HAPPY TO HELP
Park Theatre, London, June-July 2016. Produced by Celia Dugua in association with Shout In The Dark, Kabnis Productions, Claire Evans and Park Theatre. Supported by the Peter Wolff Theatre Trust and the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation.
Above: Ben Mann as Josh and Katherine Kotz as Vicky. Photo by David Monteith-Hodge.
Directed by Roxy Cook. Cast: Katherine Kotz, Charles Armstrong, David Bauckham, Ben Mann, Rachel Marwood and Jonny Weldon. Designer: Emma Tompkins. Sound Designer: Alexandra Faye Braithwaite. Lighting Designer: Sherry Coenen. Company Stage Manager: Paul Thomas. Associate Producer: Claire Evans.
Above: Jonny Weldon as Elliott and Ben Mann as Josh. Photography by David Monteith-Hodge.
A destitute farmer sells his land to the supermarket chain that drove him out of business. Fifteen years later and a bustling supermarket stands on the same spot. UK Managing Director is coming to work undercover at the store for a week. Branch manager Vicky is determined to give him a more grimly authentic experience than he’d ever have dared wish for. Shelf stacker Josh dreams of rock stardom and escape. Checkout cashier and union organiser Elliott dreams of Josh. By Friday nothing will ever be the same for them again.
Above: Charles Armstrong as Tony. Photo by David Monteith-Hodge.
★ ★ ★ ★ “an engaging and perceptive new play that gives a fascinating insight into the workings of major retailers.” The Reviews Hub
“Playwright Ross captures the Orwellian doublethink of the industry with the insight of a man who has stacked a few shelves in his lifetime….The creation of Frisca itself is a thing to be commended: this is a sharply satirical, cult-like corporate entity with its own language and belief system…” Exeunt Magazine
“Ross writes good dialogue and the exchanges between the characters have energy and flashes of humour.” Aleks Sierz
★ ★ ★ ★ “an amusing, slick production” London Theatre 1
★ ★ ★ ★ “A sharp comedy that will make all us cogs in the machine laugh.” Plays To See
“A sharp, clever comedy but with a serious message” – The Blog of Theatre Things
“cleverly constructed comedy-drama” – BroadwayWorld
“The comedy here is bold, adventurous and downright clever…….the results are seriously funny.” – Once a Week Theatre
“Here, at last, is a great, bold, angry play about the human cost of twenty first century capitalism.” – Traffic Light Theatre
“It is seriously weird, on a day the referendum fallout has given rise to agitation and cogitation across the land, to be at a play about the fixing of farm prices, the regulation of goods, the growth of exploitative work practices, and the destruction of the small man by supermarkets. The themes in Michael Ross’s new play mirror the philosophic patchwork that has the nation jumping.” Monkey Theatre Matters
PROTECT AND SURVIVE
VAULT Festival 2016, The Vaults, London, March 2016. A Shout In The Dark Production. Directed by Andrew Pritchard. Cast: Karl Mercer, Carla Rose and Josh Husselbee.
Karl Mercer as Jack and Carla Rose as Kirsty. Photo by Andrew Pritchard.
England, 1984. The Cold War casts a shadow across the country. Farmer’s son Jack lives with the knowledge of a secret government nuclear bunker beneath his family’s land. When he meets siblings Kirsty and Charlie, newly arrived in the village from London, he invites them to break into the bunker with him. But their journey unearths buried secrets, desires and grief, and not everyone emerges alive.
Josh Husselbee as Charlie and Karl Mercer as Jack. Photo by Andrew Pritchard.
“Twisted fantasies become all the more shocking and have a comic edge – some of the situations really shouldn’t this funny, and it’s a gift to make people laugh and then feel slightly ashamed for doing so….it’s Ross’s humour that makes the play really exciting. Intelligent and genuinely subversive, this comedy has an energy that indicates how much the writer has to say.” Once A Week Theatre.
“the plot takes many twists and turns, constantly keeping the audience on their toes in the darkness of the Vault’s humid arches — a perfect setting for Michael Ross’s lively play…… and Shout in the Dark’s next production Happy To Help coming up in June is one to watch out for.” The Morning Star
WHAT A LIBERTY
Hen & Chickens, London, March 2015. Part of ‘Particulars’ by Pivot Theatre. Directed by Francesca Murray-Fuentes. Cast: Lucy Farrett, Nic Lamont, Hayden Wood and Chris York.
