Ria Parry to direct world premiere of Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern

Ria Parry, whose past productions include Mad About the Boy and Caryl Churchill’s Fen, will direct the world premiere of Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern. Due to tour from September to November 2015, it will also play at London’s Arcola Theatre in January 2016.

Director Ria Parry. Credit: Lydia Stamps

Director Ria Parry. Credit: Lydia Stamps

Inspired by a Hertfordshire village in 1712, the play centres around the title character as she is blamed for a tragic death and charged with witchcraft after decades free from witch hunts. As the village is torn between those wanting to save her life and those claiming they want to rescue her soul, Lenkiewicz’s play will immerse the audience in society’s hunger to find – and create – witches in the village of Walkern.
Originally a research workshop supported by the University of Hertfordshire (an Out of Joint Associate University) and the National Theatre Studio, the idea was borne out of the true story of Jane Wenham, the last woman in England to be convicted of witchcraft.
Of the play, Max Stafford Clark said: ‘I heard the story of Jane Wenham when I was teaching at the University of Hertfordshire, and I met a historian, Owen Davies, who specialises in the modern history of witchcraft. He joined Rebecca and me and a team of actors for a two week workshop at the National Theatre Studio, and also out researching in Hertfordshire. From Jane Wenham’s sad story, Rebecca has created a haunting and resonant play, rooted in history yet full of her own rich invention. I can’t wait to see it brought to the stage by Ria Parry, whose previous successes include what many thought one of the finest productions of Caryl Churchill’s – Fen, and two Fringe First-winning plays.’
The cast includes David Acton, Judith Coke and Tim Delap.

Premiere of short political plays series by acclaimed playwrights

A new series of short plays inspired by the tension between art and politics are to be performed in London this month. Offstage Theatre, in association with Theatre Uncut, commissioned 11 playwrights for ‘Walking the Tightrope: The Tension between Art and Politics’ to write in response to issues of censorship and boycott in the arts.

The playwrights taking part in the project include Caryl Churchill, Ryan Craig, April De Angelis, Tim Fountain, Hannah Khalil, Neil LaBute, Hattie Naylor, Julia Pascal, Evan Placey, Mark Ravenhill and Sarah Solemani.


Actors Melissa Woodbridge and Syrus Lowe rehearse for ‘Walking the Tightrope’ (Credit: Grace Gummer)

Participating writer in the project Neil LaBute said: ‘I’m hugely excited to be a part of Walking the Tightrope – a collection of short plays by a group of terrific writers about the freedom of expression. I feel really lucky to be included as this theme has always been an important one in my own work and the form that is being used – the five-minute play – is a wonderful and difficult one to master.

‘If you care about humanity, then you care about the arts. If you care about the arts, you need to support this kind of work. In my mind, there is nothing that can’t be said or seen on the stage. I think Walking the Tightrope intends to prove that many times over, five minutes at a time.’

The resultant plays will be performed from 26–31 January at Theatre Delicatessen in Farringdon, London. Each performance will be followed by a post-show discussion featuring panels comprising political pundits, journalists, artistic directors, campaigners, artists and academics.

For more information on ‘Walking the Tightrope’, visit www.offstage.org.uk/shows/Walking-the-Tightrope.html. To book tickets, visit http://walkingthetightrope.brownpapertickets.com.


Subscribe to Teaching Drama as a print or digital edition now for more news, features and information. Single issues are also available inprint and digital from just £2.49.

Brenton, Churchill and Wertenbaker to feature in young writers scheme for Theatre503

Paul Nov 2011Paul Robinson has revealed his first season at Theatre503 as sole artistic director. He had previously shared the role with Tim
Roseman, when they were jointly appointed in 2006.

The theatre is launching a number of new initiatives and programmes, Playwright Presents will see respected writers Caryl Churchill, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Howard Brenton present rehearsed readings of works from young, unestablished playwrights.

Timberlake Wertenbaker said: ‘I’m extremely happy to be part of this great project supporting young playwrights. It’s always invigorating to hear new voices in the theatre and I’m very much looking forward to working with my protégée. I’m sure I’ll learn as much from her as she will from me.’

To read more of this story, subscribe or buy a digital copy of Teaching Drama Spring 1

Artistic director Dominic Cooke reveals penultimate season for Royal Court

Artistic director Dominic Cooke has unveiled the line-up for the coming season at The Royal Court – the penultimate season before his planned departure in 2013. Playwrights Jez Butterworth, Martin Crimp and Caryl Churchill will all feature this autumn at the London theatre. Cooke said: ‘Each writer has a long history with the Royal Court and I’m honoured to be welcoming them back this season.’

Caryl Churchill will return to the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs with her 17th play for the Royal Court, Love and Information. Churchill began her distinguished career at the theatre with her own first play, Owners in 1972, and went on to become the Royal Court’s resident dramatist in 1974. Cooke said of her contribution to the season: ‘A new play by Caryl Churchill is a major cultural event.’

Jez Butterworth’s new play, The River, will mark the playwright’s first return to the Royal Court since his success with Jerusalem. Tickets for Butterworth’s follow-up are expected to be in such high demand that it has been decided they will not be sold in advance. The River will run in the Royal Court’s Upstairs Theatre, which only seats 90 people. Audiences will only be able to purchase tickets on the day of performance – with tickets going on sale at 9am online, then being made available to buy at the Royal Court’s box office at 10am.

Dominic Cooke said: ‘It’s a privilege to welcome back some of the UK’s most influential playwrights to the Royal Court in my penultimate season as Artistic Director. To have the latest work from Martin Crimp and Jez Butterworth in the same season is a rare and thrilling prospect. These are writers who have reshaped the theatrical landscape and challenged us to imagine ourselves in new ways. Their new plays are as startlingly original as anything they’ve written.’

For more information, or to book tickets: www.royalcourttheatre.com; box office 020 7565 5000.