Skip to content

a message from John

Hi Vanessa

Just to return an even bigger thank you to you and Mark, and those superb actors for making it all happen.

I am constantly thrilled by the way in which you and we in the Fellowship are helping to bring Eliot alive and make her relevant to modern audiences. I think back to those wonderful adaptations by Viv and the productions they enabled, and the extraordinary memories they will hold, not so much for the audiences, but for the students who performed in them and who will carry those memories into their future adult lives; then the walks round Coventry last year, and the huge excitement we got from planning them. I remember especially how thrilled Juliet was to know more as we walked along the canal. And then all the work you have done for A Ploughed Heart where audiences on both occasions will have sensed something special unfolding before their eyes.

John Burton Chair of The George Eliot Fellowship 24/2/14

post show audience feedback

Lots of the audience stayed for our post show talk chaired by Peter Leslie Wild on Saturday night. I’ve also had a few emails which you can read below:


Just wanted to share what Andy said as I drove him home, he said, ‘you know you liked Isaac? – well, I liked Mary Ann. She’s only ever been a statue to me before’. He’s a lad born & brought up in Bedworth & N’ton… I emailed that to his dad who suggested I shared it with you. John agreed with Andy how well you had put the flesh & blood on the characters – that plus good actors!And thoughts from me – I loved the after show discussion – thought yr director was superb, asked questions that provoked good answers/ discussion from you, Mark, the cast, and the audience.I thought your portrayal of MA & Isaac’s relationship was very well developed- those 2 young actors really pulled off the teasing & cajoling, the annoying kid sister, yes self absorbed & selfish whom Isaac loves despite himself. He’s trying to be all grown up, newly married etc, but if Mill on the Floss is anything to go by he adored MA (those early images of ponies nuzzling up to each other..); he would try to be strict with her but she could get round him…You gave MA a lot of words; but the impression that gave me was of a teeming mind.  Just like Hamlet, ‘words, words, words’ were all she had – to work through her thoughts, to make sense of this ‘puzzlin world’. Her dialogue was energetic, fast & furious, arguing, restating, petulant at times – showing us the brilliant novelist she was to become.I haven’t mentioned Akiko – but just like last time I thought this – the sub- plot, the time shifts -was inspired. I bet it was exciting to write as the 2 plots edged towards each other.  So pleased you mentioned in discussion our Akiko of the song book – I am in correspondence with & will send her the programme.I hope you were pleased with it. Hope also that you were satisfied with the venue – I know that it meant a lot to John you used the heritage centre – in the shadow of the family’s resting place.Viv x

Viv Wood Vice Chair of The George Eliot Fellowship 23/2/14
Dr Julie Hanson came to the original reading and has a perceptive eye.  Thought these comments might add to the mix. NB: she is, it goes without saying, president of my fan club! Rob Lister
Dear Rob,
Really, though, this is just to say how much I enjoyed the rehearsed reading last night. I could clearly see how much further forward the text now is after the work put in by both Vanessa and the acting team during the workshops. I thought the idea was a brilliant one when I first saw ‘A Ploughed Heart’ last autumn but now the characters have obviously had time to develop and the dialogue has sprung into much more vivid life. I withdraw, totally, my criticism of ‘Cara Bray’ – I was most unfair when I see now how young she really is and how difficult a first reading would have been. And with the blossoming of her character it greatly enhanced the interchanges between her and Mary Anne and of course added another dimension to your ‘tea party’ with her. The ‘mellower’ performance by Aimee Berwick which allowed her own charm (and thus Mary Anne’s) to shine through, as well as her frustration and passion for the truth as she saw it, lifted that whole section of the play and of course made Robert’s great fondness for this difficult daughter more understandable as well as moving. The same was obviously true of her relationship with Isaac whose patience with this hysterical sister before seemed almost superhuman. Akiko was as good as ever – I could almost cheer at the end when she goes off to find her own life!

It goes almost without saying how good I thought your own reading of the part: you totally captured the bewildered pain of a man who just cannot understand what on earth has happened to his beloved daughter or why. In the biographies of George Eliot I had found little sympathy for this man yet Vanessa and you have uncovered what was surely nearer the truth – a man worthy of respect for what he had achieved (and what he clearly gave his brilliant daughter) even if his world view was a good deal more fettered than that of the genius that was Mary Anne. I shall go back and look at the descriptions of Adam Bede again and see something of Mary Anne’s tribute to all that she loved and respected in Robert.

I shall make myself stop now otherwise you will have fallen asleep over my random jottings.

Thanks again and congratulations to you all….

Love and kind wishes, Julie.