The Vaults, London, March 2017. Part of ‘Let The Write One In’ by Front Of House Theatre. Directed by James Price. Cast: Niki Angus-Campbell, Robin Kristoffy, Karl Mercer and Lewis Newman.
A civil liberties organisation in the 1970s is being paid a visit by Colin, a man who wants his own controversial cause to be championed by the group, causing a split in the organisation.
The Vaults, London, March 2015. Part of ‘Write Here Write Now’ by FOH Theatre. Directed by Andrew Pritchard. Cast: Katherine-Ellen Kotz, Karl Mercer and Holly Boyden.
Katherine-Ellen Kotz as Millie. Photo by Patricia Oliveira.
Two political activists break into a disused tower block, (due for refurbishment as luxury flats) and plan to open it up to the homeless. However they find that one particular flat is not quite as unoccupied as they first thought.
Karl Mercer as Finn and Katherine-Ellen Kotz as Millie. Photos by Patricia Oliveira.
“a superb treat – mixes the politics of the housing crisis with a supernatural twist so effective it got a scream from more than one audience member. Winning performances from Katherine-Ellen Kotz and Karl Mercer show how pin-sharp Ross’s writing is.” Once A Week Theatre
“We find ourselves in an abandoned tower block with two activists looking to occupy the space, which is mostly awkward conversation until the point you realise that this is actually a ghost story, and there were actual screams at one point. An interesting take on relationships, loneliness and activism, and extremely creepy.” LondonTheatre1.com
The Park Theatre, London, June 2014.
Cast: (L to R) Joe Dennis as Elliott, Helen Reuben as Celebrity/Myra, Charlie Allen as Huck Lansing, Katherine-Ellen Kotz as Vicky, Keith Hill as Tony, Edward Yelland as Josh. Photo by Patricia Oliveira.
Directed by Gemma Kerr.
Set in the branch of Frisca, a fictional multinational supermarket chain. Tony Manning is Frisca’s UK managing director but is going back to the shop floor to experience life as a shelf stacker in one of his stores, and store manager Vicky is determined to make his experience as hellishly authentic as possible. Shelf-stacker Josh dreams of quitting to pursue his music career and checkout cashier Elliott is trying to get everyone to join the union. A satirical look at the immense power of the supermarkets.
Edward Yelland as Josh, Joe Dennis as Elliott and Keith Hill as Tony. Photo by Patricia Oliveira.
WORK MAKES YOU FREE
Short play version performed as part of ‘A Bad Case of the Mondays’ at the Park Theatre, January 2014. Directed by Cat Robey. Cast: Antonia Reid and Gemma Rook. Full length play version first performed as a rehearsed reading at RADA in August 2014, directed by Chipo Chung.
“The first play, Work Makes You Free, related the case of a young actress forced to work for free at Poundland to keep her benefits. Her opponent is a cold businesswoman who finds herself enchanted by the power she gets from anonymously bullying the actress online….The play was well structured and had a good balance between the two characters, and though the dominant tone was comedy, it also had a dark side. This was the best of the seven pieces.” Everything Theatre
“Here’s a writer who’s not afraid to poke some fun at his own world. Refreshing!” Hackney Hive
“…by far the strongest piece, opening the night and warming up the audience for all the plays to follow. Initially there is little to connect laid-back actor Willow (Antonia Reid) and businesswoman Jane (Gemma Rook), but as Ross begins to weave their monologues together, there is a satisfying explosion.” Views From The Gods
THE UTILITY PEOPLE (PART OF THE DOUBLE BILL ‘FRESH OFF THE BOAT’)
The Hen & Chickens Theatre, London, October 2013. A Paradigm production.
Directed by Cat Robey. Cast: Theo Ancient, Oliver Gatz, Matt Houlihan, Antonia Reid and Sarah Winn.
Middle class liberals Chloe and Jake are shocked when they discover some immigrants living inside their utility cupboard, but they decide to let them stay in return for doing a few errands around the flat. But before long, things spiral out of control. Join UK Home Office official Richard Winstanley as he recounts a shocking true story (and not-at-all a ham-fisted allegory) from the government’s case files.
