★ ★ ★ ★★ 'Director, writer and designer Alex Howarth has created something truly extraordinary with this piece of theatre. It is sad and it is fun. It is delicately simple and wrenchingly complex. It is unmissable.'
Adelaide Theatre Guide on Cassie and the Lights, Adelaide and Vault Festivals
As a writer Alex's work has been seen across the world in countries including Australia, the US and China, in venues including 59E59 Theatres New York, and The Arts Theatre, West End. He worked alongside Oscar-nominee Peter Hedges to adapt his acclaimed novel What's Eating Gilbert Grape for the stage. We Live By the Sea, which Alex conceptualised and co-wrote opened the Brits Off Broadway season at 59E59 Theaters in New York, and is licensed for performance in North America by Broadway Licensing.
Current writing projects include an adaptation of indie movie Safelight, which examines the inheritance of prejudice in rural America, and Saving Elowen Green; a new play with traditional Cornish songs, exploring the damaging effects of the decline in NHS provision in rural communities.
His play Cassie and the Lights which is based on interviews with young people in the care system and the real-life case of a 17 year old who went to court to get custody of her younger siblings opened in 2020, winning the 'Excellent Play' Award at the Central Academy Awards in China, and playing seasons at Vault Festival and Adelaide Festival Australia, where it won a Best Theatre award. It re-opened at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe in Big Belly, Underbelly; the original home of Phoebe Waller Bridge's Fleabag, where it was nominated for the BBC Writer's Room Popcorn Award and the SitUp Award for social change, as well as receiving outstanding reviews and featuring in The Stage critic's Best Shows of the Fringe.
Cassie and the Lights
Edinburgh, Adelaide and Vault Festivals
We Live By the Sea
59E59 Theaters New York
Back to Blackbrick
Arts Theatre, West End
What's Eating Gilbert Grape
World Stage Premiere
Beans on Toast
Theatre 503 & Tour
Additional writing credits include:
Saving Elowen Green (in development), Safelight (in development), In Stars (Workshop, Zoo Co, 2017) and Oscar and Meg (based on 'The Apple Tart of Hope' by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, Workshop, Mountview, 2016).
Katy, an autistic teenager, gives a presentation to her class- from 'We Live By the Sea'
KATY Hello Class 10B. And welcome to my presentation... It is called The Big Wave. One day when I was 8 and 3 days I went to the beach with a girl called Hannah who is my sister, and a man called Paul who is my dad... I had a special secret feeling in my tummy that I only get when something that is like a kind of magic is going to happen. So I stood by the sea and waited for the magic to happen..and after twelve minutes and four seconds of waiting it happened. The biggest wave the world had ever seen was coming straight towards me and I could not do breathing or feel thinking in my head. It was so high now and my heart was going so hard it felt like all of me was beating... And it was the most magnificent I have ever felt... A Princess Knight…
(Music fades out. She stops, and looks nervously out. She makes a decision, and puts her speech in her pocket. She looks out at the children)
I think… I think some of you don’t like me very much.. Because I wear my ear savers, and sometimes I do shouting and crying and sometimes when people say things I do not know what to say back and so I don’t say anything at all not at all... And Hannah says that that it is OK when some people do not like you because everyone has people who do not like them- even the best people like.. Beyonce...and David Attenborough... But I think.. I think that maybe you could like me.. if maybe you just try to do a different kind of thinking? If you think that my ear savers are just the same things as your headphones for when you do listening to the music, and that when I do not know what to say it is because I am scared… just like you are scared too.. of bears and of people and of dragons... I know that this kind of thinking is possible… because Ryan and Hannah are doing it every day. But if you can never do this kind of thinking- if this is totally impossible that that is ok because two people do... And every time he says “Hello Katy!” or Hannah does smiling... it is like the big wave is hitting me all over again and I am scared, and I am bursting, and I am everything that I think anyone could ever be... And it is how I want to be... That is how I want to be... forever.
In rehearsal for Annie at the Barn Theatre
The Sirens respond to their myth being told- from 'Sirens'
XOE Except… that’s all bullshit.
LOU Great story
PIA Very dramatic
LOU Love the whole shrivelling skin thing; very American Horror Story
PIA Snazzy imagery, 8 out of 10, would read again
XOE But… bullshit… So
LOU Bit of context- we ARE the Sirens- bird women
PIA Great singers
LOU Like he said. And we did live on a rock, and some blokes did die
LOU But the rest of what he said was
XOE Kinda… total bullshit. So
LOU In the interests of accuracy
XOE Y’know- TRUTH
LOU We’ll give you the real version.
PIA What we know now, here, in this theatre in 2019
PIA ...to be true. What we didn’t know then, and then when we travel to Hastings and go into doing the ‘play’ proper we won’t know again. We’ll talk the way we used to talk, and we’ll only know the lies they told us. The lies they told about us.
