Katie Mccullough Talks and Writes

Words will get written here and some videoblogs will appear. You don't have to look but it would be nice if you did.

The Whisper Tree… We Found It! July 25, 2012


It’s been a week or so since I’ve been back from Wales where ‘The Whisper Tree’ was premiered. It was a great project and one that is hopefully (fingers crossed) not finished for good just yet. The week was such a brilliant experience from not only seeing some of my own work be put on in front of an eager audience, but a lot of behind the scenes. The idea of a handful of creative folks living in each other’s pockets in the middle of nowhere could have been nightmarish. But it was such a pleasure and I learned a lot from the actors and director about elements of their craft that I’d never been able to ask anyone before and the same in return. If felt nothing like work and that was a real treat. I think we can safely say that it felt like a holiday.

The interesting thing for me was having a different audience. I’ve written children’s theatre before but it’s been on a small scale and adaptations. This was my first foray into a pure (full length) piece of children’s theatre and I was anxious about how the children were going to react to it. For the first performance I hung back and set up the drawing activities. But there’s a section at the beginning of the play before they’ve even set off into the wood which relies on the children responding. As soon as they all chimed in with their responses I was happy that something was working and it was working right. When they all returned having found ‘The Whisper Tree’ they were keen to draw what they had seen and what they would tell it. Success!

When I finally went on the journey with the children it was such a joy to see them all enraptured by Rory and Tilly and even better to see them ask questions. What struck me was that they felt comfortable being able to talk to the characters, they were never disruptive, they were inquisitive. The adults that came along were also listening intently and I suppose it’s hard to fully let your imagination run wild as a parent when you’re busy juggling the real life alongside a child. One parent said that he was going to have to come back with his son because he really identified with our main character. This really touched me because that’s what we set out to do. Our aim was to make people stop and look and listen to an area where they may not visit that often or at all and to see a lot of the children’s drawing saying they wanted to come back was the best feedback.

To be near a child who is fully accepting everything around them no matter how fantastical or bizarre was, for want of a better word, magical. It wasn’t about worrying what people would say about your work, how many stars people would apply to your work, what fragment of a review you could select, what your peers would go home thinking about… I completely handed over everything to the kids and it was brilliant. The actors were superb and the children became their allies and that’s all I hoped for and it’s definitely what I got. It’s hard to describe but it’s almost as if ‘The Whisper Tree’ wasn’t really written by me, it was the audience that really made it and I happened to be parry to their journeys and enjoyed it as much as them.

I’ve updated my website recently which has photographs from ‘The Whisper Tree’ on there so do feel free to have a look at what I’ve tried to pin to the page here. I think you’ll agree that the production was an all round success and that was down to everyone involved and especially the audience.


The Whisper Tree is going to Wales June 27, 2012

It was always going to Wales, but I had always assumed that it was a way off. And now it’s imminent, poking it’s head round the corner like that of a naughty child. Rehearsals have been going great and we’re soon to head down to Pembroke to wander around the wood that it’s set in. None of the actors and director, nor myself, have seen the wood area so it’s going to be a interesting week in the lead up to the first performance as we all acclimatise to the natural surroundings and play around with the setup. The photographs of the area look incredibly pretty and I’m hoping that the weather holds out for all the performances. I can deal with no sunshine, but at least let there be no rain. 

There are two significant moments of weirdness (and elation) as a playwright at the beginning of a project. The first is calling something a ‘finished script’ and the other is hearing it out loud for the first time. What’s been unique about this experience as a playwright for Travelling Show is that the cast have helped form the story visually for me during the writing process. I had written some snippets of scenes to be used for the audition process and some of those remain in the finished show and others don’t. But from hearing the definitive actors read the characters out at such an early stage of the development period, it meant I could really have their voices in my head when I wrote the actual show. Sometimes it’s nice to know who you are writing for when it comes to different projects and it’s been great knowing the abilities of all the actors involved and writing a part just for them especially when you’re writing them as children.
I’m not sure when I’ll get to blog about it again because it’s so soon, but guaranteed I’ll do a round-up after the run. I look forward to all the shows that I’m involved in… But I’ve never had to travel with one to take it to an intended audience. I suppose Travelling Show are living up to their name and I’m extremely happy to be coming along. If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that I’m excited to see everything in action especially because it means a little holiday with a group of lovely people.



