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When I Have Fears – recording now available
I wrote the play, ‘When I Have Fears’, based on the Keats’ poem, while on a course at Bridport Arts Centre in 2016. A group of writers met on several occasions that Autumn for full-day workshops on playwriting, led by Paul Dodgson. Each time we met, we moved our plays on a bit further forward; it was an interesting developmental approach, allowing each of us to have our plays blossom under the guidance of Paul and the encouragement of our fellow writers. The net result was, in June 2017, four of our plays were performed at the Bridport Arts centre, mine included.
I was inspired to write the play by the experiences my father was then having at Burton Farm, where he lived for the final five years of his life. Burton Farm is not a conventional state-approved care home; instead, it’s the private home of Anne Rossiter and her family – a sheep farm with 325 acres set in beautiful Devon countryside, close to the sea at Hope Cove. As well as providing B&B accommodation in the farmhouse and self-catering in the converted barns, Anne welcomes individuals who need a safe and welcoming place to live when they reach the stage when they cannot remain in their own homes.
My father moved into Burton Farm on the August Bank holiday weekend of 2015. Like many of the short-term guests, on respite, it was only going to be a temporary stay, while his house was sold and we bought him somewhere to live near me. However, he so enjoyed his life at Burton Farm, he decided to stay at Burton Farm for good.
During the following five years, my father developed vascular dementia. One day, he forgot that he had a favourite poem. Another day, he forgot me. It was a sad process, watching him disappear. I decided to write my play ‘When I Have Fears’ about such a situation. Coincidentally, I became aware of the work of Suzy Garrod, a soul midwife. Although my father would not have countenanced such support – he had no faith – I chose to incorporate a soul midwife into my play, so as to spread the word about this new concept of end-of-life care.
I took great pains, aware that my characters were based on real people and real conversations, to check that the words on the page were acceptable to all concerned. On one occasion, at Burton Farm, we ran through a late draft of the play. Anne Rossiter took the role of Betty, the real Kayla read her part, I was the soul midwife and my husband, Stephen, read Ralph’s part. Although it was sad in parts, there was much laughter during that read-through, and Anne and Kayla confirmed they were more than happy with my interpretation of life at Burton Farm and the individuals portrayed.
I also sent a copy of the play to Suzy Garrod who confirmed that my soul midwife said the right things, and behaved in the right way.
Relieved that my play had the approval of those closest to it, the play was first performed in Bridport in June 2017. Although I had researched the soul midwife role through the website soulmidwife.co.uk I had not spotted that Felicity Warren, founder of Soul Midwives™ and the Principal of the Soul Midwives School in Bridport. Alerted by Suzy, Felicity attended that evening and, moved to tears, congratulated me on my play – I’d captured the role of soul midwifery well, she said.
Some time later, I was approached by Suzy and asked if I would be willing for my play to be performed during Dying Matters Week in Kingsbridge, in 2019. The idea was to encourage discussion about what options are available at the end of life. I persuaded the Salcombe Players to provide the cast of four, and the event was held on 15 May 2019.
David Clarke was invited by Suzy Garrod to record the play, with my permission. David then produced a podcast, a How Production by iamthehow, and you can listen to it by clicking on the image above. Playing the parts are members of The Salcombe Players: Iain Dundas (Ralph), Lindy Sinnott (Kayla), Wendy Morrall (Betty) and Christine Bonner (Suzy, the soul midwife).
Going forward, I am currently writing three more short plays – all about life at Burton Farm – with a view to creating a whole evening of entertainment, and I am using Scrivener for my playwriting – such a breeze. Watch this space!
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