Greetings, and welcome to my website. I'm a Canadian-born, London-based playwright/producer. I've created this website to showcase my latest work and to spread the philosophy that audiences come to the theatre primarily to be entertained, rather than to be bored to death or depressed. Please take a look around. There are summaries of my plays and samples of other writing. I hope you enjoy your visit, and will come again.
2019 got off to a flying start as I discovered I had been selected as a quarterfinalist in the inaugural ScreenCraft Stage Play competition in Los Angeles. My play THE COAT OF LOOKING ON then made it to the semifinals before being knocked out at the final stage, but it was still a wonderful surprise and vindication of the many, many unpaid hours I spend writing my scripts. There were 700 entries to this international contest.
Encouraged by this success, I have submitted my latest feature film screenplay, FELICITY UNCHAINED, in ScreenCraft's Science Fiction & Fantasy competition. Roll on April, when I will discover whether I am through to the quarterfinals on that one.
Please click HERE to watch our promo/pitch for MY ARCADIA, the story of poet Alexander Pope at Twickenham. Director Jake Murray and I were filmed inside Popes Grotto by Karma, Twickenham Film Studios. Further details below.
In recent months a truly lovely project has come my way. I have teamed up with director Jake Murray to develop our short (25-min) film MY ARCADIA. This lively historical comedy-drama will focus on Alexander Pope's turbulent life, his literary career, and a poignant romance. It will be shot in heritage properties to bring Alexander back to life and to raise awareness of the Pope's Grotto Preservation Trust - a charity currently restoring the Grotto. We'll be launching our film's crowd-funding campaign shortly.
The All-Seeing Eye
My comedy The All-Seeing Eye was performed in London at The LOST Theatre's 31st Annual One-Act Festival, June 18, 2015. The play, which won a New Writing Festival in 2007, is an old-fashioned farce with a very modern twist, and I was delighted it had been accepted for performance in such a well-established competition.
The play was directed by Leigh Stevenson, cast Adam Elliott, Lucy Lawson, Matthew Marrs and Kaitlin Feeney as the play's indomitable heroine, Iris Perkins. Special thanks to our production assistant Amy Thackeray who took these photographs, and the management of The LOST Theatre who selected my script and were welcoming hosts throughout the festival.
2015 started with a bang, as a short comedy of mine, 'Driving to David', made it to the finals of The LOST Theatre's Short Play Festival, February 7. After 3 historical costume dramas in a row, it was a pleasure to write a contemporary story, and an even greater pleasure to watch it being performed by three fine young actors: Danielle Williams, Hugh Roberts and Alexandra Simonet.
Thanks are also due to my director, Alex Howarth, my stalwart assistant/costume designer Amy Thackeray, and a BIG thank you to David Bowie, who inspired the story.
Special thanks to the management of The LOST Theatre, the judges and the enthusiastic audiences who joined us for the early rounds and the grand final of the Festival, Feb 2-7 2015.
Elemental: JMW Turner illuminated...
Many thanks to the warm and supportive audiences who came to my production of Elemental, March 28-Apr 6 2014, at the glorious heritage property Strawberry Hill House and on tour.
I wrote Elemental to raise awareness of the Turner's House Trust and their current project to restore Sandycombe Lodge, the house that William Turner designed and built in Twickenham. For further information on the Trust, see their website.
Elemental was directed by Raymond Daniel-Davies with original music by Leigh Stevenson. The cast included Anneli Page, Polly Smith, Alistair Findlay, Robert Blackwood, Thomas Willshire, Raymond Daniel-Davies and Leigh Stevenson as William Turner.
Many thanks to the artists Joy Cuff and David Bowman, whose wonderful art was used in the production.
Photos by Amy Thackeray and Ken Vaux.
2013 was a busy year with two shows written:
Mercury Falling, a fun 80's musical featuring more than 20 original songs written by Leigh Stevenson, and
Elemental, a drama concerning the life of JMW Turner RA, the great 19th century landscape painter. You can read more about them on my Plays page. We are currently seeking backers for Mercury Falling.
The Last Great Lady
A play for Strawberry Hill House, Dec 7-19 2012
Written by Dianne Cutlack. Directed by Gemma Colclough.
Original music by Nick Pratelli.
Starred: Polly Smith, Leigh Stevenson, Nic Choulman and Alan Booty.
**See our trailer on YouTube**
I decided a long time ago that a playwright has to be far more than the mere writer of plays. You have to showcase your work, protect your work artistically, and seek opportunities for getting your plays into production. I became a show producer this year for those reasons, and returned to Strawberry Hill to stage another of my plays, The Last Great Lady.
