The Play’s the Thing…

3032490151_1dd2bd84e0_mI don’t know how many of you Loose Muse followers are playwrights or interested in theatre, but the other day I read in the paper that ‘The Mousetrap’, Agatha Christie’s famous murder mystery play, celebrated its’ 25,000th performance in November, and reached its’ 60th year. It’s already in the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest-running play ever…an amazing achievement. It opened in the West Eng in 1952, and year after year has played to full houses, becoming as much a part of London’s tourist scene as Big Ben or Madame Tussaud’s.

In the vague mists of my memory I do recall going to see it when I was a teenager – and that was almost half a century ago, so it’s little wonder I can’t remember who actually done it. Apparently it began life as a short radio play, broadcasting in May 1947, that came out of a short story, and was based on a real-life case of the death of a boy in 1945. Also Agatha Christie asked that the story shouldn’t be published as long as it ran as a play in the West End of London, so it still hasn’t been published in the UK, although it appeared in the US in a collection of stories in 1950.

As part of its 60th birthday anniversary a whole host of famous thesps starred in a special performance, including Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Miranda Hart and Patrick Stewart. I’ll bet they had an absolute ball, and in theatrical tradition played all sorts of tricks on each other spice things up a bit. Perhaps the butler didn’t do it after all!

Coming a close second must be ‘The Woman in Black’, the fabulous ghost story by Susan Hill, which has been running at the Fortune Theatre since 1989. I’ve seen that at least five times over the past few years, and always enjoyed it. The last time I took a pal to see it for her birthday. We went to a matinee so the theatre was filled with a crowd of teenagers clearly there on a school trip, and all boasting they weren’t going to be frightened by the scary bits. Oh yeah, I thought, not without reason. I’d seen it before so knew what to expect….hahahahaha!!!!! Their screams echoed round the auditorium so loudly I’m surprised they didn’t call an ambulance, and when I saw them leaving the theatre after it was all over, they all looked several shades paler. Apparently ‘Woman In Black’ has been seen by over seven million people…way to go.

It only goes to prove that when theatre’s mediocre you do wonder what all the fuss is about. But when it’s good it’s the best thing ever. I’ve been lucky enough to see two terrific performances recently. Firstly, the amazing Mark Rylance in his all-male version of ‘Richard lll’ at The Globe, which was astonishing. The play’s a tragedy filled with murder, bloodshed and betrayal, yet he played it like a comedy. And it worked! A-mazing!! And then last week I saw ‘Scenes from An Execution’ at the Lyttleton, written as a political satire by Howard Barker in the 1980’s. I think you always know when a play’s been really well written, even if you don’t go to the theatre a lot, and this really was incredibly well crafted, with themes as pertinent now as when it was first produced. I tried playwriting years ago; I even took a playwriting course, but was rubbish at it. Poetry and stories were always much more my thing, so the world has been spared my appalling efforts.

All of which leads me nicely to Loose Muse. The December 12th Loose Muse will contain a special performance of Linda Lander’s 10-minute play ‘A Perfectly Innocent Love’ about a middle-aged woman tired of the games men play, with a cast of four brawny young men (what’s not to like!). December features are poets Lesley Hale and Angela Stoner, both coming from Cornwall, and Dutch writer Vrouwkje Tuinman also making a welcome return.

In January (January 9th) the Special Play Spot will be filled by Claire Booker, whose talented troop of actors will perform two of her 5-minute plays. In ‘Rainbow Baby’ a woman addresses the birth mother of her teenage daughter, whilst something sinister stirs in the playground in ‘Harriet by the Swings’. January features will be writer Linda Shanson and poet Janice Windle.

And then in February Loose Muse welcome’s the return of playwright/poet Nandita Ghose, talking about her radio plays. So whether you’re a theatre lover or not, there’s an awful lot to get excited about…come along…tell your friends…write your own play-lette and share it at Loose Muse’s open mic spots. And don’t forget to break a leg!


Hi gang,

Even though Christmas is just round the corner, and everywhere is covered in tinsel, December’s Loose Muse has a distinctly Cornish flavour, as well as being a really full and exciting programme to start the season’s celebrations….

LOOSE MUSE – London’s Premiere Women’s Writers Night.
Wednesday 12th December – the second Wednesday of each month.
@ The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2 (closest tube = Covent Garden),
8.00 p.m. – £5.00 – £3.00 concessions

Features this month:

Lesley Hale is a Cornish poet who started writing for publication in her early teens. After years of neglect she enrolled at Angela Stoner’s creative writing class about ten years ago. Lesley enjoys performance and experimentation. Her poems have been published by Poetry Cornwall and South magazines.

Angela Stoner is also from Cornwall believes in the healing power of metaphor and her writing and workshops reflect this.  Her work has appeared in literary and professional journals and anthologies.  She has two published books, Once in a Blue Moon (Fal publications) and Weight and Flight (oversteps books).  She loves the direct connection of performance, particularly in partnership.

