Unproduced Plays


Note


Most writers who have any number of unproduced or unpublished works. The plays below account for considerable time commitment on my part. Some of them made it to the public reading stage. Some of them have been read privately by actor friends or been sent to producers. None have had a full production – yet. A number of my plays, Coward and Reformation amongst them, have taken years to get to the stage. I don’t think many of these would disgrace themselves…

Abdo’s Consummation (2017)



Note:

Academic colleagues in Middlesex’s Nursing department asked me to write a piece for an upcoming conference on Female Genital Mutilation. They wanted me to write something showing the experience of men whose wives or girlfriends had undergone this despicable injury. I wrote a monologue and it was read at the conference and later to a Creative Writing class. Audiences responded very positively. I’d like to develop it further, as it’s a story worth telling.

Story:

Omdurman, Sudan, now. Abdo is a souq (market) worker in his early twenties. He falls in love with the young woman who his family arrange for him to wed. The consummation of their marriage is ruined by the long-term consequences of her mutilation.

Short play; casting requirements:

1 m

Reading:

FGM Conference 2017 at Middlesex University
Cast: Chris Udoh (Abdo); directed by James Martin Charlton

Protomartyr (2013-14)



Note:

Written as a companion piece to Been on the Job Too Long. Been… is about the desperate exploitation, violence, and victimising which make up a fair amount of human history. Protomartyr wonders about a possible way out of all that. It’s hard to get plays about faith produced. I’d like to stage it in a church.

Story:

Cologne, early 21st Century and Verulamium, early 3rd Century AD. A British tourist is confronted by the remains of an early martyr whilst visiting a church in Germany. Alban tells his story. He was a former officer, now working as an administrator in the Roman colony in Britain. He offered a Christian priest, on the run from persecution, a sanctuary. This led to his arrest and trial before the Emperor Severus. He became the first British martyr.

One act play; casting requirements:

3m (with doubling)

A Boy’s Love, or a Whore’s Oath (2014)



Note:

Written at the request of a company looking for response plays to King Lear. They said they liked it but it didn’t make their showcase. It would work well in an evening with Battis Boy and Fellow Creature.

Story:

Masopalmas, Canary Islands, today; London, some years ago. Brian, an elderly gay man trapped in a loveless marriage, remembers the time he let true love go.

Short play; casting requirements:

1 f, 2 m

Sorry Just Too Late (2003-4)



Note:

A second attempt, after Desires of Frankenstein, at a spec radio play. It’s seemingly about betrayal between friends. Or it might be about helping someone to develop by letting them go. The BBC, virtually the only market for radio plays at the time, didn’t go for it. It could work well on stage. The title riffs off a song Hardy sings to Laurel in the mighty short Laughing Gravy.

Story:

London, late 20th Century. In the past, Misty was encouraged and inspired by his friendship with a visionary pal, Lumiere. Together they operated an Alternative Health Practice. But the money ran out and the venture collapsed. In the present, Misty is courted by Corporate interests keen to hear all about Lumiere’s methods and theories. Misty’s ambitious girlfriend Nyssa encourages him to spill the beans. Will Lumiere see this as a betrayal?

Full length play; casting requirements:

2 f, 3 m (with doubling)

whatever (2004-5)



Note:

I Really Must be Getting Off was a hit, so I wrote this for the same market. It satirises a trend for middle class gays to dress as “chavs” for sexual kicks. Being me, I introduced a visionary character. Soho Theatre liked it and gave it a reading but never took it forwards.

Story:

London, late 20th century. Two media friends who drink in Soho and live in Hampstead. A couple of working-class lads live and work in Romford. These come together when Deelen, an Advertising Manager on a liberal broadsheet, hooks up with Dean, a computer techie. Deelen visits Dean in Romford. He meets Dean's family life, his BNP supporting brother, Tone, and his strange friend, Swain. Deelen’s drinking buddy, the TV pundit and social justice journalist Cressida Hawking, agrees to help. She harbours hopes that he'll help satisfy her own needs…

Full length play; casting requirements:

1 f, 4 m

Reading:

Writer’s Seminar Room, Soho Theatre, Tuesday 28th June, 2005
Cast: Robert Boulter (Swain), Caroline Burns Cooke (Cressida), Jamie Martin (Tone), Euan Macnaughton (Deelen), Christopher Parker (Dean); directed by Benet Catty

Spirited Away (2002)



Note:

Ted Craig at the Warehouse commissioned this. Pork and Cabbage in Coming Up had been very popular, and he wanted a play with them at its centre. It was the last play (this far) I wrote in verse. There are even some raps, which I recorded myself as demos! It was given a reading but the Warehouse’s financial fortunes were going down and they were never able to programme it.

