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.