Promo Video Link

Mary Anning

‘the mad woman of Lyme’

by Peter John Cooper 

“Another story by great storytellers!

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo (‘She Opened the Door’)

Spring 2021

new dates now being booked – see below

For more information AsOne Artistic Director, Jane McKell 

on: 01305 835541/ 07778 737700


 “A touching insight into the passionate nature of a woman who battled & overcame prejudice in a male dominated world.” Marion Cox, Dorset Echo, & Daily Echo Bournemouth & Poole    

    Play synopsis 

It is 1846, and the little town of Lyme Regis is battered by howling winter-gales. Dying and increasingly dependent on laudanum, Mary Anning reflects on her life. By challenging the status quo and making remarkable strides in a male dominated scientific world,  her work threatens to disprove the very foundations she was raised on.  Haunted by hallucinations of friends, enemies and even the creatures she spent her life hacking out of the living rock,  Anning tries to make sense of her existence in her last moments. This is a story about memory and coming to terms with the past.

Contemporary, multi-media theatre where narrative, physicality, puppetry, techno-soundscape and projected image combine to create storytelling at its most exciting.

Written for AsOne by Peter John Cooper,

Directed by Marta Vella

Design by Tish Mantripp

Sound Design by Artisan_303 

 Project manager Vikesh Godhwani


‘Comments about previous productions’

‘Escaping the Storm’

“AsOne Theatre takes the controversial life of Marie Stopes and slaps you in the face with it. A daring and provocative production Chris Aziz (Audience Review), Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth

 ‘She Opened the Door’

“a theatrical treasure of the future” – Marion Cox, Dorset Echo 


Due to the continuing Covid -19 crisis and Government advice for theatres to remain closed our current tour has been postponed until 2021. The tour is now booking venues for March /April /May 2021.

TBC – Academy, Portland, Dorset (school only) 

    TBC – Shelley Theatre, Boscombe, Bournemouth 

                TBC – Winchester Discovery Centre, Winchester, Hants        

TBC – Clifford Studio, Barnfield Theatre, Exeter,

 TBC – The Corn Exchange, Dorchester Arts Centre

TBC – Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol

TBC – Athenaeum Centre, Warminster, Wilts 

TBC – Tristan Bates, Actor’s Centre, Lon. W1. 

TBC – Marine Theatre, Fossil Festival, Lyme Regis

TBC  – The Plough AC, Torrington, Devon

TBC  – Pavilion Theatre, Weymouth, Dorset

Project information:

In 2012 AsOne theatre company completed a pilot 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 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. They in turn named the fossils after themselves and Mary’s name receded into the mists of time; forgotten.

We have decided to revisit the play during an exciting development period; revising it along with the playwright, editing and rewriting creating a 75-minute piece of multi-media theatre; including: a techno soundscape score, heightened contemporary physical imagery, puppetry, and projection, as well as a brand new design.  We are also widening our tour and reach as a company adding London, and other cultural cities to our usual more rural schedule. The playwright has already re-named the play to make sure this amazing woman’s name is remembered: MARY ANNING with the tag line “The mad woman of Lyme” ;  the locals unkindly called her this towards the end of her days witnessing her drunk – unaware she was on Laudanum for the pain of breast cancer. In 2010, the Royal Society recognized Mary Anning as one of ten British women who have most influenced the development of science. One of our AsOne ‘Sheroes’! We are passionate to further what is known by relatively few –  self-educated, Mary Anning will not be forgotten. A trailblazer for all young people, from any background to become scientists.

‘…powerful, thought provoking, with brilliant performances – every bit as good as the shows I have seen this week in London Eunice Kennedy, Crediton AC 2012

“Very unusual & thought provoking – especially with projected images” Lighthouse, Poole audience member

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

Associate 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.

Director: Marta Vella – RADA trained, Marta has recently returned from New York where she attended SITI Company Summer Theatre Workshop studying under Anne Bogart. She has worked extensively with TOI the National Theatre of Malta and  co-founded FROLIC theatre Company. She assisted Director/writer Vikesh Godhwani with Malta’s first Panto In the Dark last Christmas. Marta was assistant Director for AsOne’s 2019 production, Escaping the Storm.

Associate Music Producer/Artist – Joe Butcher – is both techno-DJ (Artisan_303), and singer song writer. He has already written songs for As-One theatre’s ‘Tinderbox’ 2015 and The Fisherman’s Daughter 2016; these songs garnered high praise from audiences and reviewers of all ages. For this stormy, cliff top production Joe will creatively intertwine his styles with Artisan_303’s unique Techno heart-beat-mix; using sampled natural sounds, and  performers voices making an electrically, evocative atmosphere.

JB is developing a creative soundscape to evoke electric atmosphere, rugged environment, and psychological turmoil.

Designer  – Tish Mantripp – graduated this summer with a first-class honours for Costume and Performance Design specialising in Scenography at the Arts University Bournemouth. During her time at AUB Tish was set designer for: Helen Edmundson’s Mary Shelley;  The RSC version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and scenic artist for three shows; designing and making many props too.  This October she flew out to Germany for an internship at The Whitehorse Theatre. As part of a team she designed and created large art installations during the summer for both  The Larma Tree and The Secret Garden Party Festivals

Associate Designer/Mentor  – 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.

Project Manager/Booker – Vikesh Godhwani is a freelance theatre producer, director and writer who graduated with an MA in Arts and Cultural Management from Kings College London.  He has a passion for ground-breaking theatre that plays with the audience’s expectations of what a theatrical performance is or should be. Vikesh worked as an assistant producer with multi-award-winning China Plate during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018 and beyond with his highlight being working on the autumn tour of Trying It On by David Edgar at Midlands Arts Centre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Royal Court. Vikesh wrote, directed and produced a pantomime in the dark for Teatru Malta,  which ran to sold out audiences and received rave reviews in December 2018. As a freelance producer, Vikesh produced Mara at The Vault Festival, Testament by Chalk Line Theatre at The Hope Theatre, Tobacco Factory, New Diorama and Home and most recently ‘She Sells Sea Shells’, by Scandal and Gallows Theatre at Underbelly Cowgate at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  Vikesh is currently a Stage One producer, is writing and directing a new Panto In the Dark for Spazju Kreattiv and is developing a Musical In the Dark with Teatru Malta.



Touring schools & libraries again from autumn 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



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