The piece was site-specific, written to be performed in St. Giles in the Fields, the same church where condemned felons stopped for a last drink 'the St. Giles bowl' before going on to Tyburn and execution. It featured the stories of various thieves, killers, pick-pockets, and fraudsters; including Jenny Diver, the Queen of pick-pockets; the boy whose sparrow was an accomplice in his burglaries; and 'Half-hanged Smith' - the oe who got away. The parade of grim stories is overseen and narrated by the Ordinary of Newgate (the clergyman appointed to minister to condemned criminals, played to great effect by Phil Mison) who is fighting his own sense of horror.
'A Kind Bowl' was shown at the Transcend Festival in 2013. The Festival sponsored various charities including: St. Mungo's and The Simon Community.
Although originally written as a site-specific piece ; the format (about one hour and forty minutes, without an interval) would work very well in any space where the atmosphere of expectant darkness could be generated. This could be a theatre or a festival space such as church.
" Humour, despair, truth and fiction weaved in and out of each other to create a very satisfying piece of theatre that more than does justice to the grand setting. Superbly acted throughout by all (particular mention goes to Freddie Hutchins and Robert Madeley) and written in a crisp and engaging manner, if you have the opportunity to see it during the festival I would highly recommend it. "
"That blew me away" (Tommy Hunt)
At one time 'The Newgate Calendar' - the inspiration for my play - was one of the most popular books to be found in 'well-regulated' households in Britain, alongside 'Fox'e's Book of Martyrs It was considered to be most improving to read these tales of murder, robbery, despair and death (with the appropriately strong admixture of regret and repentance).
Today, we see these stories differently: bloody violence is always a compelling read (and some of these stories are very bloody). We also find human interest: the desperate of society who were driven beyond endurance - a maid who slaughters her old and frail employers. But also so many conundrums; why did Jack Sheppard, having escaped the condemned cell, not once but twice, not run away to safety but swagger around the pubs in full sight? (Peter Ackroyd says it was because Jack needed to be in his own turf: he was a London lad).
“ He posed as a useful citizen, when in fact he was one of the most ruthless and violent men of a ruthless and violent age. " (Peter Ackroyd about Jonathan Wilde)