Written and produced by Rose Collis
Performed by Rose Collis, Keith Drinkel, Philippa Hammond and Guy Wah
Directed by Thomas Everchild
The Trials of Colonel Barker, a new full-length stage play by Rose Collis based on her critically-acclaimed 2001 book, Colonel Barker’s Monstrous Regiment, mades its world premiere on March 26 with a one-off rehearsed reading during the second Hove Grown Festival.
The play explores some of the most dramatic events in the complex and extraordinary life of Valerie Arkell-Smith – aka ‘Colonel Sir Victor Barker DSO’ – who veered from tragedy to farce and from fame to obscurity, but always strove to be ‘a perfect gentleman’.
Colonel Barker’s story is one of identity: gender identity, hidden identities, class identities and the conflict between the public and the private identity.
With thanks to Arts Council England, Jill Gardiner, Krazy Kat Theatre and Gladstone’s Library for funding and match-funding; Hove Grown Festival; Purple Playhouse.
4 and 5-star praise for the rehearsed reading:
‘Entertaining, witty, well-researched, extraordinary story.’
‘Outstanding – the twist in this true story was unforeseen and brilliantly delivered that left audience astounded by this enjoyable performance’
‘Eye-opening story of gender-bending marriage and duplicity in 1920s Britain, told mainly through fairground freakshow and courtroom drama.’
Award-winning playwright Judy Upton: ‘A highly enjoyable script-in-hand performance skilfully brought to life this amazing true story. The play twisted and turned with pace, humour and pathos and I loved the framing device of the sideshow where Barker and ‘wife’ exploited their notoriety. I was impressed too by the objectivity and complexity in Colonel Barker’s portrayal, letting us decide for ourselves if she was a con-woman or victim of gender/sexual discrimination.’
Watch the full recording of the rehearsed reading here – Act I in five parts, Act II in three: