1976. Fran & Leni meet in a North London comp. 

3 years later they are The Rips. Girls with guitars, bored of playing nice. 

“Profanity meets poetry” ★★★★ – The Stage
“Laugh out loud funny…provocative…deeply sad” ★★★★ – To Do List 
Two very different girls escape from everything sugar & spice in this full-throttle tale of lifelong friendship. 

By Sadie Hasler. “Twisted genius” – GQ 
Directed by Sarah Mayhew. “Inspired” – Fringe Review 

Featuring the voices of Phill Jupitus, Lizzie Roper, Alan Cox, Ricky Champ, & Marc Mollica. 

Original music written by Tuppenny Bunters, with lyrics by Sadie Hasler. 

Vault Festival London – 25-29 January – 19:45 – BOOK

Pramkicker: It Started In A Café…

Back in the distant yorey days of 2014 my friend Sarah and I were in a café. I was ploughing on with a triple shot Americano even though I’m a bit allergic, & Sarah was staring at me wondering why I didn’t just order tea. While we smalltalked a stream of mothers filled the cafe with their exuberant offspring and their high-tech perambulators. We smiled & nodded hullo. I crossed my eyes and did fish-face at a toddler who stood staring at me with a swollen nappy bum. As the hubbub in the cafe grew louder Sarah and I spoke a little louder to try & continue our Very Important Power Business Meeting (or VIPBM if you like anagrams that sound like virus software), which no doubt involved our dreams and aspirations for the next ten years, our relentless charity work for worthwhile causes, or what to have for lunch that very day.

Then Sarah got elbowed in the head by a mother who didn’t even turn round let alone apologise. Then I picked up a toy that was hurled at my feet – a little fleecy lamb, tired at the eyes from too much washing – to be met with a glare as though I was the leader of an international paedophile ring out and about scouting for talent. My cheeks flushed. Because I am not the leader of an international paedophile ring, people. I can just about manage my own menstrual cycle (it tends to work best when left to its own devices; you can’t lasso the moon) let alone operate on a highly criminal, covert, and morally reprehensible basis. We eventually felt so uncomfortable, so invisible and surplus to requirements that we left to find another cafe somewhere else, maybe in a neighbourhood known for more knife crime and fewer mother and baby groups, even though we knew more coffee would probably make my cheeks go pink and my throat go all constricty like I was being strangled in a cartoon where the tongue bursts out of the mouth like a party blower. JUST ORDER TEA, HASLER, YOU NITWIT.

In the street we began a conversation about motherhood and kids, dodging prams as we went. Sarah has often said she feels belittled by people who think she’s selfish for choosing to remain child free. She maintains that it’s selfish to have children if you aren’t sure you want them. I reissued my regular mantra that I haven’t a ruddy clue about anything; whether I want kids or not; that I sometimes have a pang, but not much. Not enough of one. Yet. I have received no bugle call and thus am at leisure to continue my wafty existence.

But. But I am 35, and aware that inside my tiniest parts – deep inside the intricate folds of my reproductive system, a work of genius I can take no credit for – is a clock, at some point at my prime wound tight and ready to burst its cogs, that will – at a time never to be properly administrated by myself, the me up here in my cerebral offices – start slowing down, slowing down, slowing down, until eventually it stops. Tick tock, tiiiiick toooock, til the rest is silence. My baby-making days over.

It’s not often that an ordinary morning spurs you to go home and write about it, but that day, in that cafe, a chord was struck that echoed. Very shortly afterwards I began writing my new play, Pramkicker, which became something of a melting pot for all the thoughts I had about All That Stuff, and a lot of thoughts I’d heard voiced by other women I know. It felt like a mess of conflicting concerns in my head that I needed to untangle – time and love and the human body and prospects and career and fulfilment and cherishing life and the possibilities and difficulties of all that – and writing is the only way I know how to go about trying to untangle anything. Writing is the way I process life, it’s how I understand, and more often now how I participate. Writing is what I do while and after I think and before I act. If I act.

I don’t normally talk about things I’m writing because I’m not very eloquent at saying what it is. I get all flustered and say ridiculous things like “It’s about a kind of story but I don’t know what yet.” And then people just stare at me as though they think I should probably take up watching telly instead. Most of the time I completely agree with them.

But what has been lovely with Pramkicker is that I’ve been talking about it lots. With lots of people. Men and women. Because I’ve wanted to know what other people think and feel about it all. And lots of people have been starting conversations with me about it too, and as always I have been reminded how lovely it is to share things with people. I’ve received so many messages from people who have things to say about motherhood; confessions or open comment about having kids, or not having them. About quandaries, about regrets. About sad things the human body throws at us, about the ticking of the biological clock. About knowing and not knowing. About how different humans go about filling their lives with different kinds of love in that strange vainglorious beautiful doomed pursuit of finding permanent happiness in an impermanent life, that cruel instinct that humans have that bumps alongside the behemoth business of merest survival. And while thinking, talking, or even writing about ‘all this baby stuff’ hasn’t made me any clearer on the matter, it makes me realise that whatever happens, with kids or without, I won’t be alone. None of us ever are if we choose to talk to each other.
Let’s just not try to do it all together in the same café, eh.


Doing It

About twenty one months ago or thereabouts, I blurted out something in bed that’s gone on to change my life. I was talking to my best friend (texting, on the phone – she hadn’t just swung by and hopped in to keep her feet warm) – and having a moan about some idiot we worked for. A shambolic cretin who never paid anyone, who – we had just discovered – wasn’t even using his own name such was his checkered past of shady incompetence. We were hacked off. We knew something had to give. So I blurted. “I just want to do plays all the time, like, run a theatre company.” There was a pause just long enough for Hew to type “LET’S F***ING DO IT THEN, WENCH.”

So we did. Or started to. Our complicity in those moments turned our energy from low and despondent to wired and exuberant. It was quite an unceremonious beginning really, I suppose. I was in bed for one thing. But it felt important.

Few things we say in a day actually bring about change in our lives. There are small things, like “But I don’t fancy steamed fish tonight, I fancy steak, a bloody big one.”, but rarely something monumental to altering the progression of your time, thoughts, actions, and priorities for a considerable proportion of your future. Something that in its simplicity and brevity at once casts out all other options.

“I just want to run a theatre company.”
“So let’s do it then.”

Our company Old Trunk will turn two in June. I will turn 34. It seems a good age to have realised suddenly, after a life of drifting from thing to thing, that you know what you want.

We have had, I’m sure, an untypically blessed start for a new company. Since our eureka moment we have produced two plays I wrote which have been very well received locally and in London, been funded by Arts Council England twice in an increasingly difficult financial climate with cuts being made left right and centre, represented the Arts at the House of Commons, and appeared in the Sunday Times magazine. Lots of other lovely stuff we’re proud of.

I know that our success so far is largely down to our defiant determination to work our socks off constantly to the exclusion of most other things, to the amazing talent we are lucky to have in our cast Charlie and Edd, but we also owe the angle of our trajectory to some other wonderful people.

We’ve been lucky enough not only to have wonderful patrons, but also to be mentored by an arts organisation called Metal. They heard of our work, and asked us to curate the theatre tent for last year’s Village Green festival. We were honoured. They mentored us through the Arts Council application, offered invaluable help, introduced us to a whole industry load of thinking that we, being new, simply didn’t know and stood no chance of rapidly discovering for ourselves. They came to see our shows, and spoke up about us to other arts groups who didn’t know who we were. We were nothing but a couple of plays and a big bag of vague wishes that might never have been realised, but then we were given the clarity and support to do something with it. Because of their mentorship we are now being funded to take our two plays to the Edinburgh Festival and we’re so happy and excited we can barely make it to the end of an hour without sighing like girls.

We don’t know what the future will hold. We’ll work hard to keep ascending, doing the things we love, and are actually now bolstered even further by the desire to not let our supporters down.

