March to June 2011 | A season of work by women playwrights


by Caryl Churchill

Tuesday, 1 March – Saturday, 26 March 2011

***** Five Stars, WhatsOnStage
**** Four Stars The Times

**** Four Stars The Guardian
**** Four Stars, Spoonfed

The first professional production in London for 27 years of Fen by Caryl Churchill, directed by Ria Parry – the second recipient of the Leverhulme Bursary for Emerging Theatre Directors.

Part of “In Their Place” – a three month season of work by women playwrights

“You're a symptom of the times... You expect too much...”

Val wants more. Becky wants to be a hairdresser. Angela wants to escape. Shirley can't be doing with all the fuss everyone is making.

In a world where roles are fixed and choices are few, Fen follows the interweaving lives of different generations of women, and questions our sense of entitlement as to what life should give us. Exploring the relationship between aspiration and expectation, Fen looks at our connection with the work, the people, and the landscapes that hold us together. A community of working women. Grafting, striving, finding their way.

First performed by Joint Stock Theatre Group in 1983 at the University of Essex Theatre and subsequently at the Almeida Theatre, on tour, and at the Public Theater, New York, this is the play’s first professional production in London since the original run.

Fen is presented as part of The Leverhulme Bursary, an exciting new award, partnering the National Theatre Studio with the Finborough Theatre, supporting a six month attachment at the internationally acclaimed National Theatre Studio, and a production at the multi-award-winning Finborough Theatre.


Caryl Churchill has written for the stage, television and radio. Plays include Owners (1971), Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (1976), Traps (1977), Cloud Nine (1979), Top Girls (1982), Fen (1983), Softcops (1984), A Mouthful of Birds (1986), Serious Money (1987), Ice cream (1989), Mad Forest (1990), Lives of the Great Poisoners (1991), The Skriker (1994), Blue Heart (1997), Far Away (2000), A Number (2002), Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? (2006), a translation of Olivier Choiniere’s Bliss (2008) and Seven Jewish Children (2009).


Alex Beckett’s theatre credits include The Hotel In Amsterdam (Donmar Warehouse), Swallow Song (Oxford Playhouse), Dark Philosophers (Told By an Idiot, National Theatre Wales), Is Everything Ok (Nabokov, National Tour), Blue Heaven (Finborough Theatre). Television includes PhoneShop, The Bill, Emmerdale, Married Single Other. 

Katharine Burford’s theatre credits include Majora Barbara and Much Ado About Nothing (National Theatre), Charley’s Aunt (Northcott Theatre), Bone Harvest, Days of Plenty, Ferry Cross the Waveney (Eastern Angles), A Place at the Table (Bush Theatre), Cleo Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick (New Vic Theatre), The Circle (Oxford Stage Company), The Recruiting Officer (Chichester Festival Theatre), Books of Blood, Cavalcade, and Clavigo (Citizens Theatre). Television and film include Vexed, Talk to Me, Kingdom, The Bill and Glorious ’39 (Stephen Poliakoff).

Elicia Daly’s theatre credits include Fanny and Faggot (Finborough Theatre and Trafalgar Studios), Her Naked Skin (National Theatre), Olly’s Prison (Cock Tavern), Interiors (Vanishing Point, National Tour). Television includes Holby City and EastEnders.

Nicola Harrison’s theatre credits include The Glass Menagerie (Royal Lyceum Edinburgh), Ravenhill for Breakfast (Paines Plough), Stoopid Fucken Animals (Traverse Theatre), Blackbird (Theatre Royal Norwich), Apart from George (Finborough Theatre), Tryst and Once Upon a Time (Grid Iron), Angels Among the Trees (Nottingham Playhouse), Snow White (New Victory Theatre, New York), The Last Valentine (Almeida Theatre). Television and film include The Impossible, Micro Men, Medea and Control.