“You are left questioning not only your own values and your notion of yourself as a good person, but also the future of Britain itself.” Last Minute Theatre Tickets.
“The Utility People’ was comedy gold. A fiendishly sardonic look at guardianista gentrified armchair socialists…a tragicomedy that clearly forces us to re-evaluate our smugness about our beliefs and morality and what our convictions make of us. So it doesn’t sit and preach at us, but complicates things through comedy with a sharp edge to it.” Hackney Hive.
“Michael Ross’ script is pared and articulate….a doubly clever exposition of the wafer thin pretences of Champagne Socialism” What’s On London.
“A very deserving play, well structured, rehearsed and it definitely had me thinking about the privilege associated with my British passport.” Frost Magazine.
“It makes the audience question their political stance before they even realise they are doing it.” The Public Reviews.
SAVING SOULS IN SOHO
Greenwich Theatre, London, September 2013, a staged reading as part of ‘The Band Plays On’ a festival of gay-themed new writing, presented in association with Patrick Wilde. (Photos: Pete Shaw)
Directed by Stuart Saint and Matt Ian Kelly. Cast: Alex Pritchett, Stuart Saint
Dan and Matthew are two men on a mission. Every night they venture into Soho, whispering into the ears of the lost and alone the magic words which will change their lives forever. Join them for this darkly hilarious evening as they recount their glorious triumphs and recent struggles, and hope to dispel all those ugly rumours surrounding their fine and honourable organisation.
LOVE, HATE & HUMAN RIGHTS
Kibo Productions, Barons Court Theatre, London, September 2013. A festival of new writing in response to Russian Article 6.21 and other human rights concerns worldwide.
‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
Directed by Victor Correia. Cast: Adam Colborne, Mischa Resnick.
A fictional dramatisation of US army intelligence whistle-blower Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning’s last time on American soil in 2010, shortly before returning to Iraq and being arrested for leaking documents to WikiLeaks. A one night stand turns into a terrifying interrogation. Previously performed at Theatre 503 in 2012, (see entry below). “This play was deeply unnerving. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning is on leave and, having been dumped by his boyfriend, is having a night of wild passion with Scott, someone he has just met…..The tone of the play then completely changes as Scott reveals he is from the army, that he has been tracking Bradley all along, and now Bradley will pay for his disloyalty……This play shone a light on the very high price that some individuals have to pay merely for attempting to tell the truth.” Vada Magazine.
ARMED FORCES DAY
Arcola Theatre, London, February 2013. Part of ‘The Miniaturists 39.’
(Robin Crouch as Soldier, Arcola.)
Directed by Nadia Papachronopoulou.
Cast: Robin Crouch, Tony Bell, Kate Collison, Jessica Sichel.
“What do you think soldiers do? Huh? Do you imagine we’re just gentlemen playing cricket out in the desert? What are you so shocked about? I mean, come on, even if you don’t agree with what I did, you have to admire my courage, right? My fortitude, right? Right?”
(Below; Jessica Sichel as Poppy and Tony Bell as Douglas, Arcola)
Present day Britain. A soldier gets on a train and sits down with a middle class couple and their teenage daughter. But why is there blood on the soldier’s uniform? And why isn’t the train moving? A dark satire on our unquestioning admiration for the armed forces.
Also performed at Riverside Studios for the Off Cut Festival, October 2012, directed by Ng Choon Ping, with James Unsworth, Zara Radford, Darrie Gardner and John Hoye.
CITIES WITH NO CHILDREN
Theatre 503, London, January 2013. Part of ‘Festopia,’ Little Pieces of Gold.
Directed by Nadia Papachronopoulou.
Cast: Matt Houlihan, Charlotte Worthing.
“Imagine! You have all the time in the world. Literally! Just think of all the things you can achieve. I’ve been a doctor, I’ve been a lawyer, I’ve been a professor of quantum physics, I’ve had my own TV show, I’ve been Prime Minister. Twice. Everyone has! Honestly. Everyone gets to be Prime Minister….”
In the future humans can live forever. But in order to prevent overpopulation, nobody is allowed to have children. When Ariel and Eno become the first couple in a million years to have a child they must pay the price with their own lives.
NOTHING BUT MAMMALS
The Old Red Lion Theatre, London, May 2012. REDfest 2012: The Off West End New Writing Awards. Winner of Best Director and Best Cast and Finalist for Best Play.
