Inspirational Works of Ian Henery
Ian wrote this play as assistant scout leader at All Saints Sea Scouts for performance at All Saints Parish Church, Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield. The play is based on the Gospeol of Mark, chapters 4 and six.
In the play, Ian uses traditional English Medieval street theatre techniques to bring alive the story of Jesus walking on water and calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. It is clear from the Bible that as so many people came to hear Jesus preach, he had to deliver some of his sermons on a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Ian writes poetry and plays and performs widely. On 30th June he performed on the SWillenhall Olymic Stage in front of thousands of people to greet the Olympic Torch as it came through the town. Ian was joined by scouts who had participated in Ian`s poetry workshops with the Mayor & Mayoress of Walsall that led to the publication of a book entitled “2012 Olympics & Walsall Scouts”. All sales from this book are for charity. In addition, Ian has wrote and performed in street theatre for groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Walsall Musicians Collective, the Green Party and the Anti-Aparthied Movement. Whilst at the University of Wolverhampton, Ian was Poetry Editor of the Student Unuion newspaper under the pen name of Arthur Person (after the song by The Smiths – Half A Person) in a 2 page spread called Achtung Groovers.
Ian was formerly Associate Writer for the Bird of Prey Theatre Company in Stratford-upon-Avon and his play for that company went on a national tour in 2000 and won an award at the Belfry Theatre in Telford. Ian`s latest play, Harvest Home (World Citizen) featured a cast of scouts, brownies, rainbows, cubs and guides and performed in front of approx 850 people and raised approx £1500 for an orphanage in Tanzania called Forever Angels plus approx £700 for the charity LIFE on behalf of the Archdiocese of Birmingham. The average age of the cast was 10 and included Ian`s two youngest daughters, Emily (9) and Grace (6). The play was dedicated to Ian`s wife.
In 2011 Ian wrote and performed a body of work for the Sutton Coldfield Scout Gang Show over 6 nights in front of an audience of 1600 people entitled Bobble Hat and Rebel In a Bobble Hat.
Plays Written (extracts featured on the website):
(1) Fenris the Wolf (for Bird of Prey Theatre)
(2) The Death of Baldur (for Bird of Prey Theatre)
(3) Normal Nigel Drinks His Tea (for Bird of Prey Theatre)
(4) An Ox`s Tale (for the UK Overseas Mei Zhou Association – Chinese New Year)
(5) Jolly Roger (Retired) (for Aldridge Youth Theatre)
(6) I Was Not Waving (Drowning In A Sea of Heroin) (written for the Walsall Manor Womens Project)
(7) A Life At Sea (for All Saints Sea Scouts)
(8) Harvest Home (World Citizen) (for All Saints Sea Scouts, Sutton Coldfield)
Mummer`s Plays Written for Street Theatre:
(1) The Lamb & The Crow (written for the Caldmore Peoples Festival)
(2) The Princess & The Dragon (written for the National Anti-Aparthied Day of Action
PLAY 1 – FENRIS THE WOLF
Based upon a 10th century manuscript written in Old Norse by the Icelandic historian Snorri Sturlsson and a collection of songs and poems about the gods and goddesses from the Viking Age. It was brought to life by Ian as a comic rhyming Mummer`s play for open air performance in 2000. Ian had been involved in Viking re-enactment with the Birmingham Vikings and later as combat instructor with Mercia Sveiter ( ie Mercia Warriors), putting on authentic combat displays around the country for groups like the National Trust. Ian taught re-enactors how to use longbows, swords and spears. The play was written following a bet with Ian`s brother. Ian had tired of writing and had been concentrating on his legal career (when not running around fields in chainmail!). The bet was this: if Ian could write a poem for his brother on anything he wanted, then Ian`s brother would model the head of Ian`s first-born daughter out of clay. The poem turned into a play, won an award at the Belfry Theatre in Telford and went on a national tour featuring actors and actresses from the Bird of Prey Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and the drama students from Kidderminster College. In Bristol, the cast performed in front of the television stars from the 1980`s cult TV series Robin of Sherwood at the Hilton Hotel for an international reunion called Silver Arrow 2000.
