Preparations for a new show are underway…research is more or less completed, and a first draft will be written during November. With the working title “GLOWING BRIGHT”, it will tell the extraordinary story of Marie Curie. There are two problems to overcome; the first is how to cram such an eventful life into an hour-and-a-bit show. And the second is how to get across exactly what she and Pierre Curie did. It’s physics! And chemistry! It’s hard stuff! I have had a crash-course in the basics from a proper physicist, who very kindly used simple words and lots of drawings. Now all I have to do is write an entertaining and intelligible play….
Phew – the performance of LARKS AND MAGIC at Kingsclere Village Club on 28th September was incident-free. The last visit to this wonderful venue was somewhat fraught, after Alison discovered on arrival that half the stuff for the show had been stolen from her van somewhere en route….including all the props and the wig; every performer’s worst nightmare! Everyone had their fingers firmly crossed that this time the van would arrive with everything on board, and indeed this was the case. Wig, props, scenery etc etc all ready to go.
It was a huge pleasure to perform once again at this lovely venue, where Alison is always given such a warm welcome. The upgraded hall in this beautiful old building is excellent, and very easy to work in. Although Alison did overhear locals discussing the ghosts who still live upstairs….
All going well so far this year – no weather cancellations, we are glad to report!
LARKS AND MAGIC is getting a lot of bookings, being the newest show. It has been performed in Bledington, Minchinhampton and Coalway in Gloucestershire and Cabrook, Carmarthen, the Dolman Theatre in Newport and theatr ffwrnes in Llanelli in Wales. It has been a pleasure to work with the Air in G Rural Touring Scheme, as well as having private bookings from Clubs and the WI.
MRS BEETON, MY SISTER has been to Dymock, Gloucestershire, and THE FOSSIL LADY OF LYME has travelled all the way to North Yorkshire for a performance in Terrington, and to the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival in mid Wales.
Many more performances coming up, including a rare performance of LIVING IN THE LIGHT at the Tenby Arts Festival. Very much looking forward to them all…
It was with great pleasure, but also with mixed emotions, that the very last performance of TRULY YOURS, C.B. took place at the Wellington Arts Festival last week. It is always sad to say goodbye to a show, but especially one that has been around for so long…the first performance was in 2002!
The show has had a very good run, and been all around the country. I am sorry that it did not have more performances in Yorkshire, where the Brontes lived most of their lives.
However, Wellington (near Telford) turned out to be a suitable place for the show, as Patrick Bronte, Charlotte’s father, spent time there as a curate early in his professional life. Apparently he had his poetry published there, too. My performance was part of a season of events to mark the Bronte connection with the town.
Writing and performing a show about such a British icon has been a pleasure, although always nerve-wracking, as some people feel very strongly about the Brontes and their works. No-one has ever criticised the play, but I was always waiting for an angry fan to turn up! Since the show was based on Charlotte’s own words, I hope it was a fair and balanced portrayal. Anyway, it was my best shot!
Time to pack away the costume, ditch the set, and move on to the next…..
Bye-bye Charlotte. You will be missed.
….and just to confirm: the several-times postponed show at Chelmarsh finally went ahead without further mishap, and a good time was had by all!
Thank you to the Chelmarsh organisers for persevering, in spite of everything the Snow-Gods threw at us. It was a pleasure to perform the show at last!
2018 will see the final performances of “TRULY YOURS, C.B.”, which tells the extraordinary story of the Brontes.
This show has been seen in countless venues, and has run for many years. Charlotte Bronte was only 39 when she died, and Alison Neil is sadly now getting a bit too old to continue convincingly portraying this icon of English literature.
However, Alison continues to champion great English women writers, with her new show about E. Nesbit: “LARKS AND MAGIC”, and “THE JUST-WILLIAM LADY” about Richmal Crompton.
“TRULY YOURS” has its final three performances coming up:
Church Stretton Arts Festival
Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival
Wellington Arts Festival
Details are on the ‘Show Schedule” page.