Children’s Play, ‘The Whisper Tree’ June 18, 2012

I’ve been tinkering away on a commission for theatre company, Travelling Show, which is an interactive promenade performance written for a set location which is that of a small wood in Wales. What a mouthful. I’ve enjoyed this project. I like the challenge of having restrictions set in place and this was definitely one of the high end situations I’ve been presented with. Three actors, less than 40 minutes, in a wood, interactive, promenade, promote people coming to the forest regularly, informative, to include Welsh myths and legends. All ticked.
We’re about to go into rehearsals soon in London and then transfer down to Wales where rehearsals will take place in the wood it’s to be performed in. The production is part of the Pembroke Festival this July which runs from 12th till the 15th. What makes this project exciting, for me at least, is that this will be some of the children’s first experience of theatre. I try to think back to my first taste of theatre and all I can really remember is playing a green bottle in my primary school’s productions of a Disney medley and then secondary school drama trips (Forced Entertainment, DV8, Trevor Nunn’s Hamlet – my drama department were brilliant). I know that my very first musical was Starlight Express and it’s stuck with me for some of the insane things it tried to achieve. I digress, this will be exciting for me to watch the audience as much as the brilliant actors involved. The breakdown of the festival days are here. I have a feeling that all the tickets are sold out, but there’s no harm in trying. And if you’re down there please give me a shout, it would be nice to meet some local folks.



So the play… It’s about a young boy called Rory who is the new boy at school and isn’t quite fitting in. After school he decides he’s going to go into the wood and find The Whisper Tree which is the wisest and tallest tree. It’s going to tell him everything there is to know about everything so then everyone will have to be his friend. Tilly is a classmate who is forever trying to be his friend but her efforts go unnoticed and she doesn’t believe that there’s a Whisper Tree at all. So they venture into the wood to find The Whisper Tree and along the way they meet Ianto who doesn’t realise he’s woken up in a forest, the Wolf who’s hungry and scared of his own shadow and the Old Woman who comes to the forest to collect her thoughts like pebbles and knit jumpers for the birds who don’t fly south. A play about understanding what it means to grow up and separating what you really want from what you really need.
Most of the folks involved are people that I’ve worked with before and it’s great to be working with them again. First up is director Nadia Papachronopoulou and it’s a real treat to be working on something larger and more prominent this time round. Nadia’s been extremely busy recently juggling several plays on at the same time so it’ll be great to get in the rehearsal room with her and see her work her magic. Next up we have Matthew Schmolle playing Rory, who was stupendously great in my play, ‘I Still Get Excited When I See A Ladybird‘ last August at Theatre503 with Papercut Theatre. Also Charlotte Worthing will be playing Tilly and she was superbly brilliant in my play for Box Of Tricks, ‘Let Them Eat Cake!‘ which was performed at the Arcola in 2011. Last but by no means least is a new actor for me, but I’ve seen him in action in the REDFest recently and he’s ace – Matthew Houlihan will be playing Ianto, Wolf and the Old Woman.
Travelling Show is the brainchild of Artistic Director and Designer Vicki Stevenson. “Our work is interactive and inspired by audiences. We love telling stories, and finding the right tools for each show – we don’t specialise in one kind of medium just like we don’t only make work for one audience. Each production is formed with expert collaborators, whether that’s in puppetry, film or dance. This means that our work can be extremely varied while still holding onto our key premise -theatre is for audiences and artists with the best stuff coming from a strong relationship between the two.
Come and ‘like’ them on Facebook to keep up-to-date with all their productions: Travelling Show on Facebook innit  


SELLOUT! March 14, 2011

And breathe. It’s been a hectic last couple of weeks with rehearsals and performances and SELLOUTS and MORE sellouts. Five sellouts each five nights it was performed. Forgive me if I feel inwardly proud and outwardly smug! (Obviously I have no control over making it a sellout, but those of you who I pestered to come helped do that, so thanks.) It’s been a fantastic experience from start to finish. Adam and Hannah who run Box Of Tricks are dedicated to promoting and nurturing new writing and it’s a fantastic showcase not only for the playwrights commissioned, but the actors involved (many doubled up parts).