Reviews of Fenris by the Birmingham Repertorical Theatre`s Reading Service:
(1) “I enjoyed reading this piece and think it has lots of potential for outdoor performance, suitable, like the best Mummer`s plays, for performance at short notice just about anywhere”.
(2) “I thought this was a very workable, entertaining play for children. The story is quite strong enough to bear the weight of the rhyme; there is proper characterisation of the various bodies (I particularly like the way Freya has a different rhyme scheme from the others); the visual and dramatic elements of the chains, dwarfs etc are presented imaginatively and there is a working, if simple, structure. There is gory action, plenty of opportunity for imaginiative staging and some good strong moral points to prompt discussion”.
Performances of Fenris the Wolf included a tour of Kidderminster schools, the Dark Ages Trust in Canwell, Lichfield International Arts Festival, Kidderminster College, Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare`s Millenium Birthday Celebrations), Bristol Silver Arrow 2000, Whittingham Castle ( Shropshire), Belfry Theatre, Telford and Sxcarborough Castle ((Yorkshire).
EXTRACT FROM FENRIS THE WOLF
Enter Fatandugly (A Dwarf):
Darkness gone, now the morning of quietude!
Meditate on what was, in solitude.
I see the flowers open to the day,
Now chaos and death have gone away.
Before I go, know this – the tapestry binds us together,
Asgard`s dragons or swallows` bright feathers;
Thor`s hammer, trembling butterfly wing,
Gentle rain or rampaging Viking!
Love and beauty, stronger than any metal,
Like a butterfly slipping into an oasis of petals.
Have faith in intuition, its all you need,
Previous knowledge is like grey seaweed
Hurled and battered on the rocks:
Look at your life and the door unlocks.
PLAY 2 – THE DEATH OF BALDUR
Dedicated to Ian`s two eldest daughters, Laura (4) and Jenny (2), this play is also based on the Viking sagas, utilising the theatrical styles developed by English Medieval Mummer`s plays. The play was once again written for the Bird of Prey Theatre Company in Stratford-upon-Avon following the successful national tour of the award-winning Fenris the Wolf. The play is about parental love and the lengths parents will go in order to protect their offspring from harm. The play was written in 2000 when Ian was still working with Viking re-enactment groups.
During the writing of this play Ian worked with Dr Brian Bates, Professor at the University of Brighton \and past Chairman of Psychology at the University of Sussex. Specialising in the use of deep imagination in tribal cultures, the performing arts and also in business, Dr Bates directs a research programme and teaches an award-winning course in Shamanic Conciousness. His best-selling novel The Way of the Wyrd explored the mysticism of ancient England while The Way of the Actor examined the inner world of performance, based on his directing work at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
Reviews of “Baldur” by the Birmingham Repertorical Theatre`s Reading Service:
(1) “I enjoyed reading The Death of Baldur” very much. It is a wonderful story and you tell it with a great deal of clarity, wit and theatrical ingenukity. As a stranger to the characters of the play and the influential writings that you describe in the kintroduction I was afraid that the play might go over my head, but you succeed in making your knowledge very accessible (the prelude is a good idea). I think that the Medieval influence on the play`s form is perfect for the themes that you develop and the story that you tell. Your characters are consistent. And all of this comes together to create some really effective theatrical moments”.
(2) “This play, which I enjoyed reading, is a blend of mumming and Mystery drama, with a number of good pantomine jokes for good measure. Like your other piece, Fenris the Wolf, it lends itself to outdoor presentation”.
The play was performed by Bird of Prey Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and at The Dark Age Charitable Trust in Canwell.
EXTRACT FROM THE DEATH OF BALDUR
Here am I, Vala, a wise woman`s ghost,
Residing in Hel, with Hela as my host.
Awoken by Woden, he came to visit me,
Of Baldur, he wanted a prophesy!
He didn`t listen, neither Frigga too:
Now they are sorry, my vision was true!
Do you see the irony? Those coming for advice
Don`t want it; they want something nice!
