Casting Off – the play
Early in 2015 I read an article in a local newspaper concerning the problems caused by rising care home fees. It struck me that this would make a great drama and within a few days I was working on a stage play about three women in a Highland care home who have to raise money in order for one of them to remain. I wanted the play to be a comedy, but one which also examined serious issues such as friendship, sacrifice, loneliness and how reaching out to strangers can completely change our lives.
I was fortunate in getting professional playwright/director Dave Smith to direct the drama and under his guidance I later rewrote the script. This took a few months and during this time I was able to gather an excellent cast for the three characters, while sorting out props, a sound/lighting technician and venues for the tour. There were a few other things to organise as well!
The play centred on the relationship between the innocent Dorothy, the rather prim Miss Ross and the much more worldly-wise Joan, the latter eventually suggesting that they should set up a sex line for men who want to speak to a mature woman ‘in a particular way’. As the women are constantly knitting throughout the performance I called it Casting Off.
We kept the storyline a tight secret and the publicity merely said the play was a comedy about residents having to meet rising care home fees. Although we set a 14+ age limit, there is no bad language or nudity. The humour comes largely from Dorothy’s innocence and her complete misunderstanding of what is going on or being said over the telephone (the audience only hears her replies).
The response to Casting Off took everyone by surprise, especially when so many of the people in charge of hall bookings said upon my initial contact that audience numbers for plays were generally very low – they didn’t actually say ‘by unknown playwrights’ but the inference was there! The first night was sold out a week before and on the night itself there was a long queue of people without tickets who simply couldn’t get in. The idea seemed to catch people’s imagination and the sell-out success was repeated at other venues.
The play toured during the autumn of 2015. When this ended I immediately began work on using the concept as the basis for a novel. Less than a year later the paperback version was published by Black & White Publishing and this subsequently attracted the attention from publishers abroad looking to potentially acquire the foreign rights to the title. It all started from that one newspaper article
(Left) Cass MacDougall (Joan), Sheila Simey (Miss Ross) and Heather Corpe (Dorothy) during rehearsals.
Philip and Dave discuss the script.
The following are only a handful of comments, emailed from people who saw the play …
“HUGE congratulations on an excellent play. I think I had a huge smile on my face throughout the performance. It was brilliant, and obviously the entire audience thought so too. I will look forward very much to seeing it again next week.”
“Well that was the best entertainment for many a day, absolutely brilliant.”
“Lovely to see such a large and happy audience in the hall.”
“We ALL thoroughly enjoyed the play. Hilarious is an understatement, I honestly haven’t laughed like that for far too long, we all ached with laughing so much.”
“The play was super! We spoke to lots of people on the way out! Very funny and uplifting (so to speak!).”
“Still chuckling, absolute breath of fresh air!”
“Just wanted to say congratulations and very well done. My friend and I hugely enjoyed ‘Casting off’ on Saturday night. Wonderful writing, great ideas and a very funny plot line. Anyway, it all provided a fabulous evening’s entertainment.”
“What can we say? It was fantastic, what a laugh – never realised how funny knitting was!”
“We had a great time and I’m still giggling this evening.”
“Many congratulations on what has clearly been a great success! We enjoyed the play and especially the script; well constructed, very ‘sharp’ and easy to enjoy, connecting extremely well with the audience.”
“Thought it was one of the most enjoyable plays that I have seen. Well done!”
Casting Off is roughly 70 minutes straight through with the action taking place in Dorothy’s bedroom in the care home. If any theatre group is interested in performing the play they can get in touch with me via the contact page.