What I found humbling about this experience is the genuine responses from the audience. I knew a few people who were going who were friends and family, but there were a whole load of other people. That no one knew. What I refer to as ‘proper punters‘. Those who had chanced seeing the production, someone who had read or heard about it. And they were extremely vocal about how much they enjoyed it. It’s extremely bizarre to be in a position where you can hear people talk about your work with such adoration, that it’s like being five over again and overhearing what Father Christmas is getting you for Christmas.


Some exciting things have come out of my time being a part of the Box Of Tricks group, some of which is still unfurling. But what I can give you right now this very second are some photographs of the show, beautifully shot by Ludovic Des Cognets.


(And I’ll present them in running order)


King of the Castle, Becky Prestwich
With Mum bollocksed upstairs, and his sister refusing to play, Callum decides it’s time to seize power and take Daddy’s throne.



Broken Windows, Daniel Smith
For Bobby B, grafitti’s not just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle choice. But can politics and spray paint ever mix?


The Collectors, Jaki McCarrick
As Ireland faces financial freefall, Virgil has a novel way to recoup his losses. Two ordinary people learn how extraordinary they really are.


The Turn, Siân Owen
The funfair has come to town! But it’s not all fun and games. A dark comedy about fairground attractions, as four people try to break the cycle.


David, Daniel Kanaber
“It’s amazing how much life fits into so little time”. A portrait of one summer and its impact on a lifetime.


Let Them Eat Cake!, Katie McCullough
Couples picnic in the park, but the course of true love never did run smooth. Sometimes what you want is simply not on the menu.




“With Word:Play, Box of Tricks is giving six playwrights the chance to experiment with new work in a safe space, but the benefits of this type of bite-sized theatre extend to the audience too… What we get with such an evening of work is a reminder that great plays don’t just emerge fully formed on the stage at the National Theatre or the Royal Court… For a fascinating glance into the world of playwriting, bite-sized theatre is well worth finding the time for.”

Jo Caird, What’s On Stage Blog

“Becky Prestwich kicks us off with King of the Castle… a well-written and heartbreaking piece of theatre… The Collectors by Jaki McCarrick [is] a moving, shocking and powerful piece… Siân Owen’s offering, The Turn, is a charming piece of writing… This piece shines with originality… David, written by Daniel Kanaber[:] witty writing means this tragic monologue is light and humorous… Katie McCullough ends the evening with her Let Them Eat Cake… With delightfully funny and inspired performances from Worthing and Dowd it is a memorable way to end a memorable evening.

“The design by Stephanie Williams, and direction, from Box of Tricks’s Artistic Directors, Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder and Adam Quayle, were simple and perfectly suited to each play… This is exactly the type of showcasing of work that should be done more often.”

A Younger Theatre



So yes. My play contained a food fight. Specifically with custard. Knowing the viscosity of custard to that of, say yoghurt, is something that I wouldn’t necessarily consider crucial knowledge when attempting to be a playwright. But for this project it was at the forefront of my mind. I’m a person who works quickly, but who also loves having a challenge. I respond well to having restrictions set in place for projects and I don’t mean in a negative way. Having the buzzword revolution to work with made for an interesting project. And seeing the responses from all the other playwrights made it such an eclectic mix, but also not a predictable one which I think is great.


So now I’m in mourning for all the fun and intrigue of Word:Play4. But I’ve made lots of new friends and had a fantastic experience and a hearty wine/cupcake shout out goes to Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder who was the director of ‘Let Them Eat Cake!‘. My thanks go to all those involved including the following actors:


Hasan Dixon (King Of The Castle & The Turn)

Ciaran Dowd (The Collectors & Let Them Eat Cake!)

Natasha James (The Turn)

Clive Moore (Broken Windows & The Turn)

Emily Nagle (The Collectors & Let Them Eat Cake!)

Simeon Perlin (Broken Windows & The Turn)

James Rigby (David)

Matt Sutton (Broken Windows & Let Them Eat Cake!)

Charlotte Worthing (King Of The Castle & Let Them Eat Cake!)