Dr Julie Hanson email sent to Rob Lister 23/2/14

Hi Vanessa

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the play reading yesterday, I thought the actors and the writing really captured the era and the feelings of the time. I really liked the surprising unlikeable aspects of Mary Ann. I thought the two periods where ingenious and the way the British view George Elliot through the illuminating perspective of a foreign pilgrimage fascinating.

Hopefully it will now get a full performance

I hope you all could enjoy a celebratory drink afterwards

 Catch up soon


Peter Mimmack  Artistic Director Heartbreak Productions 23/2/14

circus, car parks and a full house


Chilvers Coton Heritage Centre

Last night the circus was in town or to be more specific in the field next to Chilvers Coton Heritage Centre with an earlier start time than our show. But thanks to our volunteer Mike redirecting cars and Chilvers Coton Church letting us use their car park everybody eventually found a space and soon filled the house.


 Aimee Berwick as Mary Ann


Shannon Anthony as Cara with Mary Ann


Stefan Davis as John/Philip/Joe & Lucy Sheen as Akiko


Robert Lister as Robert Evans & Jack Richardson as Isaac Evans

Thanks to everyone involved in the project so far for another brilliant night.

working the script


Today Jack, Tessa, Stefan, Lucy, Aimee, Shannon, Robert  and I worked the script


I now have lots more notes and only a few hours to make any changes


But it was great to spend a whole day unpicking the text in such detail


Thank you to Live & Local  and The George Eliot Fellowship for making it possible for us to spend this time together

See you all tomorrow for the show.

Only 15 tickets left…

Ploughed heart leaflet final (1)


Book your ticket/s now to avoid disappointment

Follow this link: The George Eliot Fellowship


Telephone: 024 7661 9126

I hope to see some of you loyal lurkers there 

Tis strange – but true; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction;

NN Ploughed Heart 130214 (1)

In my new play ‘A Ploughed Heart’, Akiko travels over 6,000 miles only to find herself alone in the car park of a Premier Inn (Griff House). Next week actress Lucy Sheen who plays Akiko will be travelling up from London for two days of work on the script and needed a place to stay over. There was only one choice as far as we were concerned and so Lucy too will be staying at a certain Premier Inn (Griff House).

Tis strange – but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction;

Lord Byron Don Juan 1823

Tickets are selling fast so if you’d like to meet Akiko/Lucy at Chilvers Coton Heritage Centre on Saturday 22nd Feb book your seat/s now by following this link: The George Eliot Fellowship or telephone 024 7661 9126 FREE CAR PARKING

Cast announced for A Ploughed Heart

© Michael Wharley Photography 2013

Shannon Anthony – Cara Bray


Aimee Berwick – Mary Ann Evans

Stefan Davis - LQ1

Stefan Davis – John/Philip/Joe

DSCF0057 (5) Rob

Robert Lister – Robert Evans


Jack Richardson – Isaac Evans


Lucy Sheen – Akiko Murakami

I’m delighted to introduce the cast for the rehearsed reading of my play A Ploughed Heart.  Tessa Walker (Associate Director at Birmingham Rep) will workshop the revised script on Friday 21st February before it has a rehearsed reading at 7pm on Saturday 22nd February at Chilvers Coton Heritage Centre in Nuneaton, CV11 4LU. The reading will last approximately 2 hours including an interval and will be followed by a post show talk chaired by Peter Leslie Wild (Theatre Director & Audio Drama Producer).

If you attended the reading in Sept last year (see earlier blog post ‘a great night’ 27th Sept 2013) it would be good to know what you make of this revised/tightened/shorter version.

Tickets: £8/£6 (FREE car parking on site)

Available from: The George Eliot Fellowship or telephone: 024 7661 9126

Running time: 2 hours including an interval.

Script development and rehearsed reading funded by Live & Local and supported by The George Eliot Fellowship and Coventry School of Art & Design.

I hope to see some of you loyal lurkers there!


A Ploughed Heart in Nuneaton

Ploughed heart leaflet final (1)

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,100 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


This week I actually have a few days free from distraction to re-write A Ploughed Heart before rehearsals start for Do What You Do*. I have three pages of my own notes to work through and Stephen Jeffrey’s notes (11 pages) on re-writing at my side. I’ve already walked the dog, cleared my inbox and sorted my desk so have no more valid excuses for not starting (once I’ve finished writing this blog post).

I also have a deadline of 20th January 2014 – which is when the script will be circulated to the cast and directors. Thanks to funding from the wonderful Live & Local we will be able to workshop the script and also present a rehearsed reading in Nuneaton on Saturday 22nd February so put the date in your diary now – more details to follow.


*‘Do What You Do’ is a short monologue commissioned by Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery to celebrate 100 years since its land purchase (please email for more details of all FREE public performances 10th – 15th December).