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Big Eyes

January 20, 2015


The Flower Seller by Dallas Simpson

The tough economic situation, atmosphere of anxiety regarding any perceived risk-taking and the acknowledged gender bias in new writing means that unsolicited scripts from women writers are unlikely to find a ‘life’ regardless of the quality of the writing (17% of produced plays are by women).

‘A Ploughed Heart’ is effectively unsolicited – I chose to write it – it’s my responsibility to get it to the stage. So, this week I’m working on a budget and notes for a funding bid (when I’d much rather be writing a new play).

On Sunday night I saw Tim Burton’s ‘Big Eyes‘, the story of why Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) allowed her husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) to take the credit for her paintings. In the 1950’s the market place for women artists was even tougher – Walter assured Margaret: ‘people don’t buy lady art’.

While I had some sympathy with the views of the art critic (played brilliantly by Terence Stamp) it has always angered me that value is bestowed on artists and their work by such a small elite group of people or ‘gatekeepers’. The public loved work like Margaret’s – my own family did. When I cleared out my mum’s council house several years ago I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of her favourite print, ‘The Flower Seller’ by Dallas Simpson (my dad won it for her playing prize bingo in Blackpool). Dallas painted from her caravan in West Sussex, earning just £30-£50 for each painting & the reproduction rights – over 5 million prints were sold worldwide.

I’m not quite sure why I keep thinking about Margaret while I write this bid, maybe it’s because Margaret and George both published their work under a man’s name? Maybe it’s because it’s an interesting biopic about a woman artist. Maybe it’s just because it’s such a great film.

The rehearsed readings of ‘A Ploughed Heart’ were so popular with audiences that I’m sure the public will support the play when we stage it later this year – I just hope that the theatre ‘elite’ come along to see what all the fuss is about.


PS A few years ago Wayne Hemingway published ‘Just Above The Mantlepiece: mass-market masterpieces’, which I can highly recommend if you’d like to find out more about mass market artists.

PPS We will be having a competition giveaway for a small number of FREE tickets to see the show so do keep visiting/lurking by the blog to make sure that you don’t miss out.

  1. John Burton permalink

    Good luck with the bid, Vanessa. We all have our fingers crossed for you at the GEF!

  2. Thanks John – I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

  3. Viv wood permalink

    Four of us were having coffee at the museum – all of us, on hearing of your bid, said we wanted to see A Ploughed Heart again. Another – Juliet -said when I told her of your bid: ‘I’ve seen it twice – I want to see it a third time!’ . So yes, the rehearsed readings caused a stir – and were so good – one forgot they were ‘rehearsed readings’. I still remember Cara Bray so distinctly. Every actor was brilliant. Juliet liked the first actor who played the Griff waiter – might have tracked your inspiration for him down – Mark – he’s managing the Greyhound! My comments may sound parochial but Akiko from Japan sends her best wishes too. Good luck Ness with your bid.

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