Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 84

  • Listen to the Q&A session from the end of our WAF writing workshop (featuring Blackshaw’s Director, Ellie Pitkin, Blackshaw’s Project Manager, Vikki Weston, and writers; M. J. Starling, Chris Buxey and Kat Roberts.
  • Strat & Alex Do Art: this time they try their hand(s) at haiku
  • We announce that ‘The Final Adventure of Frankie Fightwell’ will be played in full in the next episode (released 20th June).

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Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 83

Pop this in your earholes – the fantastic Chris Buxey, Kat Roberts, and M. J. Starling discuss writing – the discipline of writing, how to write ‘real’ dialogue, and more!

Chris Buxey

He wrote ‘The Final Adventure of Frankie Fightwell’, which is our next show for Wandsworth Fringe at the Putney Arts Theatre! Find out more about Chris on his website and our blog –

Kat Roberts

She wrote ‘Staying Alive’, our 2014 Showcase Award Winner, which went on to have a run at the Pleasance Theatre with Blackshaw, AND was published by Nick Hern books! Kat is now developing a new play, and writing scripts for TV.  Find out more about ‘Staying Alive’ on our blog –

M. J. Starling

He wrote ‘Audience with the Ghost Finder’, which we produced at Wandsworth Fringe 2013, and London Horror Festival 2013! Find out more on his website and listen to the radio play version on our blog –

The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 70

Matt reviews The Death of Stalin, Alex and Strat do Art (this time they design a book cover for ‘Jessica Pride Goes to School’, the children’s book they wrote last episode!).

Plus, Ellie and Matt conclude their possible Oscar Nominations chat, and you can hear more about our sister podcast, Merely Roleplayers.


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The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 69

Back with some brand new, and super snazzy, jingles!

Matt reviews Thor: Ragnarok (spoiler: it sounds GREAT).

Ellie and Matt chat about potential Oscar nominations (using this handy buzzfeed article).

Ellie has watched the first episode of ‘The Good Doctor’ and lets us know her thoughts (she done a cry).

There’s some netflix recommendations (‘The Good Place’ & ‘Mindhunter’).

Strat & Alex do Art – this time they take on a team challenge, and work together to write a children’s book!


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Jessica Pride Goes to School

by Richard Stratton & Alexander Pankhurst


It was a sunny morning at Safari Primary School and all the children were busy learning.

“Good morning class.”

“Good morning, Miss. Russell!”, said the children.

“I would like to introduce your new classmate. Her name is Jessica Pride. Say hello, class.”


— Would you like to say hello to Jessica? —


“Terry’, said Miss Russell, “How about you show Jessica round?”

Terry was excited about showing Jessica the classroom and all the activities. They started with finger painting.

“Ooo, your hand looks different to mine.”, said Terry.


— What does your hand look like? —


Next they went to play in the Home corner.

“What should we cook for dinner?” Asked Terry.

“I like antelope.” Said Jessica.

“Oh, that’s different.”, said Terry, “I like chips.”


— What’s your favourite food? —


Next Terry showed her the wet play area.

Jessica didn’t like getting wet, but Terry really liked splashing in the water.

— Do you like playing in the water? —


Finally, the whole class sat on the carpet to sing a song.

Jessica’s voice was very loud. Much louder than Terry’s


— How loud can you sing? —


Terry realised that something was different with Jessica…She was a lion!

“But lions aren’t meant to come to school are they?” said Terry.

“Of course they can.” said Miss. Russell, “Everyone should get to go to school.”

So Jessica got to stay at school and she and Terry became best friends.


The end.



by Gerry Moynihan.

Sometimes you write something and when its finished, or more precisely when it finally reaches a level of acceptability, you are left wondering rather as one of the characters in CAILLEACH ÓG might put it, “Where in under Jesus did that come from?”

I’ll try and retrace some of my steps.

For a ten minute play challenge I wrote a scenario called CAILLEACH ÓG involving two women in the west of Ireland having a confrontation over a missing man. The play involved a black hole (i.e. a circular piece of black cloth) and it appeared that the man was pushed into the hole by one of the women, CAILLEACH ÓG, who also subsequently pushed the other woman – her adversary – in as well, only for her to get mauled to death by a ferocious animal. The man is then made to re-appear by CAILLEACH ÓG in the form of a small black kitten…

See what I mean?

“Where in under Jesus did that come from?”

But it was only when I won the Blackshaw Showcase Award that I revisited the script and tried to answer that because now I was charged with the challenge of turning it into a full length play due to be staged roughly nine months thence.

I immediately had to confront a series of questions.

To once again echo the character in CAILLEACH ÓG; “Who in under Jesus was CAILLEACH ÓG and where in under Jesus did she come from?”

“What in under Jesus was it really about anyway?” and so on.

The “when and where in under Jesus?” were the easiest questions to answer; it would still be set somewhere in the west of Ireland in the present day.

Next came the “Who in under Jesus?

“The Cailleach” is a figure from Irish/Scottish mythology who shaped the landscape. She was very often portrayed as an ‘old hag’. I found out that this was largely down to the usurping of of pagan mythology by Christian mythology and, as a sign of the churches future patriarchal nature, “The Cailleach” was recast from being a powerful Goddess/deity, to that of and old hag, who was barren and who lamented the loss of her youth. That was why I had already decided from the outset that I would call her CAILLEACH ÓG, óg being the Irish word for young for I wanted to make her young(er) and feisty again.

The “What in under Jesus?” was going to be harder and so “I played it by ear” as the saying goes.

