China factory breaks out with new McAndrew play

Steve Orme

Stoke company Claybody Theatre is to transform the city’s home of bone china, the Spode Works, back to the 1950s for its latest production: the site-specific play Dirty Laundry.

Written and directed by husband and wife team Deborah McAndrew and Conrad Nelson, Dirty Laundry is a domestic thriller set in Stoke in 1953. A young woman suspects her dying father is carrying a terrible secret. The play addresses issues around the environment and its impact on human health on the city’s people.

Deborah McAndrew’s previous plays include Cyrano, an adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac in spring 2017 and An August Bank Holiday Lark in 2014, both for Northern Broadsides.

She said, “the idea for the show originated in someone asking me if I could write an environment play. I had a think about it and realised that the way for drama to do this was not to write about the science but about the people. Drama, in a nutshell, is people behaving badly—and there is, and always has been, a lot of bad behaviour around the environment and human health.

“Stoke of the 1950s was the perfect place to find such a story. A place in a fixed moment in time, when the smogs of London had finally forced the government to tackle the issue of air quality. People in Stoke had been dying of industrial lung disease for more than a century, and the upcoming Clean Air Act was going to impact on the pottery industry more than any other.

“We feel that Stoke, with its roots in the Industrial Revolution, has such a deep and painful experience of industrial pollution, poor air quality and occupational disease that it’s the perfect place to have this debate about our environment today.”

The production’s cast features Jason Furnival, Philip Wright, Angela Bain, Rosie Abraham and Robin Simpson.

Dirty Laundry will première at the Spode Works in Stoke from Wednesday 11 until Saturday 21 October.