Compliments, reassurance, nothing but praise –
Not advice! Why change their ways?
So here I sit, pondering out my time
In Hel, with its miserable climes.
It feels like Blackpool in a British summer:
Bognor or Skegness couldn`t be glummer.
“Come to Sunny Hel” – what a joke –
A bit like the mistletoe on the oak.
Silly gods – all that trouble, all that stress
And ignoring me and my usefulness!
Woden, why bother in the first place,
Coming down here and hiding your face?
So, now I ponder, not much else to do
But to sit here by the Giallar Bru –
A river between the living and the dead:
A flowing river, but its colour is red.
“Come to Sunny Hel?” Its dank and dark
Where the sun never leaves kits mark.
Vala the Tourist Guide, not much of a job:
Our booking offices would never be robbed!
Hark! Who is that trip-trapping over my bridge?
(As an aside)
Come, on children! Say “The Billy Goats Gruff!”
No! Tourists! This I didn`t envisage!
PLAY 3 – NORMAL NIGEL DRINKS HIS TEA
This play was originally written in 1985 with fellow Walsall scribe Robert Deeley for a celebration of amateur dramatics at Walsall Wood Community Centre. The late Princess Diana was supposed to attend and the play was going to be performed by actors and actresses from Walsall Musicians Collective with live “spots” for local bands and a girl from a local ballet school was booked to dance but the venue was cancelled, Princess Diana`s diary was quickly filled and the rest, as they say………
Following on from the success of Fenris the Wolf and The Death of Baldur, the Bird of Prey Theatre Company in Stratford-upon-Avon wanted another play. Fifteen years after this play had first been written, Ian and Robert rewrote it for the Bird of Prey Theatre.
The play pays homage to the theatrical styles developed by Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco, who are now acknowledged as the great founders of the Theatre of the Absurd. The play is a reworking of two fairy tales into a modern context and features a ballet performance.
Reviews of “Normal Nigel” by the Birmingham Repertorical Theatre`s Reading Service:
(1) “Moody, magnificant and electrifying! I was a bit worried that the long pieces by Nigel looking out of the window in the cafe and drinking his tea would dominate the play; however, the play was well balenced by the brutal humour in the factory, reflecting life at the cutting edge. The alarm clock ringing is haunting, as is the dialogue between Nigel and his Mother”.
(2) “I was reminded of a modern day Billy Liar with Keith Waterhouse. I thoroughly enjoyed this manuscript. Dark humour with the banter between Nigel, winding his way to the factory gates and the Mother berating her son for not being “normal” when he is dreaming of butterflies and caterpillers, wanting to go into his own coccoon and escape. A powerful ending, where the archetypes of his world tell him to be “normal” and he is struggling to be an individual. I like the dialogue between Nigel and the cafe owner and newspaper seller. Nigel`s workmates are suitably stereotypical. A modern day fairytale with bite”.
There were sadly no performances of this play because the Bird of Prey Theatre Company, champion of new playwrights, closed down. The “phoenix” that rose from its ashes was called Falcon Productions and only produced works of Shakespeare.
EXTRACT FRON NORMAL NIGEL DRINKS HIS TEA
Act 1, Scene 1
A tempestous noise of thunder and lightening is heard, followed by the sound of an alarm clock ringing.
The dialogue (yawns). Another day (takes out hankerchief and unfolds it). What thunder in the sky last night! Is it doomsday? It seems as if the sky is crying fror the men that crawl under it – all those who crawl instead of being able to fly away, like beautiful butterflies (business with hankerchief to clean his glasses). Nicely put, that. What is there to keep me in this place? (Yawns and puts away hankerchief). The dialogue.
(Sound of factory siren)
Me to start the day. I am summoned, by the sound of an alarm clock and a factory siren, for another canter through a familar narrative (clears throat). Can there be any other minion, crawling and skulking beneath this sky (arms reach out to the back of the audiotorium) of greater misery than mine?
Enter Joe (newspaper seller, complete with sandwich boards on his front and back)
So there you are again, young Nigel.