Story:

Tower block England. A new millennium. Old Pork and Cabbage don’t have much to look forward to. Their pensions are minimal and their bodies are failing fast. Above them lives a nuisance neighbour GD, a drug addict who constantly plays loud music. GD thinks that he’s either going completely potty or his flat is haunted. Could it be the ghost of the old couple’s late daughter, Lily? A panoramic vision of a world gone wrong and the spirit which strives to redeem it.

Full length play; casting requirements:

3 f, 3 m

Reading:

Writers in the Wings, Warehouse Theatre, 30 June, 2002
Cast: Coral Beed (Lily), Frank Ellis (Pork), Frankie Fitzgerald (GD) Tom Hayes (Bloke/Freejack/Python/Mrs Dank), Laura Rees (Goblin), Stella Tanner (Cabbage); directed by Ted Craig; music by Stuart Headey

The Pilgrim’s Progress (2001-2)



Note:

Huge adaptation of Bunyan commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was meant for the Swan or The Other Place. The literary manager who commissioned it, Simon Reade, left soon after I delivered. It never found a supporter in the new regime. It needs a large cast and a lot of imagination. It would be great in an open air or cathedral setting.

Story:

Christian runs from the City of Destruction, under the instruction of Evangelist. On the way to the Celestial City he meets many enemies, friends, and hazards. He passes through the Slough of Despond, is persecuted at Vanity Fair, is forced to fight Apollyon and the Giant Despair. Back at home, his wife and children suffer without him.

Full length play; casting requirements:

15 f/m

Divine Vision (1998-9)



Note:

William Blake’s experiences with his patron William Hayley are hugely revealing. I got a grant from the Peggy Ramsay Foundation to write a Blake/Hayley play. My agent at the time thought it was the best thing I’d written. It did the rounds of literary managers but didn’t get taken forwards. One wrote that the visions hold up the action – it’s a play about Blake, of course it has visions! We did a reading with my company but didn’t have the resources to mount it. It’s the greatest sorrow of my career that Divine Vision hasn’t been produced.

Story:

London, 1800. Things aren't going too well for engraver William Blake. His business lacks customers, his wife Catherine is worrying over the bills, he's driven to distraction by his country's wars, he's seeing visions of the Apocalypse, his planned epic on the divine humanity remains unwritten. To top it all, he's being haunted by John Milton. Blake is initiated by the famous poet William Hayley to leave London and settle in the seaside village of Felpham. There Blake will work as Hayley's amanuensis. In Felpham, things don't quite work out the way Blake had them planned. Hayley has the engraver illustrating banal verses. Catherine falls ill. William Blake's vision is growing dim. Things come to a head when Blake discovers a drunken soldier pissing in the garden of his cottage. Blake reacts angrily and shoves him out. This leads to a charge of sedition. Blake spirit is raised by an encounter Lamb of God, who reignites Blake's divine vision and gives him the prelude to his epic, "And did those feet in Ancient Time..."

Full length play; casting requirements:

3 f, 4 m (with doubling)

Reading:

Friendly Fire Productions at Swedenborg Hall, 21 July, 1999
Cast: Michael Culkin (William Hayley), Paul Danan (Robert the student/Robert Blake/Lamb of God), Richard Earthy (John Milton/Skolfield), Tim Kane (Samuel Rose), Toni Palmer (Lady Bathurst), Katy Secombe (Mary), Angela Sims (Catherine Blake), Lee Whitlock (William Blake); directed by James Martin Charlton

Merry Devils (1999)



Note:

I can’t remember why I wrote this. I probably thought it might be funny to show what a corporate hell might be like. Years after I wrote it some actors liked it and wanted to do it. I wrote them Been on the Job Too Long and Protomartyr to go with it, to be performed together as All This Repetition. They never got it together to get any of them on.

Story:

Hell. Miss Manager trains two devils, Aim and Milky, in the art of driving humanity to despair. The devils compete amongst themselves for promotion.

Short Play; casting requirements:

3 f/m

Cell: A Tragedy (1997)



Note:

I read a biography of Mapplethorpe and it struck me as a tragedy that a bright and burning spirit got pulled down by nature into death. Nietzsche gave me a vision of an individual life branching out, and that birth creating its death. I wrote a genuine tragedy, Chorus and all. I don’t think many people read this. It contains some of my best verse.