A LOVELY ‘THANK YOU’ FROM BRISTOL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL CHARITY
One of my ‘try-out’ performances of the new show, LARKS AND MAGIC, was at
Cadbury Hall, Frampton on Severn. I did not charge for the performance – more than grateful to have an audience and a lovely Hall in which to perform an untried show, and very grateful to the organisers for all their time and effort to make the event happen.
The organisers cleverly managed to make a profit, and very generously donated the proceeds to the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity Grant Appeal. Who then provided me with this rather splendid certificate!
CHELMARSH – THIRD ATTEMPT!
Following the unprecedented cancellation of both previous bookings for “MRS BEETON, MY SISTER” at Chelmarsh due to snow, even though the bookings were several months apart, a third date has now been arranged…..
2nd September 2018
with a Victorian Tea at 5pm
Whether this means that there will definitely be a huge snowfall the day before, or whether it means that there cannot possibly be snow for the third time, we will wait and see….but fingers a very firmly crossed that this time, the Show Will Go On!
MRS BEETON, MY SISTER fails to get to Chelmarsh… for the second time!
What are the odds of two performances of the same show, in the same place, four months apart, being cancelled because of snow?
Huge apologies to the organisers and audience for the performance of MRS BEETON, MY SISTER at Chelmarsh Parish Hall on Sunday 4th March, which is now officially CANCELLED. Due to snow. For the second time.
Last time, back in December 2017, Chelmarsh was under seige by thick snow. This time, Alison Neil and her van are unable to get out of the Forest of Dean, where the snow is currently piled high in spectacular (and impassable) snow drifts. Alison lives up a small lane, which has completely disappeared beneath the snow. It would take a snowplough to get to the nearest road.
We very much hope that Chelmarsh and Arts Alive Rural Touring Scheme will take a chance on booking MRS BEETON, MY SISTER for a third time……it will certainly be a red-letter day when the show finally makes it to the Parish Hall!
LARKS AND MAGIC IS UP AND RUNNING!
LARKS AND MAGIC, the new show about E Nesbit, opened at the Backwell Studio Theatre on 8th February.
HUGE thanks for the Backwell Drama Group for hosting the show for its first three performances at the lovely studio theatre, and for finding large and enthusiastic audiences – very much appreciated!
The show then had four more ‘try-out’ performances at:
The Pludds Village Hall, Forest of Dean
Cadbury Hall in Frampton-on-Severn,
Coytrahen Community Hall
Mackenzie Hall, Brockweir
HUGE thanks to the four organisers of these halls for their hospitality and help with launching the show. Thanks also to Lynn at Air In G, Gloucestershire’s Rural Touring Scheme, for finding halls that were willing to participate in this venture.
I had a great time performing the shows, and I hope the audiences enjoyed seeing this brand new play.
The Questions and Answer sessions after the performances were lively and varied, and there certainly seemed to be plenty of interest in E Nesbit and her extraordinary life.
Performing in a selection of varied halls helped us prove that the show is fit for touring to tiny libraries and museums, village halls with and without a stage, as well as purpose-built theatre spaces.
LARKS AND MAGIC is now ready for bookings all over the country…..
THE MAGIC begins…..
We are now in rehearsal for the new one-hour show: “LARKS AND MAGIC”, about E. Nesbit, writer of many famous children’s stories. Or as she herself might prefer; poet.
We are delighted that the play will premier at the lovely
on 8th, 9th and 10th February
These performances will be followed by a Question and Answer session.
Alison is performing as the guest of Backwell Drama Club, and is very grateful for their support and enthusiasm for her shows.
Contact Alison for details, or information on how to obtain tickets.
LARKS AND MAGIC continues its tour with several more performances the following week, and Alison is extremely grateful for the chance to try out her new show in such wonderful venues:
13th February at 2pm
The Pludds Village Hall
Forest of Dean
followed by refreshments and a Question and Answer session
15th February at 2pm
followed by refreshments and a Question and Answer session
16th February evening performance – time to be confirmed
Phil Squires Community Hall
17th February at 8pm
followed by Question and Answer session
for information or tickets for any of these shows, contact Alison
CHELMARSH – second attempt!
We are deilghted to have another opportunity to perform “MRS BEETON, MY SISTER” at
CHELMARSH PARISH HALL
on Sunday 4th March 2018
The show will be preceded by a Victorian Tea, starting at 5pm.