Directed by Nadia Papachronopoulou
Cast: Antonia Reid. Matt Houlihan.
“I think Izzy challenges our very notions of what it is to be human. I think Izzy, in a way, disproves the whole concept of being ‘human’ and the arbitrary distinction we draw between ourselves and other animals.”
Zoe and Simon have had a baby. But their daughter Izzy isn’t entirely what they expected. A darkly comic play exploring the limits of parental love.
Above: Matthew Durkan and Felicity Cant in the Front of House Theatre production at The Vaults, December 2014, directed by Arabella Langley. Photo by Patricia Oliviera.
The Old Vic Tunnels, London, February 2012.
Rich Mix, London, December 2011.
Directed by Georgia Murphy and Martin Leonard.
Cast: Angie Fullman, Dan Snelgrove, Canavan William Connolly
A short play following the story of a couple at three points in their life.
Performed as part of the event Descent by OTB Productions.
Southwark Playhouse, February 2012. Part of the short play night ‘Little Pieces of Love’.
Directed by Nadia Papachronopoulou.
Cast: Matt Houlihan, William Wheeler.
In a gay bar in Milwaukee, 1991, 17 year old Connor is searching for something ‘meaningful’ and thinks he might have found it when he gets chatting to the quiet, mysterious Jeffrey Dahmer.
DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL
Theatre 503, London, January 2012. Part of the event ‘Rapid Write Response to Man In The Middle.’
Directed by Tammie Kite.
Cast: Colin Waitt, Fergal Philips
Designed by Eleanor Field
“Yes, even sitting at my computer, I am complicit. I share a responsibility, I have blood on my hands, it bubbles up out of the keyboard, seeps out of the screen.”
Fictionalised account of US soldier Bradley Manning’s last time on leave in Boston in early 2011. A one night stand turns into a terrifying military interrogation.
LOW PRICES YOU CAN TASTE
Riverside Studios, London, October 2011. The Off Cut Festival.
Directed by Abbie Lucas.
Cast: Ffion Jolly, Chris Urch
“I’ve got graduates swarming through my doors begging me for jobs. You don’t even have an A-Level to your name. You’ll be sitting here, in that chair, wearing that same uniform ten, twenty, thirty, forty years from now.”
Satire on the all-powerful supermarket industry. A store manager grills a shelf-stacker about his commitment to the company.
SHYNESS CAN STOP YOU
Etcetera Theatre, London, July 2011. Part of the short play night ‘Little Pieces of Gold.’
Directed by Erica Miller.
Cast: Keith Hill, Michelle Yim, Elizabeth Webster, Gareth Murphy
“I’ve got so much love inside of me, so much love bursting to get out, but I’ve also got a lot of shit inside of me, likewise bursting to get out, and in the battle for space, the shit is winning, and all my love is smeared with shit, there are skid marks all over my heart.”
Sian, a ‘recovered’ shy person, dispenses advice at her support group for the socially awkward.
The Old Red Lion, London. REDfest 2011. Winner of Best Director and Finalist for Best Play.
Directed by Shani Erez.
Cast: Dylan Tate, Minna Pang, Adam Loxley.
“You don’t have to read it. If you don’t want to read it, all you have to do is close the thing and put it to one side. I can show you how to do that, Nick, it’s easy peasy. Would you like me to demonstrate how to close a newspaper and place it to one side?”
After writing “who reads this fascist shit?” on a colleague’s edition of the Daily Mail, bookseller Nick is dragged into the managers office to face accusations of bullying in the workplace.
“‘Daily Hell’ by Michael Ross was a very enjoyable three-hander set in a bookshop (nice use of piles of books for set and props) in which the perspective of a certain right-wing newspaper is given a good bashing.” – Remotegoat.
A HANDFUL OF MUSTARD SEED
Rehearsed reading of a full length play at the Bush Theatre Library, London, October 2010.
Directed by Amy Draper.
Cast: Paula Wilcox, Jamie Samuel, James Hirst, Louise Faulkner, Daniel Green, Elizabeth Hammond.
“Fine, you want a fucking magic show, I’ll give you one!”
