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Theatre Pages...


Nürnberger Zeitung

" An evening of clever comedy. And a call to arms that is timeless. Stormy applause. "

Süddeutsche Zeitung

" Here an angry Beaton sets out to warn people about the unforeseeable consequences of fracking. "

Der neue Tag

" Definitely worth seeing! Immensely smart. "

Bayerische Staatszeitung

" Director Klaus Kusenberg delivers a well-staged eco-comedy. "


" Fracking good entertainment…..  A darkly comic treat.”


" Fracked! is an exciting, witty, fast-paced play, but more than that, it’s thought-provoking and rousing that might just stir us all into a bit of community activism.”


"it’s a play that lightens our being, sharpening our tools for thinking and falling about with blunt laughter..”


“ ...it is well written, thought provoking and funny. I especially liked how current references to political life were woven into the script to bring it up to date. "





Photo Credit: Catherine Ashmore

The guardian banner
Fracked! Or: Please Don’t Use the F-Word

Anne Reid and James Bolam to play anti-fracking campaigners. The Guardian article written by Mark Brown.
Read here...



The German version of FRACKED! OR: PLEASE DON’T USE THE F-WORD, ABGEFRACKT! is currently running at the Staatstheater Nürnberg, Germany to great reviews. (see left) and in Stuttgart. 

Following an acclaimed, sold-out run at Chichester Festival Theatre, FRACKED! OR: PLEASE DON’T USE THE F-WORD toured from April 2017. Alistair Beaton’s provocative comedy takes us to an idyllic English village threatened by an energy company intent on drilling for shale gas. You can read what the critics said HERE.

"Comedy Gold" - Daily Mail

" Fracking good entertainment…..  A darkly comic treat.”


Creatives: 2017
Cast: 2017

Written by Alistair Beaton
Commissioned by the Chichester Festival Theatre.
Directed by - Richard Wilson
Designer - James Cotterill
Lighting Design - Johanna Town
Sound Designer - Ian Dickinson for Autograph
Video Designer - Tim Reid
Casting Director - Gabrielle Dawes

Anne Reid - Elizabeth
James Bolam - Jack
Michael Simkins -
Harry Hadden-Paton -  
Waleed Akhtar -
Andrea Hart - Jenny & Lady Mayor
Sophie Khan Levy -
Freddie Meredith - Sam & Young Man
Steven Roberts - Waiter - Policeman
Tristram Wymark - Professor Wakeman
& Neville

“ Alistair Beaton's brilliant new comedy is in lockstep with the times. Although clearly anti-fracking, Beaton doesn't preach and has terrific fun giving equal weight to both sides ”
“ Very funny ”

“ As topical and pacy as the deluge of headlines breaking by the minute ”



I’m always a little nervous of new plays, especially ones with potential contemporary political messages. Will they descend into polemic or weak satire? And a new play is still relatively untested even if first reviews are good.

With ’Fracked! Or: Please Don’t Use the F-Word’, by Alistair Beaton, at the Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford, this week, there is nothing to fear. The strong cast, strong script, high production values and skilled direction by Richard Wilson make for an entertaining experience.

Yes, there is polemic in this story about a retired couple and the fight against a company with plans to ‘frack’, or release gas using hydraulic fracturing, in the village of Fernstock, but this is a play about people, and this is what gives it its real strength.

At the centre of the story are Elizabeth and Jack, played by Anne Reid and James Bolam, two actors with the skill and experience to be utterly convincing and draw out the humanity of the piece as well as the humour.

Reluctantly at first, Elizabeth is drawn into a fight against Deerland Energy. Elizabeth never meant to become so involved, and her response to the threat of fracking is both a plea for real democracy to be given its chance to work and an indictment of a society in which, as she says, “democracy only works for the rich and powerful”.

Jack just wants a peaceful retirement and a nice shepherd’s pie, but he will also support his wife, particularly against the PR company Moxley Biggleswade under the control of Joe, a man as clever and quick as he is amoral.

Though he is something of a stereotype, in the hands of Harry Hadden-Paton Joe is hugely entertaining and gives the play great energy. He also has a pretty clear understanding of how the world works and how to get people to believe in what he wants, even though he probably doesn’t believe in anything apart from making money. By contrast, the head of Deerland Energy, Hal (an avuncular Michael Simkins) is more subtly drawn and genuinely believes that without oil and gas “the lights will go out”.

There are some nice cameo roles - Steven Roberts is a particularly fine waiter - and some entertaining contemporary references - the one about politicians lying about not calling an early election was greeted with wry laughter - and the audience was kept laughing throughout. Climate change deniers and those who object to strong language may find this play offensive, but anyone else should try to see it for a darkly comic treat.

