Playreadings: Autumn 2021 to Summer 2023

The new season of playreadings as it stood at Nov 2021 was as follows (For updates email, sign up to the UH newsletter or watch this space). Unless otherwise specified playreadings take place at 7.30 p.m GMT/BST on Thursday evenings on Zoom.

Unfinished Histories has been running a playreading group on zoom since April 2020, focusing on scripts from the alternative theatre movement of the 1970s and 80s and New Women scripts from the late 19th / early 20th century. (To purchase copies of Thousands of Noras: Short Plays by Women 1875-1920 ed. Sherry Engle and Susan Croft, source of many of the New Women plays, at a special reduced price please email)

Playreadings are unrehearsed but those who would like to read will be emailed scripts in advance so they can, if they wish, familiarise themselves with the play in advance – or just discover it as they read. Please email for further details.

(alternative theatre plays in bold, New Women and other plays in italics)

Season 2021 -2022

Thurs 28th Oct The Subjection of Kezia (UK 1915) by Edith Ellis and The Rib Person by Rita Wellman (US 1918)

Thurs 11th Nov  Better Times  Barrie Keeffe’s 1985 play originally staged at Stratford East, exploring in this 100th anniversary year, the events of the Poplar Rates Rebellion of 1921.

Thurs 25th Nov   Her Inside event including Maryland by Lucy Kirkwood.  A public zoom event featuring material from Her Inside: Women in the Lockdown was planned. A small group reading of Maryland took place. The larger Her Inside: Stepping Outside event has been held over till 17th March.

Thurs 9th Dec The Amiable Courtship of Miz Venus and Wild Bill (1974) by Pam Gems, originally produced by Britain’s first Women’s Theatre Festival at Inter-Action‘s Almost Free Theatre in 1974

Thurs 6th Jan  Rutherford and Son (1912) by Githa Sowerby

20th Jan  Twice Over (1988) by Jackie Kay, originally produced by Gay Sweatshop

Thurs 3rd  Mar Wild Justice (1896) by Margaret L. Woods

Thurs  17th Mar  Her Inside: Stepping Outside event.  Event recording coming soon. This was a live public event on zoom. Further details her  of Her Inside the blog.  (Viewers are encouraged to donate to Her Inside support future events and workshops)

Thurs 14th April  Forest Song (1911) by Lesya Ukrainka, the classic Ukrainian feminist writer in a new translation by Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps of Yara Arts Group

Thurs 19th May: Three Women (1911) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Edge O’ Dark by Gwen John (1909) – and if time allows Feed the Brute by George Paston, 1908).

Thurs 9th June: two Age Exchange Plays What Did You Do in the War, Mum? by Joyce Holliday (1985)and On the River (devised, 1988)

Thurs 30th June Precious Moments from the Family Album To Provide You with Comfort in the Long Years to Come (1967) by Naftali Yavin. Yavin went on to become the founder of TOC, The Other Company, an experimental, physical theatre company that was a key part of the early  Inter-Action.

Thurs 28th July: Suffrage plays – The Pot and the Kettle by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John; One of the Old Guard by Constance Campbell (1914) and  Lady Geraldine’s Speech by Beatrice Harraden

The Autumn 2022 season started on Thurs 13th October with The Nine Days and Saltley Gates by John Hoyland and Jonathen Chadwick (Foco Novo, 1976)

Thurs 10th Nov: The Image (c1910)by Lady Augusta Gregory, a tragi-comedy focusing on gossip, community judgement and the mythologising tendency in Irish culture.
Thurs 8th Dec: Bohemian Rhapsody by Sue Frumin, originally staged in 1980 at Oval House, directed by Kate Crutchley it was a precursor to her setting up lesbian company Character Ladies and becoming Oval’s influential Theatre Programmer. It was described as a mixture of pantomime, farce, operetta and medieval mystery play.

