Past Shows


Tales of Georgian London

Alison Neil's play "THE SHAKESPEARE LADIES CLUB" opened in 2005 and toured until 2020. 

It was performed in numerous theatres, arts centres, festivals, libraries and village halls.


This is the only play in which Alison played two separate characters in the two halves of the play to represent the highest and the lowest in Georgian society, in two linked stories.   The best comment she received was after one performance, when a member of the audience asked why the second actress hadn't taken a bow at the end.   


The Georgian period is a particular favourite for Alison; a time when women in England were perhaps a little freer than they were in later Victorian times.  It is also a time of great scientific discoveries  and social reforms.  And the fashions were wonderfully eccentric; glued-on mouse-fur eyebrows, for instance - what a look!


     What the critics said

"Eighteenth century London comes alive in the skilled hands of Alison Neil...unmissable entertainment.  A mesmerising performance by an actress whose immaculate research and attention to detail makes her productions not only entertaining but wonderfully informative too."  DORSET ECHO


"A role that allowed her a full repertoire of enthusiastic audience demanding four curtain calls.   Like her previous performances, is destined to delight audiences wherever she tours" THE RANGER


"...a fascinating insight into Georgian London, jammed full of historical fact.  Told with humour, sympathy and attention to detail...the two contrasting stories are both informative and entertaining, performed with energy and conviction".  BORDON POST


"Colourful and gripping...real life events mingle happily with amusing anecdotes and perceptive comments which make the past come alive." DORSET ECHO


"An eye-opening look at Georgian London from both sides of society, directed wonderfully by David Collison " NEWARK ADVERTISER


"Alison Neil captures the essence of these historical figures with such potency that  you feel as if you know the characters intimately." CARMARTHEN JOURNAL



"Alison's powerful performances are a joy to watch.  Her writing has a light touch and her depth of research is unsurpassed.  A tour de force performance."  VILLAGES IN ACTION RURAL TOURING NEWSLETTER


"Fantastic theatre - the audience loved it.  A highly polished performance, fantastically researched.  The detail of both performances was exquisite...hard to believe that the same performer took both roles."  SPOT ON RURAL TOURING

     The Play

Coffee shops and tooth-worm, smuggling and mouse-skin eyebrows… Amid the fascinating trivia of mid-eighteenth century life, Mary Cowper De Grey recounts the true story of a group of Ladies of Quality who determined to make Shakespeare fashionable.  The success of the Shakespeare Ladies Club echoes down the centuries.  Mary also has a very personal tale to recount – her involvement with a young and ambitious would-be actor… David Garrick.

Mrs Cowper De Grey then introduces her surprise guest – and the Lords, Gentlemen and Ladies of the audience are told a very different tale – of a London unseen by People of Quality.

London in the mid 1700s: vivacity and prosperity, marvels and great achievements in art and science; when the first steps were taken to quell the squalor and brutality of life for the poor; and women were not staying at home, or keeping quiet…

The Georgian era is revealed – as Mrs Cowper De Grey (and guest) entertain!


Alison Neil’s first one-woman play BELLA - THE STORY OF MRS BEETON opened in 1988 and toured until 2002. The play had hundreds of performances in theatres, arts centres, festivals, castles and stately homes, and at small community venues such as libraries and village halls.  The play was a favourite of Womens Institutes, and was also performed at Rotary, Inner Wheel and Soroptimist meetings. It played at the National Portrait Gallery, where the famous photograph of Mrs Beeton can be seen, and at the Queen’s Stand at the Epsom Racecourse, where Mrs Beeton spent her childhood.

Alison only stopped performing the show when she felt that she was too old to portray the 28-year-old Bella.  She still receives requests for the play; hence the new re-telling of the story in “MRS BEETON, MY SISTER” her play for 2015 and beyond.

BELLA – THE STORY OF MRS BEETON was adapted as a BBC Radio 4 Saturday Afternoon play, first broadcast in 2001.

Alison provided the research, text and pictures for a permanent exhibition about Mrs Beeton at the Queen’s Stand at the Epsom Racecourse.

     What the critics said

"An extraordinary one-woman show...such was the power of Alison Neil's performance that I am convinced I now know Mrs Beeton personally” 

Paul Heiney - THE TIMES

“A totally riveting performance…which deserves to become a theatre classic.  Comparable with the one-woman performances of the great Ruth Draper”


"Highly entertaining, from start to finish, and fascinating in its content.  Forget the cookery, but don't miss the play." 


