bone china, different centuries but both classy, civilised and mid afternoon in Surrey.


The star actors transformed two shot


Played two ways here: Peter Bowles and Penelope Keith gently disguise themselves in restoration costume whilst re-assuringly playing the characters we know and love from the tele. Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton show they are very much not themselves but in character with the aid of non radio 2 eyebrow make up, braces, ringlets and a dowdy dress.


The thousand yard stare


Tanya Moodie gives joy towards the sky, Glenda Jackson a despairingly quizzical glance in the same direction, David Tennant appeals to a passing giant while Joe Sproulle has seen and been amazed by it, whatever it might be, at the back of the dress circle.


The actor grab


Nothing indicates drama better in a photograph than grabbing a fellow actor, especially by the head, or the ears if possible, that’s even stronger.  Body grabbing a colleague is beautifully demonstrated here on Denise Gough, Tamsin Outhwaite goes for the highly accomplished triple; an ear head and body grab and Headlongs‘ 1984 is a masterclass in bonce grabbing.


Pointing and kissing

Keeping the imagery active and sexy with Sir Lenny Henry and Kathryn Hunter.


The dramatic lean


Beautiful movement here from Kevin Spacey followed by an example of the eponymous ‘lean threatening to smother’ from Frantic Assembly


The all pile on


The Ramps On the Moons‘ Government Inspector cast with a large scale rendition of  ‘We’re all in it, there’s bloody loads of us and we are magnificent.’  


Going Grrh and Aaargh


Dame Glenda again, Dame Harriet Walter and Maxine Peake. Silently noisy. Dynamic.


The ‘this is where it all started’ rehearsal room shot


Good for programme padding and front of house when the production shots didn’t come out very well.  Tamsin Greig chuckles while clutching a scenes’ worth of A4, Harriet Walter gives intense textual scrutiny and we have a double whammy at the National theatre with some world class script in hand pointing.



The ‘You don’t get more dramatic than this’


The beautifully positioned


And finally, the ‘look at the set like this because the moment an actor sets foot on it the floor is filthy’
















Who is theatre with actors with learning disabilities for?




That’s my hope and plan…

In the new writing work and rehearsal room technique that I’m developing.

Making work for general audiences is not the main goal of everyone who makes theatre with actors with learning disabilities.

‘Serving an audience’ is intrinsic to what I’m aiming to do, other creators work in other ways successfully.

I may not succeed and my colleagues may not succeed in serving an audience (all theatre work of any worth can and often does fail) but it’s always the aim to nourish people with the work when it comes to performance.


Every second of stage time the playwright conceives, the actor inhabits, the designer sees and the director edits and channels is crafted to engage an audience.

Every member of the team, and especially the actors, know this.

An actor lives and dies on stage by serving the audience. The moment the audience is lost, they’re gone for ever.

And making each second of stage time serve an audience is the fundamental of this kind of theatre making process.

Serving an audience doesn’t mean compromising on challenge.

Serving an audience doesn’t mean creating a comfort zone where prejudices are reinforced and status quo is maintained.

Serving an audience means provoking, informing, wrong footing, thrilling and providing a shared experience of a compelling revelation.

I work with all kinds of different people from different theatre and actor training ‘worlds’.

People from the general theatre industry and people whose principal focus is diversity.

The work I’m developing with collaborators exists on the bridge between the two worlds where I believe the potential for real change is great.

It’s as easy to dismiss work which serves audiences as ‘bums on seats’ as it is to ignore learning disability-led and focused work as ‘preaching to the choir’.

All good theatre is very hard to make and the way its made is diverse.

There’s no ‘right’ way and serving audiences isn’t wrong, or easy.









Shilly shallying


A procrastinator

10 rules for planning and office bound activity

1. Never put off writing down an idea thinking that it will be remembered after you’ve done that very important thing that needs doing right now.

It will become a ghost ship in the mid brain.


Then gone.

2. Don’t half do the boring things, do them in full, however much it hurts.

After the ‘A bird in the hand = 2 in the bush’ saying the ancient proverb writers’ next greatest hit was…

A desk full of boring things half done is twice as painful as one boring thing completed.