12th Jan: The Waiter Speaks (1913) by Miles Franklin and The Apple by Inez Bensusan (1909) POSTPONED
18th Feb: Plays for LGBTQ+ History Month – workshop and in-person readings / discussion. Details here.
16th March: The Execution by Melissa Murray (Monstrous Regiment, 1982)
20th April: Portrait of Mrs W (1922) by Josephine Preston Peabody
18th May: The Wind of Change (1987) by Winsome Pinnock
22nd June: Makeshifts (1908) and Realities (1912) by Gertrude Robins and How Cranford Became Militant and Boycotted the Census  (1912) by Marguerite Muriel Culpeper Pollard
20th July Penny O’Connor’s Dig, Valley, Spike (Old Red Lion 1988) about a women’s volleyball team

Also see in-person events:

Please also come along to the opening of UH’s exhibition on 6th July 6.30 to 8.30 at Newington Green Meeting House: Acting Out: LGBTQ+ Theatre in the 1970s and 80s) Book / RSVP here – and tell your friends. It is also open Thurs and Fri daytimes till 3ist August.

Also on Thurs 13th July Unfinished Histories will be presenting a staged reading of Chiaroscuro by Jackie Kay at Newington Green Meeting House. The event is free but should be booked.  Originally staged by Dalston-based Theatre of Black Women founded by Bernardine Evaristo, Patricia Hilaire and Paulette Randall, this ground-breaking and moving piece, involving music, movement and poetry, was the first play in Britain to address Black lesbian experience. Booking details on the July event are here.  Feedback on the production at Soho Poly said: ‘Thank you for an inspiring afternoon…. Excellent performances by the four young promising actors led by a simple, yet effective stage directions by the director. 40 years on, the text keeps its relevance, its nuances propelling it towards a future which embraces diversity at its core. Great job Unfinished Histories for bringing material like this back from the Archive, for reminding us of the value of theatre to build communities. Thank you for all the hard work!’

Under consideration for future readings on zoom or in-person are alternative theatre plays such as  Men (1976) by Noel Greig & Don Milligan,  The Death of Christopher Marlowe by Noel Greig, , Dear Girl by Libby Mason and Women’s Theatre Group (1983),  and David Holman plays including Why? (1981).

If you would like further information or to attend as an audience member or a reader please email for details and the zoom links. Watch this space or the Unfinished Histories newsletter for further details of how to sign up.

Earlier In-Person Events

Additionally Unfinished Histories in collaboration with Bijou Stories / Avant Gardening presented an unrehearsed reading of Noel Greig‘s Angels Descend on Paris on 29th September 2022 as part of their We Are Lewisham events. Originally staged in 1980 at The Albany Empire in Deptford the play, with music by Paul Sand  was directed by Nancy Diuguid and designed by Paul Dart and the cast included Kate Crutchley, Philip Timmins and Elaine Louden. Set in Berlin 1934 and later occupied Paris, the play explores both the impact of external events under the rise of the Nazis on six  closely-connected individuals, both how they are victimised but also how their own self-deceptions, greed and equivocation mirror external evils. Time Out called it ‘ a play of great theatrical and emotional daring, which is well worth seeing’.

In November Unfinished Histories presented Gay Sweatshop playreadings
as part of the events programme for the PICTURE THIS: ILLUSTRATING THE NEWS: THE CARTOONS & ILLUSTATIONS OF GAY NEWS & CAPITAL GAY exhibition at Newington Green Meeting House which opened 23rd September.
Fri 11th Nov  The Dear Love of Comrades by Noel Greig.
A staged reading of the play originally staged by Gay Sweatshop in 1979 the acclaimed play focuses on 19th-century Utopian socialist Edward Carpenter, his relationships with the men who shared his life, the early beginnings of the Labour party and its separation from sexual politics.  This reading was very well-received and will be re-staged at Goldsmiths on Tues 28th February as part of Lewisham’s LGBTQ+ History Month celebrations. Watch this space or see Bijou Stories for further information.

Fri 18th Nov  Any Woman Can by Jill Posener (1975) and Twice Over by Jackie Kay (1988)
Staged readings of the first play by a woman and the first play by a black writer to be staged by Gay Sweatshop. Any Woman Can, which had its first run at the King’s Head, explores a young woman’s self-discovery as a lesbian growing up and how lesbians were seen in the bad old days. In Twice Over a young woman Evaki discovers the reality of the relationship between her grandmother Cora’s best friend after Cora’s death.
There is also interest in re-staging this reading, directed by Barcy Cogdale, see newsletters or this page for further information when confirmed.