Chicken Run

Certificate_StephenConnollyMy first piece of non-fiction will be published in the next issue of DNA Magazine, titled ‘Identity’.

It’s a short piece describing how I had to leave the Republic of South Africa in 1984 after receiving my call up papers to join the South Africa Defence Force.

A Winter Wedding (or, a Cautionary Tale from the writing business)

onehundredvoicesv2In October 2015 my short story ‘A Winter Wedding’ was selected for Stroud Short Stories’ ‘Eerie Evenings’ event where I had the (terrifying) opportunity to read it out in front of a paying audience.

I looked for other places to send the story and found Centum Publishing who were looking for stories for their anthology ‘One Hundred Voices’. Centum give each author a custom 10% discount code for them to use in their social media marketing, so every sale can be tracked back to the individual author to help calculate royalty payments.

Centrum accepted ‘A Winter Wedding’ for their anthology ‘One Hundred Voices Volume 2’ which was published on January 15th 2017 in hardback and paperback. Buying the book in the UK directly from Centrum costs $14.95 (minus 10% author discount) plus a $17 international shipping, a total of $30.45/£25.11, a ludicrous amount for a paperback of short stories from relative unknowns. Fortunately, the book is now available from Amazon at One Hundred Voices for £15.88, it even has four 5 star reviews already!

My own copy has now arrived and my first impressions are not brilliant. The cover is untidy and contains far too many fonts. The printing looks amateurish and comes far too close to the edge of the pages, I guess to fit the maximum number of stories into the smallest number of pages.

My own story contains a typo which seems ludicrous when I emailed them an electronic copy in the first place.

Having read the first half dozen stories I am not impressed by the quality. Packing a hundred new writers into a single anthology makes for an undigestible read: in the age of the eBook wouldn’t it make more sense to publish 10 volumes of 20 authors instead of 2 volumes of 100? Could this be a ploy to ensure that at least 100 people buy each copy?!

It’s always a buzz seeing your work in a real live book and (technically) it counts as a genuine credit, but I can’t recommend Centum to any writer, however desperate they might be to know that their name is in print.

Please don’t rush out to buy this without borrowing my copy first!

The Garden of Earthly Delights (again!)

‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ was originally performed at the New Venture Theatre Brighton in July 2015 (see here). I’ve been planning to record it as a radio piece for some time, as I wanted to add to the storytelling with some intriguing sounds/effects that just weren’t possible on stage.

Every piece generates its own challenges, this time it was recording live (and outside) at the mercy of passing cars, as well as making a believable station announcer. You’d be amazed at how many people have loaded station announcements up to YouTube!

Thanks to my excellent cast Jamie, Hannah and Gemma for being such fun to work with.

It’s New Year’s Eve and Joe is desperate to make his first ever trip to London. When he meets Anna on the station platform there’s an immediate spark of attraction. But when Zoe appears, a battle of wills develops between her and Anna about where Joe should spend the evening. What will Joe decide to do, and just who are Anna and Zoe anyway?

Joe – Jamie Ruther
Anna – Hannah Casey
Zoe – Gemma Dewe
Writer – Stephen Connolly


The Gasman Cometh – Salisbury Fringe ‘Rough Cuts’

My short play ‘The Gasman Cometh’ was chosen by the Salisbury Fringe for a script-in-hand performance on Sunday 2nd October as part of the ‘Rough Cuts’ event. Frida was played by Kelly Strickland, Andrew by Mike Prior, director Pete Talman. They did a superb job (after only 3 rehearsals) and were a pleasure to watch! I recorded the play and it has now been loaded to SoundCloud.


Andrew and Frida meet by chance at the Crematorium, each recently widowed, each there for their spouse’s service. But they have met before… in the most horrendous of circumstances. Can they keep their respective families apart long enough for their services to take place?

Sometimes, the one person you least wanted to meet is the only person you can talk to.


In the original version, the truth of the dead peoples’ relationship only becomes clear at the very end. After sharing the script with Gloucester Scriptorium, the main suggestion was that this relationship should be revealed right at the beginning, making the story about the need to deal with a terrible coincidence, giving it more focus and tension.