Two box files

3. Remember that social media is not a child, lover or source of the meaning of life and therefore doesn’t need to be checked every ten minutes for happiness, attractiveness or revelation.

Other peoples’ holiday and wedding photographs don’t ease feelings of entrapment and dullness.

They compound them.

4. Looking at all news websites for the sake of a rounded world view doesn’t wash in the post truth age.

Its all lies.

Keep it honest and do the schedule instead.

5. Budgets do not justify themselves at the sound of a block of stilton being unwrapped.

Food is not the answer.

Barricade the kitchen door.


A fridge

6. The genius playlist that starts with Starboy and ends with a herd of cows from the SFX compilation doesn’t have to be listened to in full on headphones while staring out of the window before the next task.

Its 25 minutes long.

It takes five minutes to delete last weeks inbox.

Just saying.

7. It’s frankly unnecessary to take your own photo and try out all the effects in Photo Booth with different hairstyles and facial expressions.

Check the business bank account instead.


Ink cartridges

8. If you’d wanted to be the Marketing Director of an organic produce company in Slovakia you would have gained some experience in retail and farming by now. And speak Slovakian.

It’s easier to clear your desk top than change career.

Shut Google down.

Yes you can.

9. Having a lengthy conversation by email is tiring and makes your fingers ache.

Use the phone instead.

It means actually thinking and making decisions.

10. Nothing is more satisfying than a sense of completion.

Delete Civilisation 5.

Deny yourself all pleasure.

Just get it bloody done.


A keyboard
















SEPARATE DOORS 2: working with RADA


Actors Joe Sproulle and Toby Meredith (Dark Horse)

Enter upstage left. Objective? To lead

The New Year kicks off, and kicks in, with an exciting new project.

I’ll be working with RADA to develop the silent approach with an ensemble of actors with, and without, learning disabilities, exploring and expanding this technique which allows for real equality in casting.

The rehearsal room door will then be opened to producers, venues, drama schools, casters and people who can affect real change.

The aim is to shift the landscape for exceptional actors with learning disabilities, to encourage integrated work on high profile stages, and generate opportunities alongside non learning disabled casts, and creative teams.

I want also to encourage access to high level vocational training for talented students with learning disabilities and to ignite bold representation in impactful new integrated work, written and directed by innovative theatre makers, work which plays out to general audiences, with the potential to make a big impact.

Here’s how…

I’ll direct a masterclass and a series of scenes with an integrated ensemble using the silent approach; focusing on action, objective, character and the method.

Collaborating with a RADA Associate Director and a team of movement, voice and acting tutors the approach will develop and grow as skills are shared.

At the end of the rehearsal process I’ll host a showing and panel discussion with some key speakers at RADA for an invited audience.

Finally I’ll write and publish a working toolkit for theatre makers who want to work with actors with learning disabilities in their casts, including interview panel transcripts, actor interviews, opinions from project partners and impressions from audience members.

Partnership with leading conservatoire RADA has unparalleled potential to develop and share the silent approach and to raise the profile of the work of vocational actors with learning disabilities.

We want to inspire real change, to encourage playwrights and directors, venues and producers, to cast bravely, and to take risks,  in an era where seeing diversity fully represented in quality drama is absolutely vital.

Actor Rebekah Hill (Dark Horse)

We’re leaping into a bold 2017…follow the journey…



2016, writing, theatre, diversity and work featuring actors with learning disabilities


Jordan, a young man with Downs Syndrome, participating in the York Theatre Royal research and development event for A MAN WITH DOWNS SYNDROME TALKS ABOUT LOVE AND TELLS A STORY in the regency glory of the De Grey ballroom watched Dark Horse actor Toby Meredith work through the opening scene of the play with actor Tessa Parr, playing his sister.

CLARENCE had just arrived in his sister SAMANTHA’S luxury apartment carrying a suitcase full of his recently deceased mothers’ belongings; a tense, emotionally complex scene. Opening dialogue over I moved the room on to the next stage in the process, handing over to movement director Ita O’Brien who brought the 50 plus participants together to experience standing on SAMANTHA’S blustery fourteenth floor balcony.