Stella Wiseman - SurreyandHantsnews.com

Malvern Theatres

Political satirist Alistair Beaton has form for making comedy gold from political events with credits including the BAFTA-nominated The Trial of Tony Blair and the hugely successful TV show Spitting Image.

Beaton has now turned his hand to the current controversy of fracking for his latest comedy which arrived in Malvern early on its UK tour after a successful stint at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Fracked! is definitely a play for our times with themes of everyday people rising up against career politicians and mainstream companies to show their people power.

Click to read more....

Set in a sleepy village of Fenstock, the tranquillity is broken when Deerland Energy reveals its plans to drill for shale gas but what the company hadn’t counted on was feisty protesting pensioner Elizabeth Blackwood.

Blackwood’s protest gets her trending on Twitter to the chagrin of not only Deerland’s highly-strung PR guru but also her husband Jack, who just wants to go back to the days when she had time to make Shepherd’s Pie and play Scrabble rather than fight the system.

Anne Reid, from BBC1’s Last Tango in Halifax, plays retired academic Elizabeth with a good balance of calm grit and integrity that has made her an accidental activist, although at times her voice was a little quiet and lacked the projection of her fellow cast members.

While fellow seasoned actor James Bolam, most recently seen in New Tricks, has the funniest lines as her husband. It’s good casting as they are a strong pair of actors that have a natural rapport with each other and the audience.

They are well matched by Harry Hadden-Paton, who is the highlight of the show as ruthless PR spin-doctor Joe Selby. He has a touch of the Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It about him as he slinks around swearing, organising under-hand deals with politicians and generally behaving badly. As a straight talker, Selby also has some of the most poignant lines of the script – those hard truths for the audience, especially about bottled water.

The superb script tackles issues like PR spin, the conflict of interests for some scientists working in University departments funded by energy companies and how far politicians are willing to go when given a lucrative offer, but it was refreshing to see that it has also been updated very recently to even include jokes about the newly-called election, Brexit and getting a seat on United Airlines.

Richard Wilson directs this slick, witty drama that benefits from a first-rate set, which rotates between the lavish world of PR and village life, and cleverly shows a mini film about fracking early on as part of a presentation to update everyone watching on what this controversial topic is all about.

Michael Simkins, known for his many TV and West End roles including Yes, Prime Minister and HayFever, plays a somewhat honourable energy company owner that is there to make the case for fracking but overall this is a protest play against the move.

Fracked! is an exciting, witty, fast-paced play, but more than that, it’s thought-provoking and rousing that might just stir us all into a bit of community activism.

Alison Brinkworth - behindthearras.com

Theatre Royal - Brighton
Don’t Use the F-Word gets every F you can imagine as Chichester Festival’s production of Alistair Beaton‘s 2016 Fracked! directed by Richard Wilson and very slightly updated now tours. It’s arrived at Theatre Royal, Brighton with a superb new cast featuring James Bolam, Anne Reid, Harry Hadden-Paton and Michael Simkins. James Cotterill’s design brings a little Chichester luxury. Opening and closing with front-of-curtain business features a revolve and Johanna Town’s crisp lighting differentiates it: a glistering PR office and village kitchen where the Aga and the ecstasy of a retired couple works itself out. One scene’s a plush restaurant with a killer line attached. Ian Dickinson’s sound romps through faulty mikes and fault-fingering protesters. Tim Reid’s videos show slick PR and newsreel chaos to round a consummate brightness.

Click to

We’re first treated to a neat example of actor placement and a mayorial meeting gone awry. You’ll have to see it. Then a PR film on fracking, flawed so we’re given info obliquely argued over as ironically-entitled Deerland Energy CEO Hal (Simkins) agonizes over presentation. It’s slick, painless and leaves you raging. The play will inform you, but though I felt briefed before, I didn’t realize radioactive water pumps up from fracking, often with nowhere to go, polluting us with disastrous consequences.

Cue revolve. Jack (Bolam) and Professor Emeritus Elizabeth (Reid) are a retired couple suffering invasion – fracking and the foot-soldiers fighting it including her friend Jenny (Andrea Hart, also Lady Mayor) and twenty-three-year-old lover Sam (Freddie Meredith). Reid’s not partial to active protest and the play’s aimed at those who disapprove strongly at non-democratic means of preserving democracy. Reid’s journey is as you’d expect from the deft, left-wing Beaton, from believing voting changes things to something rather different. It’s a serious message but not heavy comedy.

