Operation Pied Piper


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Operation Pied Piper

"I found the experience of putting Operation Pied Piper on very moving.  I still remember the effect that the final song had on me and many of the audience and cast.  It proved to be a profoundly poignant ending to a deeply emotional evening; this was theatre at its best."
Tim Wood, (Director of Operation Pied Piper (2000) at Marlborough House School, Kent.

"We were profoundly moved by Operation Pied Piper ... what a great play ... extraordinarily rich characterisations of the evacuees and their relationships ... the impossible choices for the parents ... it was magnificent!"
Conca Goyder (Parent at Marlborough House School).

Wacky Soap

"A splendid vehicle for a company of players with opportunities for all. The action includes individual performance, movement, mime, choral speech, singing and dancing." 
Brian Sanders; Guild of Drama Adjudicators. (Mark Wheeller awarded Special Award at the One Act Drama Festival for writing the musical.)

"Super tunes, catchy and rhythmical, excellent co-ordinated movement, choral speaking and singing, a first class production for use by any group looking for a good story with a moral, exciting music and lots of fun."
Ben Wright:  NODA Southern News

Graham – World’s Fastest Blind Runner

"A remarkable play ... a story of great courage and dedication; It is also entertaining and good Theatre, with plenty of scope for imaginative direction." 
Amateur Stage Book Review (of the original Race To Be Seen).

"Snappily written episodes ... a moving, eminently performable show. Get this script if you are looking for something of real substance which can be done with a cast of six or more." 

H. Wright: National Association of Drama Teachers Broadsheet (of the original Race to Be Seen).

 "The extremely talented actors proved more than equal to Mark Wheeller's moving script as they told Graham's amazing life story with utter conviction and sincerity... adding a deep intensity of their own, bringing the words alive to wonderful effect.  It is rare today to see even professional actors handling such an emotional piece.  " 
Andrew White (Southern Daily Echo)

"Very moving, very very funny, very well performed, very good!"

Bruce Henderson (Principal Teacher of Drama, Wester Hailes Education Centre, Edinburgh)  

Too Much Punch For Judy

"Packs its anti-drink drive message with the kick of a mule ... but that doesn't stop it from being excellent drama!" 
Sue Wilkinson; Southern Evening Echo.

My name is "Olav". I watched your play in Hamar a while ago. When I was 18-21 years old I used drugs when I was driving. I drove off the road sometimes, but my friends and I never got hurt. I think your play makes people think a bit. I did. It was very emotional for me. Your play made me think back to my accidents and what I would have done if I killed some of my friends, and that made me sad. I hope many people see your play and learn from it.
"Olav", 24 years old from Tyrili Senteret, Norway.

"This was an aurally, visually and dramatically shocking depiction of the danger of drink-driving. The Ape Theatre cast were absolutely brilliant. They had our students laughing one minute and crying the next. This was worth ten classroom lectures and if the message that the play had to offer didn't get through with this show, it never will.

Geoff Carr: Deputy Headteacher at Francis Combe Community School and College. 

Hard To Swallow

"HARD TO SWALLOW uses simple narrative and a series of stylised visual tableaux to build a powerful and sometimes harrowing chronicle of Catherine's long and ultimately unsuccessful fight against anorexia nervosa ... uncompromising and sensitive ... its ability to raise our awareness of a condition about which we remain woefully ignorant defines it as an important piece of work .... it should be compulsory viewing for anyone connected with the education of teenagers." 
Mick Martin: Times Educational Supplement.


" We have just been fortunate enough to witness the most superb exhibition of interactive safety education. The performance was quite stunning." 
Jim Lambert: Head Teacher, Sinclair Middle School, Southampton.

Performance was lively, skilful, well-paced and enjoyable. Excellent participation, explored lots of issues pertinent to Year 7, including bullying and peer pressure as well as road safety.”

Mrs S Scantlebury, Head of Year 7, Chipping Norton School, Oxfordshire

Chunnel of Love

"French with tears ... the bi-lingual elements give this play an added dimension ... the context and the action means that no-one loses the thread of the story." 
Sue Wilkinson: Southern Evening Echo.

Legal Weapon II

"A gripping storyline.  Hard hitting messages came across clearly and at a level that really meant something to the students.  Even the most challenging of our students were held by the drama.  This type of learning experience should be given to each Year 11 as they come through the school.  It had such an impact and I’m sure will make a difference out on the roads in the real world.” 

Myrtle Springs Secondary School.  (Re: the Ape Theatre Company touring production)

"This was definitely the best factual government message I have ever seen and really made you think about the effects of speeding not only on yourself getting a fine or imprisonment but the overwhelming sense of loss to a family if you kill someone on the road.  It was a very important experience for the students and so valuable to make it available to so many.  They really felt its impact."

