Spring 2019


Wonderful Beast has been busy plotting and planning its next big project involving a new touring production, Thea Smiley’s The Last Woodwose.


Born of Return of the Wildman (also Smiley), The Last Woodwose is in development following a highly successful reading with actor Diana Quick in the HighTide festival 2018.


The play for three actors and a musician, weaves a tale of myth, legend, and ecological concern, inspired by the prolific representations across East Anglia of the figure of the woodwose, the wildman of the forest. In Smiley’s tale, the figure of the woodwose is female, depictions of which are rarer in church carvings but have been beautifully preserved in stained glass and in illuminated books.


The production will premier as an open-air performance on the Blackheath Estate, Friston, as part of Aldeburgh’s HighTide Festival 2019, followed by a site-specific tour to local woodlands, including the ancient Staverton Park, churches - St Michael’s Framlingham and St John’s Saxmundham - and a beautiful private barn.


More information about the play can be found on our What’s On page.




Association for Suffolk Museums

‘I Am a Woodwose’


A partnership with the Association for Suffolk Museums, four local churches and museums and nine local schools.


Project ‘I Am a Woodwose’ (taken from a line of the play) focuses on the mysterious medieval woodwose carvings that appear prolifically on church fonts and porches locally. A three-day engagement takes children on a historical and cultural journey, beginning with visiting churches and museums and then translating their experiences into imaginative form, with a guided creative writing session. The second day involves a woodland expedition exploring the ecology and the future of our forests, led by an expert, and finishing with a making session with a local artist.

Wonderful Beast - I Am a Woodwose
Wonderful Beast - I Am a Woodwose
Wonderful Beast - I Am a Woodwose

Volunteers in all participating museums are showing huge enthusiasm for the project:


‘[We] were delighted to meet with members of the Wonderful Beast theatre company as they discussed with us their exciting project relating to the Woodwose. We have two fine sculptural examples on the base of the font at St John’s, Saxmundham. We welcome their creative ideas involving local schools and wider community using the schools, museum and the recently re-ordered St John’s Church. We highly [commend] [Wonderful Beast] for their innovation, enthusiasm and creativity and look forward to this and other projects.’


– Richard Wills Crisp, Curator, Saxmundham Museum.


The project culminates in two free schools' matinees in September, for children who have taken part.


Funding so far for both the tour and outreach has been received from The Scarfe Charitable Trust, Leiston and Sizewell Community Fund, Association For Suffolk Museums, The Marchus Charitable Trust, Barbara Whatmore Charitable Trust, and private donations. Results of an Arts Council bid and other applications are due shortly.


Pearls from the Grit: Winner of the Creative Learning Guild award for Literature and Creative Writing


We’re delighted to announce that The Poetry People’s extraordinary community project Pearls from the Grit has won the Creative Learning Guild’s award for Literature and Creative Writing 2018–19. Wonderful Beast’s Artistic Director Alys Kihl directed the show and was thrilled to be involved in the project, which has now received national recognition as a creative learning initiative.


Pearls from the Grit builds on Dean Parkin and Jack Rose’s book The Grit: The Story of Lowestoft’s Beach Village (1997). Bringing characters and stories of the ‘Gritsters’ back to life, the production tells the tale of this once thriving fishing village (known locally as ‘The Grit’) which in 1900 had been home to 2,300 people, with three schools, churches, shops, and thirteen pubs. By 1970 The Grit had disappeared. Dean Parkin, writer and narrator of the production, takes audiences back in time to piece the story together, honouring the lost community of this once-thriving locality.


Board up all the windows, empty all the houses and dig up all the roads, scatter all the people, turn the place to rubble, but like the sun, we’ll rise...


‘Alys: Thank you for direction, guidance, mentoring with Pearls…easily the most rewarding and successful and joyful thing I’ve ever done.’ – Dean Parkin, writer and narrator, The Grit (2018)