"It is a devastating story, very painful and moving, and brilliantly written. I like your structure too."
Malcolm Craddock

"Allegation 17 is very powerful. It's very affecting also. This is a story that gives a real insight in to ... horror, complexity and in this case madness ... and it deserves to reach its audience."
M Hanbury

"I do agree with Maggie, it's powerful and affecting. Besides that, I admired the ambition in the way you structured this. It is, however, too long for a Granta piece. This is a near impossible subject to write about but one that should be written about and read. I do hope you find a home for it."
Ella Allfrey

"It is sensational and deeply moving."
Braham Murray

"It is powerful, there is excellent tension created in the plotting and it is a very compelling story."
Vanessa Beaumont

"We have had your script read by two readers both of whom agree that it is extremely powerful."

"This is a manuscript which should be published, and I would hope that a large publisher with more of a track record in books such as this would be better placed to take it forward. I do think it is a story that needs to be told, and heard, and I do think it could do well."
Penny Thomas


"...More sex and violence - kinky at that - in Strip at the Lyric Studio. Here was a stunning debut for Fiona Padfield. Strip is splendidly unexpected: its stripper doesn't go on about the exploitation and degradation of women, talking instead about the job as a job and making it clear that she's going to be nobody's object. Her unlikely lover actually wants to be an object, and gets a treatment beyond his wildest desires. Each in their own way achieves a personal catharsis, and exorcism of the sexual demons that their childhoods have raised. And Ms Padfield's manner of achieving this catharsis is deceptive in its simplicity, to the extent that some criticised her apparent succession of unconnected monologues. What she was doing, with the utmost subtlety, was to tell a dramatic story for two characters in isolation, so that the moment in which their stories actually interact comes as a theatrical peak, brilliantly achieved. I was also impressed by the playwright's masterly sensuality - not in accounts of sex or demonstrations of stripping, but in a controlled and constant use of images of colour, smell, touch, taste. A stylist of huge promise..."
Ian Herbert, Prompt Corner

"...Here is a show that will almost certainly cause some to tum beetroot, either in outrage or embarrassment. Others, perhaps not quite up to a Soho sex show, will no doubt scurry across the threshold of the theatre in pursuit of what might, in several senses, be called a stimulating evening out. At its slackest, the script too simply parallels the language of hard porn. However, Strip is more concerned with laying bare the private parts of the psyche.

There is some striking writing here, ranging from unflinching accounts of the unglamorous nitty-gritty of the job through accurately captured inatticulacies and into the more poetic realms.

Dialogue is boldly replaced by an almost novelistic narrative style...The play be giving voice to the views of a striper and a so-called sexual deviant - subjects that society generally keeps under wraps - rouses interest in the first place. In this case, there is the additional intriguing fact that Padfield herself spent six months as a stripper. At any moment, then, one feels that she may be speaking with autobiographical veracity through her fictional character.

Padfield gives a fierce, concentrated performance...“
Kate Bassett

"...Padfield sent the script to the Lyric, the Bush and The Royal Court and, astonishingly for a first play by an unknown writer, all three invited her in to discuss the project and any future ideas she might have. In the end it was Peter James who picked it up. "It has a distinctive voice", he says. "There was something in the rawness of the writing. Just a description of this twilight area of sexuality would be voyeurism, but it is poking around at a deeper level than describing patters of behaviour..."

The language is obscene, the images revoltingly explicit; its strength springs from its refusal to portray the stripper as a victim..."
Georgina Brown

"...This is a brilliant piece of young writing..."
Peter James, Artistic Director

"...Padfield convinces as Jo, a young woman with a good body, an intelligent face and an open mind. Jo ushers us into the seedy club world by telling us, as if in amused conversation, of her first audition. She researches her act - and displays fine observational wit - in a loutish pub "one of those places you wouldn't fancy going anywhere near the loo..."
Nick Curtis
" ... a highly dangerous but courageous piece of writing..."

"...Padfield is a good writer - who in a few years may be a great writer...her writing is concise, mostly self-effacing and often funny.

Her grasp of the absurd and her meticulous eye for detail during six months as a real life stripper to get her equity card pay off..."
Joe Penhall

"...Under Peter Jame‘s cool direction Padfield proves an engaging story-teller with piercing bright eyes and attractive, unlined features.

Her play written as a series of overlapping, echoing monologues for two actors begins promisingly with an amused, amusing description of her first audition with a plump club owner. And a flash or two of finn young flesh and black lace.

Then we reach the real meat of the evening, as it were, with the entry of Gunter, a globe-trotting Saxon creep with an analytical approach to navel watching and masochist urge to submit to a strong woman in the hope of curing his psychic bondage. He follows Jo home thence to her club where he discreetly gawps at her across the smoke-filled room before finally taking her to his flat.

