“Theatre in the Rough”
by David Davies -
In the early months of 2010 Reg Yorke was approached by the Artistic Director, Chris
Fittock, of a Sefton theatre organisation called ‘Theatre in the Rough’ to assist
that group with information about early flying at Freshfield. The theatre group,
set up to provide opportunities for young writers and actors between the ages of
13 and 25 through a programme of workshops including playwriting tuition, theatre
trips and co-
This year they were undertaking research on ‘Sefton’s Hidden History’ and, in particular,
three historical projects, namely, ‘Early Flying at Freshfield’, ‘Sefton and the
American Civil War’ and ‘The Crossens Canoe’. Information gathered on each project
would be mediated through the imaginations of the young theatre writers and the finished
playlets performed by the actors before live audiences at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool,
over two nights in April, 2011.
Reg had already produced a detailed and illustrated account of the early flyers and their flimsy machines in his excellent booklet, ‘Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines’, produced for the celebration of the centenary of flight in Freshfield; and this document was to form the basis of an illustrated presentation to the theatre writers and actors on 31st October, 2010. Reg had asked me, with my theatre involvement, if I would consider the material in the booklet and prepare the presentation for the students, to which I readily agreed.
Knowing the students would be mostly interested in the lives of the flyers and their
personal relationships, lifestyles and motivations, I set about gleaning further
information, mostly from the Internet (Wikipedia) and elicited some interesting titbits
which I suspected would help spark off the writers’ imaginations. Deducing motives
from a character’s outward actions can be risky without supporting evidence, but
writers down the ages from the Greeks onwards have taken dramatic liberties with
historical truths and handed-
So, probably stretching the truth a little in telling the stories of the various
flyers, emphasis was put on imagining what drove them to pursue their derring-
During the next six months the writers did their own further research and wrote their playlets, each lasting about twenty minutes. Six such plays on Freshfield’s ‘Pioneers of early Aviation’ finally emerged and were presented, together with three from the American Civil War and Crossens’ Canoe projects, over the two nights of 1st and 2nd April,2011 at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool. Again, some thirty people were involved in producing the work of the thirteen new playwrights. The project was made possible with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Express Sefton which allowed, subsequently, for the production of a glossy backed book of all the plays.
If some liberties had been taken with the historical facts in our presentation, they paled before the onslaught of dramatic licence taken in the plays themselves. Anyone looking for literal dramatised interpretations of the flyers’ lives would be disappointed. Instead, they would be offered characters owing some resemblance to their originals but, often, heavily disguised with liberal doses of characteristics of other flyers and often involved in incidents not occurring in their own lives.
Thus, Claude Graham-
In another play, ‘Burnout’, Cecil Paterson, founder of the Freshfield Flying School
and father of the South African Air-
In ‘Sinking Heaven’ the writer explores the after-
The remaining three plays: ‘Particular Friends of Paterson’,’ Aurae’, and ‘Diesel Heart’ are all equally successful in their way but I have outlined those which most appeal to me. Those of us in the Civic Society involved in the venture all enjoyed our participation and commitment. I was impressed with the company’s final achievement and can only hope “Theatre in the Rough” will continue with its excellent community work.