Jordan however didn’t step into the turbulent air with everyone else, instead he pulled me aside and leaned in.

“I want to be Clarence. In the play. I’m going to be an actor.” he said, and clearly meant it.

It was an articulation of engagement with story, ambition and aspiration that encapsulated the aim of the work of the whole year for me. I hope one day Jordan will play Clarence, and other characters, and be in stories written by talented writers, directed by directors with vision and work in front of audiences made up of all kinds of people and find routes into that work.

That is the entire point.

It’s been an extraordinary 12 months.


Tessa Parr, SAMANTHA and Jordan, in R and D at York Theatre Royal

2016 started with a serious commitment to developing my less than dazzling prose writing skills by setting myself a task, a discipline test, to write 31 short stories in 31 days, and only then to attempt writing Everest, a novel.

The latter sits, a daily electronic reminder of non completion on my desktop and the former, in its collected and edited form, lies, bloated with needless adjectives, in a long since unopened box file.

In  January, amid the figment 31 challenge, turning in my obligatory 2 hour long daily imagine in a hotel room in Manchester- I was there for a series of meetings but kept none the less on the story horse- it occurred to me that perhaps there was more to do, and more that should be done, out of the garret, in rehearsal rooms, and in theatres.

Two theatre trips, to THE GIRLS at the Lowry and INTO THE WOODS at the Royal Exchange Manchester compounded the solo writer doubts. Both Tim Firth and Gary Barlows’ musical, entertaining though it is, and Sondheim’s’ sublime INTO THE WOODS, left me questioning once again where actors with learning disabilities feature in mainstream productions, and perhaps more importantly just how general audiences are being offered opportunities to experience and explore diverse stories and life experiences, delivered by non white, non disabled, non standard, distinctly ‘different’ yet thoroughly brilliant actors.

The Royal Exchange has made great strides in diverse casting, INTO THE WOODS featured a deaf performer, but actors with learning disabilities simply aren’t getting the same degree of opportunity or representation in integrated work playing out to general audiences.


Cover design for the SEPARATE DOORS report by Pip Leckenby

Producing theatre collaborators Access All Areas, Hijinx, Dark Horse and emerging company Hubbub and many community focused organisations across the UK prove the excellence that exists in training, performance and community engagement but unless doors continue to be knocked on, articulating the need for a place in programmes alongside other, and all kinds, of productions the work runs the risk of being silo-ed into ‘festivals of difference’ or specific disability focused programmes.

It can also be the case that in these segregated areas of artistic output work made by and with actors with moderate learning disabilities is less likely to see the light of day due to an inability of the artists themselves to articulate a case for their existence; currently favoured artist-led funding models don’t necessarily fit theatre work, an intrinsically collaborative form.

The influence learning disability focused theatre companies and makers have in the broader arts and media, in shaping societal attitude, cultural identity and combating the worst of regressive thinking is clear; for people with learning disabilities to slip out of general view in mainstream theatre would be a travesty, especially after so many years of effort and brilliance from many individuals and companies.

Chewing all of this over during the Manchester ovations and while typing THE END at the finish of story 31 the fantasy career as a very minor prose writer crashed and burned.

It occurred to me that as an independent I am perhaps well placed to draw collective learning’s together from a notional learning disability theatre ‘sector’ and to wave a multi-lateral flag for the great work that’s being done by so many.

SEPARATE DOORS seemed a fine way to start.


Jen Sumner, Artistic Director of Hubbub during SEPARATE DOORS film shoot

A curiosity about the processes, practises and rehearsal room techniques of leading companies with a learning disability focus led me to approach Nick Lewellyn, Artistic Director of Access All Areas, Ben Pettitt-Wade, Artistic Director of Hijinx, Lynda Hornsby, Executive Director of Dark Horse and Jen Sumner, Artistic Director of Hubbub theatre with an idea for a project which explored, celebrated and promoted the work of these producers and influencers as broadly as possible.

The aim was for me to shoot and edit a thirty minute film featuring rehearsal room footage, interview the directors and key actors from each organisation and to write and publish a report which would be sent to decision making individuals, programmers, venues and influencers.

All directors generously let me loose in their rehearsal rooms to explore the silent approach and I had four fascinating days with four very different and very talented ensembles, working non verbally.

Actors Richard Newham, Imogen Roberts, Joe Sproulle, Beth Gardner and Amy Scott spoke on camera about their training, work and hopes for future opportunities and the finished report and film met with interest and engagement in pockets of the wider theatre industry totally unfamiliar with the level of acumen, ability and focus on excellence that there can be within companies in this field of work.


Dark Horse actor Joe Sproulle during his interview. Teeth marks on paper Directors own.

Casting, production and further opportunities are developing as a direct result of the project, the film is viewed frequently and the report has reached significant areas.

It became evident from early in in the year that a second project, the development of a new piece of integrated (Featuring a cast of learning disabled and non learning disabled actors) text based theatre, a new play, could be of value moving forwards.

In my own theatre writing, at Dark Horse in recent years, I’ve developed and written roles for actors with learning disabilities, the aim being to generate working opportunities in the context of general drama that plays out to audiences in theatre venues.

I’ve also been instrumental in developing actor training opportunities that enable integrated casts to work together, using the silent approach as a technique and incorporating Stanislavskian/Strasbergian method so that everyone can work in the same rehearsal room, on the same play, for the same audience.

The aim has been and continues to be to create a means for a new generation of actors, directors and writers to work together with equality, to make new high profile, high quality pieces of new writing and to be excited and interested in engaging with this work.


Access All Areas actor Imogen Roberts and Artistic Director Nick Lewellyn


I wrote the first draft in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote in a coshed England and at its heart is a dark howl. And that’s enough of that for now.

It’s a drama, pitched towards a general audience with leading roles for actors with learning disabilities and a female actor in her thirties and this autumn I ran three research and development events at the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, York Theatre Royal, The Lowry Salford.

Working with Dark Horse theatre, their ensemble and leading actors Joe Sproulle, Toby Meredith and Rebekah Hill the events pulled an exciting creative team together for the first time. Composer Loz Kaye, Designer Pip Leckenby and movement director Ita O’Brien worked with actor Tessa Parr and the ensemble to engage over 75 people with learning disabilities in the three locations, exploring the story and characters and, vitally, recording the voice and opinion of everyone who attended for insertion in the production score.

The results are absolutely stunning and the play will tour nationally next year.


Movement director Ita O’Brien at the Lowry event

There have been some fine pieces of work made by companies which work with actors with learning disabilities this year and some fine performances also by the actors themselves on stage, television and film.  However as challenging times challenge more than ever before to assume that previous wins and progress already made will guarantee ongoing visibility may be unwise.

Instinct, experience and some insight suggests the opposite may be true and that consistent and constant championing of excellence, quality, training and opportunity will be crucial in the year ahead.

I’ve worked with some brilliant people this year, thank you, and some fantastic venues and Arts Council England have supported the work.

One day I’ll finish the novel.

But not yet.

Version 3


A manifesto for artistic diversity in the age of closing minds



choices, opinions and beliefs based on fear and difference


community, social and state level structures and systems which result in injustice and inequality


the motives of leaders and the promises they make


alternative actions, states and outcomes


difference of all kinds and the value, learning and interest it brings to the human experience


as many differing life experiences as you can in your work and seek out people of opposite opinion and attitude to witness, participate or actively disapprove.


light, life, challenge, warning, hope and caution, freely.


us of catastrophic past human actions which we need to learn from and offer other paths to choose


faith in humanity


ignorance, prejudice, fear and persecution



















10 questions and answers…put to the producer/playwright/director


Vanessa Brooks at Salford Quays.

Tomorrow marks the final event day for A MAN WITH DOWNS SYNDROME TALKS ABOUT LOVE AND TELLS A STORY, at the Lowry theatre in Salford.

I asked ten friends to email a question about the kind of theatre I’m making at the moment and answered as honestly as I could…

1.What is integrated theatre?

For me its theatre, which is written, directed and cast to include actors with learning disabilities.

Its about learning disabled and non learning disabled actors working with equality, using a rehearsal process effective for all and, most importantly,  playing out to general audiences.

Its work made by everyone, for everyone, not existing in a ‘niche’.

2. Are you the only playwright and director doing it?

Currently yes, I think so, though I’d be delighted to learn thats not the case.

Mike Kenny wrote a couple of plays for Mind The Gap with integrated casting in mind but the climate changes and its harder and harder to get integrated work programmed; casts which are solely made up of actors with learning disabilities and which focus on issues are perhaps easier to place and to market as the assumption is that they will play out to a specific, disability-focused, audience.

A MAN WITH DOWNS SYNDROME TALKS ABOUT LOVE AND TELLS A STORY will be my third integrated play, production and tour (HYPOTHERMIA, SING SOMETHING SIMPLE 1 and 2 while I was Artistic Director at Dark Horse being the others).


Heather Dutton as Bonnie Dilnott in national tour SING SOMETHING SIMPLE

3. Is it the only kind of thing you write?

No, I write all sorts of things. It’s one of the areas I like to explore.

Years ago I wrote a commercially successful comedy called LOVE ME SLENDER which had an all female cast. After that people asked me if I only ever wrote for women.

I thought then that was a bizarre question to ask a writer and I think this one is too but it points to a tendency to pigeonhole difference.

4. You say you like to write roles for actors you know a bit, is that the same for the actors without learning disabilities in your casts?

Yes. It’s a real privilege to be able to do it and I couldn’t when I was starting out but now I find it really helpful and I’m usually lucky enough to get someone interested before I write the first draft.

I cast a play in my head before writing it, even if I end up not working with that actor in the final production it gives me a flavour and a voice to work with.


Faye Billing developing the role of SADIE in I LOVE YOU BABY

5. Why are you writing these plays? Isn’t it hard to do and to get them on?

Because I feel that there’s a need for people with learning disabilities to be represented in theatre (And elsewhere but this is my area) and that there are brilliant actors out there who deserve to work with narrative drama and high calibre casts and creative teams in venues, and to play in front of general audiences.

And I have something to say, and I want to say it strongly.

It’s hard to do but all plays are and you can never take for granted that something you write will be produced.

You recreate yourself every time and established and new writers fight for the same theatre slots- quite right too, that’s as it should be.

Theatre isn’t an arena for complacency, it all needs to be at maximum effort and commitment to stand a chance of working in a live space.

6. Is this about politics? Are you a political writer?

It’s very difficult to write about humanity and not write about politics.

I saw a friend in The Mousetrap last week. Agatha Christie is by no means construed as revolutionary or known for agitation but the argument she makes in that play about lack of early nurture leading to societal malfunction is both relevant and punchy. It surprised me, I had words with myself.

I’ve had at times to temper political argument or make the case through analogy, who wants, outside of STOMP, to sit in an audience and watched tubs being thumped? But there’s always a question I want to explore or answer and it’s informed by being alive and alive to concern in the world I’m living in at the time of writing.

Thats a dramatists job, if its not about wanting to change something, or change opinion, it doesn’t belong in a theatre.


Vanessa Brooks with participants at York Theatre Royal

7. You’re producing this project- what does that mean?

It means I’m working with partners, associates and much needed collaborators to get the work out in front of audiences!

Arts Council England have funded me to produce this project through their Grants for the Arts scheme.

In effect it means I’m managing the development process, engaging creatives and actors and hopefully finding a shape and home for the anticipated production and tour.

8. Apart from writing and casting actors with learning disabilities what is the difference between this way of working and any other way?

Two key ways of working are different for this particular play and production.

Firstly I’m experimenting with the writing process by recording sound bites from project participants which will then be inserted into the score and inform the second draft. This is very new and involves a direct collaboration with over 50 people with learning disabilities, genuinely informing the writing process, and working with the composer/sound designer to come up with a new innovative aural landscape for the play.

At the events (And the same will apply when we go into rehearsal) I’m working as a director with minimal speech, using the silent approach, to engage everyone in the room to the story and objectives, ensuring that language and decoding it, doesn’t act as a barrier to the work. Once in rehearsal the only words we’ll use will be the dialogue in the play- for now it’s a bit more relaxed than that due to sheer weight of numbers in the space!


Actor Tessa Parr and composer Loz Kaye chew over discoveries

9. Do you think more theatre productions should be integrated?

Yes absolutely and I’m working to raise awareness and create opportunities across the UK’s various theatre sectors and with drama schools, aiming to find ways to encourage more of the work to happen.

It offers something exciting and currently vital for audiences to see.

10. What are future plans for the play?

 I can’t reveal much at the moment but the aim is to tour in Autumn next year- and beyond.

More news here as it happens!

Version 2

Rebekah Hill developing the role of BABY






8 days in the early life of a new play


Composer Loz Kaye edits voices into draft score

Day 1/Thursday/Travel from South to North

Southern rail and the RMT are at deadlock and all trains from my current spot on the South Coast to London are cancelled.

Laden with image cards, sound recording and photographic equipment and a bulging suitcase a journey by National Express coach to London begins at dawn.

Cruising over the misty South Downs in blue leatherette comfort a nostalgic coach travel charm descends.  This is actually very pleasant and relaxing, alright I can’t read due to the risk of motion sickness but look at that view and there’s even a metal thing to rest your feet on…

Two hours later, static in a coffee shop/tattoo studio, the charm evaporates.

The wait for the Victoria connection at Brighton is endless.

I sip bitter coffee and stare at a skeleton dog.


A coach pulls in.

Euphoria engendered by the idea of any kind of momentum sees me barrel onto the London bound express like a projectile.

Bisecting London on the tube feels like supersonic travel and the Virgin East coast to Huddersfield is warp factor 9.

I arrive at dinner time with the wind in my hair.

Day 2/Friday/Rehearsing the Dark Horse ensemble

Actors from project collaborators Dark Horse are part of the large creative team for the play and production development process and are facilitators at the events this week, introducing the narrative to up to 40 people in each location, and leading and contributing to voice, movement and relationship exercises.


Ben Langford in front of the scene dock door

On arrival at the Lawrence Batley Theatre I check that the external door stage left hasn’t been painted.  Backdrop to a sequence of initial marketing shots for the work, I want to shoot a couple more, a lick of paint would be a disaster.

Thankfully it’s still in its shabby, peeling,  textured state.

In the rehearsal room I tell the actors the story of the play for the first time.

I talk it through scene by scene, with visuals.

The actors pick up the planned shape in the space, moving around the room, one actor communicating plot per scene, Alice Rogers nudging creative team and participants around the large spaces we’ll be working in, directing the movement of people.

Joe Sproulle, playing THE MAN, has learned some opening dialogue and I direct him and Toby Meredith, playing CLARENCE, loosely into the first scene, ready for Tessa Parr, playing SAMANTHA to walk into on Monday.

A couple of runs, some revised warm up exercises and clarity on who’s doing what and we’re done.

A good days work.

Days 3/Saturday drone activity


Final pre event communications with team and venues, scheduling and planning in the Premiere Inn Central Huddersfield with its view over the canal.

Premiere Inns are my temporary residence in towns and cities across the UK over the next few days. They’re identical.  One purple strip of branded fabric across the bottom of a bed is exactly the same as another and at least twice I wake up without being entirely sure of where I am.

Breaking down elements of story and place for examination in the events I venture into town with head buzzing.

Drones feature in the narrative. Drones are on my mind.  I spot and buy a mini drone with camera. The idea is to a) shoot some marketing film and/or b) take it for a demonstration flight in the spaces we’re working in.

Back at the purple ranch I discover I’m a terrible drone pilot. Heavy handed, all lift no pitch, license clearly revoked. My aircraft crashes into the ceiling, then plummets and lies on it’s back on the purple carpet whining.  I lose rotors behind the purple chair. I can’t get the camera to work. I think I’ve broken it.

I put it away and pick up the notebook again.

Day 4/Ipswich bound


(Left to right) Actor Tessa Parr, Composer Loz Kaye, Dark Horse team Lynda Hornsby, Paul Williams, Alice Rogers, Steph, Rebekah Hill, Designer Pip Leckenby, Toby Meredith, Me, Joe Sproulle, Movement Director Ita O’Brien

It takes four and a half hours to drive to Ipswich from Huddersfield in a minibus on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I’ve hitched a ride with Dark Horse to avoid another potentially snail paced journey, engineering work this time.

Lynda and Steph take turns with the driving while five actors and me alternately talk through the work to come, and reminisce about work done in the past.  Actors are very good at reliving their greatest hits and we’ve all worked together a lot on productions in the past so a shorthand of songs, insect impressions and gags about orange peel and cross dressing come thick and fast.

Only time for one rendition of ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’ and we arrive by a beautiful marina at Regatta Quay, Ipswich.

It feels spookily appropriate as SAMANTHA’S apartment, location for much of the action of the play, overlooks a harbour full of luxury yachts.

A wonderful meal this evening as the full creative team meets for the first time.

And what a great team we are.

Day 5/New Wolsey- Event 1

The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and the Ramps On The Moon project and their agent for change Jamie Beddard have been terrific supporters of this project from the off.

Arriving at the High Street Exhibition Centre early Tessa, Loz, Pip and I are oddly excited by the huge rocks outside aware of Ita’s work to come with earth and air and inspired by the idea of using their weight and shape to inform movement.

Thankfully the rocks outside are too heavy for us to lift.

The clock ticks towards the start, Dark Horse arrive and post rigging sound system and sweeping the floor (Pip in full ‘designer prepares’ mode) we’re ready to welcome participants.

Razed Roof theatre and their Artistic Director Annette Lidster, representatives from Freewheelers theatre, playwright Judith Johnson, community drama group CoCocare and various interested individuals fill the huge space with diverse, energetic and enthusiastic energy.


Toby Meredith and Tessa Parr developing brother and sister characters CLARENCE and SAMANTHA

A total blast of a day covers narrative, characters, voice (Over 30 people record sounds and opinions for the score) and movement.

At the end of the process participants say the day has been ‘powerful’ and ‘intense’ and that they can’t wait to see the play when it goes on tour.

Once participants leave and the creative team reflects its clear progress is  marks  in the two key areas we’re aiming for 1) play and production development and 2) active engagement with a target audience.

Job done.

A happy producer playwright director and team.

Day 6/To York


The land is flat between Ipswich and York

A day to travel up to our next destination, York Theatre Royal.

The view from the train window offers a moody sky and resolute flatness for most of the journey.

A day to reflect on progress and areas to push at during the next event.

Emails and ideas fly between the team, as they have for some time now, all aware of the need to make the most of limited time and inspired by the possibilities evidenced at the New Wolsey and the extraordinary levels of engagement of people in a dark, contemporary story.

Day 7 and 8/York Theatre Royal


Loz Kaye setting up the De Grey ballroom at York Theatre Royal

A catch up day poring over a Macbook in a room in the Premiere Inn and trying to locate compost and pots for movement director Ita O’Brien in Central York- not easy- Barnets’ hardware store is the answer…

And then a phenomenal day in a huge beautiful space, the De Grey ballroom at York Theatre Royal.

Over 50 people work at terrific pace on narrative, sound and movement.

Hubbub theatre company and Artistic Director Jen Sumner join us from Derby, the full Dark Horse ensemble facilitates, the new York Theatre Royal learning disability group Access All Areas is here, as is Blueberry Academy and some extraordinary individuals.


Vanessa Brooks works with a participant to record his voice for the production score


Toby Meredith does some exceptional improvisation with Tessa Parr and Ita O’Brien excites the whole room with her hairdryer experience.

A fantastic way to explore the height and airiness of character SAMANTHA’S fourteenth floor apartment.


Ita O Brien and ‘air’


Loz incorporates recorded voices from Ipswich into the draft score and an eerie evocation of a dystopic future, and peoples predictions for it, fills the room.

Designer Pip talks us through the contents of CLARENCES suitcase and finally Tessa and Toby improvise SAMANTHA and CLARENCES final scene at the end of the play with great impact.

The whole team feeds back in the cafe bar at the Theatre Royal and ideas form for the final event at Lowry. There are explorations of the writers vision. Some answers are found. The physical world of the production is coming to light.

One thing is very clear.

Something extraordinary and exciting is being made by exceptional talents,  collaborating.


Actor Tessa Parr working through ideas with Movement Director Ita O’Brien