You, too, Joe. What is there to keep you in this place? Who writes your lines? Do you go through a familar narrative?
It is a poor light this morning (walks up and down in front of Nigel). I cannot see you clearly (takes out a torch from his pocket and shines it directly in front of Nigel`s face whilst walking up and down). You have no excuse to moan, young man! If you did not sweep that factory floor every day, you know that it`d fall down. You are just a normal man! You are not the sort of man who makes the news. I sell the newspapers every day and no one like you ever gets into the headlines. You are just a normal man.
But I want to become a newspaper headline! I want to be a headline that people will read when you sell them their newspapers! Imagine (pause) there are thousands of people (arms outstretched to the audience) out there who have travelled far just to hear you speak! Spotlights burning in your face: the unseen crowd waiting; the atmosphere electric with anticipation! Feel all those people out there looking up at you! So. We begin.
PLAY 4 – AN OX`s TALE
Ian was appointed Legal Advisor of the UK Overseas Mei-Zhou Association in 2008 and they wanted a play to herald in Chinese New Year in Birmingham. It was Year of the Ox and so Ian wrote a play under the Chinese pseudonym Kai Tan (“Chicken Egg” – a slang term for a white person who loves Chinese culture). Ian had been working with the UK Overseas Mei-Zhou Association with poetry performances at the 2007 & 2008 Lichfield Arts Festivals. In 2008 Ian was selected to perform in Birmingham`s Centenary Square on behalf of the Association for the BBC documentary Silk – A Day of A Thousand Joys whereby UK cities celebrated British Chinese Culture with film and live events. Ian shared his time on stage with the Mayor of Solihull, who was a big supporter of the Association.
Ian guided the Association through the creative process and grant-making application and put together a raft of partnerships from the local community to support this project. The brief was for a play that not only celebrated Chinese culture but also enabled non-Chinese people to join in the festivities of Chinese New Year – the Year of the Ox!
China is a vast nation, as geographically diverse as Europe and comparable to the European continent in size. China comprises one third of the world`s population. Chinese myths and legends have evolved from three principle religious influences, namely Confucism, Taoism and Buddhism, but in recent times people in China have followed Christian and Muslim religions. Shine a light on Chinese culture and you have to account for this cjultural mix behind what appears to be a simple New Year festival.
During Ian`s research he was struck by the number of stories about human men who fell in love wkith a godess, only to have that love whisked away. Examples are The Dinner That Cooked Itself, The Willow Pattern and The Herdsman and The Weaver, the latter which contains the adventures of an ox and was appropriate for a reworking in the Year of the Ox. The play is cast into a “traditional” Chinese setting, namely an agricultural background whereby a man must deal with the fickle nature of the universe. Thus introduced are the creation myths (the gods Pan Gu, Nu Wa and Gong Gong) and the heroic battles of a dragon called Yu who quelled the flood that threatened to engulf all of China.
There are plenty of fairies in Chinese myths, plus divine messengers and goddesses disguised as animals – white snakes, foxes and crane maidens. Yu was met by a fox with nine tails who encouraged him to marry the girl from T`ushan. This was Nu Jiao, but the hero in this play fell in love with a crane maiden he saw taking a bath in a pool.
The story was brought to life using traditional English Medieval street theatre techniques and contains all of the basic ingredients of Chinese New Year: the lion dance, red packets, drums, dancing and lanterns. Theatre is the most all embracing of the arts because it contains within it storytelling, poetry, music, song and movement. Theatre also originated in China and, in writinging this play, Ian wanted to capture some of the essence of those early dramas, namely their rough-and-readiness, the comic and the tragic, the farcial and the poetic. To do this Ian adopted a number of different writing styles, drawn both from ancient Chinese and Medieval English Theatre and so the play is a celebration: not only for Chinese New Year but of theatre itself.
EXTRACT – AN OX`S TALE
As in Heaven, so down below:
Gods, I imp,lore, I bellow!
Please find me someone to love,
All you watching Gods up above.
Sunrise to sundown, I work;
From my duty, I will not shirk.