"Superbly disciplined acting"


"Worthy of Joyce Grenfell.”


"This attractive and spontaneous show... keeps interest bubbling continually" 


“A marvellously sustained piece of acting”


"The linguistic power of Alison Neil's script and her mesmeric performance of it"


     The Play

MRS BEETON... a fat, old Victorian cook?   Far from it!

Isabella Beeton did exist - she was a journalist, wife and mother who had written her masterpiece, "BEETON'S BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT AND COOKERY" by the time she was twenty-four.

Alison Neil’s fast-moving and entertaining play brings this extraordinary, brilliant woman to life.

Her childhood was spent living in the Grand Stand building on the Epsom Race Course, where she was the eldest girl in a family of twenty-one children.  A gifted pianist, and fluent in French and German, she married the publisher Sam Beeton before she was twenty.  Their close working partnership involved Isabella in every aspect of publishing, and her unsurpassed book on "HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT", covering every aspect of running a home, has never been out of print.   Her own busy life as a working mother in a publishing office was very different from the recipe for Victorian domestic bliss given in her best-selling book!

Her happy marriage and successful business life were blighted by personal tragedy, and she herself died following the birth of her fourth child, at the age of twenty-eight.

Amongst numerous other venues, it was performed at:


PRINCESS THEATRE, Hunstanton, Suffolk

GEORGIAN THEATRE, Richmond, Yorkshire

PALACE THEATRE, Westcliff, Essex

THE QUEEN'S STAND, Epsom Race-Course

THEATRE MUSEUM, Covent Garden, London














and many, many others across the UK


Alison Neil's second one-woman play "THE SIXTH WIFE" (the story of Katherine Parr) opened in 1992, and toured until 2016.  The play had hundreds of performances in theatres, arts centres, festivals, stately homes, and at smaller community venues up and down the country.  It was performed in Gloucester Cathedral and Berkeley Castle.

The scenery included a spectacular "stained glass window";  this was a scaled-down version of the window in Westminster Abbey depicting Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon.  The window was originally part of an exhibition on Henry VIII at Greenwich Maritime Museum.

The paintings on the set were by Elizabeth Waghorn.

The story of Henry VIII and his wives goes in and out of fashion, and the play also proved to be particularly popular every few years.  2012 saw a large number of performances, as people asked for "anything royal", to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. 

Alison finally stopped performing the show  in 2016, as she felt that she was, sadly,  too old to continue playing Katherine Parr, who died at the age of 36.

Alison portrayed Katherine Parr at a three-day event at Sudeley Castle,  as part of the company Past Pleasures, recreating Tudor life.   Katherine Parr spent some of her time at Sudeley Castle, and is buried there.

     What the critics said

"A delightful evening which had the audience in raptures" BORDON HERALD

“The production was pure brilliance… an outstanding performance. It is a long, long time since I was so captivated.”  TENBY ARTS FESTIVAL

"Alison Neil tells a riveting tale"   OXFORD TIMES

"Great show…a delightful entertainment. A performance every bit as witty and assured as her own script"  OXFORD MAIL

"Neil's play superbly delves into the history and politics of the time. She knows how to hold an audience, which she does with consummate skill.” BORDON HERALD

"Alison Neil created a myriad of players…An entertaining and at times funny commentary on the life of one of our most notorious monarchs" STROUD NEWS

     The Play

"Henry VIII had six wives”… one of the few historical facts most of us remember from our schooldays.  But why did he marry so many times?  And who was that shadowy figure, Katherine Parr - the sixth wife who survived him?

"THE SIXTH WIFE" is set in the night, as Katherine Parr waits for her husband the King to die. She takes the opportunity to reflect on her extraordinary life, and the reign of the glorious, tyrannical - and tragic - Henry VIII.

Katherine Parr saw each of his wives as they came and went - in a variety of unpleasant ways.

Her own life was far from peaceful: four marriages, two indictments for treason, one love affair, power, wealth and death at the age of 36.  She became Queen Regent when Henry went to fight the French; she helped to form the new religion of England; she also befriended a lonely and abandoned child - who later became Queen Elizabeth I.

