Cotton Grass Theatre commissioned me to write a ghost play set in Derbyshire, where they and I are based. We talked about the many haunted houses and the various legends about ghosts in the county, but felt it would be exciting to write something completely original. I live in the dark peak, just below the brooding Kinder plateau, and I became interested in the many rumours and factual evidence of plane crashes in the area. I visited the site of one and was moved to discover that so much remains after sixty years that it has become a place of pilgrimage and reflection. It is easy to imagine how a plane could get lost up there on the high moors. Often when planes fly along our valley a trick of light or a swirl of curtaining mist will make them appear to fly right into the side of the mountain – I have seen this myself many times, and have caught my breath in disbelief.
Not far away, over the Pennines in Manchester, AV Roe was designing and building aeroplanes at the beginning of the twentieth century. I went to see a replica of his famous Avro triplane in the Manchester Museum of Science and Technology and there it was, waiting for me – the inspiration for my play! It is a dragonfly of a plane, beautiful and terrifyingly fragile. How could anyone dare to fly in it, so exposed to the elements? It had a range of only half a mile – but my play is fiction, and the pilot of my story may or may not have been alive, after all.
Thin Air 2012 tour of England, Feb–April:
Director: Joyce Branagh
Tony: Laurence Aldridge • Collie: David Westbrook • Sophie: Helena Coates • Will: Mark Roberts • Helen: Susan Daniel