Mary Moore Topics List

Topics List taken from her interview with Susan Croft, July 2011, at the Drill Hall, recorded by Jessica Higgs
Video and audio extracts edited by Jessica Higgs

Background and art school
Born Ilford, Essex. No arts in the family, working class
Always interested in arts and did a general arts course after school
At 18 went to the theatre and thought that was something she could do
Went to Central School of Arts in London
1st year good but not too thrilling
Interesting peer group – Mike Leigh, John Napier and Robert North [Rambert]
In 2nd year the course was led by Ralph Koltai, major international theatre designer
Students very much influenced by his philosophies
Brought in directors and choreographers to work with them. They designed
season for the Ballet Rambert
Koltai’s own work was very sculptural, had a strong concept in how work could underpin text
or piece through special work and textual work he did which had meaning
Saw World Theatre Season at the Aldwych, and once-in-a- lifetime experiences
like seeing Nureyev and Fonteyn dance
Went to movies. Buzz of being in a city
Better Books had an exhibition which was a series of installations
To get in you had to push through a door made up of telephone directories
Amazing death images. Exit was through some tyres covered in
down, and as you walked down the street you could see people
with down on their clothes from having been to the exhibition
Living at home
Left college in 1967. Spent summers overseas
One time went with college friend to her home in Portugal ending up
ironing costumes for National Theatre of Portugal

Arts Council Bursary, early jobs
Won an Arts Council bursary competition for young designers
giving her a year’s placement at Lincoln Theatre Royal
Did a show with Malcolm Griffiths:The Promise [Arbusov]
Story of how she came to design the production (her 2nd)
Took a month out to design a Three Sisters [Chekhov] for an amateur group at Dartington College
After year at Lincoln went to work at Worcester where she met
Sam Waters, [Founder and Artistic Director Orange Tree]
They got on very well, did a number of shows together
Met Kate Crutchley there and they became partners
Through this link she and Kate later came to meet Jill Posener
Did 5 shows at Canterbury. Not especially happy relationship
with the Production Manager and didn’t stay too long

Stoke and Peter Cheeseman, Mermaid Theatre
Worked at Stoke with Peter Cheeseman. Very important for Mary in honing her work
In-the-round space demanded special connection between audience and performance space
Work had to be sculptural, detailed, minimal. Good working with Peter Cheeseman
who was considered a very important figure
Worked on Peter Terson’s  documentary piece, Whitby Lifeboat Disaster
inspired by a famous lifeboat story at Whitby in the late 1800s
Describes her part in the process. She was resident throughout working process,
went to workshops, researched visual material, engaged in conversations
Core acting group were involved in shaping the work
Wooden fish crates central. Discusses how costumes were crucial to playing in the round
Discussion about sexism encountered as a female theatre designer and some examples
Worked with Chris Bond on his Sweeney Todd which later was
used by Steven Sondheim as the text for his musical
She also had a very good working relationship with Ron Daniels who then went on to work at the RSC
Thinks this connection helped get her job with John Caird.
During 1970-71 she designed 14 productions. 3 weekly rep, sometimes had
2 weeks in which to come up with a design

Went to Mermaid Theatre in 1972. Bernard Jay (whom she knew from Lincoln) had gone there,
asked her to join
The second part of her Arts Council bursary was used to allow her to spend
6 months at the Mermaid on costumes
Worked with Amos Mokadi, and Israelis, who set up a fringe venue in a room somewhere in Soho [We are
thankful to Petet Godfrey who sent in the following:  ‘His name was Amos Mokadi, and while he was Israeli,
I don’t remember any other Israelis being involved in The Act Inn, which was in the upstairs room of the pub
on the corner of Brewer St, W1. I built the raked seating out of old ILEA desks and benches of different sizes;
woodwork benches at the back, chemistry benches middle, a row of tables on the benches etc. Cost a couple
of hundred I seem to remember. Mary did the sets. My partner painted the signs. Amos was married to Pamela

Asked Mary to design components of staging and acting possibilities in the space
Did about 4 shows for him including one with Michelene Wandor

