Barony Players present Every One with Jo Clifford’s blessing

Top tips..the Every One cast members were delighted when Jo Clifford (centre front) popped in during their rehearsals for an impromptu Q&A session.
Top tips..the Every One cast members were delighted when Jo Clifford (centre front) popped in during their rehearsals for an impromptu Q&A session.

Back in 2010, Wendy Turner went to see a new play at the Lyceum in Edinburgh.

Every One by Jo Clifford, which explores a family bereavement, really struck a chord with the Barony Players chairwoman.

For her mum Brenda died in 2008 and Wendy was still coming to terms with that loss in her life.

While studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2013, Wendy was able to meet Jo and tell her how much Every One had resonated with her.

And she decided to pose a question too.

She said: “The play had always stuck with me and it was nice to be able to tell Jo what it meant to me.

“So I decided to ask if, at some point in the future, she would give me the rights to direct and perform it.

“I was delighted when Jo said yes.”

Last summer, when talk turned to what the Barony’s winter 2020 production should be, Wendy suggested Every One and the Trustees quickly agreed.

“I was able to cut out the middle man and go straight to Jo to ask her if it would be okay,“ recalled Wendy.

“She said she would be delighted for us to do it.”

So next week, the amateur premiere of the two act play will be staged in Bo’ness.

Rehearsals for the show have been going really well and there was a unique twist – with the playwright popping in to speak to the actors about their parts.

“Quite often, playwrights we select are long dead so there’s no chance of inviting them along,” said Wendy.

“However, when Jo gave us her permission to peform the amateur premiere, I also asked if she’d be willing to come along to one of our rehearsals to give the actors some direction.

“It was a first for us to have a playwright in the rehearsal room with us.

“In professional theatres, no-one would think twice about it but it’s quite unusal for amateurs.

“Jo is such a well-known playwright so it was quite dauniting.

“We were all nervous and excited in equal measure but it proved really helpful.

“The actors had a great Q&A session with Jo, talking to her about their character and finding out more about their back story and her inspiration for them.

“Then we performed the whole of Act Two for her.

“I think she was really pleased with the way her characters had been brought to life and it was a really lovely evening.”

Wendy will be directing Every One, with support from assistant director Jane Thomson.

Given the impact Every One had and her association with Jo, it’s clear Wendy wants to do her proud.

“There are 15 of us in the cast and crew and we’re all primed to take to the stage next week,” she said.

“We’re all really excited about the performances and can’t wait to share it with local audiences.”

Every One tells the story of an ordinary family’s journey through tragic circumstances that we all, sadly, face in life.

Jo and Mary are the husband and wife, Kev and Mazz are their son and daughter and their grandparents also feature.

This ordinary family are changed in many ways when mum Mary suffers a stroke.

She has an out of body experience – which also leads to a major surprise for the audience but we’ve been sworn to secrecy and can’t reveal what it is!

Wendy said: “From the point of view of staging, it’s very simple.

“We’ve done it like that on purpose because I wanted the audience to hear the words, see the emotions and really understand the relationships between the different characters.

“So it is quite pared back as we want the audience to be transfixed by the story, rather than the stage set.

“However, we’ll be using light, sound and music to add to the ambience.”

The lead character in the show, Mary, is played by Claire Withnell who, in her day job, works as a speech therapist with people who have had strokes.

So Claire brings not only her acting abilities but her experience with stroke patients to the role.

Wanting to do something to help, the Barony Players made contact with the Stroke Association Scotland.

Wendy added: “We’ll be having a retiring collection each night for the Stroke Association Scotland as we want to raise awareness of its work in our community.”

Every One will be staged at the Barony Theatre from Monday to Saturday (January 20 to 25). Tickets are £12 (£10 concs) from the Box Office on 07541 346639 or visit www.baronyplayers.co.uk.

Personal story behind the play

Jo Clifford was delighted to support the amateur premiere of the play at the Barony.

But she never expected to feel so moved seeing the play brought to life in Bo’ness.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising, though, when you discover how close to true life the story hits for Jo.

She explained: “My wife Suzie died from a brain tumour but we initially thought it was a stroke. So I was writing about that experience, without getting too close to the details of what actually happened.

“In the play, the family are loosely based on our own family, although we’ve got two daughters and my eldest has always teased me about turning her into a boy!

“The husband is based on a driver I used to know when I was a bus conductor in Anstruther many years ago.

“But it is autobiographical which makes it more real.

“I wanted to write about grief and death as every one in this world has lost someone and knows what grief feels like.

“But even today, very rarely is it something that is spoken or written about.”

Jo’s play has been performed by professional companies previously so she was not expecting to be so moved when she attended the rehearsal.

She said: “The Barony Players are absolutely perfect for the amateur premiere.

“They bring a raw reality to the whole thing that’s very moving and very powerful.

“They actually made me cry halfway through Act Two. I was not expecting to be so moved but the cast have done a wonderful job and performed it so beautifully.”

Having written more than 100 plays, Jo’s work is performed all over the world.

But she is planning to take time out of her busy schedule to return to Bo’ness next week to the see the production in full.