I fortified myself with interval coffee for his rite of passage with Jo, which involves them in careful descriptions of leather-belt lashings, scalding candlewax and a certain, warm bodily fluid directed on to his face, followed by a bracing cold dip.

But alas, for all his pains Gunter finally gains no relief. Mainly it seems because the angry Jo is getting her own rocks off at the same time in an attempt to lay the ghost of her father fixation.

At the performance I attended a member of the audience hurried away at that moment, perhaps in search of fresh air or a helping hand. But all he missed was a coda of quiet regret, as if Ms Padfield is as yet uncertain how to end her intriguing play..."
John Thaxter


FAMILY conflict is the life-blood of theatre but Snapshots is different because it is written from an intensely female point of view.

Dealing in a frank and disturbing way with sibling rivalry and the pains of birth and motherhood rather than the pleasures and the strains a baby and post-natal depression can put on a relationship, it is a painfully probing and finally a rather interesting experience.

Coming seven years after her frst, Strip - based on her experiences as a Soho stripper - gained a certain notoriority. She's had children since and her horizons have widened.

In Snapshots Lian (Amy Marston) is married to photographer James (Richard Lynch).

Lian, in a particularly graphic but also amusing big scene, gives birth. She suffers from both pre and post-natal depression and James is cruelly cool, partly because he fancies Lian’s sister Cathy (Jessica Lloyd).

There are a seriesof flashbacks to the sisters’ schooldays and a key switch of identities by the girls that only begins to make sense quite late on in the play.

It is a sharp production and does grip - thanks to the excellent perfonnances from a super cast.

One particular scene may cause offence and one man walked out last night shouting "rubbish".
Alan Hulme

FIONA PADFIELD, who drew on her experiences as a stripper for her first play, began her second, Snapshots, when her first child was eight months old and her mixed experiences of motherhood were foremost in her mind. But she also wanted to write about jealousy and in Snapshots she explores the intimacies and rivalries that two women have known from early days to adulthood. These two themes - feeding off each other like greedy twins gradually merged into one play. Add the old gardener Mr Shem (Terence Wil-
ton), fuelling his fantasies through his friendship with small girls, and an unsympathetic photographer husband whose emotions seem locked in his dark room, and you realise how the play, as Padfield explains in a programme note, "grew out of a muddle. There was never a cogent plan."

The blurring of clear identities in these snapshots is both intriguing and frustrating. There's a spiritual disquiet in the female characters, suggesting that Lian and Catherine - apparently siblings, three years apart in age — are not sisters at all. Could the one be an invention of the other, a sort of imaginary soulmate, an alter-ego?

Padfield gives contradictory clues. Both girls appear to share the same mother, yet one asks the other if she’ll be her blood sister. They exchange names, clothes and possibly identities and we’re not entirely sure when and if they swap back. The strangely surreal situation is made more complicated by the fact that the older Lian (Amy Marston) plays the younger Catherine, while young Lian appears to grow up into the older Catherine (Jessica Lloyd).

The big picture may be incoherent but, with excellent perfomances all round, many of the snapshots are in disconcertingly sharp focus. In her painstaking attention to detail - the disturbing dreams and small, savage rituals that accompany the girls’ ex cursion into adolescent self-discovery, their rivalry for the attention of Mr Shem whose emotions are not as centred on a world of plants and butterflies as they think - Padfield shows an intelligent awareness of the issues she broaches. The cruel realities of life are vividly portrayed in the tense and confused relationships between the young mother Lian, her selfish husband James, their new daughter Lucie, and the sterile Catherine.

Designer Liz Ascroft courageously relies on the theatre’s bare wooden boards with minimal props including a playground of dancing coathanger children, their grey tunics and white blouses joined by their skinny metal arms. Snapshots is unusually daring programming for the Royal Exchange's main house, but though some of the snapshots are underdeveloped, Braham Murray, assisted by Sarah Frankcom, lets the play's stark, impressionistic vignettes speak for themselves.
Lynne Walker

In the midst of an otherwise conservative season. The Royal Exchange has programmed two new plays which explore the dark side of contemporary family life. Over the next six weeks, Fiona Padfield’s Snapshots and Simon Robson's The Ghost Train Tattoo will run consecutively - and for a period concurrently - in the 700-seat main house. lt's an unusual move by the Exchange, which has been struggling to attract audiences to new work in its modest studio space next door.

