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A: Caryl Churchill Pf: 1983, Colchester Pb: 1983 G: Drama in 21 scenes S: A village in the Fens, 1980s C: 6m, 16fA Japanese businessman welcomes the audience to the fen, the ‘most expensive earth in England’, owned by a multinational corporation. Women pick potatoes, and Val leaves early: she is fed up with her marriage and plans to run away with Frank, who has left his wife. He invites her to stay with him, and she says goodbye to her daughters. Angela is cruel to her stepdaughter Becky. Val's daughters and Becky viciously tease old Nell. Val's mother May reproaches Val for leaving her daughters. Frank's boss is persuaded to sell his land to a City corporation, then sees the Ghost of a 19th-century woman working in his field. Val is torn between love for her children and for Frank, and eventually moves back home. At a Baptist meeting, Margaret describes how unhappiness drove her to drink; but religion is no comfort to Val, and she goes back to Frank. Frank takes an overdose, but recovers. Val begs him to kill her. He hits her with an axe and puts her body in the wardrobe. Val enters and speaks of the ghosts she has seen, Becky and Angela appear, and Nell walks past on stilts. May, who wanted to be a singer but never sang, breaks into song.

A: Caryl Churchill Pf: 1983, Colchester Pb: 1983 G: Drama in 21 scenes S: A village in the Fens, 1980s C: 6m, 16f

Fen, ‘containing more direct quotes of things people said to us than any other I've written’, was the product of doing workshops and collecting material with the Joint Stock Theatre Company in the Fens. This semi-documentary piece with its dream-like ending depicts the deprivation of a typical village, where the old rural community no longer exists but does not yet enjoy the conveniences of modern living.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

Reference entries

Caryl Churchill (b. 1938) English dramatist

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