Author Archive

Deborah H
March 19th, 2012

Moving on…

It is with a mix of sadness, excitement and trepidation I am finally moving on from The Play House. After spending 11 years with the company, initially as a teacher/actor and for the last five years as the Artistic and Educational Director, the time has come for me to leave for pastures new. I am heading north to Leeds where I will begin a freelance career, directing, lecturing, researching and working as a practitioner.

Leaving such an inspiring company whose work I have seen light a flame in so many children, young people and teachers has not been an easy decision and I will leave behind people whom I both respect enormously and consider my close friends.

I will look back on my many years with The Play House with great affection… Where else would you find yourself meeting with high profile police officers to discuss violent extremism one minute and introducing three and four year olds to a naughty teddy the next… and get paid for it!

However the great rewards of working for The Play House have only been possible as a result of our long and sustained relationships with schools, the highly skilled and committed practitioners who have worked with us, the thousands of children, young people and teachers who have (and continue) to participate in our work and the countless associates and advocates who have supported us. I would like to say a heartfelt thanks to all of these people and leave by wishing the company another 25 years of success…

Deborah H
October 11th, 2011

Dr. Dorothy Heathcote MBE: 29 August 1926 – 8 October 2011

It was with great sadness that we heard of the death of our patron Dorothy Heathcote over the weekend. She was truly a pioneer, leading the way for so many drama and theatre-in-education teachers and practitioners not just in the UK, but globally. Over the years teacher/actors from The Play House have been privileged to work with Dorothy and her influence on the company’s artistic and educational practice has been considerable. She was one of the first people to see the potential of using drama as a learning medium and she developed a methodology and language that still has huge currency today. She continued to work right throughout her life honing her considerable body of theory and practice, and her legacy will live on through theatre-in-education performances in school halls and in drama classrooms across the world.

You can read an obituary from her daughter Marianne Heathcote Woodbridge here. This includes details of Dorothy Heathcote’s Life Celebration. For those interested in attending please RSVP by email or post to

For those who knew her work and want to see it again and for those who never got to experience it first hand, have a look at Three Looms Waiting – BBC TV’s 1971 Omnibus profile of her work:

Deborah H
February 16th, 2010

Desperately seeking funding…

We’re often asked how we come up with our new projects, and, having just emerged from our busiest bid-writing period of the year, this seemed like a good time to reflect on that process.

I’d like to be able to say that we lock ourselves in a darkened room and let inspiration take its course but the reality is somewhat more protracted and perhaps less glamorous…

Many of our future projects, particularly our Language Alive! tours, start with small beginnings. A hurried conversation in a school staff room, a story we have enjoyed telling to our kids, a headline that has grabbed our attention or a building that we have driven past and always thought it would make a great location for a drama.

From here, the idea is fleshed out by visits to the library or museum, more conversations, some internet surfing, more staffroom chats and several cups of tea.

If the idea still has legs then it shifts up to the ‘serious contender’ category and we begin to consult in earnest, with our teachers’ group, other artists and educationalists and, where we can, children and young people. Schools get to let us know what they think about the various fledgling projects at this stage through our consultations. During this time the entire creative team at The Play House (a kingly group of 5) also come together and hold regular programme development meetings, and because we are tuned equally to the theatrical and educational potential, we pose questions about where the learning is, what kind of story we could tell and how we might tell it. 

If the idea comes through this stage, then it graduates to being ‘a serious contender desperately seeking funding’…

Here begins the process of matching funders’ criteria to the artistic and educational aspirations we might have for a new project.  If we are rewarded with a good fit, this results in myself and Gary spending days in a darkened room at a computer screen waiting for inspiration to help us through a 25 page funding bid (see, I told you it wasn’t glamorous).

A wait of anything between 6 weeks and 3 months usually ensues until we find out if our bid has been successful, which if it is, allows the real business of realising the project, to take place.  Four tea-powered weeks are then given over to playing, improvising, shaping ideas, testing strategies in schools, reflecting, changing our minds, playing some more, creating the set and costumes and filling endless sheets of paper with notes, before a new project comes to fruition ready for presentation at the teacher’s preview.  Following this and after some last minute tweaks we’re ready for schools.

The final and most important phase of a new project’s evolution is the bit where we get to ‘just add kids’ – this is where the real shaping of the work takes place.  Children’s responses in all their inventiveness, joyfulness, humanity (and occasionally strangeness) is what keeps our work continually on its toes and different every day, it is also what keeps us perpetually at the creative drawing board and is what excites many of us about the work that we do.

Occasionally, if we’re really lucky the whole process of generating ideas is kick started by being thrown a golden opportunity – a change in curriculum, a burning issue that affects children’s lives or an idea that a teacher has used with their class that has really inspired learning… If you are sitting on such a golden opportunity then please feel free to get in touch and talk to us about it. You never know, you may even get a cup of tea for your efforts!

Deborah H
July 23rd, 2009

The Last Train

Pulling out of Birmingham at 8.30 on a rainy overcast Wednesday morning were two cars bound for rural Nottinghamshire. Two hours later after navigating rush hour traffic and miles of road works we arrived via a maze of lanes to the unlikely country location of The Holocaust Centre.

Our reason for undertaking this trip was to spend the day working under the guidance of Director Geoff Readman to begin to develop material for our new piece of theatre-in-education The Last Train. This programme focuses on the compelling, tragic but also hopeful stories of those children who escaped Nazi Europe to Britain on what became known as the Kindertransport. The day was an opportunity for the creative team who will be working on the project with Geoff, as well as the rest of The Play House core team to come together and collectively explore the resources available at the centre and to share their own perspectives and ideas.

One of the permanent exhibitions at the centre is a series of interactive rooms called The Journey.  In moving through these rooms and watching and listening to audio visual elements you follow the fictional story of Leo, a Jewish boy living in pre-war Germany and the various difficulties he and his family face leading up to their decision to send him on the Kindertransport.  You visit his family home, sit in his school room, walk the street where his father’s tailors is located and see the graffiti daubed on the shop front and the shattered glass. Leo’s story is interlaced with the testimony of real life Kindertransport survivors, with their cherished object from home being displayed in the early parts of the exhibition. Experiencing The Journey formed the greater part of our explorations of the centre and from this our own ideas began to formulate.

The most humbling and moving part of the day was spending time with a ‘survivor’, now a man in his eighties.  He shared his own story with us, including the fact that he had lost both his parents to the concentration camps. Despite the harrowing nature of his memories, he spoke with incredible clarity and dignity and extended great warmth (and some humour) towards us. He was most interested to hear of our project and expressed a willingness to speak further with us.

All in all it was an enlightening, emotional and stimulating day. Personally we could not help but place ourselves in the shoes of those parents and children who endured the kindertransport and the traumatic events surrounding it. Professionally it made us reflect on some of the difficult journeys the children we work with experience en route to Britain. Creatively it armed us amply to begin the exciting task of devising a new piece of work in September and the two cars on the way home were lit up with conversation.


For more information about The Holocaust Centre please click here. The Language Alive! tour of The Last Train will be delivered in Primary and Secondary schools during Autumn term starting on 29th September 2009. For further information or bookings please contact Gavin Medza on: 0121 464 5712