The two premieres, commissioned and nurtured by the theatre, will be co-directed by Exchange stalwart Braham Murray and literary manager Sarah Frankcom. For London-based writer Padfield it's a dream come true: "I’m very lucky to get such an opportunity at this stage in my career The theatre has been very supportive and put a lot of faith in me as a writer."

Snapshots tells the ambiguous tale of sisters Lian and Catherine. Though their personalities are distinctly different, the intricate and intimate rivalry between them goes back to their formative years. Shifting between the present and the past - with flashbacks to the enigmatic world of childhood - the play aims to explore the sisters’ complex relationship as Lian and her egotistical husband James navigate the rough waters of parenthood.

"I don’t really know what it’s about," confesses Padfield in a moment of candour. "I went into rehearsals thinking the play was about ugliness and honible things, but when I heard it being read I realised there was a lot of poetry in it too. It’s a clifficult subject because it deals with why a woman should choose to kill her baby."

The inspiration for the play came from two sources. Firstly, 33-year-old  Padfield is a mother of two and was horrified by the feelings of destruction she had during her first pregnancy. "lt’s the most natural thing in the world but it's also an incredibly strange process to go through. I kept having nightrnares that my body had been taken over by this thing and it was tearing me apart. That shocked me."

The other theme was jealousy. "For years I was jealous of a girl at school and it was a subject I kept retuming to, so somehow the two pieces came together."

Later in the month Simon Robson's The Ghost Train Tattoo tells of a marriage in crisis. While their parents struggle to keep a brittle peace, the kids - Mark, Jenny and Freddy - strive to build their own identities. In the shadow of the Ghost Train pub, their young lives are set to change forever. Like Snapshots, the play deals with pain, suffering and the darkness that hides beneath the joy. Two such uncompromisingly bleak plays are unlikely to have the kind of sell-out run which the Exchange's recent production of Oscar Wilde's A Woman Of No Importance enjoyed. But it is encouraging to see Manchester’s flagship theatre taking risks with new writers - the future of theatre surely rests in the hands of such playwrights.

*  *  *  *  *
IT'S a bit of a cliché that producing creative writing is somewhat like giving birth. Author Fiona Padfield takes it a step further with her traumatic new play, which has birth and the havoc children wreak at its throbbing heart. And the audience feels plenty of the pain too - notably in an extended childbirth scene in which main character Lian repeatedly screams ‘Get a gun - shoot me’ ...  and it was highly tempting to do just that! The neurotic tension was all too much for some on Monday, with one highly vocal walk-out before the interval and several more absentees after it. That was a shame because while Snapshots’ themes took a while to develop, and the characters remained steadfastly irritating, Ms Padfield did have some interesting things to say about the conflicts and jealousies of family life. At the heart of her story are highly-strung sisters Lian and Catherine, rivals from their earliest years. Catherine at first seems the most troubled but Lian's sense of powerlessness after giving birth - and in the face of the egotism of her photographer husband - upsets their fragile balance and threatens to bring tragedy. This is modern stuff so expect mutilation, masturbation and swearing alongside the tensions and traumas so convincingly played by Jessica Lloyd and Amy Marston.
Against the background of the War on Terrorism, Fiona Padfield's remarkable play draws us into the dizzying madness of one woman's quest for peace of mind.
Jessica Dromgoole


“Rupert Brooke is remembered as the last of the great English romantic poets and this week, at the Peterhouse Theatre, Fiona Padfield marked the 75th anniversary of his death with a vivid and moving portrayal of the doomed, all too human relationship which inspired so much of his writing…In her play ‘Desertion’, Fiona brought us letters and verse to Ka Cox, the young woman who never lived up to Brooke’s high ideals and filled his thoughts and tormented him until his death in the Dardanelles campaign at the age of 27.    Fiona trained in classical dance as well as drama.  Her director, Philippe Cherbonnier, made powerful use of these talents as well as the simplest of props to create a witty, exciting interpretation in line and movement of Brooke’s imagery.  The audience was gripped, as the absolute quiet in the theatre testified. There cannot be a member of the audience for whom Brooke will ever be the same again.”

“…There is no doubt as to her undoubted skills as a writer which include an impressive command of language and an easy ability to become her characters.  The play itself is a tour de force and the economic talent for theatrical imagery which it displays is a very sound indication of her future as a dramatist.”
Paul Taylor, Director


"...it's pacy, easy to read. The thing I really like about it - there's a good strong part for an older actress..."
Sue Jeffries

"... I have just read the draft of Before Lambing. It is a remarkable, highly original script, a kind of Welsh Desire Under The Elms but with a compulsively interesting psychological depth. Very exciting....."
Braham Murray

"...it is a very atmospheric piece of work that would work well on the big screen...this could look very good indeed..."
Chris O'dell, Director of Photography