Fly Away Peter

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.

The characters



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:


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.

Story Tags

12 Comments Add Yours

  1. John Moorhouse

    Fantastic Sylvia. I even look like a proper writer here!

    • Sylvia Selzer

      The camera never lies, John! Seriously, I think your record since proves the point. You are a writer.

  2. Kira

    I enjoy learning things through other people’s eyes and voices – thanks for sharing!

    • Sylvia Selzer

      Great to get a view from the other side of the Atlantic, Kira! Especially with the keen eye of another photographer!

  3. Phil Turner

    I was privileged to see ‘Fly Away Peter’ with my wife and youngest son at Whitby Hall in 2007. We all really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, we have not been able to see any other of John’s plays, but maybe one day….!

    • Sylvia Selzer

      John’s plays are produced in places far away from the cultural hub of Chester. Maybe one will be produced in our new theatre some time in the future!

  4. Howard Gardener

    What an unusual and original story line. I would have liked to have seen this. Photographs are – as per usual – excellent.

    • Sylvia Selzer

      Photographs can’t really convey the power of a play but I appreciate that you have been able to identify that there IS an unusual story here and one worth the telling both in the play and through recording the making of the production in images. Thanks, as usual, for the kind words Howard!

  5. Nina Hajiyianni

    Lovely to revisit this wonderful work! Thank you Sylvia, I love the way you tell the story of the play and production.

    • Sylvia Selzer

      It was great for me to revisit this work Nina – the first of many extraordinary pieces of theatre by ATT’s eventual Artistic Director!

  6. John Chapman

    Great storyline which gives an insight into how a play is produced of which I was previously unaware. Great photographs as always, good use of your LRPS! Now, by accident or design, photo 32 shows a man morphing into a pigeon taking off, quite amazing.

    • Sylvia Selzer

      Great that you were able to see the process of producing a play through my photos, John. Man morphing into pigeon was no accident – Nina, a wonderful director, intended that the man should enter his world of pigeons at the end of the play and he did a slow-mo movement with strange music and dimming lights. Pure magic!

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.