Farming, hands are worn raw:
Hard work and destiny is the law.
Life itself following a pattern,
Respecting not lazy heads and slatterns.
Turn of the year and the seasons,
“Know your place”, this I reason:
But everyday, I want to die:
Empty heart, I turn and cry.
How much longer on these feet?
Something is lacking, I`m incomplete.
In torment, Gods, please set me free:
Gods up above, who`ll marry me?
I`ve prayed so many years to you:
Is there anything else I can do?
Despair spits out of my teeth,
Nothing but hard work, no relief.
The ache reaches down into my bones:
Why must I spend my life alone?
Look around! All what I possess –
An ox and stars as my witness.
There is nothing left in which to believe –
This emptiness, let it be relieved.
Let me out of this prison cell,
This cold and lonely hell
And let my heart soar free:
Find someone who`ll love me.
PLAY 5 – JOLLY ROGER (RETIRED)
In 2007 Ian was invited to write a play for performance at Aldridge Airport for a charity, Rosies Helping Hands, which holds an annual walk and festival for children. In 2005 the theme was superheroes and in 2006 it was country and western. The theme for 2007 wsas Pirates of the Caribbean with a Johnny Depp look-a-like and a cannon.
The premise of this play was that Captain Jack Sparrow has reached middle age and has retired to live in Aldridge. His wife, the long-suffering Mrs Jolly Roger (Retired) longs for fun and excitement with Captain Barbosa and they sailed away like the owl and the pussy cat. Captain Jack Sparrow had no optio n but to get fit, sail the severn seas once again and to win back the heart of his true love!
The working title of this play was Captain Jack Sparrow (Retired) but since that character was owned by the Disney Corporation, doing so would have been an infringement of their copyright – and who wants to be sued by Walt Disney?
Or Mickey Mouse?
The play was performed by a cast from Aldridge Youth Theatre and produced and directed by Paul Dore. After this performance, Aldridge Youth Theatre then went on and performed it in front of thousands of people at the Lichfield Arts Festival, the Wolverhampton Steam Show, the Wolverhampton City Show and the Whitmore Reans Residents Cultural Show in West Park, Wolverhampton in 2007.
EXTRACT FROM JOLLY ROGER (RETIRED)
Here am I, Jolly Roger, Retired;
A pirate I was, but got tired:
Tired of robbing ships and burying treasure,
Dug it all up, I`m a man of leisure!
No more swashbuckling on the 7 seas,
Its a life of luxury for me!
In Longwood Locks, my ship, The Black Pig;
No more sails and canvass to rig.
Like a fox who has gone to earth,
Here, in Lazy Hill, is my bearth.
No more roving, no more sailing,
At nights, its The Elms Pub I`m hailing!
Cashed up. A pirate no more to be hired:
That`s me! Jolly Roger Retired.
PLAY 6 – I WAS NOT WAVING (Drowning In A Sea Of Heroin)
This is a community play in two acts with six scenes. The play received the support of the Resident Judge of Wolverhamptojn Crown Court, HHJ Onions plus Bruce George MP (Walsall South). The play originated from the poetry workshops Ian was running (free of charge) for women seeking to exit the sex industry and to find rehabilitation from drug abuse. The poetry workshops were based at the Manor Womens Project in Walsall.
The image running throughout the play is a tsunami of heroin hitting Walsall. Ian`s family were in Malaysia when the Boxing Day Tsunami hit the countries around Indonesia in 2004. The image of a tsunami seemed particularly appropriate, given the unholy mess that existed in Afghanistan, leaving our desperately undermanned armed forces to try and salvage something in that country. Whatever the political arguments for our involvement in Afghanistan, our Armed Forces are heroes. However, in the absence of a legitimate economy or effective government, opium production has soared and accounts for 40% of Afghanistan`s economic activity. Afghan poppies provide raw material for 87% of the global heroin production.
The Annual Report of the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System stated that heroin is the primary drug of choice in the West Midlands (81%) but with a 22% increase in the number of heroin users seeking help (nearly 16,000) with an equivalent national increase of 27%.
