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Students get involved

10th October 2010 by Martin Gibbons

Press information…Press information….

Monkeywood bring Manchester story to the stage

Manchester based Monkeywood Theatre have been building a reputation for producing plays based on Mancunian stories and characters for the past 7 years and their latest work looks set to continue this ambition. Following the huge success of the 2010 tour of Maine Road, their current project is a new play based on the characters, themes and places in the memoir, Once in a House on Fire by Andrea Ashworth.

Monkeywood and their associate writer Sarah McDonald Hughes are currently developing Once in a House on Fire collaboratively with young people from Xaverian Sixth Form College in Rusholme and Chorlton High School, which both feature in the original novel. Two of Monkeywood’s Co-Artistic Directors, McDonald Hughes and Francesca Waite, also attended Xaverian and found the experiencing of returning to their roots inspiring, if surreal!

Francesca Waite said, “It was great to be able to work with the sixth formers to get their ideas on a story set in their neighbourhood, involving characters of a similar age to them. Although it was strange to return to our college, it was lovely to realise how far we’ve come since those days and share our experiences of making theatre with the drama students.”

Developed with The Lowry Studio, supported by Arts Council England and funded through grants for the arts, Once in a House on Fire is a compelling story set across South Manchester during the 1970s and 80s. Based on Andrea Ashworth’s book, recipient of the 1999 Somerset Maugham award, it is an inspiring, vibrant, truthful and moving story of sisters, survival and growing up.

Francesca recently met Mancunian Andrea in Los Angeles, where she is now based, and Andrea was delighted to hear about the project, “I’m thrilled that Once in a House on Fire is being brought to life on the stage through the fabulous Monkeywood Theatre, and immensely proud that they’re devoting their unique talents and passion to sharing this story.  I can’t wait to see what they do…”

Once in a House on Fire will undergo a series of rehearsed readings and Script in Hand performances this autumn, with a national tour planned for spring 2011. The production will help to support Women’s Worldwide Web, an online platform that empowers women, their families and communities, through microfinance, education, mentoring and social networking. For more information visit

N.B. Tickets go on sale for forthcoming dates at The Lowry on Thu 4 November 2010!!! Watch this space for details of how to book….

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For more information contact Francesca Waite on

Notes to Editors

Monkeywood Theatre

Previous work includes the Arts Council England funded national tour of Maine Road in 2010, which was highly acclaimed (including unanimous 4* reviews and sell out audiences) for its authentic voice, excellent writing and superb performances; Last Orders, which was commissioned by the Royal Exchange as part of their 2009 sell-out PUB season; and A Song for the Lovers, which was produced at The Lowry in 2008 gaining 5* reviews and named as one of What’s On Stage’s top productions of 2008.  Other touring work includes Coach G in 2005 and Closer in 2003.

Sarah McDonald Hughes: Writer

Sarah’s writing credits for Monkeywood include Last Orders for the Royal Exchange Theatre’s PUB season, Maine Road and A Song For The Lovers. Sarah was highly commended by the BBC’s Alfred Bradley Bursary Award 2009 and was commissioned to write a radio version of Maine Road for the BBC Radio 4 afternoon play slot, which aired in January 2010. Sarah is currently part of the Royal Exchange’s new writing project The Twelve, and has recently been commissioned to write a play for Paines Plough’s national project, Come to Where I’m From, which will be produced at the Royal Exchange in November 2010.   Sarah is also part of Vision and Media’s ‘Drafted’ scheme, working with industry professionals to develop an original feature film screenplay.

Andrea Ashworth: Original Author

Andrea Ashworth is an academic, journalist, and author of the internationally bestselling memoir Once in a House on Fire (Picador 1998). She has written for numerous publications including Vogue, The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian and is currently working on a novel.

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@AlisonCarr_ @WomensPlayPrize @painesplough Congratulations 🥳 ❤️

20 Jan 2022

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