Richard Storer:  Ecclesfield Secondary School, Sheffield.   (Re: the Ape Theatre Company touring production)

"The remarkable Mark Wheeller's play Legal Weapon has had over 2000 performances since it was first staged in 1996.
This puts into perspective the vital contribution to our education system and the value of his exceptional writing in confronting the vast range of social issues that make up his invaluable portfolio. It is important that we pay due cognisance of the invaluable role that Mark plays as a socially conscious dramatist, and for me it has been exhilarating to see his work extend beyond the early commissions to write for Theatre in Education companies and within the last decade to become one of the most performed playwrights in a wide range of professional and community venues as well as in educational establishments that face so many of the social problems that are addressed in his work." 

Charles Vance Editor of Amateur Stage.   August 2005

Missing Dan Nolan

"Compelling theatre... any anxieties I had were swept away with the sensitive portrayal of most of the characters... all four actors drew on emotions beyond their years. They held their audience captive. I hope plans to show this most moving of plays to a wider audience can be achieved."
Jan Foster. Southern Evening Echo Curtain Call Awards reviewer.

"Emotive... a chronology that dances between past and present... the stage almost bare as if to heighten the real feeling of emptiness that Dan's disappearance creates... family relationships and teenage choices are key aspects of this play... the best conclusion is that Dan returns home to his family but unfortunately, this happy ending is the underlying purpose of the play and not it's current resolution."

Warwick Payne; Hampshire Chronicle.

"An excellent production... very impressive, honest and thought provoking."
Julian Thould: Head Teacher King Edwads VI School (where Dan was a student), Southampton.

"This is a play that every parent of a teenager needs to see. Its message of sticking together is put across in a very powerful and poignant way. I've never before seen a roomful of adults and teenagers left in stunned silence at the end of a play's performance."
Elaine Walter, parent of a teenage son and daughter.

"Unusual and deeply affecting. Skilfully written, it achieves, for an episodic play, astonishing depth and authenticity.... a portrayal of Dan which was at once an intensely personal figure and yet known to every parent in the audience as their own...the audience was drawn inescapably into the grief at his loss... it gave the piece an almost unbearable pathos. Dan Nolan - Missing addresses a wound still raw and stands as a fitting testament to a young life."
Charles Evans (Adjudicator - Eastleigh Drama Festival)

I have long been an admirer of Mark Wheeller’s issue-led plays. Whether he is examining the subject of the lure of speed for teenage boys or the dangers of Anorexia, there is an immediacy and theatrical brio about his writing that gives his subjects an instant efficacy. Missing Dan Nolan is a heart-rending examination of the public and private grief of a bewildered family and community coming to terms with the unexplained disappearance of a much-loved friend, brother and son while acknowledging the wider issues raised by Dan’s disappearance.

I know of no other playwright in Britain working in this way, addressing important issues in a manner that is so immediately relevant and accessible to both cast members and audience. In the case of this play Mark has penned an instant response to a family’s plea for help in discovering what happened to their son. This is more than documentary drama – it is also campaigning theatre at its most powerful.

This is a complex piece of drama that tells its story with many shifts of time, place and even person. The approach is, as always, bold, direct and simple. Even on the bare page this is a powerful piece of drama, it should be even more powerful on the stage.

The loss of a loved one is the most terrible thing any parent, brother, friend – even community – can experience. If anything positive can be said to have come out of the awful tragedy of Dan Nolan’s disappearance and death, then the knowledge that this play will stand as a testament to the experience of their ordeal, may bring the family some comfort, especially as it will continue to highlight some of their concerns about the causes of the incident and the way in which it was dealt with. In drawing attention to the importance of looking out for each other in all circumstances, this piece should serve as a lasting, and fitting memorial to Dan as well as a highly original tool in the battle to publicise the charity his parents founded in the wake of the catastrophe.

The opening minutes of the play served notice that here was a team that was at one with the material and had created a production style that admirably suited the piece. The eerie, dreamlike entrance in the wintry blue light to the haunting strains of Silent Night set exactly the right mood of that fateful New Year’s Day before the atmosphere was expertly turned with crashing chords of Blink 182 accompanying the boys as they head banged, drank and vomited, before the effortless segue into the sibling argument that moved the scene deftly into the domestic.

This was disciplined, committed and highly focussed work from all concerned. And if you needed any further proof it was supplied by the way in which the cast went into the various freezes during the play. Excellent.

I liked and admired much about this inventive, imaginative production – this is a director with great vision and marvellous control of pace and mood. The swift transformation from schoolboy roustabout to the poignant scene in which Sarah says the goodbye in her mind that she was denied in reality, was a great example.

I just adored the fabulous physicality of this production – the brothers fighting, the neighbours gossiping and the girls preening, for example – lovely stuff.

The way in which you handed the transition scene as the boys set up the pontoon scene to “One Fine Day” was just outstanding, then you expertly switched the mood again for the lengthy re-enactment of Dan’s last known movements, staged in highly effective manner.

I thought the final moments of the play were poignant and very moving as Dan sort or faded out of the scene into the uncertain distance.

Congratulations to Mark Wheeller for this fine piece of work and congratulations to his team at Oaklands Youth Theatre for bringing it to life in such a vibrant, committed, unsentimental and truthful fashion. This was the sort of teamwork that one always hopes for in youth theatre groups but one sees all too rarely, alas! The individual performances were first class and the direction showed the same flair, imagination and rigorous discipline as the writing.