Beaton’s touching-in of the broad strokes you’d associate with his time at (for instance) Spitting Image surfaces in his portrayal of PR guru Joe, Hadden-Paton’s Posh image perfectly suited to this feral opportunist straight out of The Thick Of It and whose PR form ruthlessly pushes Deerland by old-world oil-alas-is-the-only-way Hal beyond its and ultimately everyone else’s comfort zone and then does something extraordinary to them.

The clash between Reid and Hadden-Paton’s the core of this continually-twisting plotline, where Joe ensures Elizabeth is sued, she nobbles the dodgy wobbly counsellor Neville (Tristram Wymark, sharp self-interest sharply-etched) through his sister. Joe nobbles Neville in turn over a particularly nasty lunch where Joe ultimately bribes the waiter (Steven Roberts, a beautiful turn) to piss in Neville’s coffee. Since mutual antipathy flares, there’s only two scenes between Reid and Hadden-Paton where the latter somehow gets the wrong end of a bull. For once you feel he’s justified in his continual use of the F-word. Reid’s scorn, sensing Joe’s weak spot, almost brings cheers on. His is a magnificent, unrepentant performance of sheer nastiness. Even his PA Malik, Waleed Akhtar who makes a journey of his own, isn’t given the great trump lines to defeat him. And Joe does extol The Art of the Deal.

The nuances are elsewhere. Bolam’s baffled loyalties, fiercely protective but in the wrong places or at the wrong time. For instance campaigners Jenny and Sam to whom he takes a dislike – wouldn’t you get exasperated by Sam’s patronising tones? Nevertheless there’s a touching rapprochement between the two men when Sam shows Jack how to research quickly and indeed neutralise that summons. Meredith’s dopiness is ultimately appealing and he knows how to exude, after all the right degree of warmth. Beaton gifts Jack all the lines where confusion and a beat behind the action render him endearingly obsolete to all but Elizabeth. For instance still repeating the obsolete code to unlock a shed. But he can catch up. And his final line ‘it’s going vital’ brings the house down. You’ll have to see why. Bolam’s gentle sending himself up, his precise beat behind the action, is consummate.

Hart’s hard-assed campaigner, nervous her far younger lover will create adverse publicity, is acutely realised: edgy, brittly humane, cajoling, and here not too fanatical. It’s her arguments and most of all Reid’s experience of blackmail that pushes the latter to the point of revolution. Reid comprises dignity and resolute panache in equal measure, and it’s her adamantine certainty you spend as a moral compass when all around relative self-serving or sheer bafflement reigns.

This is a finely-balanced play, not on the issues, which Beaton takes as open-and-closed as indeed for many it is. But in shading for instance the hapless Hal as a decent oil specialist without malice but also without imagination, he humanizes the opposition. Indeed apart from the other companies waiting in the wings the Deerland people aren’t villains at all, but imprisoned by their mind-set. Villainy’s reserved for PR Joe’s covered for everyone paedophiles, crooks and even Tony Blair. Though even he failed with Blair. Beaton allows Jack most of the scorn easily poured on protesters, even Elizabeth can’t resist the odd crack at professionally angry people whom Joe scorns. That’s why Elizabeth, far more articulate, is a danger. Richard Wilson knows the value of understatement, and in a snatch of pauses and quizzical looks from Reid and Bolam he further leavens Beaton’s human inventory with an eyebrow of his own.

The denouement involves Nathaniel Parker’s pliable Lord Avons on television monitor. The amount of fracking information stimulates rather than overbears in Beaton’s politically adroit, party-crossing issue play. It’s far more than enlightening too; it’s a play that lightens our being, sharpening our tools for thinking and falling about with blunt laughter.

Simon Jenner – fringereview.co.uk

Richmond Theatre

Fracked, a satirical comedy, sets about exposing the risks of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ as it is better known. For any of those still a little in the dark with the process of fracking (as I was), there’s a useful video at the beginning of the show to enlighten you.

Click to read more....

Fracked, a satirical comedy, sets about exposing the risks of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ as it is better known. For any of those still a little in the dark with the process of fracking (as I was), there’s a useful video at the beginning of the show to enlighten you.

The play, first performed at Chichester last summer, written by Alistair Beaton (TV work includes BAFTA nominated The Trial of Tony Blair and Spitting Image) and directed by Richard Wilson, focuses on the controversial process of extracting oil and gas from shale. This controversy is nicely played out in the sleepy village of Fenstock where Deerland, a corporate entity and a slick PR company are determined to put drilling pads and profit above all else. That is until they encounter the dogged determination of Elizabeth (Anne Reid) a retired academic, who rather than wile away her time playing scrabble and going for country walks riles the ‘establishment’ by trending under #dontfrackwithyourgranny.