In this fast-moving and entertaining play, Katherine casts her witty, observant eye over the turbulent Tudor age; and shows how a 'mere woman' could shape the mind of a King - and the future of a nation.


ACT ONE       Running time: 50 minutes


ACT TWO      Running time: 50 minutes


Edited play with NO interval.   Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes


Alison's play about Charlotte Brontë opened in 2002, and ran until 2018.  Unlike Alisons's previous plays, the idea was to bring a seriously famous person to life, about whom most people know at least the outline of their life and achievements. Charlotte Brontë was chosen because Alison had always adored her novels, and also because the story of the whole Bronte family could be told by Charlotte - the sister who outlived all of her talented but short-lived siblings.  Alison was also almost exactly the same size and shape as the diminutive Charlotte!

Unlike her previous subjects, Alison found that researching the Brontës was an unending task - it would take years, if not a lifetime, just to read all the biographies and other worthy books that have been written about these remarkable people.

The most unexpected discovery was that the lives of the Brontës were not entirely miserable, dark and filled with disaster, as they are often portrayed. (This portrayal began very soon after Charlotte's death, when her father asked Elizabeth Gaskell to write her biography.  Mrs Gaskell was a friend of Charlotte's, and it seems likely that Charlotte had woven a rather gothic and dark account of her family's life when talking to her - possibly to create a better story.  Mrs Gaskell took this melodramatic account and ran with it in her biography - and the legend began.) 

Like most people's lives, most of the Brontë sisters'  time was spent on the trivial but absorbing minutiae of everyday life.   Charlotte's own letters are largely filled with cheery comments and anecdotes about visits, trips and people she met, and the sisters had friends and pets that they loved, as well as each other, and occupations which absorbed and interested them greatly.  Of course things turned dark when illness struck, and their home-life was also blighted by the final years of their brother Branwell.  But on the whole, it was possible to write a play which had a lot of light, achievement, and even a few laughs to balance the dark moments.

Portraying a genius was a big task.    Alison made the decision that the best way to do justice to Charlotte was to use as many of Charlotte's own words as possible, so the voice was hers, with as little imposition of outside views as possible.  It was a pleasure to speak Charlotte's words, of course, because of the beauty of her prose, and clarity of her thoughts - even when she was dashing off a note to a friend.

Alison visited the Brontë Museum, of course, when preparing the play.  She was very grateful for the help of the curators, and especially for being allowed to see Charlotte's 'going-away dress', and the bizarre gift from her Belgian teacher M. Heger - the piece of Napoleon Bonaparte's coffin.

The very last show was at Wellington Arts Festival. An appropriate place to end the show, since Charlotte's father was a curate in Wellington early in his life, and first published his books of poetry there.

     Comments on the show

"a massive thank you for your recent performance at Odell village hall.   Having greatly enjoyed your talk about Mary Anning when you came to Flitwick, I knew that we would be in for a treat.  It was very hard to believe that the only person on stage was you.  Once again, many thanks for a truly memorable evening."


"The full Brontë!"   HERTS ADVERTISER 

“A memorable event…the audience seemingly holding their breath at what was unfolding” HELMDON PRESENTS

"Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your Charlotte Bronte performance recently at Ffwrnes Llanelli. It was a beautiful, clever production and had the audience in thrall the whole time. It was both informative and entertaining in full measure - many of us remember little bits about the Bronte story, and the books read so long ago, so it was wonderful to have all of these memories brought to life, and perfectly staged. Many thanks for a lovely evening."


"I forgot  I was watching Alison Neil. This was surely Miss Brontë herself…”


“Movingly told by this consummate performer.  The unique delight of the show was that you very quickly believed you were looking at the real thing.”  NEWBURY WEEKLY NEWS

"Brontë and Neil - a spellbinding combination"  BLACKMORE VALE MAGAZINE

"Her stunning costumes, attention to detail and wonderful ability to become the character…makes for a spellbinding and hugely enjoyable insight into one of our best-loved novelists."  DETOUR

“This enthralling and moving play”  HUNGERFORD & DISTRICT COMMUNITY ARTS

"Truly Yours took us to the heart of Charlotte Brontë… excellent entertainment"  SURREY ADVERTISER

"Alison Neil wows the audience."  ESSEX EVENING ECHO

“Another of Alison Neil’s brilliant series of one-woman shows”  LETCHWORTH ARTS CENTRE

"One-woman show captures a tragic heroine. For two hours she played the role of Charlotte, as well as a host of ancillary characters, revealing love, joy and tragedy, duty and rebellion."  BORDON POST

      The Play

Determined, brilliant and romantic, Charlotte tells her story of passion and duty, triumph and tragedy, and above all - love.