Fingers crossed that this time, the snow will keep away, and audience, organisers and performer can all make it to the Hall!
Terribly disappointed that the show at Chelmarsh Parish Hall on 10th December had to be cancelled on the day. We were beaten by the appalling weather; a foot or more of snow across the whole area. Getting in and out of the village would have been pretty difficult, and getting to the Hall itself almost impossible – for the audience, the organisers, and me. What a shame!
Apologies to all who were looking forward to the event. I know I was.
We hope very much to be able to re-schedule the performance…and the Victorian Tea that was planned to precede it!
More news about this as soon as a date has been arranged….
LARKS AND MAGIC: NEW SHOW FOR 2018
We are delighted to confirm…the new show joining Alison’s repertoire for 2018 will be LARKS AND MAGIC, the story of E. Nesbit.
The show will be around one hour long, without an interval. This format is proving popular, and the price can be kept remarkably low.
The show will fit into small spaces such as museums, libraries and galleries, as well as being suitable for village halls, and small theatres.
For organisers who would like a longer event, Alison is happy to do a “Question and Answer” session after an interval. These relaxed Q & As have proved very successful after performances of “MRS BEETON, MY SISTER”.
LARKS AND MAGIC will be a lively and fast-moving account of the life and times of E. Nesbit, who is credited as the first modern writer for children. “THE RAILWAY CHILDREN”, “THE WOULDBEGOODS”, “FIVE CHILDREN AND IT”, “THE AMULET”, “THE STORY OF THE TREASURE SEEKERS”…children have been entranced by her books for a hundred years.
Edith Nesbit’s life was more extraordinary then any of her magical stories. Charming, badly behaved and always up for a lark, she also worked immensely hard to keep her unconventional family afloat. Buffeted by unexpected twists and turns throughout her life, her domestic arrangements still seem jaw-dropping, even today. As part of the Bohemian set in London around the end of the 19th century, she was a founder of the Fabian Society, and friend of famous literary figures such George Bernard Shaw to Noel Coward. And more than a friend so some…
Once read, her children’s stories are never forgotten. E Nesbit herself was unforgettable too…come and meet her in Alison’s new show about her life, larks, and enduring magic.
The play will be directed by David Collison, and will premiere at Backwell Studio Theatre, near Bristol, in February 2018. The Welsh premiere will be in Coytrahen. LARKS AND MAGIC will be available for a single performance, or two performances in one day, from May 2018.
Most performers have a recurring nightmare in which they turn up to do a show…without their costume. Or the scenery. Or they have a costume, but it is for the wrong play. Or everything for the play is missing… Well, after nearly forty years in the business, I finally experienced the nightmare for real.
Arriving to set up for a performance of “MRS BEETON, MY SISTER” at Kingsclere Village Cub, I discovered that a large suitcase was missing from the back of my van. Having made a phone call to check that I had not forgotten to pack it, I had to conclude that I must have left the van unlocked at some point on the journey, and the case must have been taken from the van. It turned out that my make-up case had gone, too. These were the only two smart items of luggage among all the bags and boxes in the van, so someone must have thought they contained something worth stealing. They didn’t – except that everything in the bags was invaluable to me.
So. No props for the show. No pictures for the set. No velvet tablecloth. No mirror, hairpins, makeup. No Victorian lorgnettes (specs). No jewellery. And – no wig. And two and a half hours to go before the show…
In a state of shock, I threw myself on the mercy of the organisers at Kingsclere. And they were magnificent. Incredibly sympathetic, but also practical. Whilst trying to set up for the meal that was to follow my show, calls were made to try to locate a Victorian wig. A tablecloth was found, and a huge book to represent the lost “Household Management”. I found some Parish magazines which would stand in for the Victorian magazines in the play, and some other books from around the venue. I cut up sections of my script and stuck them into the new ‘prop’ books and magazines, using the tape provided by the brilliant organisers (no books were hurt during the making of these ‘props’!). Luckily, the script has print large enough for me to read without the missing lorgnettes. We found images for the missing pictures on the organiser’s phone, and she kindly and quickly printed them off, and mounted them on card. Fantastic.