Strawberry Hill is a Regency Gothic gem which, like many historic properties in the UK, is a natural stage set requiring little dressing. I have now written two original plays concerning Strawberry Hill's former owners: Horace Walpole in the 18th century, and Lady Frances Waldegrave in the 19th. What better place to bring these extraordinary, larger-than-life people back to life than in their own home?
These productions are unique. They are also complex and demanding, requiring not only artistic talent and technical expertise, but also a flexibility of approach. I can only mount them in the company of exceptional creative people who are confident of their skills, supportive of each other, and willing to accept the challenge of working in an environment far removed from a proscenium arch. If this sounds like you, I want to hear from you.
The Sign of the Strawberry 20-29 March 2012
The Sign of the Strawberry was a great challenge - writing a contemporary Gothic comedy which would take the audience on a journey through the splendour of Horace Walpole's 18th century Gothic castle, Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, as well as introducing the audience to the life and times of Horace Walpole himself. The technical challenge of using modern sound and lighting equipment in a Grade I listed historical property with its delicate fabrics was daunting in the extreme.
I owe a great deal to the courage and talent of my actors: Emily Holden, Nicky Diss, Tom Judd, Bernice Pike and Leigh Stevenson, who played Horace Walpole. This was a big production which involved 8 dancers from the D & B School of Performing Arts, ably choreographed by Ijy de Luca, original music composed by Nick Pratelli, and a series of gorgeous costumes, both contemporary and 18th century, designed by students at the Arts University College, Bournemouth, under the capable direction of Leane Grote. I must also thank my technical crew, Jayson Jacob Johnson and Lee Andrew Davies, and our director, Christina Artemis.
Profuse thanks are also due to Nick Smith, the director of Strawberry Hill House, who enthusiastically participated in what was a risky, first-time theatrical venture in a house which had only completed an £8.9m restoration programme in 2010.
Finally, many thanks to the audience who came to Strawberry Hill and made The Sign of the Strawberry such a success.
24.9.2009 My Advice to Other Struggling Playwrights:
Never put your audience to sleep, or send them home wanting to slit their wrists.
Keep writing and re-writing, despite the rejections. If you can't think up a plot for a play, try other forms of writing - they may give you some new and interesting ideas.
Always listen to your actors in rehearsal. They are your first audience. If they want lines changed, change them. If your actors don't understand the plot, the audience won't understand it either.
Don't worry if you fall out with a director. As far as the director is concerned, the only good playwright is a dead playwright.
Try to avoid social situations where people tell you they have a play in them - if they ever got around to writing it - which "they would give to the world for free." Oh no they wouldn't!
Try to avoid social situations where people tell you a brief and mildly amusing anecdote and say: "You should write about this - it would make a great play!"
Don't belabour your poor audience with a "message". If you use your writing to strike a blow against a society that doesn't understand or appreciate you, please, please seek out a psychiatrist, not the stage.
When actors ask for more information about the characters they're playing and you haven't given a moment's thought to the back story, make one up. It keeps the actors happy.
Don't fill in those ridiculous "monitoring forms" that ask you to state your ethnic background, age, gender, etc., each time you submit a new script to a UK theatre. These forms have no bearing whatsoever on your ability as a playwright and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.
Never say to a struggling playwright: "How's the writing coming along?" "Who's your agent?
5.11.2008 Writing has to be one of the loneliest occupations on earth. You know you’ve been sitting in front of your computer too long when a visit from the gas man makes your day. The “don’t-even-bother-to-send-us-your-script” attitude too often lamentably displayed by theatres, agents, producers and others can at times be depressing and at other times laughable – not to mention the standard, single-paragraph reject letter that puts paid to months of effort. A thousand obstacles seem placed in the playwright’s way. And yet new writing is the lifeblood of the theatre; we must continue to struggle to get our plays on the stage if we wish to give audiences anything at all that is fresh and stimulating. Hence the name of this website, The Persistent Playwright. As writers, unlike robots, can’t deactivate themselves and rest in a cupboard until opportunity comes knocking, persistency has to be our motto. We can’t afford to give up trying. To that end, I’ll chart the progress of my own experience in getting my plays into production in regular blogs. If you too are a playwright, either emerging or established, I’m interested in hearing about your own experiences. Whatever useful tips I learn, I’ll pass on.
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© Dianne Cutlack