Low Moan Spectacular
Knew Diz White from her first art college and Central St Martins, one of the founders of Low Moan Spectacular
Crazy person who wanted to help give Mary an arts education
Went together to see lots of art films
Diz formed her company with her boyfriend [Ron House] and two English actors [inc. Alan Shearman]
Mary helped out on a friendship-help basis
Took their El Grande Coca Cola to Edinburgh where a friend from the States saw it
and took it over there to an Off-Off Broadway theatre
They went out to California and asked Mary to go over and redesign for there, which she did
The work was mildly sexist and racist, like The Benny Hill Show
Not ‘alternative’  in the political sense except comedy is great for people
In the show they pretended they were Spanish or Mexican circus performers trying to put a show on
and the only way they could do it was by getting money from Coca Cola by advertising Coca Cola
She has blanked out a lot of the work probably deliberately
Involved in stage production of Bullshot Crummond at
Hampstead Theatre based on the Bulldog Drummond stories (1930s)
Send up of Englishness. What it is to be a detective and save blonde girl,
with an evil baddie with a German accent
They also made a film of it. Although Mary didn’t design the film they put
her name on the credits anyway
Asked to do a further show Footlight Frenzy
Typical light comedy but showing backstage bickering

Did another show with Sam Walters at the Horsham Festival
1973- Head of Design at Ipswich, bread and butter job, some
Interesting stuff and some you got on with. Did a show there
with Dusty Hughes, but most with John Southwood

1974 – she was freelance doing some work with Ipswich and others
at the ICA where there was some lunchtime theatre starting up
with professional directors and actors booking the venue for their own
productions, usually mainstream plays
Alex Marshall from TV directed
Did a couple of shows at Hampstead
Michael Rudman and John O’Neil were directors there
More of a small theatre rather than an alternative space

Was living with Kate Crutchley; they were together for 6 years up until the end of
the first Gay Sweatshop work when Kate became partners with Nancy Diuguid

Further work with Sam Walters on James Saunders season at Greenwich
Designs The Borage Pigeon Affair and a second part Saunders wrote to
Vanbrugh’s Journey to London  and The Knight of the Burning Pestle

1975-76. Designed two plays directed by John Ashford,
Soon at the Bush, and A Little Bit Less Than Normal at the Royal Court
She had met John Ashford at the ICA
Designed Factory Birds [James Robson] with the RSC at the Warehouse [now Donmar]
The  play which was to do with reaching one’s potential
She sourced and installed real machinery on stage which was central to the action

Forming Women’s Company of Gay Sweatshop
Kate Crutchley was working on The Lady or the Tiger at the Orange Tree
Jill Posener was a young Stage Manager there
Jill approached Kate and Mary with her script of Any Woman Can recognising
that they had the wherewithal to help get it on
They had had no connection with any political theatre before this
They felt it would sit best with a middle class audience
Sam wasn’t interested in it for Orange Tree
Kate met Gerald Chapman [co-founder Gay Sweatshop] who suggested they team up
with the Gay Sweatshop men’s company who had already done one season of work
They agreed and Jill, her then girlfriend Janet, Kate and Mary formed
the women of Gay Sweatshop: a huge leap for them
Issues of authenticity – gay audiences wanted both good plays
but also to see gay people doing the work
Learnt how open they needed to be around this kind of work
Tried Any Woman Can in Bolton where Kate was working
One woman performer said she would do it there but not in London while her father was alive:
once you worked with Gay Sweatshop you were outed
Importance of touring and providing space for those who weren’t out and didn’t know how to be
Kate and Nancy did a radio show when on tour
Heavy abuse from phone in including ‘You should be put in a sack and thrown over the cliff’
Mary’s role as designer on show was as supporter to the piece

Care and Control  [second Gay Sweatshop Women’s Company show] was much more designed
Family needed to be represented – design is good when it puts up things in
a production that can’t be shown through other means. The families had to exist
Mary set up shoots of bathing babies etc and used projected images of those on set
Designed some of the men’s shows e.g. Mr X  [Drew Griffiths]
Designed composite shapes, white slatted structures
which could be used in different ways in a number of shows
The demands of working with companies on small budgets and who tour

Work with Gerald Chapman & further Gay Sweatshop
Gerald Chapman worked at Royal Court as Young People’s Director
Asked Mary to prepare a barn-type structure near the Royal Court for a series of plays
Painted whole building from floor to ceiling grading from white to blue
Later did another play with Gerald Chapman at Soho Poly

