The Trial of the Well of Loneliness

My play, The Trial of the Well of Loneliness, was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 25th January 2020. If you want to listen again, use the link above.

It took an immense amount of research and time to find the best way into the story. There is so much more to tell, at 57 minutes we had a lot to fit in. The National Archive provided me with a file of over 450 jpegs, all just labelled jpeg. I spent three days finding out what each file contained. Near the end of day three, I found the entire court transcript, all 16 pages of it. For those who have heard the play, the word horrible is mentioned many more times than I have included. Working my way through the trial documents was difficult, because this was someone else’s life, a real person’s life, I was entering and I had an enormous responsibility. I wanted to show John’s bravery, her tenacity, John and Una’s love and unity and the tremendous support they received from their all male legal team as well as the public. Given the prosecution, magistrate, and journalist whose review prompted the case knew the outcome they wanted, there were good people around and that was vital to show.

I must add that the final two speeches you hear in the play, are Una and John’s own words. Through research I found them, rather they found me. What a gift.

The director, Emma Harding was sharp with her comments and suggestions on my script. Actors always bring a new energy to a read through and recording and I was lucky I had actors who had carried out their own research. The cast were sensational, the play could not have been better served. I thank them all, and the technical crew for their suggestions and for making it into the final production we are all proud of.

At a time when LGBTQ+ hate crimes have gone up by 55% in the UK over the last five years, and many countries are still unsafe for the LGBTQ+ community, with the death penalty in existence in some places, the play is a reminder that we are still not safe, even in the UK.

When the trial took place in 1928, there was hope for these women and for their work to be shared. We must never give up hope, for ourselves and for others.

You can hear me talk about the play with Jane Garvey on Woman’s Hour.

3 thoughts on “The Trial of the Well of Loneliness

  1. Hi Shelley,

    I much enjoyed your play ‘the Trial of the Well of Loneliness’.

    Just one small correction – the Assistant Director of Prosecution mentioned very near the beginning was actually called Sir GUY Stephenson (not George of rocket fame!) – I just happened to hear the name as he was my grandfather! I never knew him but double checked to make sure of dates and times.

    I would be grateful if you could correct this when your play is performed again.

    Thank you

    Best wishes
    Laura Stephenson

    1. Dear Laura, thank you so much for this message. Oh my, what can I say? While reading through a few books they have all called your grandfather George, not Guy. And various other sites also call him George. On now googling I see that it is indeed Guy. I apologise. The play has been recorded and I’m afraid radio plays never get re recorded or changed. If there is ever a TV or film version of the trial and if I am involved in the writing, I will ensure the correct name is in place. I’m really grateful that you pointed this out. All good wishes. Shelley

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