Written by Catherine Hayes

Weds 5th, Fri 7th, Tues 11th, Thurs 13th & Sat 15th October 1983

Directed by Jacquie Penrose

Two sisters clash at their mother's bedside. For one, every day of her mother's illness adds to the waste of her own life, while the other sees the old house as the trap she has tried to escape. With often grim humour they wrestle with their burden of responsibility. Catherine Hayes casts an acute but gentle eye on the subject of parental decline and turns a potentially morbid subject into a humane and moving account.

AuthorCatherine Hayes

Catherine Hayes

Liverpudlian writer, Catherine Hayes is possibly better known for her screenwriting than for her plays. In the 1980s she wrote an episode for the soap opera 'Brookside'; and between 2006 and 2008 several episodes of 'Coronation Street'. Her other plays include 'Dear Sandra', 'Little Sandra', 'Long Time Gone' and 'Not Waving'. She was awarded the 1982 London Critics' Circle Theatre Awards (Drama Theatre Awards) for Most Promising Playwright of 1981 for 'Skirmishes'.


Skirmishes is a one act play set in the bedroom of a senile, incontinent, near-comatose old woman who lies hours from death. She is looked after by her two grown-up daughters; the eldest, Jean, has stayed at home throughout her mother's illness, bearing the brunt of all the work, whilst her sister, Rita, who left home years ago, returns only now in the last few days of their mother's life. The play centres around the antagonism and resentment and not least of all the love, which has been part of their lives over the years.

First published in 1982, this play was originally broadcast on ITV in that year as part of 'ITV Playhouse'.

The Bench Production

Skirmishes poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. It was staged in repertory with 'Stevie', by Hugh Whitemore on alternate nights to that play.


JeanJenny Graham
RitaIngrid Corrigan
MotherRobbie Cattermole


Director Jacquie Penrose
Stage Manager Lezley Picton
Assistant Stage Managers Jo German
Jane Hart
Lighting Saul Hewish
Poster Design Jenny Graham
Set Construction Peter Holding
David Graham
Colin Hardy
Helen Arnold
Front of House Rhian Davey

Director's Notes

Most of us have parents - and parents tend to grow old sooner of later. If they become ill, or senile, who should take up the burden? Can a child turn her back and walk away, even though relationships have soured?

Jacquie Penrose


The NewsSheila Lakauskas

The final curtain...

The presence of bedsores and the absence of Bath buns: can this be all that pricks the conscience of two sisters as they wait at their dying mother's bedside? No, for the Bench Theatre portrays with pathos and wit the long-lost love the three of them have experienced. In Catherine Hayes' play 'Skirmishes', performed at Havant Arts Centre this week, two sisters meet to share the last hours of their mother's life.

Jean, the younger sister, played by Ingrid Corrigan, appears a reluctant visitor, anxious at being away from her family, or afraid at having to cope with strokes, senility, incontinence, and what she at first finds most abhorrent - bedsores. Rita (Jenny Graham) who has nursed her mother for months, already has mapped out in her mind the funeral and obituary, and seems desperate for the unfinished business to be resolved - although she expresses fears for the catering at the wake.

But the production makes a humane and moving account of a potentially morbid subject. The role of Jean marks a farewell to the company for Jenny Graham.

The News, October 1983

Production Photographs