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Kelly Strickland (Frida) and Mike Prior (Andrew)

Talking Objects at Gloucester Life Museum

I have been a member of Jarek Adam’s Gloucester Scriptorium since 2014.

The Scriptorium’s latest project is the ‘Talking Objects’ which was launched last Saturday, 24th September at the Gloucester Life Museum. The brief was to find an item in the museum and write a short monologue based on it:

A series of recorded monologues that give voices to objects from the Gloucester Life Museum and let them tell their utterly fascinating stories. Some of the pieces have a grain of truth to them, some are utterly fantastic, but they all bring to life objects from Gloucester’s past that the Scriptorium writers discovered at the museum.

The monologues are all now available on the Scriptorium web site.

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Gloucester Life Museum’s 2012 memorabilia, the Keyring on the right

I decided to write about one of the museum’s most recent items, a Keyring from the 2012 Olympic Games. I was fascinated with the idea of creating the viewpoint of something with almost no history (the keyring was never sold and is still in its original wrapper) placed amongst items which have so much history. How could it cope, and could it think up a way to address the problem, deal with its situation?

It was a fun piece to write for a number of reasons – a strict 2-3 minute length forces you to keep things brief, to focus on essentials – and was beautifully performed (both live on the day and on the recording) by the amazing Chloe of Midnight Storytellers!

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Chloe of Midnight Storytellers

 

 

‘The Gasman Cometh’ at Salisbury Fringe Rough Cuts

My script has been selected for the Salisbury Fringe ‘Rough Cuts’ evening in October, where it will be performed ‘script in hand’ – the actors will have rehearsed it but not memorised it.

The Gasman Cometh is a dark comedy, telling the story of Andrew and Frida who meet at a Crematorium. Each is there to bid farewell to their respective late spouse, but Andrew’s wife’s service has been delayed. They recognise each other from a previous meeting… in the hospital morgue, where they discovered their late spouses died during an illicit rendezvous from Carbon Monoxide fumes from a faulty motel gas heater. Andrew is desperate to keep Frida’s presence from his grieving and already scandalised family as Frida is still furious about losing her husband. Can he stop her from making a scene until he can get his family through their service?

Writing and recording ‘Cat’

I’ve been hearing stories about the Churney Cat for as long as I’ve lived in Cirencester. Every so often there’s a sighting reported in the local paper – plus a fuzzy photo – including one of the beast in Cirencester Market place.

I wanted to include the Cat in a major project so I decided to give him his own short prequel, a chance to introduce him and some of the humans who come into contact with him.

Originally, I intended the story to be centred on two men who hide in the woods hoping to get photographs of the beast to sell to the tabloids. In the end, I worked out a more interesting angle which links the Cat to a longer story. This was partly as a result of making the characters female, which also allowed me to turn what started as a straightforward thriller into something more unusual.

I met Actress/Writer/Director Marianne Gaston through Jarek Adams’ Scriptorium project based in Gloucester and knew she would make a superb Gran. Her friend Laura Clifford was just as good as Maya. We recorded the play on location in Kinsham (outside Bishops Cleeve) on Saturday 12th March 2016 and my actors did a great job.

Stitching everything together on the computer proved problematic: this is the first script I have attempted to record completely outside, and monitoring actors’ lines and watching the sound levels is hard enough without having to keep track of trains in the background too!

Anyway, here it is, I hope you enjoy it. Please don’t get in touch to tell me a black leopard is technically a panther. I say he’s a black leopard, and that’s and end to it. It’s my play. If you want a play with a panther, write it yourself!


Poor Maya. It’s tough being 19 when you don’t know what to do with your life. Fortunately, Maya’s Gran is on hand to introduce her to a very special person. After tonight, Maya’s life will never be boring again…

Actors needed for radio dramas

I am recording a series of radio plays for Cirencester’s Community Radio station, Corinium Radio, for which I need some experienced actors.

