Introducing Rose Collis

Welcome to my website,  the ‘shop window’ to the full range of my work – past, present and future. Like any good store, it’s divided up into specialist ‘departments’, to make it easier to have a browse in your area of interest, whether you’re an audience member, reader, participant, funder, venue or producer.

I am a nationally and internationally critically acclaimed performer, author, playwright, singer, musician, historian, producer, workshop leader and journalist. Originally from South London, I’ve lived and thrived in various parts of Sussex since 1997.

My work spans four decades and now includes full-length and short biographies, stage plays, social and cultural histories, journalism, short fiction, online content, exhibitions, lectures, apps, workshops, literary talks and educational tours.

‘She has a love for her craft and is able to communicate that to anyone wanting to listen or read.’                                        G-Scene


I’ve worked in a diverse range of disciplines involving partnerships with arts organisations and venues, libraries, community groups, museums and publishers.

My artistic intention is to combine my performing and writing skills to produce for myself and other performers a range of engaging and entertaining ‘literary’ stage work which introduces audiences to, and explores, the lives of overlooked women/LGBT people.

My theatre work also benefits from my distinctive ability to create and deliver original and popular public engagement events which can be undertaken in parallel with stage work or independently.

Since 2012, I have garnered a national and international reputation as a stage artist who writes, performs and produces high quality work.

This has been achieved without the support of any mainstream theatre venues or producers, and without any regular income or guaranteed funding, or any commercial sponsorship.

Photo: Jennifer Grogan

‘I would never have quit. And that’s the only attitude that’s going to work for a real artist, is that you’re just not going to do anything else. You’re just not.’                                       Iggy Pop

I have written, edited and contributed to 17 books, including:

My diverse public talks and lectures have included sell-out events at the V&A, Royal National Theatre, Equity, National Film Theatre, National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Gladstone’s Library, Brighton Museum, Brighton Festival,  New Writing South, Polari (South Bank) Bishopsgate Institute, West Dean College, Charleston Trust, Wigtown Book Festival, London Metropolitan Archives and public libraries in London and in East and West Sussex.

‘That indeed is the Collis way: loads of info delivered with charming informality and with plenty of anecdotal chuckles along the way.’                                       Andrew Kay, The Latest

Photo: Simon Reeves

 In August 2015, I was appointed the first Writer-in-Residence at Coleridge Cottage by the National Trust and Literature Works for the Writing Places project. In 2015, I was shortlisted for the Gladstone Library Writers-in-Residence 2016  programme and awarded an honorary scholarship and featured in the literary festival, Hearth.

I have been a four-time recipient of Society of Authors’ awards for biographical research.

In February 2018, I was shortlisted for the post of Inn Crowd/Kent Downs Writer/Performer-in-Residence.

In May 2012, with a only a few hundred pounds’ worth of crowd-funding, I created Trouser-Wearing Characters, the first solo musical cabaret show written and performed by a female author. Launched at the Brighton Fringe 2012, it was an immediate public and critical success.

Since then, the show has appeared at festivals and venues throughout the UK.

In spring 2013, it completed a triumphant five-week tour of four major arts festivals (co-produced by Tomboi) in New Zealand and Australia: Auckland Fringe, WellingtonNZ Fringe, Sydney Mardi Gras and Adelaide Fringe — the second biggest arts festival in the world.

‘Collis has excelled in creating something that has moved beyond any general label. Trouser-Wearing Characters is a highly-entertaining and personal piece of cabaret theatre that will be appreciated by a broad audience.’

Theatre Review New Zealand

‘It’s a pleasure to spend an hour with Rose Collis and her tales of masculine women and feminine men, a look at the gay British sub culture of the last century.’

Adelaide Advertiser

In February 2016, Arts Council England funded the show’s first-ever regional tour of performances in public libraries. It continues to tour.


