Written by Hugh Whitemore

Tues 4th, Thurs 6th, Sat 8th, Weds 12th & Fri 14th October 1983

Directed by John Scadding

Meet Stevie Smith, the famous Palmers Green poetess and her Lion Aunt. Follow her triumphs and her struggles with the Angel of Death and her trip to Buckingham Palace. A true story and a fascinating portrayal of a true eccentric.

AuthorHugh Whitemore

Hugh Whitemore (b 1936)

Hugh Whitemore began his writing career in television (contributing to The Wednesday Play, Armchair Theatre and Play for Today) and twice received Writers' Guild Awards. His film work credits include 'The Return of the Soldier', Mel Brooks' production of '84 Charing Cross Road', 'Utz', and Franco Zeffirelli's 'Jane Eyre'. His stage plays include 'Pack of Lies', 'Breaking the Code', 'The Best of Friends', 'It's Ralph', 'A Letter of Resignation', 'Disposing of the Body', 'God Only Knows' and a new version of Pirandello's 'As You Desire Me'. The plots of Whitemore's plays frequently focus on historical figures. Hugh Whitemore's work has twice been named Best Single TV drama by the UK Broadcasting Press Guild, he has received the Scripter Award in Hollywood and a Script Prize at the 1998 Monte Carlo Festival. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Honorary Fellow of King's College, London.


'Stevie' was written in 1977 and is about the life of poet Stevie Smith. She lives with her beloved aunt and her life story is told through direct dialogue with the audience by Stevie, as well as flashbacks, and narration by a friend known as 'The Man'. The main focus is on her relationship with her aunt, romantic relationships of the past (including her boyfriend Freddie) and the fame she received late in her life. Stevie escapes her dull middle-class existence through her poetry. Though she takes many spiritual flights of fancy, she never truly leaves the small apartment where all the action takes place. The play was filmed in 1978 by Robert Enders, with Glenda Jackson, Mona Washbourne, Alec McCowen and Trevor Howard.

The Bench Production

Stevie 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 'Skirmishes', by Catherine Hayes on alternate nights to that play.


StevieNicola Scadding
AuntJanet Simpson
ManDavid Penrose


Director John Scadding
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 the words to be presented this evening were either written by the poet Stevie Smith (1902 - 1971). This actually makes the script rather out of the ordinary. However, even more out of the ordinary is the way that the playwright has strung these speeches together; for instead of presenting a straightforward naturalistic everyday comedy, which the scenery would suggest to anybody, he has switches in Time, an all-purpose Storyteller and each of the characters directly addressing us; so the play comes out like a glorified daisy-chain of poems and teacups, Death and gasbills - in fact very much like the character of the heroine, Stevie.

Stevie, it seems, was quite a mixed-up lady, living with her aunt, being witty, outrageous, but deep down basically finding Existence difficult. What she said, what she did about it with those she came closest to, is our play this evening.

John Scadding


The News A J U

Simplicity deceptive in 'Stevie' tribute

Death came as a happy release for Stevie Smith, the poet whose complex character and unassuming life are documented at Havant Arts Centre this week. Having survived one suicide attempt, and unable to speak because of a brain tumour near the end of her life, she welcomed death as a compassionate friend with her last written words before dying in 1971. But 'Stevie' does far more than just deal with the talented poet's obsession with death. Hugh Whitemore's moving and humorous play acts as a lasting tribute to the life and work of a fascinating character who may otherwise have been forgotten.

Under the artful direction of John Scadding, the Bench Theatre invites its audience into the cluttered sitting room of Stevie's North London home to take an intriguing glimpse of her life. The most unusual in that most of the words were actually either written or spoken by the poet - but the apparent simplicity of the play is deceptive. While only having a cast of three, the two women are required to age years and the man has to play four separate characters, including that of storyteller.

Nicola Scadding, wife of the play's director, superbly captures the spirit of Stevie. Janet Simpson brings a warmth and affection to her portrayal of her aunt while David Penrose cope admirably with the demands of four roles. The Bench is presenting 'Stevie' in repertory with 'Skirmishes' by Catherine Hayes, at Havant Arts Centre this week. 'Stevie' continues tomorrow and Friday, and 'Skirmishes' runs today, Thursday, and Saturday. Performances are at 7:30p.m.

The News, 11th October 1983

Production Photographs