John Moorhouse, a writer from Ellesmere Port, was commissioned by Action Transport Theatre (which is based in the town) to write a play for young people and it marked his debut as a professional writer.
It was also the first production at ATT to be directed by Nina Hajiyianni as the new Associate Director.
Here John reflects on the origin of the play and the process of writing it:
Quite a few years ago now when my son, David, was six or seven years old, he came running into the house holding a stunned wood pigeon. It had flown into his bedroom window – which was shut – and knocked itself out. Tearfully, he demanded that I take it to ‘the pigeon man’ who lived at the back of our house, who would ‘fix it’. Problem: the pigeon man and I did not get on – which is putting it very mildly. We had many rows over the back fence, usually about his bloody birds.
Anyway, off we went to see him with our injured wood pigeon. I gritted my teeth, knocked on the door and waited. The door was flung open and Tom, as I now know him, was completely disarmed by the sight of my tearful son holding a bird up at him and saying, ‘It’s hurt!’
He took the bird in, ‘fixed it’, and a few days later we released it and watched it fly to the top boughs of an oak tree near our house. And I learned the difference between a racing pigeon and a wood pigeon and that people aren’t necessarily what they seem at first.
When I first started to write ‘Fly Away Peter’ I knew that this would be a play about an unlikely friendship between a boy and a man who raced pigeons. The only image I had was of a burning loft. John Steinbeck said he had a good friend who, when he had a problem, always ‘muled it over’. So, after a lot of muling, writing, re-writing, more muling, excellent advice from Kevin Dyer and Joe Sumsion at Action Transport Theatre it turned out something like this…
The process begins:
Associate director Nina Hajiyianni, Associate Writer Kevin Dyer, four actors and number of other invited interested parties work with John Moorhouse on the first draft.
Also present on the development day is designer Alison Heffernan. Visits to Tom’s pigeon loft provide a key to designing a set that is both elegant and atmospheric. Abstract qualities allow freedom for the director to layer the action of the play so that interior happenings within the ‘loft’ area can take place at the same time as action outside the loft. The eye of the audience picks up, for instance, the baseball court markings. Mike Francis, ATT’s then Production Manager, also provided lighting which changed with the mood of the play dramatically and with subtlety.
John outlines the story as follows:
When fifteen year old Peter finds an injured bird and starts to spend time with the local ‘pigeon man’ – Bill – his friendship with his old friend Craig is threatened. Feeling rejected and let down, Craig enlists the help of Peter’s mum and enacts a terrible revenge.
Peter Daryll Garavan
Craig John Afzal
Bill Tom Tunstall
Mother Kathleen Jordan
Writer John Moorhouse
Director Nina Hajiyianni
Designer Alison Heffernan
Production Manager Mike Francis
Composer Mark Melville
FLY AWAY PETER was first performed in 2007 at ATT’s Whitby Hall and subsequently toured nationally. The play was shortlisted for the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain ‘Best Play for Children and Young People’ Award.
John Moorhouse’s most recent work includes:
THE BELINDA TREE 2014
Performed at the Trinity College Drama Festival, having been runner-up and highly commended in the College’s International Playwriting Competition.
FEAR UP 2011
Performed at The Dukes, Lancaster.
HAMMERMAN 2010/ 2012
The play, a musical collaboration with John Cullimore, performed at STEAM, Swindon.
THE GIFT 2010/2013
Received the North West Playwriting Award for best original play in 2008.
Performed first at The Dukes, Lancaster,then at the Old Ghoti Theatre Company, Blackpool, and at Headgate Theatre, Colchester.