Wendy Nottingham’s many film and television credits include Atonement, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Vera Drake, Topsy Turvy, Secrets and Lies, Short and Curlies, Victoria Wood’s Christmas Special, Getting On, Spooks, Silent Witness, Lewis, Kingdom, Miss Marple, Extras, People Like Us, The Wimbledon Poisoner. Theatre includes Blithe Spirit (Manchester Royal Exchange), The Shaughraun and The Voysey Inheritance (National Theatre), Cloud Nine (Sheffield Crucible), Stopped Fucken Animals (Traverse Theatre), Total Eclipse (Menier Chocolate Factory), Abigail’s Party (Hampstead Theatre), The York Realist (National Tour), The Madness of Esme and Shaz and Ambulance (Royal Court Theatre), It’s A Great Big Shame (Theatre Royal Stratford East), The Way of The World (Lyric Theatre Hammersmith).  

Rosie Thomson’s theatre credits include Yes Prime Minister (Gielgud Theatre), The Hothouse (National Theatre), I Caught Crabs in Walberswick (Eastern Angles). Television and film include The Bill, EastEnders, Dream Team, A Touch of Frost, Judge John Deed, Family Affairs, Second Sight and Enigma.


Director Ria Parry is the second recipient of the Leverhulme Directors’ Bursary, becoming Director in Residence at the National Theatre Studio and the Finborough Theatre in 2010. Ria won a Fringe First Award in 2009 for Crush by Paul Charlton. The production was shortlisted for the Carol Tambor New York Award and received two Stage Award nominations. Recent directing includes My Heart in the Balance (British Museum), Crush (Edinburgh Festival and National Tour), Identity Crisis (Lyric Hammersmith), Rewind and King Lear (Young Vic Clare Studio). For Box Clever Theatre, she has directed tours of The Hate Play, The Tempest and The Buzz. Ria was a Creative Producer at Watford Palace Theatre 2007–2009. She is Co-Artistic Director of Iron Shoes.


Designer James Button studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon School of Art. Theatre includes The Trial, Gulliver’s Travels, Grimm Tales and Milestones (all at Watford Palace Theatre), Octavia Hill, Sick Room, Unstoned, Astronauts Wives Club by Al Smith, Still Killing Time by Barrie Keefe (all at Soho Theatre), Relish by James Graham (Tramshed), Living the Dream (Expo 2010 Shanghai), The Savage (Arcola Theatre), Rewind and King Lear (Young Vic), Us or Them by Tanika Gupta (tour), East to East (East Winter Gardens, London), Whose Shoes? (Lowry, Manchester), Much Ado About Nothing (Hackney Empire), God Save The Teen (Trafalgar Square), The Holyland by Daragh Carville (Lyric Studio, Hammersmith), Age, Sex, Location (Lyric Studio/Popwell Theatre, Berlin), Cabaret Galactica (Warehouse Theatre), Threepenny Opera (Drayton Court Theatre), and touring productions of Aladdin and Cinderella for Comyns Carr Theatre Company. Film includes costume design for Watch Over Me Series 4 directed by Chris Jupe, and Spiralling, a short film directed by Nick Hillel.


David W Kidd's extensive work has been seen in theatre, opera, ballet, music events and commercial pantomime. Theatre includes The Pillowman (Leicester Curve), Independent Means (Library, Manchester), Nostalgia (Theatre Royal, Plymouth), White Boy (Soho), Milestones (Watford Palace), Paul Merton Live! and A Tribute to Siegfried and Roy (London Palladium), The President's Holiday (Hampstead Theatre), The Taming of the Shrew and Dick Barton - Special Agent (Nottingham Playhouse), Lunch With Marlene, From The Hart, Halpern and Johnson and Resident Alien starring Bette Bourne (New End), The Anniversary (Garrick), The Female Odd Couple (Apollo), Many Roads To Paradise (Jermyn Street Theatre), Relish (Tramshed) and recently Jack and the Beanstalk (Hackney Empire). Many productions at the Nuffield, Southampton include Woody Allen's Writer's Block, The House of Bernarda Alba, The Playboy of the Western World, A Streetcar Named Desire, She Stoops To Conquer, Don Quixote and Three Sisters (2002 TMA Award Best Design). Ballet and opera includes Peter and the Wolf (Ballet Flanders, Royal Carré Amsterdam, UK tour, Stadsschouwberg Antwerp and New Victory Theater, New York), Andersen's Fairy Tales (Bulgarian National Ballet, Opera Sophia) and Die Walküre (De Ny Opera, Denmark). Other New York designs include Unsuspecting Susan and Tabloid Caligula.


Dave Price studied violin and piano, and read music at Durham University before receiving a scholarship to study percussion with Stanislaw Skoczynski at the Chopin Academy in Warsaw for three years. He co-founded the experimental music collective Noszferatu who perform regularly at major UK contemporary music festivals and on BBC Radio 3. Their CD Drempel (NMC) includes his composition Lee's Game, which was short-listed for a BASCA Composers Award in 2008. Dave has composed music for numerous theatre productions and he is an associate artist of the award winning physical theatre company Gecko. He was composer and performer in their recent show The Overcoat, which toured internationally throughout 2010. Dave works regularly with singer songwriter Gwyneth Herbert and the pop group Aqualung with whom he has recorded several albums and toured extensively. Other recent highlights include Beasts and Beauties at the Hampstead Theatre, recording with Regina Spektor, Finn Peters' Music of the Mind project and Young, Autistic and Stagestruck (Channel 4 / Lyric Hammersmith).


Production Company Iron Shoes was formed in 2009 by Ria Parry and John Hoggarth. Their first production Crush won a Fringe First Award. In 2010 Crush completed a national tour, and Iron Shoes worked with Kids Taskforce to create Watch Over Me Series 4, a television education drama written by John Hoggarth, delivered to every secondary school in the country in partnership with the Home Office. Iron Shoes is now an Associate Company of Kids Taskforce, and has recently finished work on a film for the Premiership Academies. In 2011 Iron Shoes is also producing Surfing Tommies by Alan Kent at the Minack Theatre, followed by a national tour in collaboration with BishBashBosh productions.


The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 at the wish of William Hesketh Lever, the first Viscount Leverhulme, which makes awards for the support of research and education. The Trust emphasises individuals and encompasses all subject areas. With annual funding of some £40 million, the Trust is amongst the largest all subject providers of research funding in the UK.


"It’s been nearly 30 years since this play by Caryl Churchill was last seen in London; watching this fine revival by Ria Parry, you wonder why we’ve had to wait so long.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“The Finborough has now become one of the most reliable theatres in town and, yet again, this revival of a play not seen for some considerable time is excellent. It could also be suggested that this revival is timely, as we all try to come to terms with the consequences of a global financial crisis that may well once again push those working on the land into poverty.” Philip Fisher, The British Theatre Guide

“The Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court...reaching a high watermark under its current director Neil McPherson, whose smart mix of challenging new works and neglected gems has helped make it a mandatory destination for anyone who cares about theater. Its recent production of Emlyn Williams’s forgotten Accolade was sold out almost before it began. Expect the same with its revival of Caryl Churchill’s Fen, a dark, political fever dream back on the London stage for the first time in 27 years” Adam Green, Vogue

“Fen is definitely essential fringe viewing; and serves to remind us that theatre can be subtly provocative, violent and restrained” The Junction

“All told, there is much here to enjoy and if recent experience is anything to go by, then you will book your tickets sooner rather than later.” Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

“Fen is an interesting revival and the production here is one which fits in neatly with the incredibly high standard that the Finborough has been maintaining.” Ian Foster,  The Public Reviews

“This revival of Fen is engrossing, convincing, occasionally darkly comic, and likely to linger in your emotional memory.” Gerald Berkowitz, Theatre Guide London

“This is a mysterious, tantalising play that, with its elliptical scenes and multiple characters, refuses to spoon-feed its audience. It offers a clear-eyed, feminist-socialist perspective on women and labour, but there is something darker and wilder lurking in its witchy psychic landscape. It's a play that hurts to watch, particularly presented up close, as it is here in Ria Parry's revival, in which the confining space of the Finborough becomes a metaphor for spirits cramped by capitalism.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

“As Women's History Month begins and with International Women's Day next week, Iron Shoes' run of Fen is timely and affective” Naima Khan, Spoonfed

“Ria Parry’s production brings out the bleak, wintry aspect of the fen landscape by laying a strip of soil across the middle of the Finborough’s space. Seated in traverse, we watch the company of six harvest potatoes from this strip, clear it of rocks and stones” Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times

“With a cast of six doubling and redoubling roles and a design by James Button that puts us right in the dirt and mists of the Fens, Ria Parry's production captures both the bleakness and the barely-glimpsed flashes of light that make up this evocatively recreated world.” Gerald Berkowitz, Theatre Guide London

“It is a startling, savage, cruel and passionate evocation of life in rural East Anglia, and the writing is as rich as the dark brown soil that dominates James Button’s design, alive with deep, twisted roots of history and superstition, and a very occasional green shoot of hope.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Its theatrical invention dazzles, even when the drama is at its darkest.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Unsentimental and richly written” Tom Wicker, Exeunt

“Churchill’s dialogue is suitably earthy, enriched with colloquialisms and nuggets of folklore that turn the play into something more interesting and freestanding than the straightforward diatribe against early ‘80s capitalism it threatens to be at the start.” Tom Wicker, Exeunt

“This is a reminder that British theatre has produced no more a courageous writer or one who mines our dark, damaged psyches with such forensic thoughtfulness as Churchill.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

“There are a lot of strong performances. Nicola Harrison for example, moves smoothly from a boy scaring birds to a supremely vindictive step-mother to a born-again Christian, in a seamless manner.” Michael Spring, Fringe Report

“Bleak, intelligent, evocative. Fen was originally written in 1983 about the desolate lives of village farm workers on the Fens, and it is a Zeitgeist that has matured with age. It is foremost a tragic tapestry of melancholic lives, but there are some skillful moments of comedy threaded through that serve to wrench the audience out of depression's depths when it gets a bit much. Six actors play a staggering twenty two characters, and with ease. Clear-cut and astoundingly quick costume changes make the transitions easy, and Nicola Harrison's interchanges between the utterly nasty, manipulative and abusive Angela to childish Deb are incredible, revealing the two ends of her spectrum as an actress.” Jemma Bicknell, The Public Reviews

“Nicola Harrison in particular shone as a vindictive stepmother and the sweetly innocent young Deb” Ian Foster,  The Public Reviews

“Chillingly played by Nicola Harrison with pinch-faced fury and quiet menace.” Tom Wicker, Exeunt

“Nicola Harrison steps smoothly between a volatile stepmother and a benignly beaming Christian, while Katharine Burford gives the production its spine as the tormented Val.” Natasha Tripney, The Stage

“Very poignantly played by Katharine Burford” Jemma Bicknell, The Public Reviews

“Katharine Burford as the straying mother and Alex Beckett as her lover and several contrasting characters” Gerald Berkowitz, Theatre Guide London

“Ria Parry's capable and clear production never drags. Both tender and bleak, it's carefully performed by a versatile cast, from which Burford and Alex Beckett stand out.” Matt Trueman, Timeout

“Rosie Thomson is superb in all of her roles.” Jemma Bicknell, The Public Reviews

“Rosie Thomson was also excellent, delineating all of her roles clearly yet moving in all of them.” Ian Foster,  The Public Reviews

“Elicia Daly has her audience grinning at a pre-teen's choreographed dance to a song about her village-bound ambitions.” Naima Khan, Spoonfed

“This production boasts a fantastic cast.” Naima Khan, Spoonfed

“Gritty, human and silencing performances” Richard J Thorton, Extra Extra

“The cast (each of whom plays several roles) vividly bring to life a society perched fearfully on the edge of change, holding its members in all-encompassing, often suffocating, embrace.” Tom Wicker, Exeunt

“Parry’s production is beautiful acted by a cast who glide between roles to embody Churchill’s array of character, delineated in a few bold, eloquent strokes. The effect is terse, yet poetic, heart-breaking, but often wryly funny. Raw and remarkable.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Dave Price’s excellent sound design.” Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times


Tuesday, 1 March – Saturday, 26 March 2011

Tuesday to Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm.
Sunday Matinees at 3.00pm.
Saturday Matinees at 3.00pm (from 12 March 2011).

Performance Length: Approximately 80 minutes with no interval.

1 March - 13 March 2011



15 March - 26 March 2011

Tickets £15, £11 concessions

except Tuesday Evenings £11 all seats, and Saturday evenings £15 all seats. 

For details of our Returns Policy for sold out performances, please click here



Written by Caryl Churchill

Directed by Ria Parry

Designed by James Button

Lighting Design by David W Kidd

Music and Sound by Dave Price

Presented by Iron Shoes in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre and the National Theatre Studio.