Story:

Richard Cella, a poor boy from the suburbs, reinvents himself as a radical queer artist, Cell. He seduces critics, has great success, wins a beautiful lover. AIDS kills Richard Cella but Cell lives on. A Chorus of Gossips observes his fate.

Full length play; casting requirements:

1 f, 4 m

Fairground Trip (1996)



Note:

I was into the idea of magical figures leading characters on journeys of self-discovery. I was also trying to find a way to stage the positive psychological experience of psychedelics (as I’d tried to stage the negative in Screaming Jesus). This was written on spec and the Warehouse toyed with producing. After a reading (Danny Dyer was in the cast), they didn’t take it forward and commissioned Coming Up. I wanted to produce it with Friendly Fire but the resources weren’t there.

Story:

England, 1990s. Alby and Gwen English and their kids Lee and Diane are your average dysfunctional family. When Turner Hook erupts into their lives and lures them into a fairground trip. A surreal, fantastical, and revelatory world opens up to them.

Full length play; casting requirements:

2 f, 4 m

Reading:

Writers in the Wings at Warehouse Theatre, 16 March, 1997
Cast: Stephen Bent (Alby English), Joanna Brookes (Gwen English/Egypt), Danny Dyer (Lee English), Helen Greer (Diane English), Tom Murphy [Tom Hayes] (David King), Micky Poppins (Turner Hook); directed by Robin Dashwood

Cod’s Law (1995)



Note:

I got a writer-in-residence grant from the Arts Council to be attached to the Warehouse. I wrote this as a deconstruction of a Simon Gray-type play. It wasn’t what the Warehouse wanted after Fat Souls.

Story:

London, the 1990s. Ronald Joseph Jones, a barrister and cold fish, argues with his son, James, and his wife, Natasha. He has long, rambling, exclusive conversations on the phone with his friend, Cedric. Another friend, miserable old queen, Theydon Bois, calls to cry. Then Ronald is visited by a woman, Tina, whose rapist he is defending. His world, or the play he’s in, falls apart. Natasha, James, Theydon, and Tina get to shape a very different drama.

Full length play; casting requirements:

2 f, 3 m

Dog ends where God begins (1993-5)



Note:

This is two plays. Portmanteaus of short, thematically linked playlets. One is negative nightmares, the other positive visions. Most of them were based on dreams. We did a workshop of Dog Ends at Kings Cross Playwrights and it earned me a meeting with Max Stafford-Clarke at the Royal Court. Friendly Fire did a couple of the Where God Begins pieces at our fundraisers.

Story:

Dog ends… A man lives with his talking dog, which causes problems between him and his new girlfriend. A balladeer exploits the sufferings of a prostitute. A man brings a boy home to his wolf. Three wolves lure and eat a lamb. Bluebeard takes Judith down to his lowest level. A murderer wastes away in a cell. A man waits for trade in a cottage. The man is left alone with his talking dog.
where God begins Bill and Ben get a mission. An encounter with an old, poor, disabled man teaches some arrogant toffs humility. Flip realises he’s welcome at an exclusive party. Two adventurers help a tribe fight off some demons with the help of The Glimp. Peck alienates his friends and family until Jung helps him understand that it’s all the doing of Null. A nihilist rock star has a brush with death and decides to give his audience some hope.

Two full length plays, or one very long one; casting requirements:

5-6 f/m (lots of doubling)

Screaming Jesus (1993)



Note:

Psychedelics can be enlightening but scary as hell if things go wrong. You believe what you want to believe. Sometimes it seems there’s traps in everything. Charles Manson was unlucky in lots of things, even his name. When he was strung out, he used it against himself. It’s almost like there are dark forces and trickster gods working against folk. I tried to capture this devious business in Screaming Jesus. A bad trip in verse. The Warehouse looked at it after Fat Souls but passed. I still think it would be a savage, visceral performance event.

Story:

A released sociopath, Joshua Cross, comes into the orbit of two hurting rich kids. They feed him psychedelic drugs. He “realises” he is Christ. The clues are in the lyrics of a singer, Rob Byron, and even there in Joshua’s name! He and the kids take revenge on the youngster’s wealthy parents. An evil demiurge, Ahriman, and his trickster helper, Edshu, ensure that it all goes wrong for their victims below.

