Material relating to the production The Garden of England 1, 2 & 3(1984-85)

Scope and Content

This series contains production materials for The Garden of England, versions 1, 2 and 3, including scripts and draft scripts, a prompt script, interview transcipts, research materials, correspondence, press cuttings, production materials including projection slides and photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Garden of England by Peter Cox had three distinct iterations.

The Garden of England (1) is a ‘verbatim play’ commissioned by the National Theatre Studio by Peter Gill and John Burgess during the Miners' Strike. Peter Cox travelled to Kent for a research period of about six weeks and started to attend Kent coalfield events (including picket lines, soup kitchens and fundraising events). A research assistant, Mike O'Neill, worked in parallel with Cox to interview the community. The cassette tapes were sent back to the National Theatre Studio and transcribed by audio typists. A group of actors were assembled 5-6 weeks into the process and about two and half weeks before the studio night performance the actors began to work with the raw material. They worked to compile themes and locations – finding opposite points of view (militant vs moderate, soup kitchen vs picket line etc.). As the writer, Cox was responsible for the pace, structure and writing craft for the verbatim narrative. The Garden of England was performed by 12 actors who sat on a stage and "gave testimony". Cox describes it as "a form of witnessing theatre". The actors did not try to impersonate the people they represented, but they visited the community and would listen to the dialect, rhythm and pattern of speech of the people and mark up their text with inflections.

The Garden of England (2) was commissioned as a touring piece of theatre by 7:84 England. This play was not verbatim. Robert Rae proposed writing a new play based on the experience in Kent and tour nationally to large venues in coalfield areas including Sheffield, Birmingham, Midlands, Newcastle, Manchester and London. Cox decided to rewrite the play with songs and ambitious audio-visual elements including projections of archival footage and images as a backdrop. Cox extended his research to different coalfields including Scotland, Yorkshire and Northumberland. For the performances, mining families and the local community were provided with free transport to the venue.

The Garden of England (3) was written after the strike when Cox was re-commissioned by the National Theatre to return to Kent and write verbatim the ‘second half’ of the story. This production was staged at the Cottesloe in 1985 as part of a nine-week festival of new plays (23 September to 23 November 1985). The Garden of England (3) replayed everything from the original Act 1, adding a new verbatim Act 2 dealing with the aftermath of the strike.

Conditions Governing Access

Parts of this series are closed, please see file level for more detail.

Related Material

See also: THM/442/12/1 for audio recordings relating to this production.