I had a bit of makeup in my handbag, so that would do…
So that left the little matter of a wig. My own hair is short, and definitely not Victorian. Attempts to find a wig from the local amateur dramatic group proved fruitless. The organiser said, “Well, would any old long wig be better than nothing? I have a couple of really terrible wigs…” Absolutely, yes, definitely, anything would be better than nothing. Two other organisers provided hair clips and hair pins, so I could do something with the wigs when they arrived…
And so it was that Mrs Beeton’s sister appeared in Kingsclere in a black, shiny halloween witch’s wig, dressed at high speed into an approximation of a mid-Victorian style by me, kneeling in a disabled toilet in order to see into a very small mirror.
The audience were warned that this would be a unique performance, with rather strange props, but the show went remarkably smoothly. The wig stayed on my head, which was the main thing, and the new ‘props’ were all in the right places. Of course the adrenalin got me through, along with the very kind and supportive audience. Not to mention the organisers who were definitely the starts of the evening.
So a HUGE thank you to the organisers at Kingsclere, who saved the day.
Then I had two and a half days to completely recreate everything for the show, before my next performance….whilst in mourning for all my beautiful hand-made props, and the stunning wig, now presumably in a ditch somewhere. Everything has been remade or replaced at top speed, and another of my wigs is standing in until Derek Easton can make a replacement.
A nightmare survived! It will be interesting to see whether I still have the recurring dream…or whether this performer is cured for good!
THE WITCH’S WIG…AS SEEN FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY IN KINGSCLERE!
ANOTHER RURAL TOURING SCHEME BITES THE DUST
Incredibly sorry to learn that Villages In Action has ceased to operate. This Devon rural touring scheme has been running for many, many years, providing an excellent menu of live events for village halls, along with funding, support and advice.
Villages In Action is the latest casualty of the cuts in arts funding, which are really affecting events at the grass-roots level. I wish Roger Werner and all the VIA team all the very best for their next ventures.
Theatre In the Villages, Buckinghamshire’s rural touring scheme also recently shut up shop. Another very sad loss to the community.
VILLAGES CAN KEEP HAVING EVENTS, THOUGH….
Some villages in areas where the rural touring scheme has closed continue to have live events for their community to enjoy. Villages are talking to each other to find out which events will meet their needs.
My shows can be booked directly, of course. And if finances are stretched, or promoters are worried about the risk of booking a show without financial support, my CHEAP shows are the answer. A great evening or afternoon’s entertainment, without risking too much of the village hall’s budget.
On 3rd December, we had the huge pleasure of performing THE FOSSIL LADY OF LYME at the Etches Collection in Kimmeridge, Dorset.
This was the first ever performance in the Clore Room, part of a brand new museum built to house a small selection of Steve Etches’ amazing collection of world-class fossils, found locally over a period of some 35 years.
The way the fossils are now displayed is great, and the fossils themselves are, of course, fantastic. This museum is highly recommended; well worth a visit.
The scenery around Kimmeridge is amazing, and even in early December there were a number of people passing the museum with very serious walking boots and rucksacks.
And the cafe over the road from the new Etches Collection is also very, very good!
Two more chances to see THE FOSSIL LADY OF LYME close to Mary Anning’s own town…
Chaffcombe on 2nd December,
Kimmeridge on 3rd December.
The performance in Kimmeridge is particularly apt, as it will be in the brand new Clore Room, which is part of the extraordinary new museum of….FOSSILS. This private collection of fossils collected from the Jurassic coast of Dorset is now open to the public.
Well worth a visit!
THE FOSSIL LADY OF LYME is set in….Lyme Regis!
Mary Anning spent her extraordinary life in the town, finding fossils on the coast and running her shop.
Now, Alison is delighted that the show is coming to LYME REGIS, as part of Lyme Regis Development Trust’s Earth Science Week:
15 October 2016
DORSET DT7 3BS
The perfect venue for this show!
The last performance of THE SIXTH WIFE was at the Allendale Centre, Wimborne, Dorset on 15 July 2016. This performance was part of the Wimborne History Festival.
