FEST 2011

Did history really happen if there is no one to say so?
And how do we restore the stubborn voices of a silent past?

The Theatre in the Rough Festival 2011 staged two nights of new work bringing local 'hidden histories' back to life.

From Dark Age enigma to the dare-devil pioneers of early aviation, this programme of bold new writing brought the past tearing into the present.

Fest 2011 took place on 1 — 2 April at Unity Theatre Liverpool. An accompanying exhibition also ran at Southport's Botanic Gardens Museum, drawing 19,500 visitors.

An anthology of the writers' plays was also published to coincide with the festival, and is available to buy here.

Creative Team

Lindsay Goulbourne, Hayley Greggs, Rachel Hankin,
Rose Hardy, Zoe Marras, Rachel Molloy,
Amber-Page Moss, Katy Owens, Keri Spellman

Ursula Carey-Jenkins
Natalie Dowdeswell
Chris Fittock

Grace Stead

Christopher Johns

Nicola Jones
Dr. Reg Yorke, David Davies
Bob Jones


by Sarah Williams

"Flying isn't a show. It's not a performance. It's an art"

Robert Fenwick is making waves with his forward-thinking and revolutionary airplane designs. He and his partner, Sydney Swaby, are busy crafting the Mersey Monoplane, and are fêted for their ingenuity not only by the Liverpool Post and Echo, but also nationals such as the Guardian.

That is, until the ascendance of Cecil Paterson — baby-faced boaster and handsome hotshot. Suddenly, Fenwick is yesterday's man, with all he believes in choked by the vacuum of celebrity.

A re-imagining of the lives of real aviators, and looking at the dented pride of the humble engineer, Burnout asks: is it better to burn out than fade away?

Particular Friends of Paterson

by Hayley Greggs

"...jet black locks, a strong jawline and the kind of eyes that sparkle by candlelight against a waxy sky of stars in June..."

Barnes and Potter — skilled ingénues and steadfast aviator groupies — are after one thing and one thing only: Formby's 25 year-old flying superstar, Cecil Compton Paterson.

Whoever persuades Paterson to take up, and win, the Daily Mail Air Race from Liverpool to Manchester gets to keep him. Cue a genteel war of wits, full of refined aggression, polite altercation and civil incivility — complete with teddy bears, pear drops and a small tree.

Much in the vein of The Importance of Being Earnest, Particular Friends of Paterson pits modern celebrity worship against the Edwardian mask of manners.

Sinking Heaven

by Phil Montgomery & Tom Martin

"The Captain stood where a Captain should,
For the Law of the Sea is grim;
The Owner romped while the ship was swamped,
And no law bothered him"
— Ben Hecht, 1912 *

The ghosts of the dead haunt J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, and owner of the Titanic. Ostracised by London society and savaged by the press for allegedly abandoning the ship in contravention of the "Women and Children First" principle, a tortured Ismay seeks salvation alone.

One spectre haunts him in particular: young William Brailey, a member of the famous band that 'played on' as the Titanic sank. As well as a gifted pianist, Brailey was also part of the Freshfield jet set, flying with early aviators such as Cecil Paterson.

A study in the dynamics of guilt, Sinking Heaven pits the character of a man who has become a specimen of fear against the potential of a man cut down in his prime.

* With thanks to Florice Whyte Kovan for her information on Master and Man by Ben Hecht.

Diesel Heart

by Kathryn Owens

"Is that what you wanted to say? 'Don't hurt me, because it wasn't my fault'? Well, when I kill you — I want you to know — that it's all my fault"

For James and Hans, the advent of the airplane symbolised a spiritual transcendence through the conquest of the sky — the realisation of man's ancient desire to take to the air.

However, James has Hans tied up and is threatening harm. A dream has fallen badly to earth. No longer a celestial triumph but a harbinger of ruin, the airplane has caught up with its military destiny — bringing bombing raids, terror and death.

Diesel Heart is a play about betrayal: about what happens when our aspiration abandons us and we are seduced by a broken promise.

