(Mostly for young people...)
As I mentioned in my 'About' page, I was a teacher for nearly 30 years and so I guess it's not that much of a surprise to realise that some of my writings have been directly inspired by my teaching career.
When I first qualified as an English teacher, I had no idea that I'd be expected to teach Drama as well and so it was a steep learning curve that took me from a know-nothing novice to Head of Drama at a large Prep School. Luckily, I had a good teacher. The Headmaster I went to work for in Nairobi (who had been my teacher back in the day) was an accomplished actor, writer and director and, when I was sent in by the rest of the staff to persuade him to direct that year's school play, he agreed on the condition that I acted as his assistant-cum-shadow and learned how it was done. He would then assist me the next year and then I'd be on my own. Unfortunately, by the time next year arrived he had succumbed to stomach cancer and was unavailable to assist me in the most emphatic of ways. With support from colleagues and his widow (also an experienced director) I ended up writing and directing my first major school production: Shaka Zulu. Later, the play was published by East African Educational Publishers and is still available as part of their 'Junior Readers' series.
Originally written for 12-14 year-old students, the play is based on the true story of Shaka Zulu.
I was aware that the school, while beautifully multi-racial and multi-cultural, tended to persist in looking back to England for material to perform. The children had recently put on versions of 'Oliver' and an adaptation of one of E. Nesbit's Psammead stories - both very well performed and received - but I felt I wanted to put on something a bit closer and more relevant to home.
'Shaka Zulu' was my attempt to redress the balance.
This is a story I started writing many years ago in Nairobi. I originally planned it and send it in as a proposal to a publisher who had put out a brief looking for new stories aimed at African teens and young adults. I sent in two proposals and they were both accepted. I started this one first but by the time I came to submit, the publishers had changed their mind about the brief and were not so interested in expanding their African market. I continued the story without them and it's gone through various incarnations over the years. This is the latest one but whether it's the last one, only time will tell. I am periodically overwhelmed by a desire to rework it. I know it's a good story but I'm constantly haunted by the knowledge that I know I could tell it better...Perhaps one day...
It's inspired and influenced by all sorts of things: The Day of the Triffids, for one, but then also pretty much any end-of-the world/start again/new Eden books that are always so popular. It's set in an apocalyptic future and imagines the survival of a group of young friends who must learn to fend for themselves in a world where everything they knew and depended on has gone.
Equipping themselves with the tools and equipment they need, they set out on an epic journey that leads to capture by and escape from fundamentalists looking to establish a new racial purity; by nationalists looking to entrench their boundaries and identities as well as others coming to terms with the new world order in their own ways, some positive and benevolent, others negative and isolationist.
I'd love to know what you think...
I always took it as a compliment that I - who do not come from a Christian background - should be given the annual task of delivering the Easter Service at the Prep School at which I taught for 15 years after returning to the UK. I like to think I did a good job but I do remember frantically scouring the internet for suitable scripts to use with my Y6 or Y7 classes. I found one or two over the years but more often than not I ended up writing my own.
The two contained in this book were originally written for those Chapel Services but I was very gratified when one of my colleagues asked if she could have a copy of one of the scripts with a view to putting the play on in her Church. Of course I said yes, and the play was performed by a group of adults the next year, apparently with great success. So, although they were originally written for 11-12 year-old students, it appears that they can be successfully performed by anyone, certainly anyone older than 11. I like to think (and others agree) that these are sensitive, thoughtful plays that are perfect for schools, Churches, youth groups and, in fact, anywhere where the story and message of Easter is being retold and considered.