And after many false starts and attempts at different scenarios I sat down one day and the whole opening scene in the pub seemed to write itself and there was very little about that scene that would change. Indeed it would dictate the general direction that the rest of the play would take. And so, there it was; instead of an Irish man walking into the pub and being the main story teller it would be a woman; CAILLEACH ÓG – younger, feisty and of course, enigmatic.

I now had the main characters and the pub setting – a solid basis on which to build since the first scene raised all the questions that an audience would expect to be answered in some way or another… so my work was cut out for me… to try and answer those questions was the spur needed to move forward and progress.

I also knew by then that I would be incorporating either poetry, song, dance or music or perhaps a combination of all three as music and song loom large in my background having been a gigging musician all my life in various guises. And so to this end I rifled through my music and book collection.

Then it was time to mull again…

After another bout of fits and starts in the writing I took a break from it until I went on holiday where I found that I was able to move forward… just as well because it was coming up to Christmas and the showcase was scheduled for March.

I came back from holiday, submitted a draft, was happy with the feedback, made some changes, did a lot of tweaking and suddenly the story direction was becoming clear. I was of course hoping that any meaning(s) taken from the play would amount to a lot more than the sum of its parts – that certain themes would come to the fore – but it is a matter for the audience to decide upon as to whether or not this is the case and if I am successful in that respect.

Eventually after months of feeling like Homer Simpson – who, when he decided to get fit, took on the challenge of climbing a mountain and each time mistakenly thinking that he’s reached the summit, only to find that it was in fact just another ledge on the way to the real summit – I finally felt that I made it to the summit.

There was only one thing to do.

Just like Homer, get in some Duff beer and bask for a while on the sofa.

But still, all I could think as I swilled my Duff was – “Where in under Jesus did that come from?”

5 Minutes with writer Kat Roberts

It’s been a busy few weeks for writer Kat Roberts – Staying Alive has it’s premiere next week on the 15th of January! Luckily, we managed to snag five minutes with her between rehearsals to ask her the big questions.


What influenced your decision to write about such a sensitive topic?


Initially I wanted to explore grief in a cathartic way but also how people can isolate others and become isolated by their experiences.  I was very interested in concepts of time and how the timeline for grief seems to be non-linear or that it slows time down in an alien way and what effect that might have on old and new relationships. I do also have a preoccupation with concepts of safety. I think we have a heightened awareness of child protection issues as a society at the moment  and I wanted to see how guilt from grief might feed on that. I suppose I arrived at the bereavement relationship being one of mother and child because it is something that I find terrifying to think about. But then I have the luxury of not thinking about it. If we accept that and go the route of ignoring it then we segregate those who have actually experienced the unimaginable. If we isolate them because we feel uncomfortable then we might subject them to a world without hope. But there is hope, I believe, in the darkest of times. It can come from unexpected places. It relies on human beings exercising their compassion; on making connections and being brave. Honesty and hope triumph in the play.



How long has Staying Alive been in development?


From the first piece of writing I did to the showcase of the full length play it will have been almost a year. But I would say I have been carrying around the ideas for a couple of years before that, without them having any kind of creative home.


What research did you undertake to ensure Staying Alive was authentic?


There were two aspects to the research. One was more technical and the other was to do with emotional content. The more technical aspects were essentially a matter of seeking out people who are Doctors, social workers etc… to explore specific processes and types of language to support the scenes. Some research such as the registration of a death was done on the internet and then the scene imagined off the back of that. But it was also very important to explore both the experience of being a parent and of losing a child. Research on parents was done mainly by observation. But Blackshaw also directly contacted groups who support bereaved parents and I went to meet the co-founder of SLOW, who lost her daughter 9 years ago. The ideas that we discussed and her experiences informed so much of the play and I am very grateful to her for sharing her story with me.


What is it like seeing your piece come to life as a fully formed production?


The writing process went in little loops of terror, writing research, writing, pride, editing, terror, showing, terror, writing, research, writing etc… until I got to the end. Then there was an added layer of  loss for the script once I handed it over. I suddenly realised it’s not mine anymore and I felt a bit like saying ‘please look after my baby!’ But then I listened to the audio recording of the first reading last night and I realised… not only are they looking after my baby but they have adopted it, they care about its feelings, they worry about its needs, they’re setting up a trust fund so it can get a good education and realise its potential. I think that’s when it occurred to me just how beautifully collaborative this process is, how it cannot be achieved without trusting other people and lucky for me, said people are immensely talented. When the work comes to life it will be as a result of everybody’s effort and commitment and I really enjoy that ensemble ethic. That’s what theatre is. So I’m very much looking forward to seeing it.


How has it been working with the Blackshaw gang?


I have nothing but good things to say, which is fortunate as this is their blog and that could have been awkward. The Blackshaw gang are an awesome bunch. They made me sign a contract to protect my rights as a writer. They have facilitated all of my research which has been invaluable. They have included me in all major production decisions and have listened to me ramble on inarticulately about ‘the direction the play might be going in…but might not be … but I don’t really know… but I’ll let them know when I know… and what do they think?’ etc… I cannot say how important it was to have people to sound ideas off of and steer me in the right direction when I started to veer off track. They also are incredibly efficient and have clear and realistic deadlines and a consistent approach which encourages you to work continuously but also allows your writing time to evolve. Als,o very useful are the several opportunities to test your work throughout the year at their new writing nights. I really couldn’t be more grateful to them for the experience of the development process and the support they have provided.