Devoted to her strange and unworldly family, Charlotte Brontë was also wildly ambitious.  Whilst remaining a self-effacing and dutiful daughter, abiding by all the restrictions of early Victorian life, she managed the incredible feat of becoming a hugely famous novelist.  The instant success of Jane Eyre, Shirley and Villette  found her mixing with the literary giants of the age.

The joy of literary success was tempered by the scandalous fall of her brother Branwell, and a succession of family disasters.  Charlotte's own life, however, had an extraordinary, happy twist at the end.

The Brontë family's story has captivated the imagination for a century and a half.  Alison Neil's portrayal of the life of Charlotte Brontë - using many of Charlotte's own words - provides an exceptional theatrical treat.


ACT ONE  Running time: 48 minutes


ACT TWO  Running time: 58 minutes


Edited play with NO interval.       Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes


Alison Neil's play "THE JUST-WILLIAM LADY" opened in 1996 and toured until 2019.  The play was performed in  numerous theatres, arts centres, festivals, and at small community venues such as libraries and village halls. 


The play was performed for the Just-William Society, as well as for many WIs and other clubs and societies. A performance took place at St Elphins,  the school at which Richmal Crompton was a pupil, and later a teacher.


One of the joys of researching the delightful Richmal Crompton was meeting people who knew her. Margaret Disher, her eldest niece, and her biographer Kay Williams became valued  and much-missed friends.


When Alison began performing the play, it was the second half, in which Richmal ages through her forties, fifties and sixties, which was a stretch.  Unfortunately time has caught up, and

Alison has finally had to stop performing  the play; the first half takes place when Richmal is a mere 33, and Alison feels that she cannot stretch the audience's credulity too far!


 THE JUST-WILLIAM LADY was adapted as a BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play, first broadcast in 2001.


     What the critics said

"Simply a masterpiece of theatre.  An outstanding play...the quality of the writing and acting are second to none." BORDON HERALD


"A compelling, witty - and often moving - portrayal of this brave and likable figure" OXFORD TIMES


"Heartwarming...a charming tale.   This amusing and engaging story was substantial in content, gripping the onlookers throughout." THE STAGE


"Superbly crafted play...a captivating performance.  Splendidly delighted all" TENBY OBSERVER


"Just brilliant"  LEICESTER MERCURY


"Just perfect" BORDON HERALD


    What the Audiences Said

"We were spellbound. I hope you could sense our enjoyment.  So many people came to say how much they had enjoyed it.  May I say an enormous thank you."  ORGANISER, FRIENDS OF HOLY TRINITY PARISH CHURCH, SUTTON COLDFIELD


"Appreciation for the wonderful performance...I love the way that your enactments not only allow us to empathise with the characters, but also they encourage us to consider the times in which the characters lived" ORGANISER, BOUVERIE HALL, PEWSEY


"Everyone agreed that "Just William Lady" was an outstanding performance, as usual.  Alison Neil really is amazing."  AMMANFORD ARTS CLUB


"For the first time in my life, approaching 70, I attended a theatre performance. I have to say how much I both enjoyed and admired your play. Thank you."  AUDIENCE MEMBER, PEWSEY



     The Play

This lively and affectionate play celebrates Richmal Crompton, who wrote the much-loved William books (there are thirty-nine of them), as well as many other short stories and articles, and forty published novels.

Born in Queen Victoria's reign, she witnessed two World Wars and was still writing as space rockets circled the earth.  She was a Suffragist, a Classics mistress, and later a prominent London literary figure.  Crippled with polio as a young woman, she turned personal tragedy into lasting success. 

Richmal Crompton was a much-loved Aunt at the centre of a large and eccentric family; there was the brother who ran away to Africa, the grandfather who drank acid, the nephew and niece who were kidnapped, and the mother who saved Richmal's life.   There was also Tommy…Richmal's nephew and the real-life inspiration for William Brown. 


ACT ONE             Running time: 52 minutes


ACT TWO      Running time: 52 minutes


Edited play with short break, but NO interval.          Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes