Please see below for the titles, dates of premiere and publisher, along with some history of why I wrote each play and reactions to them. For a synopsis of the published plays please visit my publishers page.
05.03.1986 IN THE MIDDLE (Published as MISMATCH) Cambridge Publishing Services
Shocked when the adjudicator at the Huntingdon Drama Festival, Rex Walford, asked if I would be interested in having the play published. Only my second play and I had never thought of publishing. After five years as a football referee I was going to pack up (having realised I was receiving far more praise as an actor and the only booing was in panto) so therefore felt free to write a comedy about a rather inept referee and corrupt club officials. Rex became a good friend and supporter of my writing. Tragically he died in a boating accident and I believe Cambridge Publishing Services, ran by his wife Wendy, are no longer trading.
25.03.1988 DEPARTURE Concord Theatricals
My most successful one-act play thanks to friendly rival and `all round good egg` Nick Warburton encouraging me to submit the script to Samuel French (now Concord Theatricals) . It was a prequel to my first play THE LAST RESORT using four of the characters meeting at Gatwick Airport. To me it was a perfect one-act comedy with no plot just a series of bizarre conversations laced with great characterization. 1988 was quite a year for me as I got married in Thailand and came home to an acceptance letter from Samuel French with an advance. I felt I was in the big time.
13.03.1992 ONE SIDED TRIANGLE Concord Theatricals
Thinking I had written the perfect one-act I moved on to two full length plays and discovered they were much more difficult to get performed and published. Returning to my familiar form I avoided another comedy and delved into my first one-act thriller. Based on a trip to Northern Thailand and having our minibus stopped and searched by the Thai Police, it concerned drug smuggling from the Golden Triangle and a sting operation. Unlike my previous one-acts this involved plenty of research and conversations with two British Customs Officers on holiday really helped. With only a cast of three, and being set in a hotel garden in Chaing Rai, most drama groups seem to consider it too difficult to stage and sadly it is rarely performed. I however think it is well constructed and a `page turner`.
10.11.1993 PLAYING AWAY Jasper Publishing
PLAYING AWAY has a somewhat chequered history. It is my only full length comedy. I wrote it in 1990 after my first full length thriller TWICE BITTEN ONCE SHY but it was initially rejected by WTC the community theatre company that had premiered all my plays. I was very shocked at the decision, particularly after all the time it had taken me to write, and considered it `dead in the water`. It was why I reverted to one-acts again with ONE SIDED TRIANGLE. I was having a battle to stage ONE SIDED TRIANGLE with another company when WTC enticed me back to direct it for them. This opened the door to eventually PLAYING AWAY being produced three years later after the birth of my daughter Kattreya. It is the second of my three football plays and based on a World Cup Qualifier in Finland when I shared a room with a photographer and got to carry his gear everywhere, attend press conferences, training sessions and sit behind the goal during the game. After I started to have problems with Samuel French publishing my work I got the rejected ones published by Jasper Publishing of which PLAYING AWAY was one in 2009. However many years later Jasper ceased trading and I had to find these plays a new home at Lazy Bee Scripts. Sadly they weren`t interested in PLAYING AWAY. So I have some copies, it was published but now it seems to be stuck in the ether of a publishing no-man`s land.
08.03.1996 PARENTCRAFT Concord Theatricals
After a run of uncommercial plays I bowed to the inevitable and returned to the one-act comedy genre. Based on our visits to Parentcraft classes ,where all the couples sat in a circle with name badges attached, I immediately knew this was a gift for a writer to explore. The enforced difference with real life however is only one husband in the cast. Like so many of my plays, the cast had to be predominately female. It is not a deliberate policy just that there a far fewer good male actors in community theatre than female. This was also the case, and still is, at WTC. PARENTCRAFT is my second best selling play and it is no surprise that both this and DEPARTURE have only one man, in my case, a great actor called Chris Shinn. They are also one word titles which I like. PARENTCRAFT is in fact eight years younger than DEPARTURE so I expect it eventually will become number one. Later on it was translated into Dutch and called ZWANGERSCHAPS GYMNASTIEK - no wonder their children are so tall. In 2017 I had the pleasure of watching it performed by a University society at the Edinburgh Fringe and was rather embarrassed to be still laughing at my own jokes twenty one years later.
