This Wretched Splendour is a full-length stageplay in two acts, and Skylight Press is proud to offer it as our first launched title.
The play is set in 1916, and follows the fortunes of a group of demoralised British soldiers in the front line trenches. Their lives are transformed by the eccentric charisma of a new officer who shows them that even if death and horror can’t be avoided, it can at least be met with stoicism and humour.
This is what Rebecca has to say about how the play came into being:
“I walked the Somme battlefields in 1996, primarily on the trail of Wilfred Owen, who is a special favourite poet. It was an experience which affected me very deeply. Everyone has seen photos of the cemeteries with rows and rows of white slabs, but until you go out there and see them for yourself you really have no concept of the scale of it. I spent a week out there picking up buttons and bullets in fields, putting my fingers into the carved names of the missing, the tens of thousands of people who were simply blasted out of existence. I collected poppy seeds from old trenches and stood on the edge of the Sambre à l’Oise canal where Wilfred Owen was gunned down. The night after attending Owen’s grave I had some very deep and strange visionary dreams. In the following days and weeks they began to crystallise into ideas for a play. I was heavily involved in theatre at the time, so I was confident I knew how to write for the stage. It turned into a full length play about a group of bored and demoralised British soldiers in a front line trench whose lives are transformed by the arrival of a new officer, who uses his sense of humour to deal with the tragedies of the war and inspires them to face their fate with a new stoicism. I gave my newly finished script to a director at the Cheltenham Playhouse, who loved it and managed to get a theatre company down there to sponsor a full production. And a marvellous production it was too, which still brings happy memories to all concerned.
I also decided to try my luck further afield, so I sent out 30 scripts to major theatre companies and producers. 29 were rejected or ignored (I have a personally signed rejection letter from Alan Ayckbourn, yay!) but one London producer phoned up and said “this is brilliant, I’ve got a director lined up and we’re staging it in February”. And then things went a bit mad for a while. The play was put on at the Grace Theatre in Battersea. Susan Hampshire came to see it (she was so radiantly beautiful I’m sure she must glow in the dark) and came over afterwards to say hello and told me how she felt the best war drama is written by women because we have more empathy for its human aspects. Michael Billington from The Guardian came to see it – and wrote a spectacularly glittering review.”
This Wretched Splendour is currently going through the usual distribution channels which will soon bring it to an Amazon near you … also available to order in any physical bookshop. If you want to get it before then, hie thee to the Skylight website.