Full length play; casting requirements:

3 f, 5 m, 2 f/m (perhaps less with some doubling)

Lost (1992)



Note:

I was unlucky in love and wrote this to get someone out of my system. A tone poem, really. Not much action. Some playing around with language and spatial relationships. I read it through once with some actors.

Story:

Need tries to court Ice Baby. Ice Baby remains in a play pen, whilst Need remains in the wasteland outside.

Short play; casting requirements:

2 f/m

Something in the Entertainment World (1991)



Note:

The last of the World trilogy. I conceived the idea from the antics of an old vaudevillian I knew. When I first met him, he described himself as per the title. Also, the depressing lifelong working-class experience of watching TV variety. An old world of lies which I wanted consigned to the fire. Robin Dashwood, now a TV producer, tried to get it on with some fellow graduates. They baulked at the scatological dialogue. I originally subtitled it A Play About Shite.

Story:

Song and dance man Alec Lang is having a bad day. He’s come down to performing in Ted Trooser’s seedy club. His agent is giving up on him. His wife is showing her age. His estranged son has some bad news. At least he has his teenage mistress, Jenny, for some comfort. Then Jenny’s angry ex shows up to right what he sees as the terrible injustice of age exploiting youth.

Full length play; casting requirements:

3 f, 6 m

Lot: Scenes of Artifice and Innocence (1984)



Note:

I wrote What Are Neighbours For? without any first-hand knowledge of other gays. After a year or so on the scene, I wrote Lot. You can guess the impression gay London made on me, as I described Lot as ‘A Morality Play’. The title was a nod to the patriarch in Genesis and his escape from the cities of the plain (Genesis, 18-19). It’s the first biblical allusion in my plays. We talked about it as a possible Fireworks production and read it through a couple of times, but it never happened.

Story:

London, mid-80s. Joe is playing the scene, until he meets Tim. They hope to settle down together. Then Tim wins a fortune. Joe’s old friends come sniffing round. Joe is seduced into betraying Tim. Death and mayhem follow.

One act play; casting requirements:

1 f, 7 m (approx., with doubling)

Games at Playtime (1983)



Note:

The first play I took seriously. I’d been writing skits and sketches to make myself and my mates laugh. I couldn’t help noticing that there were some things which weren’t so funny. Some things about human behaviours, including my own, which didn’t add up. We played some snide and stirring games in the school yard. I wrote this as a kind of magic tester, to see what would happen if we got up to the same larks when we grew up. It was almost performed with C.G. Mason’s The Man Downstairs as Fireworks’ second production, but we scaled back our ambitions and staged only one play.
[This play might be lost, or buried on an old hard drive. The play I wrote just after it, a Brenton-type political play called Revelations, Not Fiction, is certainly dust.]

Story:

A stirrer sits at the centre of a group of male friends. His machinations and mistruths lead to tragedy.

One act play; casting requirements:

4 m

Unfinished and abandoned



Aside from the play’s above, there were many plays that I abandoned as unworkable, or I just got bored with. Although I never set aside anything anyone paid me to write.
Amongst the titles of those discarded pieces are Game, Set & Match (an expansion of the short play Lost featuring the Egyptian god Set), Ignoble Dustman (a dustman’s adventures following the advice of a Guru, for which the Arts Council turned down a grant application), Magick Moments/This World Can’t Stand Long (both featuring an old Aleister Crowley-esque magus called Waystairs wasting in a seaside boarding house), Tending the Shrine (epic about belief being tested over many years), Cruel Encyclopaedia (a libertine teaches an encyclopaedist the ways of cruelty; a bit too Howard Barker), Twatted by Suze Drayton (meta-play on a new writing venue which forced a young woman to write about victims), and Jezebel Withers (religious school teacher gets her revenge on sexually active boys). If there was time enough and money…

Juvenilia


Everybody has to start somewhere. In my mid-teens I wrote comedy skits set in the middle ages (Oh, Sir Jasper, Do Not Touch Me!) and ancient Rome (The Fall of the Gnoman Empire, or Ffallus Goes Limp); various sketches; and A True Story, a short and violent oddity parodying The Romans in Britain but far more obscene, blasphemous and violent. We’d read them through in school and sixth form. They made others laugh, which only encouraged me; A True Story appalled my friends, which encouraged me all the more.
























James Martin Charlton































































































































































































James Martin Charlton








































































James Martin Charlton