Birds and swastikas at the Progress Theatre

The Progress Theatre’s Premieres comprises two one-act plays by local writers. The Writer Bird by Emily Goode is a comic, absurdist description of the creative process and The Swastika Party by Paul Levy is a more conventional story about how four young women deal with war and hatred.

This is the first of the theatre’s Premieres. They say that they want to build on the success of their WriteFest competition for local authors and establish a new slot for one-act plays.

In the Writer Bird, an author fights with one of his bottom-drawer characters. He’s been writing stories with promising titles like Adelaide the owl who was good at accountancy and went fishing and the spoonbill heron who drowned in syrup but his energetic, labile creation wants something with more bangs and crashes. He starts on a sci-fi epic but she’s not interested in fairy tales for adults. He places her in an undertaker’s because death is “real”, but she decides it’s an ice cream parlour instead.

There are only two live actors in the piece. Owen Goode plays the moody, frustrated, shambolic and occasionally pompous ‘writer’ much given to slumping in corners whilst suffering for his art. Bethan Perkins is the hyperactive and unpredictable  ‘character’ who charges around the stage firing off suggestions and subverting her creator’s intentions. Mannequins fill in for other characters, but have noticeably less facility with regional accents than the live actors.

After a series of entertaining but unsatisfying parables, it is left to the ‘character’ to draw out from the ‘writer’ what he really thinks he is writing about.

The Swastika party is set in second world war London; it sounds like the blitz, although there are descriptions of doodlebugs and the British Union of Fascists are still operating. Four young women share a flat somewhere in the bombed-out East End, complete with thin, brown mismatched furniture, a radiogram and an enormous leather Chesterfield.

Blousy loud-mouthed cockney Vicky (Samantha Bessant) causes unintended offence and entertainment in equal measure. Nervy teacher Sarah (Megan Turnell) with her cut-glass accent turns from polite middle class decency to rage on a sixpence. The group is completed by Irish Mary (Emma Wyverne) and responsible mother-hen Kitty (Stephanie Gunner), who refuses to cower in bomb shelters during air raids.

The women are already dealing with death and terror every day when someone paints a swastika on their living room wall. Each responds very differently to this unwelcome addition to their interior design and the flatmates have to find a way to deal with the destructive hatred by which they are surrounded without becoming part of it.

There are several noisy, strobing air raids during this otherwise gentle and sentimental character play which could cause alarm and discomfort to members of the audience.

Progress Premieres (which comprises of both plays The Writer Bird and The Swastika Party) opens on Monday 24 April and runs until Saturday 29 April. Tickets can be bought from Ticketsource.


  1. The Progress Theatre website and Facebook page
  2. Progress Premieres at the Progress Theatre
  3. Progress Theatre tickets