26.03.1999 BACKGROUND ARTIST Concord Theatricals
I was now working as an extra or Background Artist or Supporting Artist as they like to be called now. I had to go for an interview at the agency (which would never happen today) and it was very theatrical with the headshots of all his clients papering the walls. Another gift for me and opportunity to get a full length evening of entertainment through the backdoor. It would start of a series of double bills where the two plays were linked but also self contained. In the past once my plays had competed at drama festivals I had produced them as a double bill with a published work at Waterbeach. Now I could produce an evening of all my own work that hopefully would also please the publishers. BACKGROUND ARTIST is my third biggest seller and perhaps helped by Ricky Gervais` EXTRAS although I got there first.
15.11.2000 ON LOCATION Concord Theatricals
BACKGROUND ARTIST was about Mary (beautifully played by Jane Boden) trying to have a go in the silver screen business and ON LOCATION was her first job. It was loosely based on some of the jobs I had done and people I had met. Being the first of my one-acts not to compete in drama festivals I could go to town on set, costume and make-up so I made it a sci-fi film. I had the cast start in normal clothes and told my production team to be as outrageous as possible in transforming them into whatever they wanted. We called the double bill LIGHTS CAMERA ACTION but being over eighteen months later I had to totally recast BACKGROUND ARTIST with the exception of Jane. This however gave me the opportunity to double up and write it so one group of actors could be in both plays. I feel ON LOCATION suffered from not being mentioned as the sequel in the already published BACKGROUND ARTIST script. It perhaps is also not a very catchy title and has only done a third of the business that BACKGROUND ARTIST has. It is however a good romp and a chance for a production team to be very creative.
23.03.2002 PENALTY Concord Theatricals
Another controversial play but for very different reasons. It is one of the best one-acts I have written but destroyed my publishing career with the then Samuel French. Having written three comedies I was itching to try something new again. While we were rehearsing a play he was directing, I mentioned to Mark Easterfield, technical director on all my plays, that I wanted to stretch myself and write a two hander. It would mean a role for myself for the first time and the other for his wife Christine, who is an excellent actress, with him directing. This would be my third football play but serious not comedic in tone. It would still start with my trademark comedy but then one line would flip it into the dark side and the ending would be a totally unforeseen twist. I set it in Azerbaijan to give myself fun researching and it would involve an English referee`s first international match and the translator who would end up blackmailing him. At the drama festival premiere the adjudicator was taken ill and Rex Walford had to take over. Rex loved the play but was very apologetic that he couldn`t give it best new play as the stricken adjudicator had already decided by reading the script only (a contentious issue I feel as my plays always seem to look better on stage than on the page) but he pushed for it to be performed at as many festivals as possible. In the end we had to turn down some invitations as Christine and I were shattered from resurrecting a very demanding play every few weeks. Mark was keen for me to submit it for publishing but I was somewhat hesitant at first as I feared, like ONE SIDED TRIANGLE, community theatre drama companies would be reluctant to stage a two hander set in Azerbaijan. Unfortunately this turned out to be true and with larger advances to pay off it took twelve years to clear until bizarrely it was performed by the National Theatre of Bucharest. It was my last play to be published by Samuel French. After publishing six consecutive plays of mine I had the unusual experience of receiving rejection letters for every play I sent thereafter until I accepted it was over and found another publisher. I felt I had been relegated from the Premier League because my last two plays hadn`t sold well. It was a severe blow as they did all the editing, rarely interfered with the writing and sent me complimentary hard copies. These days advances and hard copies are things of the past. I quickly returned to writing one-act comedies that, I feel, were just as good as the previous ones but it was too late. However I do not regret writing PENALTY it was a labour of love and brilliant play to be in. Nice as it is to have a commercially successful play, I couldn`t continually churn out comedies, I needed to flex my artistic muscles every so often. Mark did a grand job directing and Christine was exceptional winning countless Best Actress awards. It is a play I`m still very proud of.
24.03.2006 BARBECUE Lazy Bee Scripts
I was once again writing for myself and Christine with Mark directing. In fact BARBECUE is the sequel to EIGHT SECONDS with Christine playing a new GP in both who hosts a house warming BARBECUE to meet the oddball neighbours. I played her disillusioned psychiatrist husband Edward. Halfway through writing I decided it was time to write my first part for a twelve year old Kattreya. I rewrote the beginning to include Taylor a tomboy from across the road. The play was originally set in a living room but Mark had made an augur for a previous play and we therefore decided to stage it in the kitchen which was far better. The barbecue is unseen in the garden and a great device for characters to keep wandering in and out.The idea came from Mark`s own housewarming complete with him rushing around serving chicken wings which I did as Edward. It was my first play to be published by Jasper and on their demise is now doing a roaring trade with Lazy Bee including fittingly in Australia.
24.05.2006 EIGHT SECONDS Lazy Bee Scripts
I had in fact written EIGHT SECONDS two years earlier but once it was decided to write sequels to PENALTY, EIGHT SECONDS got shunted into a siding. Since 2000 I had been working as a medical roleplay actor and this is my textbook communication skills play. The average doctor used to interrupt their patient after eight seconds when if they let them continue it would elicit much more information and avoid the need for many more questions. The vast majority of diagnosis can be made without touching the patient. For me this opened the door for an old fashioned locum doctor to jump to conclusions and completely misdiagnose three patients but in a comic way. Christine, as a new GP, then showed him the error of his ways and discovered the real reasons for their visits. I directed rehearsals for EIGHT SECONDS while BARBECUE competed at the drama festivals and then the two were staged as a double bill under FAST FOOD AND SMALL TALK. Chris wigged up as the old locum and then played a football shirt wearing brummie property developer in BARBECUE with many in the audience not realising it was the same actor.
03.04.2008 ONE MISTAKE Lazy Bee Scripts
In 2005 I attended a summer school at Loughborough University in Musical Theatre. In the evening they had various workshops and I went to one on TV writing. We were given an anonymous page of dialogue to work on and, along with the actress I was paired with, decided it was a drunken woman pouring out her heart to a barman. I mentally filed that away and it was to become the opening lines of ONE MISTAKE. I once again wrote for myself as the barman and Christine as a former child star who was now a down on her luck nightclub singer with Mark directing. This time however I wanted to expand on Kattreya`s theatrical education and wrote her a more substantial part as Christine`s stroppy but wise teenage daughter. It turned out to be our most successful drama festival play winning the Cambridge Drama Festival and gaining Kattreya several Best Under-16 awards firmly placing her on the road to becoming a professional actress.
14.05.2008 PSYCHIC BABBLE Lazy Bee Scripts
At the end of rehearsals we used to decant to the local pub and on Thursdays it was quiz night. We, however, arrived just as the landlord was reading out the answers so it almost became a quiz to work out what the questions had been. This was the basis of my next comedy, PSYCHIC BABBLE, where a self proclaimed psychic boasts he can predict the answers to the Saturday evening quiz. Instead of a character linking the two plays it would be the set. The bar of a small country hotel was open in the early hours of Sunday morning for ONE MISTAKE and closed for the Saturday afternoon of PSYCHIC BABBLE. They would be separate casts and as usual I directed the non-drama festival play. However a young actress in the cast had to drop out early on so Kattreya took over playing the thick but nice Donna. Once again it`s a play with only one man this time with four women. The double bill was entitled BAR TALK which was a family joke as Bar means stupid in Thai.
26.03.2010 ANNIVERSARY Lazy Bee Scripts
This was the beginning of the end writing for Waterbeach Theatre Company as I was about to form Big Squirrel and write very different plays. The problem writing for a community theatre company is they have a fixed programme usually spring for drama festival plays. Once that is over it is on to the next production leaving new plays with very few performances. I was lucky and managed to perform mine in some sort of double bill too but nowadays a new play may only get two performances. I wanted my plays to have longer lives so it was time to move on but I wanted to go out with a bang and in this case it ended up as a triple bill. ANNIVERSARY was inspired by my Uncle and Aunt celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. I love writing about families as for dramatic purposes they can be trapped in relationships not of their choosing.
