A Haunted Existence - on tour

London theatre news: Tuesday 23 July 2019

Off-West End - Tours

Tom Marsham's true life show about a West Country town rocked by homophobia in the 1950s is set to tour the UK alongside forgotten local LGBTQ+ histories.
A Haunted Existence at Camden People's Theatre

Image credit (c) Tom Marshman

Until 1967 homosexual acts were illegal in the UK, with countless gay people persecuted.

Bringing the tragic story of one such person to the stage, whose arrest in 1954 led to a string of persecutions against gay men in Taunton, Tom Marshman embarks on a tour of A Haunted Existence following a debut in Bristol last year.

Touring from 9 August to 30 November 2019, the show will play in the London area at Camden People's Theatre (2 to 4 October) and at Battersea Arts Centre (from 7 to 9 November).

The background to the show is that in 1954 Geoffrey Patrick Williamson was arrested after approaching a fellow train passenger.

The passenger was in fact a railway policeman.

On arrest, Mr Williamson gave the names of numerous men he had been involved with, resulting in a spate of prosecutions, including a decorated war hero who tragically took his own life using cyanide while in the police cells.

Commenting on the case at the time, the News of the World said it 'was not that the population of Taunton is more debased than other groups of the community, but that once vice got established it spread like a pestilence and unless held in check, threatened to spread indefinitely'.

Having worked with Bristol historian Jeanie Sinclair to uncover these stories, Tom Marshman will weave together history and hearsay and pay tribute to these brave men, whose stories mirror those of many around the world, even in 2019.

The show will use vinyl music, creative technology and projection, and Mr Marshman will also work with local historians in London, Newcastle and Chepstow to memorialise the forgotten histories of other LGBTQI+ people, highlighting the turmoil, stigma and heartbreak many faced.

These stories will be explored through different wrap-around activities, including exhibitions and post-show talks.

Tom Marshman said ...

"Now I have been touring the show I have started to explore more stories that echo the trail I have focused on in the show.

I have noted that in many locations these kind of witch hunts were part of the course of the repressed atmosphere of post-war gay lives before legalisation.

I am excited about working with local people in London, Chepstow and Newcastle to uncover queer stories that we will build into a pop-up exhibition to accompany the performance; adding a local dimension brings the story to life and makes it more relevant to local audiences."

Jeanie Sinclair (a historian who works with archives and oral history, exploring hidden and alternative histories) said ...

"This has been such an exciting project to work on.

Ordinary people have extraordinary stories and it's been a fascinating journey that has taken us to places we hadn't expected."

About the author/ performer

Tom Marshman is a performance artist who transforms everyday accounts into theatre by weaving together stories worth telling.

He has created over 20 projects over the last ten years in a wide range of mediums including performance, photography, installation, publication and film.

Previous work includes Kings Cross (Remix), based on the testimonies of those who lived and loved in the notorious London district in the 1980s, and Move Over Darling, which explored the personal and social histories of gay and lesbian adults living in Bristol.

He has presented his work in a variety of venues including Bristol Old Vic, Arnolfini (Bristol), Oval House, Chapter Arts Centre, Battersea Arts Centre, Basement Brighton, Colchester Arts Centre, Exeter Phoenix and within Festivals including National Review of Live Art, Inbetween Time, and White Nights.


Tom Marshman


Author: Tom Marshman

Projections: Paul Samuel White with support from Leon Trimble

Production: Jo Kimber

Original music: Kid Carpet

Tour dates and venues

9 Aug

Margate Tom Thumb Theatre

2A Eastern Esplanade, Margate CT9 2LB

13 Sep

Gloucester Strike a Light Festival

Enterprise Hub, 10 Commercial Rd

19 Sep

Chepstow Drill Hall

Drill Hall, Lower Church St, Chepstow NP16 5HJ

27 - 28 Sep

The Marlborough, 4 Prince's St, Brighton BN2 1RD

2 - 4 Oct

Camden Peoples Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2PY

19 Oct

Isle of Portland Royal Manor Theatre, 138A Fortuneswell, Portland DT5 1LT

7 - 9 Nov

Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN

13 Nov

Colchester Arts Centre, Church St, Colchester CO1 1NF

16 Nov

Exeter Phoenix, Gandy St, Exeter EX4 3LS

23 Nov

The Pound Arts Centre, Pound Pill, Corsham SN13 9HX

26 - 30 Nov

Alphabetti Theatre, St James' Blvd, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4HP                  


ActDrop show listings for A Haunted Existence:

Battersea Arts Centre

Camden People's Theatre

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