Ditch – Beth Steel


Lon­don open­ing at The Old Vic Tun­nels on May 13, 2010.

Orig­i­nal Cast:

Mrs. Peel (58-years old)            Dear­blha Mol­loy
Megan (20-years old)                 Matti Houghton
Burns (early 50s)                        Danny Webb
Bug (Late 30s)                            Paul Rat­tray
Turner (Late 30s)                       Craig Con­way
James (20-years old)                  Gethin Anthony

Direc­tor:  Richard Twyman
Design:  takis
Light­ing:  Matt Pren­tice
  Christo­pher Shutt
Music:  Tom Mills

Pub­li­ca­tion:  Steel, Beth. Ditch. Methuen Drama, 2010. Drama Library PR6119. T437 S74 2010.

Set­ting:  The Peak Dis­trict (cen­tral and north­ern Eng­land); the future.

Lan­guage:  Some regional dialect and lingo


They hole up in ‘em before makin’ their way just north a’ there to the Pen­nine Way, leads all the way up to the Scot­tish bor­der. Most a’ the time that’s where the cunts a’ headin’, Scotland.

Genre/Style:  Drama

Plot:   In the future, most of Britain is under­wa­ter; civ­i­liza­tion is on its last legs before a global war;  the British gov­ern­ment has become a fas­cist regime already at war in Venezuela; women’s repro­duc­tive  rights are non-existent; and bands of Secu­rity men patrol the coun­try­side look­ing for Illegals—mostly preg­nant women—since preg­nancy is illegal—who are try­ing to escape the coun­try. Against this back­drop, Megan and James meet at a rural out­post she helps an older woman main­tain for the men sta­tioned there.  Although the out­look for the future is bleak—and details about the present a bit murky in the script—the peo­ple of the out­post fight to restore some sem­blance of a soci­ety and con­nect with one another on a basic human level.  The play works best in those inti­mate moments between two peo­ple:  two sol­diers try­ing to plan a bet­ter future, two young lovers con­nect­ing for the first time, two older per­sons try­ing to find hap­pi­ness in a world gone mad.




Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mono­logues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p.40–41:  James tells Megan how he and his father used to attend protest meet­ings after things fell apart, but that grad­u­ally they stopped going for fear of Secu­rity men break­ing up the meet­ings;  and now, he’s Secu­rity, and he’s been break­ing up meet­ings like that. 


Sat there lis­tenin’ mostly s’what I done.  Reminded me a’ when I used to go meetin’s with my dad. It been after the Break­down that. There’d be about fifty a’ us, standin’ or sit­tin’ in  pokey ter­race. I just been a kid, been there lis­tenin’.  [Lines cut] This past year I been the one who’s breakin’ up meetin’s… they still have ‘em in ter­races, but they younger who go to ‘em… aint been any less a’ ‘em each time we went back… I’m talkin’ again… shouldn’t get used to it.

p.41:  Megan tells James about the time Mrs. Peel planted rhubarb and made rhubarb juice out of it, and the les­son Megan learned about enjoy­ing things while they last and not cry­ing when they’re gone.


When I planted the rhubarb Mrs Peel told me she was gonna make a rhubarb juice with it when it was ready. I never had rhubarb juice before but she told me it’s like apple juice but bet­ter and I really like apple juice.  [Lines cut] Rhubarb’s gonna be ready next month and Mrs Peel promised me she gonna make juice with it. When it’s gone it’s gone. I know that now. I just have to enjoy it whilst its there.

p.91:  Megan recalls a time when Mrs. Peel killed and cooked a hare that still seemed to be alive. Short monologue.


There been a time when you and me were out here workin’, and you spot­ted a hair munchin’   away at your salad leaves. You snuck up behind and grabbed hold a’ it. [Lines cut] I couldn’t stop lookin’ at them chunks cause they were movin’. Jit­terin’, like they were cold or some­thing’. You put the heat on ‘em and I say to you: them chunks are still alive! You say: they dead they just don’t know it yet.


I feel like I’m alive and I just don’t know it yet.



Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scenes: 

p. 26–29:  Megan and James hang out in the sta­bles get­ting to know one another.  This is part of a longer scene and can be either length­ened or short­ened.  Burns’ and Megan’s and James’ lines near the end can be cut.  Starts with


How much schoolin’ you had?


(Off­stage.) James?


I gotta go.


He’s just callin’ he aint comin’ here.


(Off­stage.) James?]

and ends with


S’all same to me.

p.51–54:  James and Megan deal with the news that he’s being sent to the front in Argentina.  Starts with


Dint know if you were gonna come.

and ends with


Ssshh. Want you to make love to me.




Select Bib­li­og­ra­phy of Reviews and Crit­i­cism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Brown, G. (2010, May 30). No lights at the end of this tun­nel. Mail on Sun­day, pp. 23.

Clapp, S. (2010, May 23). Review:  Crit­ics:  The­atre:  A seri­ous exam­ple of tun­nel vision:  Life in post-apocalypse britain is being played out under water­loo sta­tion:  Ditch the old vic tun­nels , Lon­don SE1: Marine Parade The Old Mar­ket, Brighton. The Observer, pp. 39.

Gard­ner, L. (2010, Jun 2). Review:  The­atre:  Ditch old vic tun­nels, Lon­don 3/5. The Guardian, pp. 34.

Hart, C. (2010, May 23). The old vic’s ditch has a splen­didly gloomy set­ting, but the apoc­a­lyp­tic vision fails to thrill. The Sun­day Times, pp. 21.

Hem­ming, S. (2010, May 21). Ditch. Finan­cial Times, pp. 13.

Lukowski, A. (2010, May 27). The­atre:  Reviews:  Ditch. Time Out, pp. 116.

Mar­lowe, S. (2010, May 24). Ditch; The­atre. The Times, pp. 52.

Spencer, C. (2010, May 21). A chill­ing vision of the future. The Daily Tele­graph, pp. 33.

Tay­lor, P. (2010, May 28). The­atre:  Ditch old vic tun­nels, Lon­don. Inde­pen­dent Extra, pp. 16.


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