Prolific and award winning playwright Cenarth Fox brings a special kind of cricket magic to the Doncaster Playhouse later this month with his newest play, Don Bradman Lives Next Door.
This is a world premiere about two of the world’s greatest cricketers. In cricket heaven, Don Bradman lives next door to W. G. Grace and this comedy with songs promises to hit a six. Dr. Grace was the world's first cricketing superstar and Grace and Bradman are light years ahead of anyone else in terms of records and influence on the game. Writer and director, Fox explores how cricket was played 150 years ago and how the game has evolved over the years although, says Fox, some might say it hasn’t evolved at all. "Gambling, sledging, loud music, coloured clothing and controversies make cricketing headlines today but they were all a part of the game in the 19th century!"
Fox has long had an interest in cricket and went to his first MCG Test when Richie Benaud was playing so it comes as no surprise that he has written a play on the subject. The genesis of the work did happen some time ago though. "A few years ago Kirk Alexander, who has played Sherlock Holmes in all three of my Sherlockian plays, suggested W G Grace as a good subject for a play," Fox explains. "After researching Grace I hit on the idea of having the play set in modern times. To do this the setting is cricket heaven today and, as luck would have it, Grace’s next-door neighbour is Don Bradman."
Many of Fox's original plays explore some aspect of the lives of 'real' people – a concept filled with obligation as a writer – but Fox admits that fact and fiction both appeal and both have their good points. "A real person who had lots of conflict, failure or success or faults in their life is often interesting. And if the real person is not well-known e.g. Patrick Brontë or Georgina Hogarth, then it’s rewarding to introduce these real people through a play. Fictional characters are never truly fictional but always have bits of a person or people in their character. Creating them is pure fun."
Fox loves the craft of writing and has written plays, plays with music, musicals and How To books as well as poetry. He was writing as a teenager without knowing he was writing. "I mean I didn’t have a plan to become a writer; it just happened," Fox admits..
"After I got involved in theatre, I found it a natural step to write plays. I was lucky in that the first play I wrote got performed. From there I just kept writing. I get inspired by shows which are beautifully written or composed and some of the creators I admire are Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein, Learner and Loewe, Sondheim, Cy Coleman, Frank Loesser, Tom Stoppard and Alan Bennett."
"After 50 years of writing plays I’ve finally published my first novel, A Plum Job, and it’s not surprising that the main character is an actress and secondary characters include Noel Coward and Edith Piaf. I’ve worked through different stages."
"At first I wrote musicals for adults. Then I wrote musicals for kids. Then I started writing plays. In the last few years I’ve written many small-cast shows – plays and musicals – for adults."
"2015 is the 40th anniversary of my company Fox Plays and I have four new titles soon to be published. Nippers [a musical where all the characters are 4 years old], Death By Eating [a drama about Big Food], As Farce as You Can [a comedy where the cast become exhausted] and So You Want to be a Bully [a show for kids about bullying]."
Fox is also the director of the show but this requitement became one of necessity as he does prefer to have others direct his shows but often, he says, no-one is available.
"That might be a polite way of directors saying, ‘thanks but no thanks’. Mind you I’ve had some very experienced and talented directors take on my work and have never failed to be delighted with their efforts. I always find actors discover something/s in the script/score I hadn’t thought about. They also find contradictions or suggest ways things can be improved. I like the actors to make a sizeable contribution to the whole process."
The play is being produced under the relatively new Tangled Web Theatre Productions banner – the motto here is to put on stage certain plays that were felt to be no longer getting their due recognition.
Fox has known Tangled Web founder Kevin Holman for many years through their joint membership at STAG. "When he told me he was starting a theatre company, I knew what he was going through having started a new theatre company in 1975," explains Fox. "I gave him a hand with publicity, web page design and the like. When he asked me if I had any plays he might consider, I gave him a copy of Don Bradman Lives Next Door and the world premiere is about to take place."
March 18 – 22