The main body of this website is built around plays that have been published or broadcast. Here are some unpublished works and early formative experiences that I wanted to record in my own way – this will be updated from time to time…
Epping Forest was written and presented while at college. It had been seen by an assessor for the National Theatre Lloyds Bank Student Drama Competition who wrote a report on the piece recommending it highly. She described it as having something of a Hieronymus Bosch quality, which may well have been a result of the visual aesthetic and the purgatorial impact of the play’s structure. The play was produced again in a new production years later while I was at university. That production was remounted for three weeks at the Theatre Museum Covent Garden, funded by Westminster Arts. The play was first written as part of an A level exam and had to include a speech or a passage from at least one set text as an inspiration / provocation as part of the remit. I think we used a speech from The Caretaker (Astons), a few lines from John Mortimer’s Dock brief (hence the title “Epping Forest”) and three lines from an Ayckbourn play. But about 80% of the script was original writing. The play worked well and so had a further life beyond the A level. But when it was revised outside of an academic context these extant passages from classic plays were removed or changed. Looking back, I feel they ought to have been kept, especially as music at the time was full of sampling and remixing. This was a theatrical equivalent to that in many ways. The play worked with the cuts and changes and fared well in production. The talented cast included Anna Murphy, Stephen Gilroy, Nick Fletcher, Martin Hearn, Mungo Dennison, Harriet Scott and Lizzie Cox. The design team included Tessa Priest and Chris Aird. The poster* was by Es Devlin (I wish I could find it). Es also helped Tess with the set on the day. The design was very strong all round. If I had any photos I'd show them here. But the review below gives some sense of it.
Epping Forest, Theatre Museum, 8-15 September 1993
"Paul Sellar’s new play possesses everything a new play needs – humour, intelligence, poetic prose, a serious message and only one act. And it’s ever so slightly rough around the edges, giving one a wonderful sense of potential for his next works. He’s definitely someone to watch out for."
*An earlier play of mine had a poster designed by Barbara Kulick. I wish I had kept that one too. Barbara came to see Epping Forest and commented very favourably on the set. And she gave Margaret Leask, who she met as she sat next to her, a lift home after he play. Margaret Leask was the head of Westminster Arts who had funded the play. I hope Westminster Arts are still going.
The Fall was first presented at Chelsea Centre in 1995. It was a dark satire looking at the haves and have nots in and around central London. One critic noted that the play “didn’t stint on the Kensington gore”. The strong cast featured Jonathan Elsom, Nick Fletcher, David Spinks, Andrew Mclean, Emma Ryall, John Vernon and Nadine Shelton.
“On the evidence of this play, we have discovered in Paul Sellar, an innovative new playwright with a brilliant gift.”
The play below was again produced by Karen Koren. Karen founded and ran the Gilded Balloon and she also oversaw GB Productions.
The theatre's in-house company produced a raft of stand up comedy each year and a handful of plays as well. One of which was an early play of mine, Cell G159, a comedy thriller which was good box oﬃce and had very good reviews. The artwork shown here was produced by Damien Crook.
Karen revived the play the following year, under a new title (to reflect script revisions) The Dead Move Fast. It was performed on the main stage and featured Sylvester McCoy in the lead. Additionally, Karen produced Dark is The Night, a compendium of mystery and suspense comprising adaptations of The Waxwork and The Night Wire. These were directed by Ken Bentley and featured a voiceover from Andrew Dickens (who also assumed a production role). The cast were Jonathan Coope, Philip Dinsdale, John Brenner and Dougie Arbuckle. The performances were strong and the play gained very good reviews.
Karen also produced The Damage - a pair of back-to-back monologues set around sport and match-fixing, which years later grew into the play 2Graves. Nina Steiger had given us some space and time at Soho to workshop the play and present an Edinburgh preview of it. As well as another performance after its Edinburgh run. These monologues were directed by Ken Bentley and performed by Andrew Dickens. The production included a great central performance and had very good reviews. Karen, who produced in Edinburgh, was introduced to my work by Mary Shields and her colleagues at Assembly Theatre (the in-house production team at the Assembly Rooms) who had produced the Edinburgh run of The Bedsit at the Assembly Rooms having seen and picked it up from BAC, London.
I feel very fortunate that many of my early plays in Edinburgh were all paid for by in-house producers either at the Assembly Rooms or Gilded Balloon. It meant that the production costs were all covered, including travel and accommodation, rehearsals and marketing. On top of our basic wage, we also got weekly pay packets (per diams) to keep us going and passes which allowed us to see other shows without having to pay for a ticket.
There were some other early plays, but these were the main ones. I would also like to give a shout out to the student cast of The Bedsit. This was a play I wrote while at school for my Theatre Studies A level. It was actually begun in a detention. Unknown to me it was entered into an LWT playwriting competition, where it was one of the winners, and it also did well in a Lloyds Bank Theatre Challenge where it was awarded a Certificate of Excellence from Richard Eyre. Along with Epping Forest. (See above) The cast comprised of Amyas Peto, Angus Young and Tim Wilson who were all excellent, as was Rob Green and John Kilroy who stepped in when some of the cast became unavailable. I remember Sarah Wards contribution to one of the productions too - puntuating the plays action with a haunting ballad played over a flute. There was a later student production of the play at a One Act House play competition featuring Tom Edenburgh, Will Burke and James Aumonier.
The Bedsit became my first published play, and I have great memories of its professional production (click here). It had a long life with various strong casts of three. But always led by the late, great James Ellis. It was a joy from start to finish. But the initial student production is still seared into my memory in a way that can only really happen the first time you see your play come to life in front of an audience. And it was amazing
to have been working with such good friends in this context and to have been able to share the experience with them. Good times!
Several years later the play was revived at the college for an inter house one play competition. It was adjudicated by John Link of LAMDA. And it won a prize for best play. The cast was Tom Edenburgh, Will Burke and James Aumonier. Among the teaching staff at the time was Hugo Ellis - James Ellis’s son. James Ellis went on to play the lead in the play’s professional premiere later that same year.
Bliss (below) was a musical adaptation of an unproduced play of mine. The play was a follow-up to The Fall - following two teenagers from that play making their way to the coast. The most memorable thing about the play was the acting. Adrian was great as to be expected and Emily was a revelation. Her acting and stage presence was amazing: as was her singing. Andy Duerden had written and performed the music. From memory the score was a mix of haunting solos and power ballads.
A musical adaptation of a play by Paul Sellar
Music & Lyrics Andy Duerden
Directed by M.C. Friend
Produced by Karen Koren for GB Productions.
Cast: Emily Blunt, Adrian Rawlins
Dark is the Night had a very strong cast and garnered some great reviews. I then reunited with Ken and Andrew later on The Damage which went on to become the basis for 2Graves.
Dark is the Night
A double bill of mystery and suspense
The Night Wire by H.F. Arnold
The Waxwork by A.M. Burrage
Directed by Ken Bentley
Produced by Karen Koren for GB productions.