It took a moment of ‘sod this’, of saying “Let’s bloody well do it”, but it also took people believing in us and opening a door as wide as our own scope to dream.


Review – The Secret Wives of Andy Williams

A review for Old Trunk’s latest play The Secret Wives of Andy Williams, which premiered at Camden People’s Theatre in August 2013.

Low Down

It is rare in film, theatre or any art form to encounter a follow up show, a prequel or sequel that is as good if not better than the first. This unique occurrence has happened with Old Trunk and their new show The Secret Wives of Andy Williams, the prequel show to their stellar hit production last year, Watership Breakdown; The Bastard Children of Remington Steel. For background both shows are set in a nunnery where orphans and strays are taken in and looked after.


Secret Wives of Andy Williams is every bit as quirky, honest, funny and engaging as the last production and yet manages to retain the same voice despite being about the nuns taking the front row seat over the orphans. Only one character remains as the through line, Sister Mabel Matthew, and yet the style is the same and so it feels undeniably like a prequel. The characters are exceptionally well formed and it is clear a huge amount of work and passion has been applied to enable the audience to fall headfirst and fully immerse in the stories of these likeable, unique characters.

The team of performers are very tight knit with only one actor different from the production last year. The addition of Edward Mitchell as Susan and Sister Gertrude has added a wonderful new dimension to what was already a fantastic group dynamic. Mitchell adds a sparkle and twinkle to this strong female trio and the balance that is created ensures a great sense of harmony. Mitchell is an excellent character actor, seamlessly switching from one to the next with not even a beat. Men, women, old and young are all delivered with the same level of passion and commitment.

Sadie Hasler is truly destined to lead the charge as we discover the next generation of prolific writers in the UK. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is not the name on everybody’s lips both for theatre and TV in the next year or so and I can certainly say I was lucky enough to witness the humble beginnings of that greatness at the Camden Fringe. Her trusty co producer and exceptionally talented actor and comedian Sarah Mayhew yet again reveals her attention to detail with character; playing Sister Clara, the obnoxious yet misunderstood Enid and Queenie Bee, all completely unique and utterly convincing. Charlie Platt is delightful as the confused young nun Caitlin and her sense of fun and innocence in this playful role is totally charming.

Hasler has delivered another little piece of heavenly storytelling to the stage and no doubt there are many more to come! I for one cannot wait to see what’s next for these nuns!


Letter from The International Andy Williams Appreciation Society

During Old Trunk’s London run of The Secret Wives of Andy Williams, I got a lovely email from a chap called Bill Lothian from the International Andy Williams Appreciation Society, asking me some questions about the play…

Are you old enough to remember The Andy Williams Show in 1969 and were you fascinated by it yourself?

I don’t remember the Andy Williams show as am 33, but my mum absolutely loved him, and I have always loved Andy Williams’ music. My mum loved the fact that he was included in the play as she has really fond memories of watching the show. I did however watch lots of clips on Youtube when writing the play, and I know that if it was on today I would be a dreamy-eyed loyal viewer. He’s a cutie.

Do you remember the Cookie Bear’s weekly appearances, for example?

I hear that little bear got too popular and was axed after a while so Andy could reclaim his spotlight. Ha ha – was this true?

I wondered if any of his songs get a mention or if you could give a hint to the sort of Andy Williams references included.