Very Well Done Oaklands Youth Theatre, deserved winners of the Youth Award.”

Paul Fowler GODA Adjudicator at the Woking Drama Festival 2005

The Gate Escape

"The Gate Escape has a lively dramatic style and innovative structure with dynamic and contemporary dialogue. The audience will feel fully involved and enthralled by the main characters.

I strongly recommend The Gate Escape to all those with an interest in truancy; not least schools, pupils, parents, education welfare officers, learning mentors, home-school liaison officers, classroom assistants, teachers, heads of year, deputies, head teachers as well as all those involved in community work (police, youth services, social services, voluntary staff) with either truants or potential truants. The play is enjoyable in its own right. It is certain to ‘fire the imagination’ of the next generation."

Professor Ken Reid (Deputy Principal, Swansea Institute of HE: author of Truancy: Short and Long Term Solutions; Tackling Truancy in Schools; Truancy and Schools (all published by Routledge Falmer).

Arson About

Mark Wheeller is a remarkable amalgam of a fine dramatist and a man with a passionate social conscience... and once again we are able to lavish unashamed praise for a remarkable piece of theatre written for every type of youth company. The cost of Arson About becomes all too clear.Amateur Stage.

Sequinned Suits and Platform Boots

"Last summer I had the pleasure of taking a coach load of our pupils to see Mark's youth theatre perform his fantastic autobio-comedy 'Sequinned Suits and Platform Boots'. 

Coming from our leafy suburb in Winchester, our pupils filed nervously in the while watched from the roof by the local chav society who loitered impressively on the school roof wearing perfect white on white. How could we have known that we were about to watch the most touching and nostalgic production where the simple act of taking a record out of its sleeve, moving an arm across and pulling the 'play' lever became a metaphor for the wonder of youth! It was one of those rare communal experiences we often hope to have in the theatre.

A delightfully visual show ... every entrance earned a round of applause - our Year 10s came out of the theatre asking each other one question..."wouldn't it be amazing if we could do this play for our final exam? 

Set in the time of Mark's own awakening...(bloody years ago!)...when T-Rex stomped the planet, David Bowie ruled the skies, and every new bad taste idea was "cosmic!", this heart-warming play invited every member of the audience to confront their own moments of starry-eyed wonder-lust and giggle with coy embarrassment! 

I hate to think that anyone would pass by on an opportunity to inspire their pupils simply because this play isn't as well known as Mark's other plays or lesser plays published by better know publishers."
Paul Mills – Head of Drama - Westgate School in Winchester.

"The quirkily, original Sequinned Suits and Platform Boots manages to be funky, funny and factual while exploring a time in our lives when being the next 'Ziggy Stardust' was achievable.    I thought the play was brilliant! Mark Wheeller's latest offering looks at teenage dreams in an Alice in Wonderland/ Wizard of Oz kind of way with an excellent portrayal of the animated characters. Set to a soundtrack from the glam rock era the show will have you coming away cringing at your own memories of singing into a hairbrush whilst staring at your reflection in the mirror."
Craig Morrison Southampton Institute Newspaper 2005 Ziggy’s Band (the precursor to Sequinned Suits and Platform Boots)

Kill Jill

Mark Wheeller is a remarkable playwright.   Over 20 years I have literally waxed lyrical about the superb work Mark does… so before addressing this exceptional new play I would like to reiterate what I have written about Mark over the years.   Not only is Mark a very accessible playwright but his commitment to his work in education and Youth Theatre in general is legendary among the cognoscenti… he has that exceptional gift of being able to demonstrate his concern about the issues he addresses in his plays as well as his passionate love of Theatre itself…

So to this latest excellent play… destined to delight and tempt as it is full of imaginative techniques.   It must surely become a major school text as well as an ideal choice for amateur theatre production… I cannot commend it highly enough, both as a production choice or as a superb read!

Charles Vance Editor Amateur Stage

Jamie in the Land of Dinnersphere

The Year 11 Drama group performance of JAMIE effectively brought to life the importance of healthy eating and was a fantastic enhancement to our PSHE curriculum.  We would welcome this back annually as  a key part of our "Healthy Week".
Hayley Morris - PSHE Subject leader/Healthy Schools co-ordinator Hollybrook Junior School in Southampton.

When they made me become part of the Story Rocket it was fun!  Jamie's dad was a mad inventor - he was really funny!"

Josh Year 3 Hollybrook Junior School

StopWatch Theatre Company is delighted to be giving the first professional performances of JAMIE IN THE LAND OF DINNERSPHERE.  We really liked its appealing fantasy storyline, which helps children to see the importance of their food choices.  It will be accompanied by our trademark interactive workshops helping children to understand what makes a balanced diet and encourages enjoy the new school dinners.  It is an ideal script for senior students on vocational courses.”

Adrian New: StopWatch Theatre Company

D2D (Driven to Distraction)

Excellent performance! Serious message conveyed in a clear, precise and entertaining manner. I definitely recommend it to others.”

R Ruthven Pastoral Head Year 9 Redden Court School Romford


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