LOU This is like… the prologue, if you like- direct address, proper Brecht- remember him from A Level Theatre Studies?
XOE We are the Sirens.
LOU Bird women
PIA Great singers
XOE Murdering fucking whores. Apparently.
SIRENS But the rest of it was shit so we’ll tell it
The way it happened,
The way it went, no embellishment
Through our eyes, from our mouths no filter
Take our story back kick the system outta kilter
Cafe Nation at Mountview
Tin and Kit talk about their foster home- from 'Cassie and the Lights'
KIT Maisie Peters who I sit next to at lunch asked me an’ Tin today what was different about living with Mark and Alice in‘stead of being at home with mum.
TIN And I started and said all the books they have- by people like Charles Dickens and Richard and Judy
KIT Then I said the jar I found that said Waitrose Essential Artichoke Hearts and I didn't know what Artichoke Hearts were so I googled them and I don't think Artichoke Hearts are essential really I think they are a treat
TIN Mum likes the music we do, but Mark likes Wagner and Tchaikovsky
KIT and he thought Ariana Grande was summat you ordered in Starbucks
TIN Butter on our Dairylea sandwiches
KIT And carpet that feels like a dead soft sheep under your toes when you take your slippers off
TIN That our bedroom isn’t really our bedroom ‘cos it’s only our bedroom for a bit
KIT And that our bedroom doesn’t have Tin’s glow in the dark stars on the ceiling she got out of the space magazine
TIN Or Kit’s poster of an extra long trunked elephant on the wall
TIN Cos it’s only for a few more days that we’re here probably
KIT and we don’t want to waste blu tac
TIN That a social worker comes round every week an’ asks daft questions an’ fills out loads of forms and puts them in a box
KIT That when we came we only had Mr Potato Head and Elephant, and the Jenga we made out of ice lolly sticks
TIN but they gave us lots more things they already had like lego and stickle bricks which is mega kind
KIT but they don’t go in our games so they just sit there; and if they come to life when we’re not looking like in Toy Story they’ll be sad
TIN That it doesn’t smell like our house
KIT That mum isn’t there and even though Mark and Barbera are very nice when it’s bedtime and the lights are turned off I feel mum not being there in my tummy
BOTH That even when all the lights are on it feels like it is dark.
We Live By the Sea at Adelaide Festival © Kate Pardey
Ash and Dad talk about Ash's mum- from 'In Stars'
(Ash and Dad are sat in the ice-cream parlour across from each other with a huge sundae inbetween them)
DAD …and I threw her over my shoulder, ran back through the lab, flames taller than me, smashed through the window with my boot and carried her to safety. I had to roll around on the grass to stop my clothes bein’ on fire y’know.
ASH Like that bit in that Die Hard film we watched?!
DAD Erm… yeah, I guess. But mine was way cooler. Denise loved that story, let me tell you…
ASH Who’s Denise?
DAD Erm… my new err… (trying to be down with the kids) homie. Yeah homie.
ASH Dad you can say girlfriend- I get it- it’s like Georgie and Justin Beiber except not just in her head. What’s Denise like?
DAD Awww Ash you’d love her right, she’s gorgeous- Miss Didcot 1983- blonde… loves a silver fox…
ASH Dad why are they always blonde?
DAD Oh Ash you’re only 11- one day you’ll understand.
ASH (beat) I’m 12…
DAD Oh… sorry mate, (referring to self) what a dick! Anyway, she’s coming round the lad pad later- I’ve got Phil to clear off for the night. Makin’ her my spag bol, maybe play her a bit of the ol’ guitar…
ASH Tell her about when you did security for David Bowie!
DAD Aw yeah and all my great chats with him- I’d be like “Alright” and he’d be like “Alright”... Classic.
ASH Dad… I… wanted to talk to you about Mum.
DAD Oh ruddy hell here we go- what’s she done- did she shout at you?
ASH No no- she doesn’t shout at me dad- well, hardly ever anyway- it’s the exact opposite- she’s hardly saying anything to me. It’s like she’s got some big secret.
DAD That’s your mum all over, sorry love. Used to keep things from me all the time…
DAD (seeing an opportunity) Oh… yeah… I mean… you wouldn’t know ‘cos it was before you were born, but yeah- massive secrets and fibs all the time… part of the reason I dumped her… (sees Ash’s face) I mean… part of the reason we… amicably broke up. For your sake. ‘Ere… (fake serious) there haven’t been any strange men sneaking around the flat ‘ave there? (can’t hold it in any longer and laughs) Maybe she’s got herself a boyfriend!
ASH (to herself) Trevor…
DAD (he missed it as he was laughing) What’s that?
ASH Oh… err… nothing… I’m sure it’s fine. Look it’s 4.56- I’d better get back home.
DAD Alright kid, I’ll text you to sort out our next meet yeah, I’ll just have to…
ASH Check your diary. I know. (goes to leave)
DAD Who’s your Starman?
ASH You are dad. You are.