Breaking The Wall

Written by Stephen Mollett

February 2023

Directed by Stephen Mollett

AuthorStephen Mollett

Stephen Mollett

Stephen Mollett is a dramatist and fiction writer. He has written eight plays for BBC Radio 4 in a variety of genres, including A House Halfway to Africa (a biographical drama concerning Van Gogh) and a surreal romantic comedy set in St Ives, The Visitors' Book. Three other radio plays, Running West, The Joke and A White Velvet Nightcap in Florida, are all set in Budapest, where Stephen lived for a year. While there he wrote and directed a 20-minute quirkily comic film, The Paprika File (1996), which was part-financed by the British Council and the Hungarian Ministry of Culture.

For television, Stephen has written five episodes of the BBC1 drama series Doctors. Stephen's screenplay about evacuees, In Care of Strangers, won a national screenwriting award. His stage play for young people, commissioned by John Retallack's Oxford Stage Company, was given staged readings on a national tour. In 2020 two mini radio dramas were produced by INK Festival and broadcast locally.

Stephen was co-centre director for the Arvon Foundation at Totleigh Barton from 1988 to 1990, and then tutored on several Arvon courses himself. He has created and taught a variety of creative-writing BA and MA courses at Bath Spa University (1991–1995) and at the University of Chichester (2000-2019).He has been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at both Chichester and Portsmouth universities.

Stephen joined Bench Theatre in 2020 and has been part of our Artistic Panel team. His short play Issie and Dora was performed by Bench in July 2021, part of Bench Presents. He has just completed a novel, Gull House. He has two children and lives in Midhurst, West Sussex with his wife, the writer and poet Stephanie Norgate.

PlayBreaking The Wall

Premiere production of a new play by Stephen Mollett

Hagen has cut off from his East German past and raised his daughter in Sussex, where he runs a fruit farm.

When his daughter returns home with her German boyfriend, Hagen is hurled back into the nightmare of Stasi imprisonment. Terrible suspicions torture him. Surely he's safe among his strawberry beds and blueberry fields? Will he ever escape his interrogator? And will he lose his daughter?

A gripping, emotional and tender family drama.

The Bench Production

Breaking The Wall Image poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


RoseErin Offord
HagenRoger Niven
JuliusJames Andrews
The InterrogatorJames Andrews


Director Stephen Mollett
Producer Jacquie Penrose
Stage Manager Sharman Callam
Assistant Stage Manager Bernie Lomas
Lighting Design Mike Jones
Lighting Operation Mike Jones
Sound Design Jacquie Penrose
Sound Operator Beth Howard
Programme Derek Callam
Set Design and Artwork David Penrose
Set Construction Julie Burt-Wood and members of the Company
Front of House Ingrid Corrigan

Director's Notes

I lived in Budapest when Hungary was still under Communist control and later wrote 3 audio dramas set in that fascinating city. I went on to write dramas on very different subjects but recently I was drawn back to the Iron Curtain, this time to East Germany and the Stasi. I wanted to set the play in Sussex - on a PYO farm similar to one where I pick blueberries and blackcurrants - but in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. A German man thinks he has cut off from his past, fifteen years after living here, but trauma returns.

Until I researched the play I had never appreciated how massive the system of surveillance was in East Germany – one in six people were involved in reporting on others. I visited Berlin with my son and we were astonished, angered and moved when we visited the former Stasi HQ and the remand prison of Hohenschönhausen. Anna Funder encounters residents of that time, including a Stasi interrogator, in her book 'Stasiland'. Memoirs I read revealed extraordinary stories, and the lingering damage inflicted on people by such repressive regimes.

When we first started rehearsing this play, we discussed and imagined life behind the Berlin wall. We also had plenty of fun in rehearsals – I never knew the children's game of Grandmother's Footsteps could be so scary. As the writer I came with strong images of the action in my head. But what the actors find is crucial. This small cast has been wonderful at discovering and inhabiting their characters.

Stephen Mollett


The NewsJames George

Bench Theatre are back at The Spring this week with Stephen Mollett's Breaking The Wall – essentially a Cold War drama revolving around an ex-Stasi prisoner and the truth surrounding his life.

Mollett's play – an economic, tight three-hander – is worthy of note and should be more widely known. It revolves around Hagen, an East German citizen now living in England where he maintains a farm on behalf of its owner. His daughter returns from a visit to a now-united Germany bringing with her a new lover who triggers something in Hagen – a wave of negativity – and the play explores his subsequent actions in light of his past experiences, the secrets he's kept and his daughter's changing attitude to her father.

Roger Niven as Hagen gives a taut performance. In the flashback interrogation-scenes we – like his interrogator – can't tell truth from fantasy. It's a performance steeped in distrust and fear which motivates his every action in the play. Good work.

Erin Offord as daughter Rosa is self-assured and convincingly prepared to turn her back on her father in support of her misunderstood and mistrusted lover.

James Andrews in the dual roles of both Julius – Rosa's new boyfriend – and the Stasi interrogator in the flashback scenes – plays both roles identically. This is no criticism of Andrews; it's exactly what's required. Can we trust Julius, as Rosa clearly does, or is he the treacherous, murderous agent Hagen suspects him to be? The blandness of both characters (again – no criticism of the writing or the performance intended) works beautifully; it confuses, it bewilders, it misleads. It also means that when Andrews has a throwaway comedy line, it works beautifully.

Directorially it could, perhaps, have moved further up and down the emotional scale and on occasions it becomes ploddy; more attack could shift this up a gear. Some thought should be given to the scene where Hagen attacks Julius, too. On opening night this was simply not convincing.

But – again – Bench are bringing something unknown to local audiences – and that's always to be applauded.

Support it if you can.

The News, James George, February 2023

Production Photographs