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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Cabinet Maker's Daughter - the Commission

However experienced you are, however long you have been practising your craft, a playwright is only as good as his or her next commission.  "The Cabinet Maker's Daughter" is the second (or third, if you count the schools version) commission I have had from AsOne Theatre and it brings my total over the past forty years to around the thirty mark.  Still a bit to go to catch up with Will Shakespeare but I'll keep bashing on.  More to the point, if I keep working, I'll keep getting better.

When Jane Mckell asked me to do a piece about Mary Anning, I had my reservations. If you want a biography, you're better off reading it in print form.  There are dozens of biographies out there which can go into much greater detail with much more factual content than a two hour play.  Besides which there have been a couple of successful novels and a film in the offing.  What can a play offer?  For me, the way in was a visit to Lyme Regis  to follow in Mary's footsteps.  Almost immediately I got a sense of the sheer slogging hard work she had to carry out, digging in the cold, glutinous, grey clay and shale, heaving heavy slabs of rock back and forth.  Hammering, hammering amid the cold spray and gales on the winter shore.  She must have been physically and mentally tough in a way we can hardly comprehend today. Against all odds she had to make a living and develop a serious science.

So the piece I wanted to write would deal with how Mary dealt with hardship especially at the end of her life when she was dying of breast cancer with no modern pain relief to make her passing easier.  It was going to be a serious piece.  Gothic and funny where it could be but challenging nonetheless.  To my delight Jane gave me her blessing and a year later the play is finished and on tour with a fabulously committed cast and crew, a wonderful, fascinating set and an evocative soundscape.

I am very proud of my work.  It's the best I've ever done and I hope it's satisfied the commission and moves audiences but now I'm moving on to the next commission which I hope will be even better.

If you want to get an idea of how I approached this commission just come to one of these performances.

Spring/Summer 2012 Tour
Fri 11 May (7.30pm) Whitcombe Church, Whitcombe PREVIEW – Tel: 01305 835 541

Sat 12 (7.30 pm) The Manor Pavilion Theatre, Sidmouth – Tel: 01395 514 413

Friday 18 (7.30 pm) Arts Centre, Crediton – Tel: 01363 773 260 

Friday 25 (7.30 pm) The Mowlem, Swanage – Tel: 01929 422 239

Sat 9 June (7.30 pm) The Athenaeum Theatre, Warminster – Tel: 01985 213 891

Friday 15 June (7.30 pm) The Rondo, Bath – Tel: 01225 463 362

Sat 16 June (2.30 pm & 7.30 pm) Lighthouse, Poole - Tel: 0844 406 8666

Fri 29 June (7.30 pm) Barnfield Theatre, Ignite Fest. Exeter – Tel: 01392 270891

Thurs 5th July (7.30 pm) The Playhouse, Weston Super Mare - Tel: 01934 645544

Sat 7 July (7.30 pm) Weymouth Pavilion Theatre – Tel: 01305 783 225

Autumn 2012 Tour
Thurs 4 October Regent Arts Centre, Christchurch – Tel 01202 499 148

Frid 19 Oct Swindon Arts Centre – Tel: 01793 614837.

Sat 27 Oct The Exchange, Sturminster Newton – Tel: 01258 475 137

Sat 3 Nov Shaftesbury Arts Centre – Tel: 01747 854 321

Sat 10 Nov The Wharf, Devizes – Tel: : 01380 725 944

Friday 16 Nov Bridport Art Centre – Tel: 01308 424 204
More dates to follow