The Lightning Play

by Charlotte Jones

The Lightning Play had 4 performances over 14 years ago (between the 16th of July 2008 and the 19th of July 2008) at The Riverhouse Barn

This play was premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London in 2006. The play has just been released for amateurs so RDG may be the first to perform it. Charlotte Jones is the author of "Humble Boy" which won Best New Play awards in 2002. She also wrote the book for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Woman in White" which played in the West End and on Broadway.

The play is set in the front room of an affluent, North London, middle class couple's home, on or near Halloween. The Lightning Play centres around a group of people each searching for their own identity.

The ghost writer Max is plagued by recurring images of his estranged daughter, Anna, on his new plasma TV. His wife Harriet is an equally lost soul who finds solace in shopping. Their guests at a disastrous ad-hoc party seem equally adrift. Longstanding friend Eddie is a failed Carthusian Monk, whilst his date Jacklyn is a loner dabbling in new age ideas. Only heavily pregnant Imogen (Anna’s hearty school friend) and her straight laced husband Marcus have any secure sense of who they are.

The wandering do-gooder Anna (unseen except in filmed footage from long ago) is discovered to have a moving reason for her crusading instincts – but to say more would spoil the sense of surprise when you read the play.

Skilfully blending comedy with spookiness, Charlotte Jones gives us a play which taps into a concern about the emptiness of a life which is defined by possessions because what you most desire is unobtainable. Working on several levels the play looks at the enigma of modern life with its breakdown of moral certainties, the subsequent longing for spirituality and the hopelessness of some of the batty alternatives.

Much of the first part of the play consists of sharp one liners and is an easy and enjoyable watch. The plays occurrence over Halloween brings in an element of suspense and mystery with spooks and phantoms at the door for a couple who we learn harbour private ghosts of their own. Not for nothing is Max a ghost writer.

The play gives up its dark secrets in carefully controlled, well written and plotted chunks that will make you laugh, cry, and slightly shiver. The witty dialogue, the stage presentation, the special filmed inserts and the handling of the story’s strong themes makes for superior theatre. Set in several locations suggested by shifts in lighting, the characters' social masks eventually slip down and their repressed emotions go bump in the night .

Jones is writing about a gathering thunderstorm and the attendant fall out that in some cases we carry with us for our entire lives.

Photographs of the play can be obrained from Alan Bostock at www.photoeyes.biz

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Max Villiers - Adam Roberts

45/50 ish. An attractive handsome ghost writer of semi literate celebrity autobiographies. Haunted by ghosts from the past he sees recurring images of his estranged daughter Anna on his new plasma screen TV. Frost has settled between him and his wife but he hides all his failures under a defensive bemused irony. A man of few convictions or moral certainties, he is helpless in the face of the emotional storms surrounding him. His sarcastic biting humour drives the play and the interactions forward.

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Eddie Fox - Marc Anderson

Over 45. An ordinary single man and family friend. A failed Carthusian Monk he is caring, affable, sweet natured, genial and ineffective with tendencies to be a slob. He has been friends with Max and Harriet for 25 years – lives through them and is somewhat in love with both of them. He cannot function on his own, and only sees himself in relief to other people. He has an interesting speech about how he tried to find his deeper identity, but has a sneaking feeling he just doesn’t have one.!

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Harriet Villiers - Nicola Anderson

45/50ish Beautiful, pale, delicate, lonely with hints of suicidal intentions. Sometimes strangely purposeful and fiercely determined, she is obsessed by beautiful things. A lost soul who tries to fill an emotional void by accumulating possessions. Her absent daughter Anna is away being a peace activist and human shield somewhere dangerous in the world. Her marriage has hit the rocks and she is searching for fulfilment.

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Jacklyn Pettit - Nancy Lund

40ish. A West Country loner dabbling in new age ideas. Member of the Sealed Knot historical re enactment society she split up from her boy friend six months ago. A vivid character luminously eccentric and with an awful laugh. A new age neurotic, Wacky Jacky, Dippy Hippy, a vibrant, funny woman. She needs a man now - time is running out and she is desperate for a child.

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Imogen Cumberbatch - Emma Thompson

20’s. Anna’s old school friend; she is sure of herself, stolid ,down to earth, dependable and heavily pregnant. A straight forward, matter of fact kind of girl in direct contrast to the absent Anna and the fluffy celebrities that Max writes about. She has some good comedy scenes, and is very indiscreet when her contractions start.

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Burak - Graham Collier

An indecently gorgeous rug salesman. A Turkish carpet vendor who puts Harriet’s indecision to amorous advantage. Good looking, gentle, intelligent man who is full of eastern promise! He is only given one scene in the play but his presence resonates throughout the play.

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Marcus Cumberbatch - Bill Jackson

20/30. Young, attractive, po-faced civil servant. A straight laced, methodical , upright citizen, a study in humourlessness, a DEFRA drone who knows his boundaries and lives by the rules. Imogen’s husband he is very attentive and somewhat controlling, very anxious to support his wife and take care of her in her pregnant state. Prior to the party Harriet has stepped in front of his car.

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Tabby Morris - Maria Shine

20’s. A rich, pretty, blonde Essex girl, ample bosomed (enhanced!) breathy voiced glamour model who turns on Max. She is more intelligent and girl–next-door than might be expected. She has one good scene which resonates throughout the play .

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Director - Judith Dolley

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Stage Manager - Clare Pinnock

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Lighting Design - Bill Payne

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Lighting operation - Gareth Woodford

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Sound - Ian Santry

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Video Production - Mark Humble

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Special Effects - Jonathan Miller

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Set Design and Construction - John Godliman

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Continuity - Linda Russell

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Wardrobe - Jill Payne

Original

Front of House Manager - Frankie Godliman

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Photography - Alan Bostock (www.photoeyes.biz)

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Poster and Programme Design - Anne Nunn

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Christine Bates

Original

Set Construction (Assisted) - Nick Lund

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Anne Nunn

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Clare Pinnock

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Adam Roberts

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Set Design and Construction - Linda Russell

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Set Design and Construction - Ian Thomas

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Liz Thomas

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Tara Wheeler