Mary Anning

‘the mad woman of Lyme’

by Peter John Cooper 

“Another story by great storytellers!”

Touring  spring 2020

For more information AsOne Artistic Director, Jane McKell 

on: 01305 835541/ 07778 737700


In 2012 AsOne theatre company completed a 20-date Wessex five county tour of a then newly commissioned play, ‘The Cabinet Maker’s Daughter’. In association with The Jurassic Coast Earth Festival and the Cultural Olympiad ( the company home base, Weymouth & Portland was the Olympic Sailing Venue) – the play told the remarkable story of 19th Century Dorset fossil hunter, Mary Anning. Anning was the world’s first female palaeontologist who eventually had collectors beating a path to her Lyme Regis fossil depot. 

We have decided to tour to Nationally this time, developing not only our reach as a company but telling this remarkable story to those less likely to know of it. So – along with associate playwright, Peter John Cooper – re-name, re-develop the play to make sure this amazing woman’s name is remembered: MARY ANNING “The mad woman of Lyme” as the locals not so kindly called her towards the end of her days. In 2010, the Royal Society recognized Mary Anning as one of the ten British women who have most influenced the development of science. We are passionate to further what is known by relatively few – self educated, Mary Anning’s name will not be forgotten. A trailblazer for all young people from any background to become scientists. A multi-media drama with – innovative island set, film, puppetry, and techno-soundscape.

‘…powerful, thought provoking, with brilliant performances – every bit as good as the shows I have seen this week in London’ – Eunice Kennedy, Crediton AC 

Play Synopsis

It is 1846, and the little town of Lyme Regis, Dorset is battered by howling winter-gales. Dying and increasingly dependent on Laudanum, Mary Anning embarks on a strange dream journey through a life where she challenged the world of men and shook their beliefs to the core. She is haunted by hallucinations of old friends, enemies and even the dinosaurs she spent her life hacking out of the living rock. Into this world of dreams walks a man she never thought she would see again and attempts to find a resolution to their enigmatic relationship; a play about life and death; frustration and achievement; dreams and memories of long, long ago.
It is said that struck by lightning as a baby, 19th Century fossil hunter, Mary Anning was destined to be special; she went onto rock the world of men, science & belief. Dorset’s favourite AsOne Theatre is preparing to refresh this gripping story, touring nationally out of its county base to city theatres as well as rural town venues.
We offer workshops for school’s attending performances; and post-show Q & A’s which audiences appreciate; our plays stimulate great debate.


Artistic Director

 Jane Mckell said  “This amazing, lowly born woman was relatively unrecognised, and prevented as a woman from entering the Royal Geological Society. A little while ago Mary Anning was voted third amongst the top 10 international female scientists. Our play MARY ANNING “the mad woman of Lyme” is a remarkable Jurassic Coast story of early 19th Century dinosaur discovery, achievement, sacrifice and love. I first was drawn to Mary’s story as a result of a chance encounter in Gatwick Airport finding Tracy Chevalier’s book Remarkable Creatures. I knew from the cover it was to be my sort of holiday read; and it was. On my return I rang Tracy and, after sharing mutual enthusiasm for Mary, on request she gave AsOne the rights to adapt her book for the stage to tour during the Cultural Olympiad 2012. However, an Australian Film Company consequently bought the rights to the book and, much to the author’s disappointment, withdrew our rights. We didn’t give up, and consequently went on to commission and tour our own piece of storytelling. The Aussie film is yet to be made but there is another on the horizon, Ammonite directed by the incredible Francis Lee. We had always wanted to take this play out again; but further developed as all good plays should be. So here we are with – our associate playwright tweaking his play; an exciting contemporary techno-soundscape being created to underscore the Gothic- style storytelling. We have renamed the play – MARY ANNING so this first female palaeontologist will never be forgotten; after all she did discover the age of the world – how mind blowing is that! An experienced, striking design; along with projected image; and crafted characters brought to life by a talented ensemble – will evoke Mary’s Laudanum-fuelled nightmares as well as happier memories.

We are excited to be offering this spring 2020 – MARY ANNING “the mad woman of Lyme”; and hope producers and bookers will be too!”.


The Creative Team

Playwright and Lyricist – Peter J Cooper:

40 original plays, and fifty productions including Mid-scale, National Touring, Local Touring, Community, and TIE. This is Peter’s 9th year in association with AsOne Theatre Co. He has written and directed “She Opened the Door” (about Thomas Hardy’s first wife Emma,) “The Cabinet Maker’s Daughter” (about Lyme Regis palaeontologist Mary Anning) which, together with “Escaping the Storm”, form a trilogy about celebrated Dorset women. Other work for AsOne includes “Anning’s Fossil Depot” (also about Mary Anning for young people) and “The Fisherman’s Daughter” and “Jess’s Odyssey” (for libraries) as well as helping out on other projects.