This play was dedicated to Richard Wigley, who was on remand at HMP Blakenhurst for burglary. It was claimed that he committed suicide but the circumstances behind his death were controversial. Richard had been a heroin addict, like his elder brother Stephen, who also met an early death because of drugs. Their younger brother, Jason, overdosed on heroin on Remembrence Day. Hertoin is derived from opium which, in turn, is harvested from red poppies. We therefore have the scene of people wearing red poppies for young men on Remembrence Day who died before their time and yet, perversely, it is red poppies that are killing young men today on the streets of Walsall. Ian could not imagine the tragedy of losing one child, let alone 3 beloved sons who died before their time and lost in the war on drugs.
If this play saves one life, then it would all have been worth it. The Office for National Statistics reported a record 1,800 drug-related deaths in England. The number of deaths due to drug misuse has increased since this play was first written in 2006. Any drug-related death is a tragedy and everyone agrees that more needs to be done. Heroin is the most frequently mentioned substance on the death certificate in cases of drug poisoning.
The title of this play came from the classic poem by Stevie Smith – I Was Not Waving But Drownining – and the words reminded Ian of Richard, who was not only a client but a friend. Her was drowning in a sea of heroin and lost his life in 2000.
The play tells the story of 3 Walsall women during a year of their life: from addiction, to treatment, to relapse and what happens to each of the 3 women. One overdoses, one contracts HIV from a dirty needle and one finds a way out of drug addiction. Their story is told through dance, music, poetry and drama.
A number of community organisations have “fronted” applications for public funding for this play over the last 6 years but without any success. Ian asked for £10,000 with the money being used for a producer, director and costumes. Ian was not looking to make any money out of the play for himself and estimates that he has spent the equivalent of £90,000 worth of fee-earning time as a solicitor working on this play; time that could have been spent on his business as a solicitor. The project was initially described as “a very marketable concept” by the non-statutory funding manager at Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, who was helping Ian navigate his way through grant-making applications before his retirement. Ian is now working with Pool Hayes Community Association to make a grant application.
PLAY 7 – A LIFE AT SEA
Ian wrote this play as assistant scout leader at All Saints Sea Scouts for performance at All Saints Parish Church, Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield. The play is based on the Gospeol of Mark, chapters 4 and six.
In the play, Ian uses traditional English Medieval street theatre techniques to bring alive the story of Jesus walking on water and calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. It is clear from the Bible that as so many people came to hear Jesus preach, he had to deliver some of his sermons on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.
PLAY 8 – HARVEST HOME (World Citizen)
This play went on a “world tour” of Walsall and Sutton Coldfield for 5 months, performing in front of 850 people and raising £1500 for an orphanage called Forever Angels in Tanzania. The cast was scouts, guides, brownies, cubs and rainbows with an average age of only 10 years old.
Following a performance at Bloxwich Theatre, Councillor Garry Perry, Mayor of Walsall, said “They have my congratulations and Royston Smith, Project Worker for Walsall Youth Service, said, “They are a credit to their communities, they are a credit to their families”.
Ian wrote, produced and directed the play and managed the publicity, which saw extensive newspaper coverage and radio publicity. The Harvest Home Band were featured on the Van Gogh Gallery website, along with a review (following some of Ian`s poems about Vincent Van Gogh) and 6th Walsall Scouts joined the All Saints Sea Scouts, guides, brownies, cubs and rainbows for the final leg of their tour at the Salvation Army Chapel in Willenhall for a performance in front of Councillors Sean and Dianne Coughlan and Churches Together in Willenhall.
The play deals with global climate change, pollution, poverty and endangered species – and what the Bible has to say about such issues. The play utilies dancing, music, songs, poetry and drama to tell its story and is 2 hours long.
The play was written for Ian`s wife, Irene, who lamented of Ian “wasting his talents” on plays about someone called Normal Nigel, Vikings, monster wolves, Chinese farm,ers, talking Oxen, lambs and crows – not to mention middle-aged pirates and more street theatre than you can shake a stick at – and wanted “a Christian play”.