Plays by Deborah Freeman

I have completed `Remedies,` a play about M E.  Background research...

Writing Groups

I am setting up a new writing group in East Finchley, to be held in the atmospheric location of an East Finchley...

Novels by Deborah Freeman

 A few years back. I answered an ad on the Radio 3 website, from the conceptual art company, Blast Theory...

Poems by Deborah Freeman

These appeared in the journal Jewish Renaissance, 2008.  `Fish.` `Fasting.` `Open a Gate for Us. ` `After the...

Plays by Deborah Freeman

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I have completed `Remedies,` a play about M E.  Background research included a biography of the man who invented homeopathy, Samuel Hanemann, and the work of Professor Edzard Ernst, who demonstrates to my satisfaction the fact that homeopathy is not scientific.  Four characters in this play, 2 men, 2 women. See below for further detail. 

`The Scapegoat, ` about William Holman Hunt and his Christian Zionism, is still leading to interesting conversations.  Previous readings took place at London Jewish Museum and at Tate Britain in December 2012 and Fenruary 2013. 

`Shirat Devora` the Hebrew translation of The Song of Deborah was staged in Jerusalem in September at the Khan Theatre, Jerusalem.  This Hebrew version is currently being shown to one or two other people. Both the English and Hebrew scripts are available, through me, if you contact me through the website.  

Previous plays staged are:

       The Song of Deborah - Studio Theatre, Lowry Centre, Manchester. 2011.

       Candlesticks - Pentameters Theatre London.  2007

  •  Candlesticks Studio Theatre RNCM Manchester 2006
  • Candlesticks  Mirtos Productions. Lion & Unicorn. London 2005
  • The Song of Deborah  - Lion & Unicorn London  2004
  • Fire in the Park. Robert Powell Theatre Salford. 2003
  • Xanthippe  - Brockley Jack Theatre London. 1999
  • The Song of Deborah  Cockpit Theatre London 1998
  • Breakages. No Half Measures Theatre. Derby. 1997.
  • The Song of Deborah - Pentameters Theatre Hampstead. 1993
  • Candlesticks - Two Triangles Theatre. Exeter Festival 1994
  • FAT - BBC Radio Drama. Afternoon Theatre. Radio Four.

For information, reviews etc of the above, click on `Plays by Deborah Freeman` above. 

 

After its rehearsed reading at Tate Britain, `The Scapegoat` had a rehearsed reading at London Jewish Museum, on February 17th. Its first full reading. Actors: Stephen Connery-Brown, Kate Cook, Ruth Lass, Drew McKenzie, and Neusha Milanian. I was so impressed with these actors, who managed to play their characters convincingly (and more) even though for most of them, the material, issues and histories in the play were not too familiar.

The Scapegoat was first written with the support of Manchester Art Gallery and Tikshoret Theatre Company, London. Act One was read at Manchester Art Gallery in March 2010. Ariella Eshed, artistic director of Tik-sho-ret, has been around throughout, sometimes in the background, now in the foreground. Her directorial views of the play have been useful to me, as have her responses to its characters and some of their dilemmas. 

The play is set in the nineteenth century, and the present. It deals with controversial issues. Art, (the art of the great Pre-Raphaelite William Holman Hunt,) the relationship of sisters, love, early political and Christian Zionism, and the Zionism of some people today. Not to mention the colourful and (today) politically incorrect attitudes and activities of the Victorian age. Pre-Raphaelites are popular at the moment - but the fact that Holman Hunt embraced Christian Zionism in his later years is not the focus of that popularity. It is one road taken by one of them. This is the road `The Scapegoat` explores. 

The play is now ready to move on into a full production.  If you are interested, contact me through this website, or by email:  deborahfreeman1@aol.com

*The Scapegoat is at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, open 7 days a week.

 

The Song of Deborah was staged at the Lowry Studio, June 2011. Great cast. Great director. 

The cast were:  Scott Ainslie, Emma Beattie, Kate Burdette, Jonathan Christie, Suzy Crothers, George Georgiou.   Designer: Florence McHugh. Voice-music to heighten the drama and complete the overall effect: Tristan Parkes.  Director: Abbey Wright. The production was in the Studio, The Lowry Centre, in June.  

John Jeffay, of TheJC.com said: `An intriguing, passionate and defiantly non-traditional take....more girl-power and more gods than the original.. `A thoughtful and powerful piece..well-written and engaging...`  

The playwright says: `The play is a contemporary telling of the tale of Deborah the Judge, and the composition of the epic poem, The Song of Deborah. The play seems surprisingly contemporary. Or not that surprising, considering that I wrote it.` 

Reviewers of the previous production said:  John Thaxter: The Stage.   "Manchester playwright Deborah Freeman was no doubt drawn to her Old Testament heroine as a namesake and fellow writer. Indeed, she has the doughty desert judge momentarily longing to be a loving housewife, while struggling with her God-given talents as a war poet.......The dialogue has a metaphysical quality which, coupled with a heightened playing style, makes it timeless."       Scout from Really Useful Theatres:  "There is a fundamental bravery in Freeman`s play, and that is to have written a new play which can boast such a sweepingly epic backdrop , and broad discussion on: the nature of war and divided faiths; war and the way it is reported; propagandist consequences; personal tragedies peripheral to war. There is big matter in this play.... The characters are exceptionally well drawn, especially those of Baraq and Sisera. The 3-way relationship between Deborah, Baraq and Sisera, which provides the dramatic backbone of the play, is intelligent and incisive. Whilst their dialogue discusses the greater narrative and the main-steak of the play, their subtext is fertile with personal and domestic grievances. The language is strong and the idea of  poetry which is fundamental to the play bleeds through the writing but is not heavy handed."

 

Xanthippe, one of three plays for which Deborah Freeman was awarded an Arts Council Theatre Writing Bursary. 

October 1999  -  Production:  Full Cry Theatre Company at the Brockley Jack Theatre. Director Kate Bannister.

June 2009  - rehearsed readings at Magdala Pub, and Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead, by Northwest London Equity and the Writers` Guild. Director  Nick Simon.

The story of the feisty wife of Socrates, about whom nothing was recorded in history, but who has been thoughtfully rehabilitated by this play.

From:  South London News: Leisure Section:

"An in-depth look at the married life of the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates...Xanthippe is by far one of the stranger ideas I`ve come across in pub theatre. But my pre-show doubts were soon swept away... Powerful performances....Xanthippe is an intelligent but mentally down-trodden woman who is left to run the household and look after the kids while her husband spends days and nights philosophising with his mates around Athens. Historically Socrates went on record as one of the wisest men in the world, but little was said of his wife other than that she was a ` very angry` woman....This play redresses the balance somewhat....While this piece is not one for the family or a drunken evening out, it is great if you like solid drama and even better if you fancy yourself as a bar-room philosopher..You never know. You could learn a thing or two...  **** -  4 stars!

 

 

 

 

 

Candlesticks.

A topical and controversial play about the interface between the Jewish world and the Christian world seen through an engaging domestic drama.
 
Its History

1993 – Arts Council Theatre Writing Bursary. 
Jul 1994  1st Production : Manchester, Liverpool and Exeter Festival.
Dir. Chris Bridgman 
Jan 2003 - Rehearsed Reading  Tricycle Theatre, London.
Dec 2005  - 2nd production:   @ Lion & Unicorn Theatre, Kentish Town.
Mirtos Productions. Dir. Rebecca Atkinson-Lord.
Feb 2006  - 3rd production:, @ Studio Theatre, RNCM, Manchester.
Dir. Helen Parry.
Feb 2006:  - trans. into Portuguese in Brazil by Thiago Mori:  “Casticais.”