After all my years of writing my comedies were getting more depth. It is high comedy where Kevin tries to recreate his wedding reception with Anne and his brother Keith hijacks the event to proclaim Anne should have married him. Yet it becomes deadly serious when their mother admits she has cancer. I felt a tad guilty to stop gales of laughter from the audience in their tracks when that revelation comes out. ANNIVERSARY was my first play to be submitted straight to Lazy Bee and quickly became my best seller with them.
25.03.2011 ARRIVAL Lazy Bee Scripts
Originally ONCOLOGY and ANNIVERSARY were to be my final double bill and performed in 2010. WTC then had programming difficulties and my double bill got shifted to 2011. In the meantime I liked the idea of a triple bill where I could finish with three different styles comedy, drama and thriller. BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGES sprang to mind as a good joint title. No one would be born, die or get married but the theme would be used as ANNIVERSARY was about a marriage and ONCOLOGY (which I had already written) was about potential death. I needed to write a play concerning birth. Although three different styles the plays were being linked by the Williams family over the course of two years. All the family were together in ANNIVERSARY which would conclude the triple bill. Mother Edna and daughter Miriam were in ONCOLOGY therefore Kevin, Anne and Keith were destined for ARRIVAL. One day while walking in Cambridge, I kept seeing Policewomen everywhere and it seemed an omen that ARRIVAL had to be about a female police officer that Kattreya could play. The actor who played Keith became unavailable for ARRIVAL, which was also now destined to compete at 2011 drama festivals, so that plan changed and I made the other man Anne`s brother. It turned into a very tense play with the young police officer arriving and claiming Kevin had killed someone in a hit and run. She turns out to be their son`s ex-girlfriend who was encouraged by him to have an abortion, unbeknownst to them. It was a powerful start to BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGES and only one joke in it.
18.05.2011 ONCOLOGY Lazy Bee Scripts
ONCOLOGY was a tribute to my mother. She had problems with her blood that doctors couldn`t fathom at first. So we went to a procession of clinics with the last stop Oncology and Haematology. However my ability to switch off from medical roleplay roles meant it didn`t register she could have cancer as I knew Haematology concerned blood. When she came out with a leaflet on Myeloma I knew exactly what she had as I had played a similar breaking bad news role. With our many visits later on, I was struck by the moving sight of various couples sitting quietly, as if at an airport, but you knew one of them had cancer but often not which one. I told my Mother it would make a powerful play but she said I would wait until she died. I vehemently disagreed, but we both knew she was right. Two years later I would write ONCOLOGY. I didn`t want to take it to drama festivals as it was still a `raw` subject. With it only being staged in Waterbeach I wanted as large a cast as possible. Set in the clinic waiting room, the call went out for supernumeries along with disguised members of the ARRIVAL cast. I had three couples one would receive good news, one would receive bad and the play ended with Miriam helping Edna going in. The result would be announced in ANNIVERSARY. ONCOLOGY was difficult to write because I was treading the fine line between comedy and tragedy and desperately trying to get the balance right. I veered towards comedy because that is what I thought my mother would have wanted. It was amazing how many people came up to me afterwards to say that was their favourite play and how real it had been.
20.03.1985 THE LAST RESORT
I first tread the adult boards in 1977 and by 1984 I made my directorial debut with THE WINSLOW BOY. Next step was to write and direct my first play. Using the old adage `write about what you know` I remembered the numerous package holidays I had taken and decided to set THE LAST RESORT in Majorca. I replicated three storyline TV shows and along with my love for comedies and thrillers threw everything into the pot. I knew I would have to get an independent view and credibility by taking it to drama festivals. I was very lucky that my local drama group, WCP (now WTC), were very supportive and that there was a general lack of new plays at the time. Probably my worst play won Best New Play Awards at Sawston, Cambridge and Letchworth. At Waterbeach we did it in a double bill with THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND. What a combination Smith and Stoppard!
10.04.1986 BENEATH THE SURFACE
Having written about foreign holidays and football, the writing adage then led me onto business as I worked in the family company. BENEATH THE SURFACE was a quality of life play which I felt was a little misunderstood. I was honing my craft with a cast of four which was half the size of the previous casts. The characters were getting deeper but the plot was probably too flimsy. Rex and Wendy Walford came to see it at Welwyn but passed on publishing which was a disappointment but understandable. I have often thought of rewriting BENEATH THE SURFACE but have always come to the conclusion that is best to keep going forward. Nevertheless we still picked up the adjudicator`s award at Huntingdon and Best New Play at Letchworth. At Waterbeach we did it in a double bill with BLACK COMEDY. Smith and Shaffer now that`s another great combination. Heady days.
05.04.1989 TWICE BITTEN ONCE SHY
DEPARTURE was to me the perfect one-act comedy and I couldn`t improve on it. Having won awards with all four of my plays I felt I had earned the spurs to stage my first full length which happily the committee agreed with. For the first time it would not be based on personal experience but on research into something that interested me. On holiday in Malta, a few years earlier, I stumbled across the PLO office in Valletta and then late on read about a Belgian who had been `taken out` by Mossad agents for developing a Supergun to be used in the Iran/Iraq conflict. This gave me plenty of ideas and I had all the ingredients to weave a love story in there too. In a way TWICE BITTEN ONCE SHY was a thriller way ahead of it`s time when most people didn`t even know where Iraq was. However I had problems in casting and in the end had to take one of the leading roles myself. I asked Julie Petrucci, who had stage managed all my plays, to direct and it ran very smoothly. I was very pleased with the result but unfortunately no-one was interested in publishing a full length play by an unknown author.
20.05.1998 BOXED IN
Once again after writing a successful one-act comedy, in this case PARENTCRAFT, I felt I should have another crack at a full length thriller. This time it was a book about money laundering and one about `the troubles` in Northern Ireland that sparked my interest. This was a four hander and once again, perhaps because of my high standards, people were frightened to audition so I had to take on the role of retiring bank manager Charles Evans myself. I asked my technical director, Mark Easterfield, to direct and we ended up with an unexpected second run. A festival of new plays was to be staged at the Cambridge Drama Centre and we were offered a week`s run. I expect BOXED IN was rather too conventional for this somewhat avant-garde festival and we were watched by only a handful of people during the entire week. In fact the night we decided to video the production there were no paying audience at all. Without any laughs, no interval and having been used to low audiences we didn`t realise until Mark told us at the curtain call. However watching it back it was a great performance and could have been a fine TV play. It was my last full length play before I decided to write double bills instead but good experience for performing at Fringe Festivals twelve years later. Of course it had no hope of being published.
12.05.2004 SCORE and OFFSIDE
For me PENALTY was a one-off but Mark felt I could write a sequel and we could produce a double bill for Waterbeach. Although, at first, I couldn`t imagine how this would be possible, the more I contemplated it, I came to the conclusion that perhaps two short plays could work instead of a full fifty minute single one. I would need to introduce a third character Nick, played by Chris. They would all meet up in a hotel reception supposedly by accident and it would all get very thrillery. My character, Howard, would fall in love with Christine`s again but this time `get off with her` hence the title SCORE. In the third play they had moved in together but Nick would come back for revenge. Halfway through rehearsals I realised the only way it could truly work would be if Nick killed her and she died in my arms. I try to hand over the reigns fully to Mark when he is directing but in this instance thought I had to rewrite the last page. Mark was very good about it and it worked a treat. I liked the idea of the football titles PENALTY, SCORE and OFFSIDE which had double meanings and called the evening A GAME OF THREE HALVES. It was technically a major undertaking for Mark to design a hotel room in Azerbaijan, a hotel reception in an upmarket London hotel and Howard`s flat which meant we had to have two intervals. It was however another opportunity to run PENALTY for four more nights two years later and my first triple bill
27.07.2011 A MIDDLE AGED MAN'S UNCERTAINLY THEORY *