It is very sad to say goodbye to this show, which has been touring since 1992. However, Alison is now getting a bit old to play Katherine Parr, who died at the age of 36.
The show has had hundreds of performances, at all the usual types of venue, and also a few more surprising ones; Gloucester Cathedral, Berkeley Castle, and Bodellwyddan Castle (Welsh home of the National Portrait Gallery) to name a few.
The fabulous paintings on the set were done by Elizabeth Waghorn, and looked as good in 2016 as they did when they were first painted.
The “stained-glass” window is a photo-blowup of a window in Westminster Abbey, and contains a depiction of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The photo-blowup came from an exhibition at Greenwich Maritime Museum, and was cut down to fit Alison’s set.
The Tudor music used in the show was from a recording by the City Waites.
Alison was asked to portray Katherine Parr at a three-day event at Soudley Castle, Gloucestershire, back in the ’90s, for Past Pleasures Ltd. Worried that the costume might be damaged by wet grass, she encased the hem of the velvet gown in plastic bags, covered over with a layer of fur. So successful was this, that she never removed the fur, enjoying the discrete rustling of invisible Sainsbury bags every time she knelt down during a show!
When she was originally writing the script, there was some problem in the news between the UK and the European Union. Henry VIII had his problems with France and Spain, and thinking that it might get a small chuckle from the audience, Alison included the phrase:
“It is folly for the English every to trust the people of Europe. For envy of our fair isle they will conspire against us, and behave without honour at the last.”
The line has got a laugh during every single performance of the show between 1992 and 2016, because there has ALWAYS been some problem going on between the UK and the EU…..!
The script of THE SIXTH WIFE is now available to hire. For details, go to the ABOUT ALISON page, or contact Alison.
Another chance to see my show about the life and times of Charlotte Brontë, in this 200th anniversary year of her birth.
I am delighted and flattered to be asked back to this venue, in which I played “THE FOSSIL LADY OF LYME” in 2015.
TRULY YOURS, C.B.
8pm 8th September 2016
East and Botolph Claydon Village Hall
This show is part of Theatre In The Villages rural touring scheme. For more information, contact:
and…some kind comments from an audience member following the recent performance and Theatr ffwrnes, Llanelli:
“Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your Charlotte Bronte performance recently at Ffwrnes Llanelli. It was a beautiful, clever production and had the audience in thrall the whole time. It was both informative and entertaining in full measure – many of us remember little bits about the Bronte story, and the books read so long ago, so it was wonderful to have all of these memories brought to life, and perfectly staged. Many thanks for a lovely evening.“
Horrible problems with emails at this end – I DO apologise to anyone who has contacted me and not received a reply. So sorry – but I never got your email!
and I will actually receive your email. I promise to respond!
2016 is bursting with bookings, up and down the country, from the north of North Yorkshire, to the western corner of Devon….
Alison is delighted that “MRS BEETON, MY SISTER” is proving popular with Women’s Institutes.
This show is only one hour long, and therefore suits clubs, societies and events requiring a shorter show.
The show can also fit into tiny spaces, so it is suitable for libraries and museums too.
Village Halls are booking “MRS BEETON, MY SISTER” to go with a supper or afternoon tea, to make a full-length event.
Alison is also happy to do a “Question and Answer” session after an interval – and this has proved very successful in village halls in Dorset, and a variety of other venues.
As well as plenty of bookings for “MRS BEETON, MY SISTER“, 2016 will see performances of:
THE SIXTH WIFE
TRULY YOURS, C.B.
THE SHAKESPEARE LADIES CLUB
THE FOSSIL LADY OF LYME
See the SHOW SCHEDULE page for details….
MRS BEETON, MY SISTER – going well!
Launched in September 2015, to mark the 150th anniversary of Mrs Beeton’s death,
MRS BEETON, MY SISTER has now been performed in theatres, schools, heritage centres, village halls, and for WI events.
The first performance as part of a Food Festival will take place at Merthyr Tydfil in July 2016.
This show was specially created for people who need a SHORTER, CHEAPER show.
This show can be performed in TINY spaces, without black-out. The lights and sound can be operated by the performer. Theatrical magic!
