Living with her family in Singapore, future playwright Gail, then aged only 12, was late for the school assembly. Her punishment from the Headmaster was to produce an essay on punctuality; a very boring task indeed. However, Gail complied and duly handed the essay in. A little later, she was summoned back to her Head’s Study.
“Wait for it, I’m being told off AGAIN!” she muttered as she knocked on his door.
But Gail was in for a surprise.
“Wonderful writing!” beamed the Head, “Loved it, Gail! And I’m pleased to tell you I’m offering you the chance to attend a weekly creative writing tutorial… to unleash your undoubted talents!” And he surveyed her with delight…convinced he’d offered Gail a stunning opportunity.
Of course, he had…but Gail was disgusted…creative writing in her LUNCH HOUR… writing in her LUNCH HOUR to unleash her talents! …HUH…She’d MUCH rather unleash her energies on the netball pitch… or chatter and giggle with her mates.
When Gail was 15, her father, a career soldier, brought the family back to the North West. And at school in Cheshire, Gail continued to write essays, was never asked for second drafts and particularly shone at English, History and Drama.
She fell hard for the Brontes, finding them, “much sexier than Jane Austen” and read constantly, admitting to me that she has a nostalgic trip through Alice’s Wonderland every two years.
After leaving school, Gail worked as a Civil Servant and eventually became involved with Equal Opportunities in HR. She read and went to the theatre as much as possible…meeting work of stunning playwrights and particularly enjoying Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Shakespeare, Edward Albee and Alan Bennett. Her favourite stage performances to date have been delivered by the late John Hurt, Tom Hardy, Hopkins, Mirren, McKellan, Emma Thompson and Carey Mulligan…. Gail’s list is an eclectic mix indeed, which is also how she describes the enticing mix of books in her bookcase.
And that, I realise, is a clue to the fascinatingly varied themes Gail herself writes on. So many writers stick to one or two themes but Gail’s plays are all impressively different from each other. Who else writes about such contrasting themes as cancer, netball and Alzheimers? Gail is eloquent, funny and caring. She’s full of anecdotes and observations, all of which leap into her work, encouraging her to look hard at life and then write from there.
Gail’s first play was Cheshire Cats. Gail’s mum, sister in law and a good friend had all suffered from breast cancer, so in May 2003 she joined the London Moonwalk, walking with a gang of 10 other women in aid of various Breast Cancer causes. Gail found the experience unforgettable and later, she realised there was a play blossoming from it, which she persuaded Guilden Sutton Players to perform, in aid of the Countess of Chester Breast Care Unit. Gail both directed and acted in Cheshire Cats and in 2006, she took the show to Edinburgh where tickets quickly sold out. Since then the play has been performed countless times.
Bothered and Bewildered, Gail’s next play, came through watching her father in law and a friend’s mum go through the heartbreaking long goodbye that is Alzheimer’s. Gail spoke with them frequently, delving into the experiences of both patients and families, thus creating her eye-opening play.
Next came, Bouncing Back. This was a total contrast! Gail became a fly on the wall at netball training sessions and matches for several months. One of Gail’s sisters is a netball coach; a priceless contact. Gail found amazing characters on the court plus lots of laughs and stories, which she’s translated into an energetic script.
Bouncing Back hit The Forum, Chester, in 2016 and will be revived again in 2019 in Liverpool, when the Netball World Cup arrives there that summer.
Thankfully, it’s appearing on our doorstep too – at Storyhouse in 2019. Tickets go on sale next year. You can find out more about the play here.
Gail’s latest play, Head over Heels, is coming to Tip Top at Chester’s Forum on Wednesday, Oct 17th-20th. It’s based on ‘Silver Splitters’, i.e. retired divorcees…a group now said to be the hottest new demographic trend in the IK!
Tickets £7 from TipTop online or call 01244 341296.
What will Gail’s 5th play be, I wonder ? My mind is already boggling at her versatility…!