****
From a leading critic: Paul Vaughan – Previously reviewer and presenter for  BBC`s Kaleidoscope -  “Deborah Freeman’s CANDLESTICKS wears lightly its concern with the
search for religious belief. This literate, serious, ingenious play wastes no words and develops its debate through character, not contrivance, avoiding glib conclusions and enlisting equal sympathy for the Montague/Capulet principals.”
****

From... FRINGE REPORT.com     
         London - Lion & Unicorn - 6–23 Dec 05 - 19:45 (21:45) 
`Knock-down drama, strong characters.`   Candlesticks is a modern religious drama. Characters are middle-aged neighbours Louise (Alexandra Sebastian) and Julia (Priscilla Gray); and their respective children, Jenny (Rebecca Pownall, winsome in green flip-flops and brown ringlets) and Ian (Will Tosh). It is structured around religious festivals. Like a half-remembered anecdote, the story unfolds over a span of two hours including interval.

Guests have recently departed from the celebration of Passover (Pesach.) Mother of the house Louise accepts her Jewishness as a matter of tradition. She gives vivacious young daughter Jenny the silver candlesticks that have been in the family for 150 years.

Jenny announces that during her two-year stay in Peru she has become a Christian. Boy-next-door Ian enters in a blue hoodie; his car's been stolen. As a sign of Christian altruism Jenny gives him the candlesticks.

At first, religion lives in corners of the characters' lives. But as the play progresses, it develops from fashion statement, affectation and adolescent rebellion to the defining factor of their identities.    Embittered, rejected, half-Jewish neighbour Julia tends towards the domineering. Louise is easy-going, believing, not in God, but in 'collective reckonings... I believe in people.'

The set might be a living room anywhere in North London. A couple of chairs, a bookcase, a table crowded with glasses, Persian carpets and a potted palm.  The Kol Nidre chant evoking a brief synagogue visit by Jenny and her mother, is sung by Avi Freeman.

The byplay between Priscilla Gray's Julia and Alexandra Sebastian's Louise holds up well enough. The characters' jobs, husbands and other children exist somewhere offstage. Julia is busy editing a book entitled The Architecture of Oppression.  Will Tosh's Ian - somewhat outnumbered by women - comes across as a sulky toyboy figure for much of the play: 'I was invited to give you German measles'  But his final transformation is startlingly convincing.  Islamic and Western secular viewpoints are absent from the Judaeo-Christian ping-pong, but that is not a critical failing. They exist somewhere offstage too.

Cast Credits: (alpha order): Priscilla Gray - Julia. Rebecca Pownall - Jenny. Alexandra Sebastian - Louise. Will Tosh - Ian.    Company Credits: Rebecca Atkinson-Lord - Director. Deborah Freeman - Playwright. Ben Vaughan - Stage Manager / Lighting. Jess Jenkins - Lighting Design. Samantha Austin - Set Design. Francis Oldman - Costume. Jenny Winslowe - Photography. Ben Elliott-Scott for Out of Hand - Flyer Design. Original Music Sung By - Avi Freeman. Company - Mirtos Productions Ltd (www.mirtosproductions.co.uk) . 

A commission from Greater Manchester Police Museum, and the Drama Department of the Arts Council,  Fire in the Park was based on research carried out while Deborah Freeman was writer in residence at the museum.

Staged in 2003 at the Robert Powell Theatre, Salford, by Wise Monkey Community Theatre Company, it was directed by Philip Parr.

"The performance tells a gripping and dramatic story of murder and betrayal!`  From `On In Salford.`

For information about the social and criminal history of Victorian Manchester, much of it taken from original police records, and featuring the famous Manchester Detective, Jerome Caminada, read this play! Pyrodramas, reinactments of famous battles, were staged at Belle Vue, with hundreds of extras, to audiences of thousands - and of course with great showers of fireworks.  Fire in the Park could be staged as a full community play.  For further information contact Deborah Freeman.  