A MIDDLE AGED MAN`S UNCERTAINTY THEORY was the birth of Big Squirrel Productions. It was something completely different and I started it with none of the normal constraints such as time and set. We didn`t even have a script just a general idea that I wanted to put across a message that life is so much more uncertain than we are led to believe. It was at a time when Kattreya was going off to University and my world was suddenly changing so it was a very personal play. It was literally very in-house with three talented actors Tim Boden (who was staying with us at the time), Sean Abbs (Kattreya`s boyfriend at the time) and Kattreya all highly capable of multi-rolling. We work-shopped various ideas in my living room and then in a room above The Sun Pub when I finished directing BIRTHS, DEATHS & MARRIAGES. I honed it down to an hour and we secured three nights at the Etctera Theatre for the Camden Fringe after a preview night at the ADC Theatre. The fact our first performance ended with the London riots breaking out, I don`t think had anything to do with us. We no longer had adjudicators but fully fledged critics reviewing us now, if they turned up, which made a big difference and after a good one in Camden I felt encouraged to have a crack at a ten night run at the Edinburgh Fringe. We learnt to perform to very low audiences but picked up a brilliant review there also, although, sadly too late in the run to make a difference. However I was very happy because she understood exactly what I was getting at. It was technically published by Jasper in 2015 just before they ceased trading but I have a printed copy. Other publishers weren`t interested because they felt it would be too challenging for amateur groups but, although we performed it with three actors, it could easily be performed with a lot more and is just as relevant today.
Tim had a passion for butterflies and I felt I could use it as a metaphor for combining some mental health roleplay roles I had played. Three damaged people living in social housing but eventually would have to re-enter the outside world. It was ultimately a play about moving on. I loved playing a man with learning difficulties for a DWP assessment, he wanted to work but it was plain he never would be able. I called him Peter and made him a butterfly obsessive. I had a delusional character called Mickey who was suffering from PTSD and a wrote a part for Kattreya as a teenager with anger issues. They were looked after by a social worker played by Christine. However Mickey would make up comic fantasy scenes about her that would link the scenes. It was again something completely new but financing became a major issue. With MIDDLE AGED MAN we had stayed with Sean`s family in Airdrie which was brilliant financially, and very kind of them, but meant we spent much of the day travelling to and from the venue and had little time to fully experience the Festival. This time I wanted to stay in Edinburgh and hoped to raise the funds by renting out our spare rooms to, what I had assumed, would be many interested in attending the Fringe. I assumed wrong and had to bear the brunt myself. I wanted to play Peter but Tim dropped out so I had to play Mickey and get two other actors to share the role of Peter. As it literally cost every minute we were on stage I shortened the length which was a mistake. Many people loved the play but wished it were longer. It reminded me, in a way, of BENEATH THE SURFACE a quality of life play that didn`t quite reach it`s full potential. Once again it was a play I thought of rewriting but lost out to newer ventures.
23.05.2015 ALANA *
ALANA was back to my roots with a solid storyline full of twists but with the added ingredient of plenty of live music. Strange, as it maybe for a playwright to say, but I have always felt music can express emotion far better than words. I bought Kattreya a keyboard for Christmas and this would be the centrepiece of ALANA as it was set mainly in a recording studio. We had experimented with an acoustic guitar in CHRYSALIS and now we would use one again alongside the keyboard. For me there is no better sight than entering a theatre to see an array of musical instruments waiting to be played. One of my biggest regrets is that I have never mastered one. ALANA was my obituary play, in more ways than one, initially wondering what would happen to Kattreya when I was no longer around but amplified to the nth degree. As she was training to become a professional actress I felt it could be my last chance to write a leading role for her. Being half Thai she is often mistaken for all sorts of nationalities, one of the more exotic is Hawaiian. So I decided to make her father a sort of `Hawaiian Elvis` who now managed her very successful pop career. They were very close but when he dies unexpectedly she is left alone. She develops a dependent relationship with the doctor, Kate, who cared for her him. When her estranged mother appears at the funeral, Alana tries to forge a relationship with her too and discovers truths of her past that have ramifications for the future. It was the perfect combination of the deep characterisations of my past plays with