There were a couple of Gay Sweatshop pieces written by straight men
Randy Robinson’s Unsuitable Relationships
, a play about oppression was commissioned by Kate
from Andrew Davies, a radio writer, who had featured her in a number of his radio plays
A second play was commissioned by Gerald Chapman from Edward Bond: Stone
They attracted some criticism around using straight writers
Mary Moore’s comment on the running of Gay Sweatshop:
‘I was in a collective when I was with the women,
and not in a collective when I was with the men’

Women’s Project
After a while the whole female company in Sweatshop were gay
Nancy Diuguid very keen to do something on lesbian custody cases: Care and Control
It was her project doing all the research/ interviews
Michelene Wandor scripted it from improvs
Shifting ideas led to identifying the need for a separate women’s company from
Gay Sweatshop’s women’s company, so they set up the Women’s Project
Kate commissioned Michelene to write Aid Thy Neighbour which was a kind of Whitehall farce
Nancy did a piece on women in prison, Confinement [Kate Phelps].
Kate made funding applications for this separate to Gay Sweatshop

Gay Sweatshop’s Jingleball and others
When Sweatshop went on tour [Mr X and Any Woman Can] Kate, Gerald and Mary
decided to do a show to hold the fort while the rest were away, Jingleball 1
Kate and Gerald acted, Mary directed
Very experimental – in that it wasn’t very good!
Felt like they were holding the fort for gay people in the city who wanted a place to come to
ICA willing to provide that space
Jingleball 1 was a lunchtime piece
When the others came back they produced a pantomime, Jingleball 2
Prince Charming, Ugly Sisters, very camp, gay politics, very enjoyable
Kate and Mary were also involved in a Sweatshop piece about
a man who had gone to prison for underage sex with a boy
Drew Griffiths [co-founder Gay Sweatshop] was very interested in this and it was done at
the Royal Court
Very tricky and controversial subject

Women’s Project continued
Aid Thy Neighbour was about artificial insemination by donor
It had two couples – Mary and Joseph, and two women
The women get pregnant, but not Mary and Joseph
After receiving the first draft Mary asked Michelene Wandor if she would like
to have a model of the possible set to help her structure the play
Often writers don’t have any vision as to how their pieces might be staged
Mary provided the model and it helped Michelene imagine it spatially and fine-tune the script
Small taster of her design in Hampstead Theatre
Kate Phelps wrote Confinement. Kate Crutchley was in it, Nancy directed
The design required a sense of cells and a way to provoke an empathy from audience
as to what it was like to be enclosed
Memory of Confinement is of how to make the set work on the scratch budget available
Wanted sound of metal: created a Meccano-style floor
The Women’s Project was formed to engage gay and heterosexual stories together,
rather than separating them out

Continuing other work
Covered for Alison Chitty at Stoke for 6 months
Designed Gimme Shelter [Barrie Keefe] at Soho Poly which transferred to Royal Court
Met Donna Franceschild there for the first time
Transfer of The Lady or the Tiger from the Orange Tree to the West End and
how the producer tried to recast Kate Crutchley who had played the Princess
It felt like they’d got wind of the Gay Sweatshop part of Kate’s life and
wanted a more traditional blonde-looking actress in main role
In the programme biogs they’d both put down they were working for Gay Sweatshop
This was omitted from Kate’s biog but not Mary’s

Women’s Festival at the Drill Hall
Group of 12 led the project but Nancy and Kate were key movers
Mary was asked to curate a women’s craft exhibition
There were art exhibitions, performances, workshops
There were women in Bradford doing similar stuff a the same time
Conference-type events going on which was a bit of a chat-up scene,
organised by Mandy Merck, from US,
who wrote for Time Out, around and very political
Socialist gay and straight women’s meetings going on

Mary had worked with Angela Hopkins, up-and-coming director (later killed in
a road crash), at Ipswich and she asked Mary to design the Monstrous
Regiment adaptation of Anita Loos’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [adapted by Bryony

Mrs Worthington’s Daughters and Women’s Theatre Group
Had met Julie Holledge and Anne Engel at Aid Thy  Neighbour
Mrs Worthington’s Daughters were starting up
Julie rang Mary and asked very charmingly if she would design their first show
No money but promised nice food! An offer she couldn’t refuse
Double bill of The Oracle [Susannah Cibber] and In the Workhouse [Margaret Wynne Nevinson]
Can’t remember too much about the design
When the designs are simple and there are no photos, it’s hard to recall details

