Writer’s Note: Hilary Bell, SUMMER OF HAROLD

22 Aug 2023

SUMMER OF HAROLD began as a short play, ‘Window, Cricket Bat’ – a co-commission from Griffin Theatre and the Australian Design Centre for Sydney Festival 2022. Performed in the ADC’s gallery space as part of their exhibition Happy Objects, it was inspired by the true adventures of Margaret Woodward, one of the contributing artists, who indeed backpacked to London in 1984 and worked as Harold Pinter’s housekeeper. We nervously sent Lady Antonia Fraser the script, and her approval was relief and thrill in equal measure.

When Mark asked me to expand it for Ensemble, I jumped at the idea of diving deeper into the significance we ascribe to inanimate objects. Material things carry so much emotional weight, personal, specific, and unconnected to their function. Loaded with associations, they oppress or encourage, serve as aides de memoire or cautionary tales. These three plays, though discrete, have a thematic throughline. They speak to the ways in which a life can be shaped by an object, for good or for ill, and that recognising it for what it is can release us from its power.

Crucial to the process of this piece’s development are actor Lucia Mastrantone and Jen Rani, director of ‘Window, Cricket Bat’. I owe a debt of gratitude to them, as well as to Griffin and ADC. Also, to the artists with whom I’ve workshopped these plays – Frankie, Jane, Berynn, Hannah, as well as Valerie Bader and Eloise Snape, and to my clever sister Lucy Bell for her dramaturgical input. Thanks, too, to a residency in the Blue Mountains through WestWords and the Ades family (the location working its way into the final play). And of course, huge props to Ensemble for championing Australian stories.

Hilary Bell

In award-winning playwright Hilary Bell’s SUMMER OF HAROLD, the transformative power of everyday objects threads through three cracking comedic plays about adventure, obsession and hope. On stage 8 Sep – 14 Oct, secure you seats today.