the Big squirrel multi scenes style and minimal set. No-one left the stage, they either sat with their backs to the stage when Alana had monologues to the audience or were involved in their individual scenes.The instruments, a mic stand and two chairs were used to convey the recording studio, a hospital, a church, her mothers home, Waikiki and a pop venue. Mark did a superb lighting design and Kattreya choose the music with a brilliantly apt mash-up. We opened over two weekends at the Brighton Fringe then had a short run at Corpus Playrooms. The following year, after a couple more previews in Cambridge, we were all set for a two week run at the Edinburgh Fringe. If anything was going to work this was. Excellent review from BroadwayBaby at Brighton for publicity, smashing poster and central location but I was wrong again. Not a single reviewer came and only a handful of paying punters. Personally to make matters worse, we were performing our pantos at lunchtime to sellout audiences and then performing ALANA a few hours later to less than ten people. I became very depressed as artistically ALANA was streets ahead of ALADDIN but it was not what the people wanted and very difficult to sell on the Royal Mile (something I have to admit I am very bad at) Audiences that saw ALANA raved about it but I had been down this road before and could do no more. I decided to call it a day on my playwriting career and I haven`t written another play since. However I am pleased to say I passed the mantle on to Kattreya who has already written four successful plays (three I have directed and the fourth, with a smidgen of role reversal, I had a part written for me)
*Further details and production photos on Big Squirrel page
While performing CHRYSALIS at Paradise in St Augustines we used to jealously watch the queues for lunchtime children shows. Kattreya thought we could write a summer panto that would sell. There is no inherent reason why Pantos have to be in winter and so the Big Squirrel Panto was born. We needed the smallest cast possible to cover all the principal parts and decided we could get away with six. As we wanted to cover the whole three weeks we elected to perform our own versions of the two most popular ALADDIN and CINDERELLA alternating each day. I was to direct ALADDIN with Kattreya playing the title role. She wrote the basic storyline and I the jokes and monologues. It worked well and we previewed at Anglia Ruskin`s Mumford Theatre before heading north. Unlike any other Big Squirrel production we had already sold out our first performance before we arrived and got our longed for queues outside the venue. One of the cast could only have two weeks from work so I took over Abanazar for the last week. We plugged both shows equally but it was interesting that ALADDIN generated larger ticket sales and we put this down to boys preferring it to CINDERELLA whereas girls seemed to like both.
Kattreya directed CINDERELLA while I played one of the ugly sisters Sharon. I have never been photographed so much as when I was in full regalia on the Royal Mile. Even I thought she made a fine figure of a woman. Once again Kattreya wrote the basic storyline and I mainly wrote all the ugly sister lines making sure I didn`t have anything too difficult to say myself. Again we previewed in late July at the Mumford Theatre. We made sure after every show that children could take photos of us in the foyer which was very popular and I really enjoyed how excited they were. This time it was Kattreya taking over the role of Buttons for the last week. Five years later and WTC, due to covid restrictions, could not use their main venue for the 2022 pantomime. Mark suggested they ask us for one of our much smaller scale versions for a fifty seater venue he had found. CINDERELLA has now been reborn with Kattreya directing in January 2022. As I was away at the beginning of the year celebrating a milestone birthday, my only involvement was some ugly sister wrangling and making my debut with the follow spot (which I thoroughly enjoyed particularly following the slipper when the ugly sisters try to destroy it)
13.04.2022 (TBC) SUPERELLA
With the success of our two traditional pantos the next step was to write a new modern version. Kattreya came up with an idea for a superhero and a great tag line `Princess by day Superhero by night` We wanted this to be able to tour to small venues so decided on a cast of four. Again she wrote the basic storyline and I wrote the comedy particularly the dame, which I was going to play. We had booked a tryout run at Corpus Playroom in 2020, now Big Squirrel`s home ground, when covid struck and everything got cancelled. When it looked like we could start again last year I was unavailable and we decided to ask Tom Heritage if he would play Nanny. That got cancelled again and it is now booked for April 2022. I will now be directing and rehearsals are scheduled to start in February. Performance dates April 13th -16th at Corpus with more details on my Big Squirrel Page.