Andover comes alive at The Lights

Come along to The Lights 10 February 2016 to see five professional actors bring alive Andover in the

1960’s, a decade that changed the town for ever.

Based on the memories of local people, And Now We Tell Our Tale was originally written by Roy

Chatfield as a youth theatre piece for fifty-four children and young adults successfully staged last

February. Roy has now rewritten it for five professional actors, and includes additional stories from

the interviews.

The five actors selected are

Nick Bull

Charlotte Ellis

Verity Hewlett

Sharon O’Leary

Fraser Wilson

Director John Baxter is looking forward to working with this enthusiastic and experienced team of

actors. ‘It is an event in itself that we’re bringing professional actors into local schools. That it’s a piece

of theatre about Andover and created wholly in Andover makes it unique.’

In addition to the public performance, the cast will be giving performances and workshops in local


The Performance begins at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £5 (concessions £3), obtainable from The Lights.

There will also be a Q & A session with the cast and team after the performance.

The project is supported by HCC, TVBC, Test Valley Arts Foundation and The Lights.

Review of Metamorphosis by Ben Johnson.

Ben reading to us from his show

Ben reading to us from his show


Ben Johnson’s first poetry show is a philosophical dialogue on creation and robotic life. We meet Herbert who’s life has such an impact on a curious boy, it inspires him to create intelligent robotic life. Johnson’s narrative is personable and gripping as we follow our young boys Shelly like journey on the death of his uncle and his thwarted desire to said uncle back to life. We move into a brief history of robotics and  on to a personal views for and against robots.

Johnson’s show is engaging and full of multi-layered interlinked images. His delivery wouldn’t be out of place on Radio 4, Click or as a television documentary for Sky Arts. The set has functioning robot Ozymandias, a robot Johnson build himself over the time he created the show itself. The body parts were printed out on a 3 D printer and Ozymandias brings the future world and its robotic challenges to life. Johnson shows us singularity in an operating robot when Ozymandias speaks in the show.

His poems range from straight forward free verse narrative to biting satirical ballads which chilling list poems about the rights or lack of rights of robots. The show is interspersed with video clips that juxtapose or support his narrative.

His dry humour also subjects T.S Elliot to the Turing test. The conclusion is hilarious. His tackling of human morals and how they apply to robots via Christian creation myth is a fascinating display of Chinese whispers on an ethical level.

Johnson’s future after he educates us about the uncanny valley, is to show us a world that first embraces then rejects robots. There are fascinating parallels to human rights history such as the robot taking the bus and the bigoted results. ‘No Robot’ remains my favourite piece listing everything a robot cannot do such as own a cat. Johnson pushes us to think beyond our limited view of machines.

I was interested to see how Johnson was going to present his show. He isn’t a theatrical performer and reads his poetry. His clever work around, reading from a book, which just happens to be a bible, works very well because he works hard to maintain his eye contact and engagement with the audience.

Johnson’s show is so rich, I would be happy to see this show several times, to fully absorb and appreciate all the varied views and points he puts across. My only challenges were he needed to slow down and leave gaps between his links and the actual poems to give the audience time to digest the rich tapestry of ideas and images he presents. We also needed the robots voice to be louder, the venue competed

On a personal level as a poet Johnson’s poetry is so finely crafted it makes me want to be a better poet.  Two of us have decided to write or finish writing our shows and have a live reading in April. This is the effect a good work of art can have. y I have a deep interest in robots and robotics and Johnson’s offering is an excellent interesting humane addition to the debate.

Cat Randle, Ben Johnson and Ozymandias the robot

Cat Randle, Ben Johnson and Ozymandias the robot

The Right Direction

I’ve posted about stage directions that are best cut. What should be left?

Whatever is necessary. This will vary from play to play. Some are more visual than others – indeed, that’s true of moments within a play. The important thing is they earn their keep. Basic directions clearly, but anything more needs to serve a purpose.

Some examples:-

  • Tells the part of the story that can’t be put into words. At the end of the first scene of Christopher Hampton’s The Philanthropist  a disappointed writer puts a gun to his mouth, presses the trigger and shoots himself. At the end of the play the disappointed puts a gun to his mouth, presses the trigger and…lights a cigarette. Read the second the second act of Noises Off to see this done for a whole act.
  • Replaces words. Theatre is a visual medium so actions are often more effective than words. Imagine X handing Y a document. Y reads it through and looks at X. A long pause. X proffers a pen. Y doesn’t take it at first. Eventually he snatches, signs and tosses it to X . You could have a dialogue along the lines of  – ‘I don’t want to sign this’ –  ‘Tough, you have to.’ – but silence conveys more menace.
  • Has a subtext. The character means something by his action which he isn’t saying. Here’s Harold Pinter in The  Caretaker. Ashton has invited Davies, a tramp, back to his brother’s room.Ashton: Sit down.
    (He has to find a chair as there isn’t one)
    Davies: Sit down? … I haven’t had a good sit down…
    I haven’t had a proper sit down…
    (He doesn’t sit down)

    The stage direction indicates that Davies doesn’t want to accept that he is the inferior in the relationship

  • Shows character. In the cherry Orchard one character has squeaky shoes. Why? So you’ll remember who he is  when he reappears after his first brief appearance.