This sets us up nicely for the David v Goliath encounter and as the play progresses our sympathies can go one way or the other. James Cotterilll’s revolving set invites us into two very different worlds. On one side we’re drawn into the clinical white office suite of PR guru, Joe (an engaging, energetic and often persuasive, Harry Hadden-Paton) plotting and blaspheming against the ‘Nimbies’ whilst his client Hal (a nicely understated performance from Michael Simpkins) believes that the only way for Britain to ‘keep the lights on’ is to let go of the old and embrace the new - even if it means the odd leakage of radioactive waste into Britain’s waters.

As the revolve turns we’re drawn into the world of Elizabeth and her loyal and supportive husband Jack (James Bolam) focusing on more mundane matters - the lack of courgettes in the shops. He’s happy to tend to his garden and occasionally escape to his local to let off a bit of steam before returning to the idyll provided by Elizabeth’s Aga-filled kitchen and the promise of a homemade shepherd’s pie.

Their idyll is quite literally ‘fractured’ by the appearance of anti-fracking campaigner, Jenny (Andrea Hart) complete with protestors’ ‘arm tubes’ and her toy-boy boyfriend Sam (Freddie Meredith). Much humour ensues as they set up camp in Jack’s treasured garden leaving him remonstrating against the pointlessness of it all and his wife’s growing desire to get involved in ‘direct action’. But get involved she does. And as the story unfolds one way and then another her fighting spirit comes to the fore. She is not prepared to grow old gracefully and much to Jack’s horror, states that “maybe we have to give them what they fear most – civil disobedience”.

Ultimately, this leads to the very realistic possibility that Jack and Elizabeth could lose everything. Is it all worth it? You decide.

There’s something for everyone in Fracked. There are shades of David Hare and Alan Ayckbourn and although it never quite reaches those dramatic heights it is well written, thought provoking and funny. I especially liked how current references to political life were woven into the script to bring it up to date.

The play is crisply directed by Richard Wilson and his eye for a comic turn is evident. However, the comedy comes as much from the performances as from the script. In particular, watch out for the waiter (Steven Roberts) in an encounter with corrupt politician (Tristram Wymark). Ann Reid, although a little underpowered at times, is perfect as the strong minded and determined Elizabeth, but it is James Bolam who excels with a performance full of belligerent energy and comic timing.


Jonathan Lewis - EssentialSurrey.co.uk




By Alistair Beaton


'How would you feel about sitting in front of that nice old village pub on a sunny afternoon while convoys of 40-ton tankers roll past six feet away?'


Deerland Energy's plans to drill for shale gas in the pretty village of Fenstock are going well. The company is looking at big profits.

They can count on the support of distinguished scientists working in University departments funded by the energy companies while at local level, Councillor Pilbeam, Chair of the Planning Committee, seems to be open to lucrative offers.

The only slight snag is a ragged band of protesters, reluctantly led by retired academic, Elizabeth Blackwood. Surely she's just another 'mad old biddy', as she's characterised by ruthless PR guru Joe Selby?

Smartly directed by Richard Wilson, the play is very funny, lighthearted, but with a deep and dark message. Highly recommended...


This new razor-sharp black comedy by Alistair Beaton takes a timely look at the conflicted core of planetary energy and earthly power.


…Bolam excellent at exasperation, Reid similarly so in her depiction of a fire burning ever brighter with ever-deepening indignation – all of which adds up to a fine night at the theatre, informative, thought-provoking, but above all richly entertaining.


Fracked! OR: Please Don't use the F-Word runs from 8th July to 6th August 2016 at The Minerva Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 6AP.

Creatives: 2016
Cast: 2016

Written by Alistair Beaton
Commissioned by the Chichester Festival Theatre.
Directed by - Richard Wilson
Designer - James Cotterill
Casting Director - Gabrielle Dawes
Lighting Design - Johanna Town
Sound Designer - Ian Dickinson for Autograph
Video Designer - Tim Reid

Anne Reid - Elizabeth
James Bolam - Jack
Oliver Chris - Joe
Vanessa Emme - Emma & Young Woman
Andrea Hart - Jenny & Lady Mayor
Freddie Meredith - Sam & Young Man
Sam Otto - Malik
Steven Roberts - Waiter - Policeman
Michael Simkins - Hal
Tristram Wymark - Professor Wakeman
& Neville