We started the play with the opening bars of Music To Watch Girls By because it’s a such an upbeat energetic opening for the play and gives the first scene – Caitlin’s narration and the introduction to her, Tilda, and Susan, two bonkers orphans – a great dynamic. We had a scene where Andy Williams appears as an almost heavenly being in the young nun Caitlin’s dream, where he appears to her and offers her some advice on love, and for a while we were using the jaunty instrumental bits from Can’t Get Used To Losing You in the background, but the ‘plucking’ effect wasn’t working as we thought, so we used Andy’s version of Ave Maria instead which was far gentler and dreamier and turned it into the scene we were hoping to create. We had a little snippet of Moon River and a bit with Andy talking in our Andy Williams Show segments. (And for a while had a little scene where the nuns played Moon River on recorders, which we decided to cut in the end as it hampered the drive of the plot and we didn’t want to stick something in just for our own nerdy enjoyment!)
We closed the play with Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, which rounded up the story with a wonderful, affectionate burst of energy after quite an emotional scene, and the audience loved it. We were very happy with the response we got, laughter and tears in equal measure, which is more than we could have asked for. The music definitely made the play what it was, it augmented the moods we were going for without our needing to use words in certain places. Music’s very powerful in that way, and I think the audience responded with affection because the songs we picked are so well-known and so well-loved that they bring with them a sort of cultural history too. Every time you use songs like that that are so imbued in our cultural pysche you sort of cheekily borrow from their success, if you do it right and don’t just turn it into a cheese fest. Brilliant songs. I also really wanted to use the The Village of Saint Bernadette somewhere in the play as the themes of Lourdes and salvation and peace were very relevant to our story, but we found there wasn’t a scene that it fitted with naturally and we didn’t want to prise it in and risk being nauseating. I would have used his entire back catalogue if I could but it would have been a very long play!

Were you by any chance in touch with him (if you were writing it last year before he died) or his people at the Moon River Theatre in Branson?

Alas, no. That would have been awesome. I did a lot of reading about Andy while writing the play and I thought the Moon River theatre sounded wonderful! I was aware of the timeliness of writing a play about him the year after he died, though that wasn’t the reason for writing it. I like to think he would have liked it though. He had some rather impressive pearly-whites – I’d have liked to make him laugh and show them off, all glinty-like.

How did you come to pick this musical TV icon to be the “motif” for your show.

It’s quite strange, but I don’t really remember certain bits of how the story all came together in my head. I take a while to get started on a play – i have to let the elements of it mill around in my head for a while before I can start writing, and once I can hear the characters talking to each other I know I’m ready to start. It’s almost like it forms its skeleton quietly in my mind while I’m pottering about with other things, and then I pull back a curtain and this creature starts walking towards me demanding my attention. That sounds a bit mental, doesn’t it. Oh dear. Most of the time when I’m writing a play I don’t remember making many conscious decisions about the plot or characters or elements, other than certain editorial tweaks I make much later on in the process once the words are up on their feet with the actors. A lot of it seems to float up from the depths; it’s already there. I don’t sit down and think “I’m going to make this happen, and include this” or anything. Once the characters have formed it’s pretty much just my job to follow them and write down what they’re saying to each other. They’re already there, and that’s how it was with Andy Williams too. He was just there in my head.

I always get to about halfway through a rough draft, then need to hear it aloud with my cast. Then the characters flesh themselves out, and I go away and finish the bugger. I love writing for actors I know well. Knowing your cast makes the voices come out with greater vibrancy. You know what they can do, where their powers lie, and you bend things a little around this. You’re writing for a purpose, not just writing a play which might never be performed and might sit in a drawer forever. I find that so exciting, and know how lucky I am that to have a strong company of people who want to be involved in all the various stages of making a play happen.

Despite not remembering how certain things found their way into the script, I do remember certain key ‘decisions’ I made while dreaming it into shape. I knew the play was to be the prequel to my last – The Bastard Children of Remington Steele. I knew that it was to take place at St Agatha’s Covent Orphanage again. I knew I wanted to peel back the stories of the place like layers of wallpaper.
I knew it was going to be set mostly in the late sixties, thirty years before Bastards, at a time of increased sexual freedom and decision-making for young women.
I knew I wanted a young nun torn between her love for God and her love for a man.
I wanted to tell, sub-textually, the story of the nuns and how they had come to live that life, and what their lives might have been like if they had made different decisions. I wanted to think about to what extent they function as ‘ordinary’ women – do they have crushes, do they feel certain impulses within their bodies, how do they stopper certain hormonal impulses that we all have, how do they regard their bodies, their uniquely female parts, do the truly inexperienced nuns ever imagine any of the things they declined to live for themselves? And I thought the idea of these women who had chosen not to know corporeal love having a harmless fascination with a chastely charming sort of man like Andy Williams, and for half an hour a week just giving in to a world of fantasy watching his show, was quite beautiful. Just like Eskimos might dream of fields of grass, or children of space. There is always something we want that we know we will never have. Andy Williams – in this story, for these women – is a symbol of all the things that might have been, but never were. He is also used as a dream figure that advises Caitlin about love, and answers her big question: “Just…follow your heart. It’s my favourite answer because it’s the shortest but gets the best results.”
And it had to be someone like Andy Williams. It wouldn’t have been psychologically plausible or tasteful to have them fawning over James Dean or Elvis or anyone typically sexualised or rough around the edges. He had to have the qualities they respected and had built their lives around. Andy Williams seemed on the surface like a very suitable candidate. Though I’m sure he was a cheeky tinker in his own way too.
This was a very long-winded way of saying I can’t remember picking Andy. I think the nuns picked him.