In the short term I need someone to play a 40 y/o male and a 20 y/o female, for two pieces recording in Cirencester during February/March. In the long term, I will need a mix of ages across both genders.

I can’t offer payment, but they’re good experience, fun to do and you would get a copy of the final recording for website/profile. The process doesn’t take too long, we generally do a rehearsed reading, then record script in hand – no memorising of scripts required. The scripts are all currently around 15 minutes of air time, although I have plans for longer pieces and conceivably a serial. If interested, please contact me on steve.connolly48@gmail.com

So far, one play has been recorded and broadcast:

Stroud Short Stories, Eerie Evenings

SSS Eerie evening poster copy (2)I have submitted to the Stroud Short Stories event several times before without success. I heard on the grapevine that my stories had impressed the judges, but just missed out on the final list. When the November event was announced as an Eerie Evening of Short Stories, just after Halloween I was in two minds about entering at all, as I just don’t write that kind of piece.

Anyway, I looked through my potential ideas and decided to revisit an old attempt at a story, something I have played with over the years without ever managing to get quite right. ‘Suddenly the Snow’ describes the final moments of an Arctic explorer, a member of the ill-fated Franklin expedition seeking a Northwest Passage in mid-Victorian times. Far from home, facing the horror of his starving comrades, his dying brain conjures up images of a wedding that will not now take place. The story narrates a bizarre wedding in a sun-baked London (Queen Victoria running the service), while implying that the traveller is actually dying in great pain, lost somewhere on the Polar ice cap.

Part of the inspiration came from Ambrose Bierce’s wonderful Civil War story, ‘Incident at Owl Creek Bridge’, in which a captured Confederate officer, a noose tied round his neck, believes himself to escape execution only to encounter a series of bizarre sights and events as he travels back to his home. When he does so, a terrible pain builds in his neck… and we return to the bridge, where the officer hangs dead, the entire story of his escape and adventures conjured up by his nervous system in the fractions of a second it takes for his neck to snap.

I gave the story a polish and submitted it to my fellow-writers at Somewhere Else in Cirencester. A chastening but useful experience! While they liked some of the imagery, most had little idea what the story was actually about – not helped by me titling it ‘The Chemical Wedding’, in an attempt to add some mysticism: this only confused them into thinking my traveller was indulging in illicit substances.

I decided to add more context, so in its final version, half the story is the explorer’s visions of his wedding, the other half his comments on the explorers’ doomed mission, as they drag their boats across the ice cap in the vain hope of reaching civilisation. It also gained a new title: ‘A Midwinter Wedding’.

I was quite pleased with how the story ended up and nervously submitted it to Stroud Short Stories back in September, finally hearing I had been successful last week. So now all I have to worry about is practicing reading the thing aloud: following major surgery on my jaw three years ago, my voice is not what it was…

Bread – A Dark Comedy

A brand  new version of my radio play ‘Bread’ has now been recorded and mixed and is available to listen to below. It’s a dark comedy about marriage, money, murder and fresh bread, originally written for Stroud FM. This version was recorded for Corinium Radio.
It was recorded in Siddington Village Hall on August 20th in an internal space with reasonable acoustics (a store cupboard with a thick carpet) plus some scenes recorded outside. It was my first attempt to record using a Zoom H1 and I am very pleased with the results, despite a considerable breeze there was almost no wind noise on the recording. I plan to do a lot more recording outside for future scripts.
The original version of Bread was recorded in 2011 for Stroud FM – as part of a Writing for Radio course run by John Bassett – but I don’t think it was ever broadcast. Chloe reprises her role as Mother!
I have rewritten much of the script since then and it was shortlisted in the Wireless Theatre Company Write Bits competition, which won me a rehearsed reading at the Actor’s Guild in London. Based on their feedback, I decided to re-record the piece for Corinium Radio, as the first in a series of 15 minutes pieces.
Many thanks to my superb cast for their good work:
  • Daniel – Graham Fletcher
  • Alice – Jenny Carr
  • Mother – Chloe
  • Frank – Ian Kubiak