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Mrs Beeton – Beaten by Snow!

2017 Posted on Mon, December 11, 2017 19:12:45

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….


2017 Posted on Mon, October 02, 2017 16:25:19


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.


2017 Posted on Mon, October 02, 2017 16:06:15

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!

village hall schemes

2017 Posted on Sun, June 18, 2017 12:46:00


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.


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.