The running time is one hour and one minute.
For organisers who fancy this show, but would like a longer event, Alison is happy to do a “Question and Answer” session with the audience, after an interval. These have proved popular, and the questions posed by audience members have certainly been extremely varied and thought-provoking.
Come on libraries…..this show is for you!
“Alison Neil’s one woman performance as Mrs Beeton’s sister was lively, humorous and engaging. She managed to convey not only the trials and tribulations of 19th centuray England but also gave us a good sense of Isabella Beeton’s character and the nature of her large colourful family…not to be missed!
…a perfect Sunday afternoon!”
“We all enjoyed your show very much. I sat there watching very jealously just wishing that I had some of your expertise! Of course, without the years of training, the dedication and experience that you have, such thoughts should not enter my mind!
Thank you for coming to Backwell – you have a captive audience here wanting more! “
“Just to say how I enjoyed the evening at Backwell. I learnt so much about the Beetons and life then. “
“Just a quick note to say again how much we enjoyed Mrs Beeton’s Sister last week. Many congratulations to Alison for bringing her to life!”
WHY MRS BEETON AGAIN?
My original show, BELLA – THE STORY OF MRS BEETON was very successful, having hundreds of performances. The show closed in 2002, because I was getting too old to play Mrs Beeton convincingly. However, people still asked for the show…..
So when I decided to do a short, simple show at half the price of my others, to fit into tiny venues, and for smaller audiences, it seemed a good idea to tell the story of Mrs Beeton in a new way. But how? I re-read Kathryn Hughes’ definitive biography of Mrs Beeton, and the answer became clear. It had to be Isabella’s sister, the remarkable Bessie. By telling the story through her eyes, the same events appear quite different….
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS, FOOD FESTIVALS AND WI GROUPS – this show is for you!
2016 – ANNIVERSARY OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE’S BIRTH
A special year for Bronte fans. The perfect time to book “TRULY YOURS, C.B.”, the story of Charlotte Bronte.
Alison currently has two bookings for this show during this special year:
2 June 2016
Dyfed SA15 3YE
This event is a jointly hosted by Llanelli Distric Music and Drama Club and
1 October 2016
evening show – time tbc
Odell Village Hall
High Street, Odell
TICKETS: contact Alison Neil
BRINGING SOME OLD SHOWS TO A CLOSE…..
Alison is considering bringing the final curtain down on two of her oldest shows. So if you are interested in having a performance of either
TRULY YOURS, C.B. or THE SIXTH WIFE
they are not going to be around for much longer!
…and on another subject entirely, pangolins are one of the most endangered species on the planet. The only mammal with scales, they eat ants, carry their young on their backs, and unfortunately roll into balls when attacked. This means that poachers simply pick them up and ship them off to be eaten in China and Africa. Their scales are also prized as medicine (it does not work), and their habitats are threatened.
Sir David Attenborough named the pangolin as one of the ten endangered creatures he would most like to save from extinction. “It is one of the most endearing animals I have ever met” he said.
You can help save the pangolin. You can send a donation to: www.savevietnamswildlife.org
you can buy delightful greetings cards directly from me. The entire cost of the card goes to SAVE VIETNAM’S WILDLIFE to help with their work with pangolins.
The cards are A6 size, glossy, individually wrapped, with envelope, blank inside.
There is information about pangolins on the back.
This is the front of the card, showing a baby pangolin being carried on its mother’s tail:
CARDS: £1.20 each, plus postage and packing
(1 to 5 cards: add 99p postage and packing)
contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
These cards are available to buy when you come to one of Alison’s shows.
AND……WOULD YOU LIKE A NEW LIFE IN THE SUN?
A fantastic chance to buy two houses with land, just ten minutes from the seaside town of Almuñecar in Southern Spain. Spectacular views, fresh produce from your land, perfect climate, and the potential to live on the rental from one of the houses…
Ridiculously cheap, compared to UK house prices!
For full details, go to
and click on FINCA LA ESCONDRIJO
The two houses can now be bought separately. Each has lots of land, fruit trees, olives, and stunning views, of course. Unbelievably cheap!
Contact Alison for details.