From that Julie asked her to design Soap Opera [Donna Franceschild, 1978]
for the Women’s Theatre Group
Enjoyed working on that, found something visually very satisfying
Description of design. Usual challenges of space and audience relationship,
but it was a musical so had to find way of justifying leads and music stands in the laundrette location
The characters had to appear locked in at one point
Couldn’t tour washing machines, so set had to be an abstraction to make it believable
Used everything to do with vocabulary of a laundrette
Blue, white, blue, white, simple structures, glossy surfaces,
with tops and circular windows that opened onto baskets behind

Then Aurora Leigh with Mrs Worthington’s Daughters, adapted by Michelene Wandor
[from the poem by Elizabeth Barratt Browning about the formation of a woman poet]
Julie and she had developed a good language about design by then
Description of set. Had decided they needed to reflect an inner (thinking, creative)
and outer (social) life of character through the design
Black gloss outer area and a white flow that went upwards in a sort of wave
Created sense of a place in which to think

Joint Stock
Joint Stock were an alternative company in a different sort of way
Interesting working with actors of their calibre
The Joint Stock process: actors, writer, designers work together for 6 weeks improvising on a theme
There is a break of about 10 weeks for writer to go away and write from the improvs,
before everyone coming back together to rehearse and perform
In this instance the writer left the project
They decided to continue working: a pragmatic financial choice, and create the work themselves
Piece [An Optimistic Thrust, company devised] was about people’s ghosts and exploring them
Mary designed a ghostly fairground with a plain, boarded floor
and a gauze screen with fairground images on it
It could be moved to create different shaped spaces

When Did You Last See Your Mother?
Possibly written by Joyce Cheeseman, directed Kate Crutchley at Drill Hall

Rutherford and Son [by Githa Sowerby] with Mrs Worthington’s Daughters
[familiarly knows as the ‘Worthies’].
Triangular relationship, triangular design. Worthies funded by then,
and Julie Holledge and Mary were in a relationship by then

My Mkinga with Women’s Theatre Group
Very important design for her personally
Most shows were touring and one needed to consider ease of get-ins
for actors when designing
My Mkinga was written by Kate Phelps who was brought in after the company had decided on topic
– drug-dumping in the Third World
First draft was set in a hotel room in Africa but Julie and Mary realised it needed
to be outside to capture where it was located, taking the audience to Africa
Julie and Mary went to an exhibition on Africa in London and realised difference in light held the key
There was only one African member of company, so only one village character in play
The others were Europeans travelling to Africa for a conference on subject
Concept was village being bathed in sunlight
Design set the audience under a big shade – a big canopy over the audience that filtered light
Canopy spread into playing area
Actors came towards the shade where the action happened
Mary thinks Sue Glanville’s ex-boyfriend built the required aluminium structure for her

Tap Dance on a Telephone Line [Donna Franceschild] was a one-off musical
with Julie, Mary, Marion Milgrim and Sue Glanville
At the Tricycle but transferred to Half Moon
Set in a telephone exchange, women are bound to the board,
plugged in to it and plugged into other people’s lives
About pressure on women from their ‘evil’ employers
Julie and Mary had developed a design vocabulary between them, and
decided they needed to ‘free the board’ to free up the staging
There was an abstraction of wires heading off to somewhere beyond,
coming down to individual boards that could move, and used revolving chairs
The women were then free to be positioned in different places depending on the scene
Donna Franceschild has gone on to have a very successful writing career in TV

Move to Australia
Julie Holledge went to Australia, originally on a 3 months contract, but stayed
Mary followed 3 months later in the October 1981
Before going she designed Ripen Our Darkness by Sarah Daniels, with
Carol Hayman and Lou Wakefield in it [Royal Court]
Her career in Australia has continued as here, some mainstream, some experimental work
Julie’s first project was a production of Care and Control
Mary worked with Julie’s students on a production in the Adelaide bi-annual festival
Both were invited to work with and lead Troop, a 15 strong, socialist feminist group
Venue was in an old town hall which Mary transformed to a theatre-in-the-round
They naively began with two British pieces but realised they needed to invent a
new identity in their work for there, resulting
in ‘dance narratives’
where the audience were taught and did dances

Back to Mary Moore

Topic lists provide a short digest of those areas discussed during the interview.
Users are urged not to quote from them as a statement of the speaker’s views
without reference to the original recordings. Opinions expressed in the interviews are
those of the speaker, not necessarily those of Unfinished Histories.