Masculine Women, Feminine Men : Opening song of ‘Trouser-Wearing Characters’, one-woman musical cabaret show by Rose Collis. Lyrics/music Edgar Leslie/James V Monaco (1926), additional new lyrics by Rose Collis (2012), arrangement Rose Collis (2012) Recorded by Tod Higginson, July 2018. Vocals/banjolele: Rose Collis

It’s The Best I Can Do For The Money: Song about entertainment legend Douglas Byng, featured in the one-woman musical cabaret show, ‘Trouser-Wearing Characters’, written and performed by Rose Collis. Lyrics and music, Rose Collis (c) 2012. Vocals/banjolele: Rose Collis

In November 2014, I received my first ACE funding to write and produce Not Wanted On Voyage, a new two-hander about gay 50s media personalities, Nancy Spain and Gilbert Harding. It was given two hugely successful professional semi-staged readings at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton, and Bread & Roses Theatre.

My ACE-funded solo play, Wanting The Moon, about Clemence Dane the ‘invisible woman’ of 20th century British culture, was successfully previewed in early 2016 at the Marlborough Theatre and Arundel Jailhouse.

It enjoyed a successful London run at Bread and Roses Theatre in September 2016, and plans are now underway for it to tour in early 2019 with a re-tooled script.

My latest ACE-funded work, The Trials of Colonel Barker, is my first two-act stage play inspired by my critically acclaimed book Colonel Barker’s Monstrous Regiment. It made its world premiere with a very successful one-off rehearsed reading as part of the second (Brighton and) Hove Grown Festival in March 2017 and has now been submitted to a number of producers and competitions.

In August 2017, I joined the cast which co-devised and acted in the third edition of Motherlogues by Forked Theatre. The show received five and four-star reviews at the Camden Fringe Festival.

I am a member of Equity, Society of Authors and Sussex Playwrights. In June 2017, I was elected to serve on Equity’s national LGBT+ Equalities Committee until 2019.



5 Star Rating


‘If Brighton is representative of a particular attitude, a particular atmosphere, then Rose gets close to evoking exactly what this is. She could easily be snapped up by television, I feel, as there has been a recent trend towards shows imparting serious subjects in an entertaining and accessible way. Collis certainly fits this bill.’

Lucy Nordberg, Fringe Review

‘Rose Collis’s show Trouser Wearing Characters went down a storm at the Wigtown Book Festival 2012.  That’s quite a coup for an English artiste in a Scottish environment.  Cheers and laughter and tears — all of them inspired by Rose’s performance.  People loved it — the history, the entertainment, the presentation — which was professional, focused and sensitive.’

Gerrie Douglas-Scott, ReadingLasses, Wigtown Booktown Fringe Festival

‘She has a charming voice and a delightful delivery…the show has just about all anyone can ask: interesting content, great energy and music that makes you beg for more.’

Lynn Ruth Miller

‘Wotever World have had the pleasure to collaborate and work with Rose Collis twice now and, at both events, she and her unique style have gone down a storm. Trouser Wearing Characters is a piece of much needed LGBT history, and with her wit and charm Rose makes us sip up every word and tune. We are specially in awe of the Music Hall numbers on banjolele! Perfect and so funny! We are looking forward to many more events where we have Rose with us on stage.’

Ingo Cando, Creative Producer, Wotever World

‘Pink Fringe and Marlborough Theatre supported the development and presented the initial run of Trouser-Wearing Characters. We were delighted with the response to the show and Rose’s ability to illuminate minority histories in an engaging way that appeals to a broad range of audiences. She has a distinctive artistic voice.’

David Sheppeard, Pink Fringe/Marlborough Theatre

‘West Sussex Libraries had the great pleasure of working with Rose Collis during LGBT History Month 2012. It was an excellent event, with each section very well chosen for the evening and for the audience in mind. Rose had a great rapport with her audience and was very relaxed about talking informally to people afterwards, which added to the atmosphere. It was a really enjoyable event to be involved with.’

Mike Morten, Community Librarian, West Sussex Libraries

‘Delightfully readable, with an unusually vivid sense of the recent past and its personalities, she is a biographer to watch.’

Jonathan Cecil, The Spectator

‘Collis treads a careful line between sensation and sentiment. She finds strength, humour and glamour in her subjects.’

Kathryn Hughes, Daily Telegraph

‘Can an historian ever be entertaining? When the historian is Rose Collis and the subject is delightfully decadent and debauched, the answer is a big ‘over the top’ YES!’

Adelaide Theatre Guide

Photo: Ann Nicholls