The mysterious case of the poisoned oysters and the dead Dean...
Inspired by the rise and fall of Emsworth's oyster industry, Poisoned Beds written by Lucy Flannery and Greg Mosse begins a mini-tour next week.
It plays the Spring Arts and Heritage Centre at Havant on Thursday, November 1 at 7.30pm and also the Weald & Downland Living Museum on November 2 and 3. The 60-minute performance will also be at the Connaught Studio, Worthing on Wednesday, November 7, followed by a post-show discussion.
The story behind the demise of the Emsworth oyster industry, and the people whose lives were so drastically affected, remains shrouded in confusion. The play aims to shed some light on the famous food poisoning of the Dean of Winchester.
Greg explained: “I often work in collaboration with other writers. Number 60 to the Somme was a fantastically-successful show written in partnership with my friend Carol Godsmark. Poisoned Beds came from an idea by Lucy Flannery that the history of Havant and Emsworth could provide a really good local story, but we weren’t sure what that story should be!
“Lucy and I have worked together a lot at the Criterion Theatre on Piccadilly Circus where I run a script development programme. She’s very good at hearing other people’s ideas and building upon them and was recently chosen to support another writer whose work we are developing in partnership with Worthing Theatres.
“In the case of Poisoned Beds, following Lucy’s superb research, I created a story outline. Lucy wrote the first draft, I wrote the second and she wrote the third. Then we had a table read with our brilliant actress Paula Tinker and our exceptional composer and musician John Gleadall. Our producer Laura Doye was also there. Hearing the words out loud meant that we could make some really subtle judgements about rhythm and pace.
“When you write a play, in a way, you want the story to stay just a step or two ahead of the audience so that they are always thinking hard about what they’ve seen and what it might mean as the story evolves in front of their eyes. If it’s too simple and there aren’t any moments when the audience has to reassess what they thought they knew, it makes for a less satisfying and less engaging theatre experience. At least, that’s what I always think.
“Lucy Hockley at the Weald & Downland Living Museum has been incredibly helpful. I think we share the idea that live performance can interpret historic buildings and artefacts in a very special way. I’ve been talking to her about the possibility of other performances. She made the Chichester Community Theatre very welcome for our performances of The Hawkhurst Gang in the Gridshell. I know that the lovely intimate room just next to the wonderful new café will be perfect for Poisoned Beds.
“We are delighted to perform at Weald & Downland because we will be at the heart of local history when we bring Poisoned Beds to the museum on November 2 and 3. We hope to have some really interesting post-show discussions.”