Far Away

London theatre isn’t all £50+ tickets. One of the cheaper venues is the Young Vic, which this November is reviving Caryl Churchill’s Far Away with tickets at £10  and £15.

Churchill is a prolific writer and to me this results in some of her work coming across as staged ideas. At her best, though, she is one of our finest playwrights and Far Away shows her in top form.

So why should a writer make time to see it?  Entries to our Play-in-a-day competition showed many writers attracted to the surreal. The problem was tying their world to the one we know. The characters in Far Away behave naturalistically in non-naturalistic circumstances.

The structure is well worth studying. Three scenes, with a common character, Joan. First she’s a questioning child, second a milliner, third a soldier. We aren’t told what happened in between. Nor do we need to, as Churchill’s theme carries it through.

Finally the writing. Again three contrasts. An adult explaining away something a child shouldn’t have seen; Two workers banter as they design the most ridiculous hat; A family taking a break from a war. Each scene entices you in by hinting at what is happening. (How to solve the problem of writing exposition –  don’t write it). What we finally learn in Joan’s final speech describing her journey to safety that the world has gone mad.

Or is it just us?   The final lesson is how to how to end in ambiguity.


Big Up Words free festival week at Chapel Arts Studio

Big Up Words are holding 3 free events at Chapel Arts Studio. Two events on September 9th and 11th will commemorate World War 1 and Roy Chatfield is holding an open reading of his latest play on September 12th.

“What World War1 means to us,” is an open poetry reading, including local poets Dan Hooks and Bobbie Coelho who has written a poem for the occasion. People are encouraged to bring a poem that means a lot to them. The event starts at 7.30pm on September 9th.

The second event that commemorates World War 1 is “When the Lamps when out-25 war poems by 25 poets.” Roy Chatfield has collated 25 poems at cover colonial, women’s and war experiences of WW1. Starting time is 7.30pm

Duncan’s Dreams is Roy Chatfield’s latest play. Acted by well known drama teacher John Baxter and directed by Ian Flintoff (founder of Shakespeare United.) Roy has written a prequel to Macbeth.

“A big thank you to David Dixon, for giving us the opportunity to use the Chapel Arts Studio,” says Chair Cat Randle. “The intimate space is perfect for the personal performances we have on offer. Big Up Words ethos is to help promote local writers and performers. Thanks to the support of Test Valley Arts Foundation, we can offer all these quality events are free.”

Due to limited seating booking is recommended via Big Up Words website.

Here is a map to help you find Chapel Arts Studio

How to find Chapel Arts Studio

How to find Chapel Arts Studio

September 1st Deadlines

Two submission opportunities close on 1 September.

Lion Tamers Theatre

The Liontamers Theatre Company is looking for submissions for our 2015 North West tour.

Cast Size: Strictly between 2 and 4 cast members. We can allow for doubling
however we must be strict on having no more than four actors. We will
particularly welcome scripts with strong female characters.
Technical Requirements: Again no specific limitations except the need to be suitable for a touring
environment where short get in times limit us.
Length: Full length. To appeal to venues we must have the option of including an
interval. (Bar sales, crikey!)

Please e-mail your play to

Bush Theatre Submissions Window

What Are We Looking for?
We are passionate about encountering new playwrights through our unsolicited script submissions. We receive unsolicited play submissions twice a year in dedicated windows, these open in the summer and autumn respectively.

How to Submit
Our Summer/Autumn submission window is open from 9am on 2 June 2014 and closes at 5pm on 1 September 2014. During this period, please email your proposals to and include, as a separate attachment, a fully completed cover sheet which you can download here
We are unable to receive or read unsolicited scripts that are:
• sent to us by post
• without a cover sheet
• not full-length plays (1 hour +)
• previously produced
• from writers from outside of the UK and Ireland
• sent outside our submissions windows.
• that have been previously submitted to us

What Happened Before Macbeth?

Three witches predicted Duncan would be king. The prophecy came true, but now rebellion is threatens to topple him. Worse, the witches have a new favourite. But who?

Come along to Chapel Arts, Andover, at 7.30 on 12 September 2014 to see the premier of Duncan Dreams, a prequel to Macbeth, written by Roy Chatfield, performed by John Baxter and directed by Ian Flintoff of Shakespeare United.

To reserve a place go to

This is one of a series of free events presented by Big Up Words at Chapel Arts. Others are:-

9 September – Poetry open mic for poets to read poems inspired by WWI

To book to read click

 To reserve a place to listen click –

11 September – When The Lights Went Out. Twenty-five poems by twenty-five writers who experienced the war at home or in battle.

To reserve a place go to



When The Lights Went Off In Europe

A young mother watches a newsreel
Moonlight floods the trenches
A soldier dreams of his girl
A firing squad shoots a deserter
A munitions worker celebrates good wages

Rupert Brooke to Wilfred Owen; Robert Graves to e e cummings –
25 poems by 25 poets giving their experience of a world at war.

A free event at Chapel Arts, Andover, at 7.30, 11 September 2014.  To reserve a place go to

This is one of a series of free events presented by Big Up Words at Chapel Arts. Others are:-

9 September – Poetry open mic for poets to read poems inspired by WWI

To book to read click –

 To reserve a place to listen click –

12 September – Premier of Duncan Dreams, a prequel to Macbeth, written by Roy Chatfield and performed by John Baxter.

To reserve a place go to