Flies – Oliver Lansley


First performed at the Tobacco Factory’s Brewery Theatre, Bristol, on October 4, 2011.

Original Cast:

Dennis                                              Oliver Hollis
The Fly and other roles                 Paul Mundell

Director:  Emma Earle
Composer:   Kid Carpet
Design:  Zoe Squire
Lighting Design:  Anna Barrett
Animator:  Becca Rose
Costume Supervisor:   Bianca Ward
Stage Manager:  Katie Barrett

Publication:  Lansley, Oliver. Flies. London:  Oberon Books, 2011. Drama General Stacks PR6112.A57 F58 2011.

Setting:  The play opens in a Winter Wonderland, a fantastical dream version of Antarctica with snow, polar bears, etc.  The play takes place in various locations:  an airplane, a dentist’s office, an apartment, a therapist’s office, etc.

Language:  Contemporary


Unfortunately Mrs. Wilshire was in the middle of having her teeth X-rayed and she did not take kindly to a strange man running in screaming, locking the door nad immediately collapsing into a foetal wreck.

Genre/Style:  Comedy

Plot:  Dennis, a dental assistant, suffers from acute Pteronarcophobia, a fear of flies.  Through a non-linear structure and absurdist situations, the play explores the root of Dennis’ fears and his attempts to deal with his phobia through to a startling solution/conclusion.  Although there are a host of other characters besides Dennis, these other characters may just be figments of Dennis’ fevered imagination.


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.17-18:  The FLY reveals why flies behave as they do.


I took a shit on your foot…
I know it’s what we ‘do’—I know it’s an action I am genetically predisposed to undertake—but I just wanted you to know that this was different.
I wanted you to know that on this occasion, this specific act of defecation was for one reason and one reason only and that is that… I don’t like you.

[lines cut]

He takes a big sigh as if relieved of a burden.

Ahh, I’m glad I got that off my chest—feels good to clear the air doesn’t it?

p.19:  DOCTOR diagnoses Dennis’ condition and its possible causes, each cause more ridiculous than the last. 


After the… incident, the patient has been referred to me for examination and assessment. I am to determine whether or not this man poses a threat…

He stops the tape, rewinds it and plays it back.

(DOCTOR on Dictaphone.)  …Poses a threat… poses a threat… poses a threat…

Note to self, I do not like the way my voice sounds on an audio tape—a.) Investigate whether this is the way my voice sounds to other people, b.) Get Janet to look into other forms of audio recording…

[lines cut]

However in my professional opinion I believe they did. Some, if not all, of the above… Note to self. Probe deeper re. clowns, parents, paedos… Peadofly!

p.24-25:  DENNIS explains what true flies are; despite his revulsion, he also seems fascinated by them.


It is the presence of a single pair of wings that distinguishes true f…flies from other insects with the word in their name. May…f…lies, Dragon…f…lies, Damsel…f…lies, Snake…f…lies, Saw…f…lies, Caddis…f…lies, butter…fl…lies… [Lines cut] These help keep them steady and balanced, making them very…agile and able to manoeuvre themselves into intricate flight patterns, they can hover, they can spin, they can even go backwards.

p.47:  PILOT announces an emergency landing on a flight to Antarctica.  Long monologue. 


Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking, I am very sorry to report that we shall be performing a premature landing for today’s flight to Antarctica, this is due to someone attacking another passenger with their complimentary copy of Whizz magazine which can be found in your seat backs.

[Lines cut.]

Boo Dennis, boo to you. Booo.
Everybody please Boooooooo. Not only has he spoilt it f or himself  but he’s spoilt it  for the rest of us, thanks a lot buddy…you’ve let us all down…literally.


Representative Scenes:  Scenes con­tain the first person’s lines and the last person’s lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the scene in its entirety.

p. 36-40:  DENNIS goes to a travel agency to buy a ticket to Antarctica because he’s discovered that there are no flies in Antarctica.  Starts with


Hello there sir what can I do for you today?

and ends with


Can I just buy a plane ticket please?

p.49-51:  DENNIS decides to become a spider in order to confront his fear of flies. Starts with


I have been thinking a lot about what the Doctor has said, about confronting and defeating my fear. About the best way forward, my best chance of doing this.
And I have decided to become a spider…

[Lines cut.]

Perhaps I had underestimated the power of my own convictions but within days thick coarse  black hairs started to appear on my body. At first they hurt as they pierced through the surface of my skin but soon I don’t notice, I become numb to it, almost finding the pain comforting. In less than a week my arms are virtually covered in them.

and ends with


Dennis…? Dennis…? DENNIS?

p.52-56:  DENNIS goes in for a last session with the DOCTOR after he has transformed into a spider. The DOCTOR seems transformed as well, becoming an amalgamation of the fly and other characters in the play.   Starts with


Dennis, how are you?

and ends with


We have to find a way through this. You can’t let this beat you. You must confront it, beat it, otherwise your life will always be dictated by this fear. You have to take ownership of it, find a way through it. You have to defeat it or it will defeat you.


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


(October 6, 2011 Thursday ). Frightening, funny and fly infested; Flies, Brewery Theatre. The Bristol Post.

Hood, K. (October 15, 2011). Flies making a fair buzz. [open access] remotegoat.com

Pearce, E. (October 7 ,2011). Flies-The Tobacco Factory, Bristol. [open access] thepublicreviews.com