Broken Wings

by Jessica Buxton

"It wasn't the flying that attracted me. It was his arrogance. All women know that an arrogant man is both irritating and stimulating"

Jez, Audrey and Pauline. The flyer, his wife and his lover. Big people, with big lives, and fragile hearts.

The tensions between domesticity, desire and deliverance produce a final devastating truth for all three: or do they? Three separate speakers recount a broken mythology of loving and being loved, tearing the truth inside out in search of their own salvation.

Based on the real lives of the original jet set, Broken Wings is a dark, fractured romance about devotion and desertion.

The Union

by Alex Moran

"The Lieutenant's been fooled, hasn't he? He wants to join all the other locked up, besotted boys with a bitter taste in their mouths..."

Liverpool. A bare room above an unremarkable inn. The beguiling former spy, Belle Boyd, the 'Cleopatra of the Secession', stands in the corner, impassively, as a sickly man asks her to tell him their story.

A Union ship. The middle of the Atlantic. A young, handsome Samuel Hardinge is guarding the freshly captured Belle Boyd. Less ferocious when faced with the gallows, she is soothed by the Lieutenant, and heads and hearts are slowly turned.

However, the ship's solemn Captain, Swasey, warns Hardinge that Boyd is manipulating him like so many others before. Will Hardinge heed Swasey's word, or believe Boyd and help her escape?

The Union looks at the inscrutable middle-ground between true love and misplaced trust.

Never Hit Soft

by Jessica Frackelton

"Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting. But never hit soft"

North and South. Father and Uncle. Faith and fidelity. On a dark and stormy night, an ailing Theodore Roosevelt is visited from the past by the ghosts of his divided house.

Theodore Roosevelt Snr., a strong Lincoln Republican during the Civil War, was an enormous influence on his young and fragile son. As was his Uncle, James Bulloch, the architect of the Confederacy's upstart navy, based in Liverpool.

Born the child of a polarised family in a polarised land, Roosevelt later claimed that it "has been my great fortune to have the right to claim my blood as half Southern and half Northern".

Never Hit Soft imagines the President's attempts to reconcile this angst of opposites.

Look to your own Defences

by Katie Cook

"That's what you do... you find somewhere small and wild... and you break it, and you tame it... until there's nothing left inside"

The ancient coast. The call has come for the Roman army to decamp and move south, before finally returning home. Titus dreams of reuniting with the imperial fatherland, far away from the dark, damp gloom of Britannia. But Marcus seems reluctant to leave, largely due to a love affair with a native Briton, Calla.

But when Calla is taken prisoner, and could be next to be hanged, Marcus has a tough choice to make: does his fidelity lie with Calla or with Rome?

Experimenting with period and language, Look to Your Own Defences is inspired by the history of the Crossens Canoe, which dates from between the Roman withdrawal of Britain and the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.


by Helena Lea, Rebecca Leatherbarrow, Emily Maguire, Victoria McCluskie

"My name is Anna-Maria Lockhart, and I have always dreamt of being the first ever woman to fly a plane"

Anna-Maria has always wanted to fly. But when she attempts to enter the big air race, she is told no. Why? Because she's a woman. So she comes back in disguise and aims to play the men at their own game...

Aurae is a comic look at complacent male society and the desire to succeed.

The Boy, the Bird and the Sword

by Sarah Hall, Rachael Hassett, Georgia Lomax, Lucia McGuiness, Charlotte Price, Hannah Reese

"Welcome to Martin Mere. We have a very special reward for the first lucky person to find the rare and elusive Merlin bird..."

A school trip to Martin Mere. Arthur is a nerdy bird spotter, and his best friend, Lance, is trying that bit too hard to fit in with the cool kids.

Challenged to find the rare Merlin bird, Lance has to decide whether to stick by Arthur or betray him to his new gang.

The Boy, the Bird and the Sword is based on the legend of King Arthur, and is inspired by the Crossens Canoe, supposedly found near the mythical home of the Lady of the Lake.