Soundscape Techno-Artist – Jack! in the Box 

Techno-DJ, and singer songwriter (Outhouse Mouse) based in Bristol; alias Joe Butcher also wrote for AsOne theatre’s ‘Tinderbox’ and The Fisherman’s Daughter.  JB is dedicated to Techno culture, his tastes have been set firm at concrete raves in Glasgow and Berlin. His artistic, off the cuff mixing is a theatrical and intelligent blend of soulful, muscular Techno mixed with sampled natural sounds making for an electrically charged atmosphere. JB will be developing a creative soundscape to evoke electric atmosphere, rugged environment, and psychological turmoil.

Designer – Annette Sumption

30 years-experience of theatre design and has worked at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield; Sherringham’s Little Theatre, The Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke; Contact Theatre, Manchester, and in London’s West End. Her wonderfully inventive ‘island’ sets make touring to theatres of all shapes and sizes a joy for AsOne and its audiences. She designs, and personally makes, or sources costumes In between her other work she taught costume at Weymouth College for several years.
AsOne tours with a technician, a performer/SM and has a trainee ASM in the rehearsal space.

Cast and director to be announced in December 2019



Touring schools & libraries again from spring 2020


“Can I just say how blown away I was by the event. I have to say I went with little expectation and was well…. totally amazed. The children were totally drawn into the event and the life of Mary. There was so much information on Mary’s life and what she achieved in such a short space of time. The audience interaction along with the story telling was a perfect match. I would not hesitate to recommend a performance by your company. Well done to both Jane and EltJo a truly amazing show. Thank you.”

bookings considered for an extended tour in libraries, schools, and arts centres

Call 01305 835541

It is said that Mary Anning, born in Lyme Regis in 1799, was  a placid baby; then struck by lightning she became bright and talkative. Not only did little Mary survive, but at 11 years old she & her brother Joseph found the first complete Ichthyosaur fossil. Self-taught, Mary went on to be an inspiration, shaking the 19th Century world of science. ‘Mary Anning Fossil Depot’ is an, entertaining performance, packed-full of interactive fun, facts, & adventure on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. Mary, aided & abetted by her brother Joseph, looks back at an inspiring life led with a passion for hunting & understanding fossils; struggles with poverty & self-education. This special story is interwoven by a string of ‘Curios’ – small fossils which Mary & Joseph introduce for the children to handle: ‘Snakestones’, ‘Devil’s Toenails’, ‘Ladies Fingers’ – each sold for a penny by the Anning’s to put food on the table. Mary Anning went on to prove with desire and determination, whoever you are, you can achieve great things.

Libraries & Schools Live Tour – Free Theatre for all Children




Interspersed by a tour of Primary Schools

01225463362imary Schools

James Farquharson Weymouth Leviathan Maritime Literary Festival Founder:

‘I’ve heard nothing but wonderful reviews for the Fisherman’s Daughter. Apart from everyone else, my eldest daughter and father in law attended the 14:30 pm. She loved it, especially the bit where she had to make storm noises, and even grumpy old grandpops was very energised by the experience,”It was brilliant,” he said.’ 

Originally Commissioned by The Leviathan Weymouth – Maritime Literary Festival 12-13 March 2016

Various premiere Leviathan audience members:Brilliant’, ‘Better than a visit to the doctors’, ‘Harold was hilarious’, ‘Two very talented performers’, ‘A wonderful play, both touching and very funny’ ‘Very striking, stripped-back set.’

FishermansDaughter-4 cropped

Spring February – April 2017

A double-bill: The Fisherman’s Daughter and Jess’s Odyssey

( coming next February, a companion piece to The Fisherman’s Daughter, Jess’s Odyssey – enquire on the numbers above)


Jess’s Odyssey

Fisherman’s Daughter Jess now loves reading, and books fill the hours of waiting for her dad. But reading Homer’s Odyssey strange words, names and places confuse her. Frustrated she throws down the book and up pops a stranger who just happens to share the name of the writer. Homer is a Greek boy from a trawler moored in the harbour.  He tells Jess that a woman, Moira, has been kidnapped and held below decks.  Jess is in disbelief until he produces a bedraggled Harold, the one legged seagull.  They revive Harold, and all three set off on their own odyssey to rescue Moira.

 Book NOW – please do call us on 01305 835541 o0r 07778 737700 to book us for your venue: primary school, library, village hall, theatre, or arts centre.



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