Ex-con and recovering alcoholic Shelley Hughes has found success late in life as a spiritualist medium. She invites you to take a seat and join her audience as she summons up the ghosts of your loved ones. But her own eventful past also haunts the evening, especially the recent disappearance of teenager Toby, the son of her former lover. Tonight it’s not just the dead who’ll be disrupting proceedings.
EYES FULL OF PORNOGRAPHY
RADA, London, June 2010. Part of ‘WriteBites’ by Eyebrow Productions. Also later peformed as part of ‘In An Instant’ at Theatre 503, August 2010.
Directed by John Sheerman.
Cast: Christopher Brandon, Cameron Slater.
“No, really Dan, if it wasn’t for you- I mean, there I was on the verge, on the cusp of entering this so-called ‘community,’ but you stopped me just in the nick of time. You, yes, it’s true, you rescued me.”
Two men recall how they first met 11 years ago in a gay bar in Soho, when Dan leant over and whispered in Matthew’s ear the chilling words which would change his life forever. A blackly comic look at how religion corrupts the innocent.
THAT JOKE ISN’T FUNNY ANYMORE
Barons Court Theatre, London, May 2010.
Directed by Andrew Cleaver.
Cast: Mark Elias, Pete Picton, Sacha Walker, Isabel Carr, Julian Farrance, Tony Rowden
Stand-up comedian Leon Shepherd can’t get arrested. Spending yet another lonely night in his bedsit, endlessly rehearsing his routine, he’s horrified to hear voices coming from his wardrobe. Out springs a compere to introduce a succession of people from Leon’s past who each take the microphone and perform stand-up routines in front of him.
“Michael Ross’s new play poses this question of how we narrate our life stories with intelligence and wit……This is a well-constructed and thought provoking play. At only an hour long, it leaves you wanting more…..There is a sensitive, somewhat maudlin touch here that leaves a lasting impression.” Edward Lukes, The London Magazine.
DARE ME TO THE DESERT
The Kings Head, London, March 2009. Zeitgeist Theatre’s ‘World At One.’ Winner of the Zeitgeist New Play competition 2008.
Directed by Hal Chambers.
Cast: Jack Baldwin, Richard Maxted, Emily O’Connor, Jace Desay.
Provocative journalist Jack Feltham is horrified when he learns that a British soldier killed in Iraq had been inspired to enlist by his pro-war columns and even more horrified when that same soldier appears in his living room, dripping blood all over his carpet and asking for a hug. But Jack has even bigger problems on his plate. A young Muslim man has been brutally attacked at a London mosque and once again it’s being blamed on something Jack wrote.
THEY WON’T KILL YOU
Barons Court Theatre, London, November 2006.
Directed by Clea Langton.
Cast: Dylan McDonough, Ward Parry, Georgina Carey, Pete Picton, Marilyn O’Brien, Kaye Quinley, Paul Devaney, Anthony Mackey.
The Prime Minister has re-branded himself as Team Leader, and his nation as Team Britain, and has declared war on ‘Lonerism.’ All those who lack the Team Spirit will be tracked down and taken away to be re-trained. Shy, reclusive loner Malcolm returns home one night to find a man from the government waiting on his sofa.
“In Michael Ross’s dystopia, being antisocial is the big faux pas. ASBOs are handed out for “lonerism”, prisons are full of people with no friends and secret police check to see whether the names in your address book really exist….it is fun, sparky and full of ideas”- The Stage
“full of twists and turns and complemented by fluid, clever writing…..Ross writes with confidence, with a fresh look at the status quo” – The British Theatre Guide
“As well as being very pertinent, They Won’t Kill You is fast paced and very funny.”- Socialist Worker
Landor Theatre, May 2006 and Greyfriars Kirk House, Edinburgh Fringe, August 2006.
Directed by Clea Langton.
Cast: James McKendrick, Andrew Wyld, Kristian Sartori, Julie Ford, Caroline Boulton, Sukhraj Dhillon, St. John Costelloe, Mike Williams.
In the staff room of a London secondary school, the teachers plot to rid themselves of their bullying headteacher.
“Smart and on a familiar enough topic to generate laughs throughout.” Three Weeks (Edinburgh)
Above: Rehearsal photo from Teachers Playground which featured in the Times Educational Supplement, in an article about schools related plays up at the Edinburgh Fringe that year. (The title ‘Massacre at the prom’ refers to another play)