Special Guest – Vrouwkje Tuinman, a Dutch writer, poet and journalist, who has performed at Loose Muse more than once over the past year, and makes a welcome return to test out some her new material in London.

Special Play Spot – Linda Landers presents….A Perfectly Innocent Love –
A 10 minute play about a middle-aged woman tired of the games men play, yet still listening to an offer she can’t refuse. Featuring Vincent Lewer, Papillon de Nuit, Marek Hollands, and Dylan Geoghegan.  Linda is a prize-winning poet, writer of plays and songs, and a multi-media artist, whose work has been compared to Evelyn Waugh.

Plus plenty of chances to read your own work from the floor.  AND MINCE PIES!!!!


The deadline for the next Loose Muse Anthology is 31st January 2013, so once again the doors are open for submissions.  You can submit any time between now and January 31st, either bringing your work to a Loose Muse event, or e-ing submissions to Agnes Meadows at   Submissions are only open to women who attend Loose Muse, and cover all genres – stories, poetry, play-lets, excerpts of novels, or articles on all things literary.   Launch of this Anthology will be early March 2013

So come share the passion, share the joy!
Agnes Meadows
Host and Coordinator – Loose Muse Women’s Writers’ Night

If It Was Good Enough For Dickens….

It was a great week despite the fact that the nights are getting frostier and Christmas is far too close for comfort (my pal Naomi Woddis wants to know what happened – she thought it was still August…me too, flower, me too!!). It’s been a good one because I’ve been deeply embroiled in the Elmbridge Literature Competition, which I’ve helped judge for the past six years, plus sorting out the running order of readings of the winning entries in all the various categories.

Where’s Elmbridge, I hear you ask? It’s the bit of Surrey that includes Walton-on-Thames, Woking, Guildford and all sorts of other places in that part of commuter-land – all very ‘green and pleasant’ especially in autumn. The competition is open to children aged 5 years upwards, teens, and adults, so there’s a really wide spread of wannabe writing talent. This year’s theme was ‘A Dickens of a Christmas’, and participants were asked to write a poem or a short story that embraced the idea of Christmas, with a thread of the great man himself thrown in for good measure.

It’s always been a pleasure to read through the annual competition’s many entries, from wobbly hand-written stories of reindeers and Santa from the littlies, to multi-layered tales of loneliness and loss as well as the humorous and fantastic from teens and adults. One of the best things about judging this kind of competition year on year, is that whole families enter, and you see individual writers growing stronger each time they enter, stretching their imagination and really developing their writing skills. (If you want to read some of the winning entries, go to the R C Sherriff Trust website – – you’ll see why I’m so enthusiastic!). Each year there are also readings of the winning entries, one night for the childrens’ and young teens, and another night for older teens and adults. I ‘script’ each piece to reflect the different voices the stories and poems contain, and we have a great time making everything come to life…definitely brings out the closet thesp in me. Plus all the winning writers and their friends & families really enjoy having their work brought alive in this way.

There’s also a guest speaker on each night. This year on the first night we had Sarah Mussi, award-winning writer of teen fiction on the first night (and yes, I’ve booked her for Loose Muse next year, don’t fret!). On the second night we had Lucinda Hawksley, the great-great-great grand-daughter of Charles Dickens, and a biographer, author and lecturer herself. Now Mr Dickens’ work was badly taught at the school I went to so his work never set me on fire, and I’ve not read much of it to date. But Lucinda’s talk really aroused my interest, telling me things about him that I didn’t know, and I’m certainly going to re-read some of his novels now. I know he was a journalist, and he had made a point of writing about the dark underbelly of life in Victorian England, exposing child abuse, extreme poverty, violence and green, and changing contemporary viewpoints about these things via his novels.

What I didn’t know was that he hadn’t been paid a penny for his first several stories, that his novels were serialized in periodicals over many weeks and that he didn’t know from one week to the next where the story was going as he hadn’t planned each story in full in advance. Most interestingly, despite his eventual success as a novelist, his publishers refused to publish ‘A Christmas Carol’, because they didn’t think another Christmas story would sell. So he published it himself, apparently having 6,000 copies printed in early December, all of which had sold by Christmas Eve. Although he apparently wrote a number of other Christmas novels, ‘A Christmas Carol’ is the only one that’s remembered, and it’s never been out of print. How amazing is that!

Anyway, I’m hoping someone will buy me Lucinda’s biography of her great-great-great grand-father for Christmas (don’t ask, and you don’t get!). Check out Lucinda on her website

And talking about Christmas, the last Loose Muse of 2012 is on December 12th, and promises to be a-mazing! Coming all the way from West Cornwall will be Angela Stoner and Lesley Hale, two poets of extraordinary word-power + Vrouwkje Tuinman from Holland putting in a brief guest appearance ++ Linda Landers bringing a short play (performed by a cast of 4 young men). AND there’ll be mince pies. So come along…if poetry, stories, 4 brawny young men in a play aren’t incentive enough, perhaps the mince pies will help!

Come share the passion, share the joy!