Tue 15th – Sat 19th Nov 2011


“Well of course he's lonely. He lives on his own. That doesn't mean you should visit him.”




Abel Peterson

Wendy Dessner



LemonJam Productions


Abel Peterson lives in a house on a hill. The villagers live in the village below. When Wendy decides to go up the hill, who knows what will come tumbling down...

A modern fairytale from Matt Fuller, the writer of 'Lemonworld' and 'The Courting of Claire'.


OTR Backstage by Features Blogger May Anderson

With two successful shows behind him, one about to launch in 6th week and another that he’s preparing to pitch for it would be fair to say that Matt Fuller is pretty productive on the student drama scene. Quantity, however, in this case matches quality and his writing has been very well received in previous terms, garnering inclusion in the OUDS’ New Writing Festival and top-star reviews amongst other plaudits. Whilst not an anomaly on the drama scene, it’s encouraging to see someone committed to putting original work onto the stage. Not that I don’t delight in seeing the occasional meta-theatrical Greek tragedy, or drawing-room comedy of manners but its always a treat to be genuinely surprised, if only just on the basic level of plot, when I go to see a student production.

Peterson is Matt Fuller’s third play and the first he’s had ‘complete control’ over – this being his first experience of both directing and writing a play. Ben Kirby, co-director of Peterson and also a first-time director, describes Matt as ‘very neurotic’ when it comes to the performance aspect of the play and I can see that he’s passionate about getting everything just right. Having let go of the reigns for his last two projects it’s obvious that Fuller wants to make the most of guiding his story through to its endpoint. The pair describe some rather clueless-sounding forays into the director’s chair but I can tell that they are being self-deprecating when they describe their only input as asking their actors to speak certain lines a little louder. A more honest account of their technique is probably apparent when Ben coaxes Matt into talking about an instance in rehearsals when he comes close to tears because he was so moved by the thought of what come next for these characters. Corny, yes, (and perhaps bizarrely sadistic as he wrote what comes after) but also sweetly indicative of a new-found focus on the psychological complexity of character in his writing and hugely suggestive of how invested he is in the work.

Peterson follows the relationship between the Abel Peterson, an old man who lives on a hill, and Wendy, a girl from the village below. Attracted, it seems, to writing about ‘strange people’, Peterson is a Boo Radley figure who elicits whisperings from the small community he lives in. And whilst they are reticent on the exact details of his misdemeanour it’s safe to say that there is more than an intimation that it exceeds your usual hedge-trimming dispute. Peterson seems also to mark an evolution in his writing style. Whilst the Courting of Clare was ‘loud’ and intended to shock, Peterson seems to have a more understated quality that reflects a more faithful rendering of Fuller’s theatrical ‘voice’.

Oxford can tend to be a place in which plays are put on for all sorts of silly, frivolous reasons. But I don’t think Peterson falls into that category. Admitting that there is ‘no better feeling in the world’ than having your story told upon the stage, Matt and Ben seem passionate about telling a story in the hope that it’ll connect on some level with their audiences. And really, when the storytelling is this good, what better reason is there to go and watch a play?

Playing from Tuesday of 6th week through to Saturday at the Burton Taylor Studio.


Admission: £6(£5)

Burton Taylor Studio (BT)

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