By the way, did you know Arthur Smith once did a show called Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen? But, when he took it to America, he wasn’t sure if they would know who Leonard Cohen was, so he changed the title to Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams. Still don’t think it contained any singing, though.

Yes, I’ve heard of that. Ha ha! Arthur Smith is a funny chap. He gave me some pineapple and an old T-shirt at a gig I did years ago. He was getting rid of all his old T-shirts and had packaged them in plastic sleeves with a picture of him wearing the t-shirt on the front, which is rather cute I think.


The Vagabond Diaries – ‘Clarence Larchsap’

The Vagabond Diaries – stories of being human by Sadie Hasler accompanied live by M G Boulter & The Lucky Strikes – premiered in the Old Trunk theatre at Village Green Festival 2013.

The piece was read by actor David Streames.

Thursday, April 5th, 1922

This is the 47th year of my writing a diary every day. I would say I have written it religiously but there have been days, as we are all like to have, when I have not been all that religious. There have been days, as we are all like to have, when I might say I have written in poor reverence to the lord. I have had bad thoughts, I have cheeked people without their knowing, stolen small and large items according to need or want, have cast my eye too long on a raised skirt far more than a Christian man might, and I have cussed, but have always seen fit to scribble the badness out. My diary has more black lines than words. Some days are just great black lines, and now that I am in my 62nd year I cannot always remember what went there in the first place.

I feel a little like starting again. Writing a new date, that has never yet existed, of telling you, whoever you are – for who do we write to when we write a diary? I do not know – telling you, a you whom I do not know, who I am. If anyone ever knows such a thing.

I would start, I suppose, with my name. I could do that. I can and so I will. My name is Clarence Larchsap. I had a nickname once, but I forget what it was or who saw fit to give it me.

I suppose I might next tell you I was born in a little town in South Carolina. For I was. The name, I suppose, does not matter. Its topographical features, how I travelled around them and what I did within them matters not either. I could inform you of a great many biographical details, as people seem so set on doing, as though telling you things about themselves makes them exist a bit more, but I shall not.

Schooling, love, happy days and friendship, they didn’t last and mean little to me now. Parentage, even, those broken souls who forerun our own blighted journeys, that too has come to mean no more than a quick sigh and is not something I can stretch out to lay on the paper.

So why do I write, what do I store in these pages? I think I write to pass the time. If I did not write as I sat I would not know what to do. I cannot just be.

I suppose you might call me a man of few roots, a traveller, a vagrant, a vagabond.
I move about. People don’t tend to want a man with such a character to stick around. And so I keep moving. Having such an…anti-social proclivity does not invite your welcome in most places. People like their stuff to remain intact. Unburned. I try to respect that by not sticking around after I have reduced their property to cinders. Sometimes I will pass through without giving in to the calling of the match in my pocket, which always burns there even before it is struck. And sometimes I permit myself. Sometimes I plan it in detail, and sometimes I do not know I have done it until I stand there with the hard honest heat on my cheeks.

