Actors line up for Peter Barnes monologues online

A series of monologues by award-winning playwright Peter Barnes will be streamed from Theatre Royal Windsor by Original Theatre Company with four leading actors

Barnes People
John Culshaw, Matthew Kelly, Jemma Redgrave and Adrian Scarborough (left to right)

Jon Culshaw, Matthew Kelly, Jemma Redgrave and Adrian Scarborough are to perform a series of monologues by award-winning playwright Peter Barnes in a new online production.

Barnes’ People is made up of four monologues written for BBC Radio 3 between 1981 and 1990, telling the stories of four very different people. They will be staged and filmed at Theatre Royal Windsor and streamed from 18 February to 31 July 2021 via originaltheatreonline.com.

It is the latest online production from Original Theatre Company after Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong Online, Louise Coulthard’s Watching Rosie, Torben Betts’s Apollo 13: The Dark Side of The Moon and Philip Franks’s The Haunting of Alice Bowles. It is co-produced with Perfectly Normal Productions.

Billy & Me stars Jon Culshaw as a troubled ventriloquist – a role originally played by Alan Rickman when it debuted on BBC Radio 3 in 1989. It will be directed by Charlotte Peters while the director of the other three will be Philip Franks.

Losing Myself sees Matthew Kelly follow in the footsteps of Jeremy Irons who was in the original radio production, part of More Barnes’ People in 1990.

Rosa stars Jemma Redgrave as a weary doctor about to dictate the most important letter of her life – a role played in 1981 by Judi Dench.

True Born Englishman, starring Adrian Scarborough, tells the story of a long-serving footman at Buckingham Palace. This will be a world premiere as it was never broadcast by the BBC, reportedly because of the sensitivity of its royal subject matter.

David Morley, co-producer of Perfectly Normal Productions, explained: “It was cast with Antony Sher in the role and scheduled but when the production team referred the script to higher management, they decided not to go ahead. Peter Barnes described this as ‘banning’ the play because of its royal family theme, which the BBC denied.”

Barnes, who died in 2004, is best known for black comedies The Ruling Class in 1968 and Red Noses in 1985 which won the Olivier Award for best new play, but he was a prolific writer for the stage, TV and film, including an Oscar nomination for Enchanted April and an Emmy nomination for Merlin.

Franks said: “Peter Barnes’s monologues have all the qualities of his plays — all the passion, wit, anger and compassion – condensed into urgent 20-minute plays. They feel like they could have been written yesterday.”

Film direction and editing will be by Tristan Shepherd, with sound design by Max Pappenheim, digital production design by David Woodhead, costume supervision by Siobhan Boyd and production management by Felix Dunning.

It will be filmed with the assistance of Theatre Royal Windsor’s co-directors, Anne-Marie Woodley and Jon Woodley, technical and production manager Andi Manzi and head of lighting Will Brann.

Tickets for watching the monologues – either individually or as a package – are available at originaltheatreonline.com.

About Mark Ludmon 241 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre as well as hospitality and drinks after starting out on regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He has also been on the judging panel for the Olivier Awards. He can be found tweeting as @MarkLudmon and writing about theatre at https://markludmon.com.