Stephen Boyes, Artistic Director, Manchester Actors` Company, wrote:

"Fire in the Park" is a dynamic local history play, fascinating in setting and subject matter. The Victorian pyrodramas presented at Belle Vue, the rich assortment of people involved in these quirky, spectacular shows, provide Freeman with a terrific background for her intriguingly-drawn characters. These characters are big bold, and above all very real. Police, pick-pockets, and prostitutes - the homeless and uneducated, and those who take charge of them are represented vividly. The piece concentrates on issues of poverty, racism, and victims at the bottom of Victorian society, but is never mawkish or dully educational. Our local producing houses such as Bolton Octagon, Oldham Coliseum, Library Theatre or Royal Exchange could happily snap up this new play, and reveal its intriguing story to north-west audiences. Most importantly of all, "Fire in the Park" is a terrific piece of entertainment.

Deborah Freeman`s second radio play FAT was broadcast in Afternoon Theatre in 1994. Directed by Michael Fox, it was last in the series `City on Air,` `Manchester City of Drama on the BBC`


In The Times, Peter Davalle wrote: ```Fat. Radio 4. 2.00 pm.  Inside this fat and funny play. a thin, sad play is struggling to get out. Deborah Freeman wrote it. I wish I knew whether it was inspired by her own personal fight against flab, or by the war the rest of us have to wage against those unwanted inches where it shows the most.  Either way, she has broken new ground with a play in which everyone and everything is motivated by avoirdupois. As the central character of Janet (Noreen Kershaw,) plumply puts it while wondering aloud if she will ever have a rib-cage, "Fat is not a red herring. It is the source of most of the truth about most relationships."  Now there`s food for  thought....```


"Fat` was translated into German by Hubert von Bechtelsheim, and later broadcast on Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Bayerische Rundfunk, and then Swiss Radio. Interestingly, while the BBC and critics in English called the play light, with sad undertones, the German version was advertised first as philosophical in nature, and then about `leidenschaften - passions.


Jane Cox, David Fleeshman and Finetime Fontaine were the other excellent actors in the BBC version.

`Remedies`   is now finished, and I am pleased with it. An early version had a rehearsed reading at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington years ago. Currently Michael Kingsbury at The White Bear has enjoyed it very much, and I wait for further discussions. Before I left Manchester a group of actors came with actor/director Andrew Husband so I could hear it read. At the same time actress Sara Dee set up a readthrough for me in London. Though grateful to all the above, I was still not satisfied with it.

The play is about the illness  `M. E.`Post-viral Syndrome.` or `Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.`  It is about belief, self-belief, relationships, and the conflict between evidence-based science-based medicine, and the big world of complementary medicine.  

The plot? Karen is recovering, slowly, inexorably, from `M E.` Harry her GP husband doesn`t `believe` in it, although he acknowledges she has been ill and is slowly recovering. Stubbornly he insists on calling the illness `whatever it is,` sticking to principles of science.  His mantra is: `I do not understand this illness.` Karen`s cousin Lynn and her husband Colin are accepting and supportive of her. In a previous episode of the illness Karen attended a course in Modern Thought which gave her new ways of thinking about life, reality, knowledge, and herself. In a subplot, Karen and Lynn have their own conflict of meaning, truth, evidence, which relates to a tragic and personal family issue.  When Karen decides to do an introductory course in homeopathy, the chasm between her and Harry gets deeper. Harry, is loyal to science, whatever the personal cost, and is set for a final showdown with his wife, her cousin, and cousin-in-law. I have been intrigued by the biography of Samuel Hanemann, founder of Homeopathy, while researching the play, and enjoyed reading the books and articles by Professor Edzard Ernst.  To discuss this topical piece, contact me. 

This piece was a recent commission - site-specific and occasion-specific.  I am now thinking of developing it. Perhaps into a three-hander. Meanwhile here it is.

Copyright © 2010 Deborah Freeman
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