Was I set off at a state of unrest, born as I was during an earthquake? Did the noise and chaos of nature set itself thudding in my heart from the moment I burst out into the air? I don’t suppose to know. I know only one real thing. As soon as my eyes could flicker, as soon as my fingers could curl and pinch and reach towards the things I wanted, I was drawn to flame. I would disregard all toys and books, I would ignore all beauty and spectacle, if I could look instead at fire. Even a lamplight in its last juddering breath would hold my attention more than the desire-struck face of the most beautiful woman in the world. She is nothing next to it.

You might say I was an arsonist. I suppose most people would. But I do not think the word does justice to the sight of something reducing itself down to ash in the blinding searing heat of a man acting in the thrall of his own secret will – something condemned to nothing in the smallest of moments. The word says nothing of this, so I prefer to leave myself uncategorised.

Perhaps it is sickness. Perhaps it is a revenge against something I cannot remember from my past. Perhaps it is a struggle with myself, with the world, with God himself.

Dear Diary, I do not know or I would tell you. But I will say, with the candour you can stow in a diary – this most loyal of friends, silent as ash – I will say, as a final thing before I take my night-time’s perambulation around all that dry matter people build up, those frames for future fires – I will say, before I move on in the morning – nothing shines quite a light like a thing you have set aflame yourself. Simply put, between two friends, I just like burning stuff down.



Tambourine Girl

The last time I shook a tambourine it was quite by accident. I was carrying it for someone in a band who let me help load a car so that I could pretend I was a rock star. As it jingled lightly I felt guilty – as though the Gods of music might smite me for daring to unsettle their percussion with my arrhythmic clumsiness.

The time before that was as the backing singer in a staff band named Detention when I was a teacher, but it didn’t count because we only played to a hall full of nonchalant kids at the end of term. ‘As a treat’. It didn’t matter if they didn’t think I was any good because a) what did they know about anything anyway, and b) I could just give them Ds to make myself feel better.

I’m one of life’s tambourine shakers. Because it’s the only way, other than humming, that I can join in with that almost celestial art, Music.

But a tambourine accidentally fell into my hand again last week, drawn to my fingertips by that powerful sorcery of wanting to make a ruddy noise. I was very privileged to be the only non-member to enter the rehearsal room of awesome band The Lucky Strikes. I thought that I might disintegrate on entry to that hallowed ground, but instead I walked through the door and was whammed in the nostrils by the smell of stale farts that had soaked into the sound-proofing over the years. It put me at ease somehow – despite the fact breathing had become markedly harder.

I was there to work with the boys on a show I’ve written called The Vagabond Diaries, which sews together stories inspired by their songs. Collaborating with proper musicians was a new thing for me. I was a little daunted by having to speak up in case the language and methods of an actor-writer sounded dumb to cool musicians. I didn’t want to sound like a wanker. But once they started playing (‘jamming’ I believe it’s called in the trade), I got so excited to hear the words I’d written coming together with their amazing songs that I forgot that I wasn’t actually a part of the band.

That’s when I may have picked up the tambourine. I may have tried to do a bit of shaking against my leg like a hippy in a scout hut. The boys looked at me. I put it down and said something very clever and droll about the cross-pollination of genres being really liberating. (I didn’t. I reminded them that I had brought them cookies and hoped that would prevent them from beating me with the sullied tambourine).

I left ‘the studio’ (jargon) feeling a bit high. It may have been the vapours of ghost farts I’d inhaled, but I think it was because we all felt like we’d stumbled onto something exciting and new.

I went home humming, and as I fell into bed I thought about the old adage that music is what all art aspires to. I think it must be true. I wasn’t thinking about the words I’d written, or the stories or characters within, or the themes of the piece, or even the brilliant lyrics that had inspired me in the first place, I was humming. Just the tune. The notes repeating in that magical order. The music is what stayed with me as I fell asleep, and it’s what was there as I woke in the morning.

The Vagabond Diaries – tales of being human accompanied by the music of The Lucky Strikes – can be seen in the Old Trunk Theatre Tent at Village Green on Saturday 13th July.