Apart From George
Chapter Two

Matthew Scurfield I COULD BE ANYONE, all rights reserved.

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‘I was the first to arrive for the workshop, far too early for my own good and plagued by the usual bundle of nerves. Second in was a shy girl who introduced herself as Katrin Cartlidge. I tried to break the ice with a quip about knees and cartilages, but she immediately cut me to the quick, with a look and a squirt of words that made me feel she’d seen and heard it all before.  

Then in walked Amelda Brown, a truly compassionate actor, who I had worked with in a Howard Barker play called The Power of the Dog. Amelda really could kick the proverbial football about the stage, so I knew if we were in together from the start, we were in for some gritty theatre.

Sure enough, once we got down to the basics it became apparent that this was going to be one of those special journeys for an actor that doesn’t come along very often.

Katrin had a way of being able to bring out everybody’s nuances and this group of actors was no exception. She made clear from the start that she had difficulty with reading and writing, which meant that with some initial reluctance, I began to show her how I suffered with the same academic inadequacies.

It wasn’t long before I found a true soul mate in Katrin, she was overtly intelligent and believe it or not, was the first actor I’d met who was out and upfront about being dyslexic. Her educational circumstances were so similar to mine it was uncanny, but she was far less ashamed than I was. Because her father was openly frank about his own difficulties with spelling and reading in the accepted way, she had kindred support at home. In fact he had invented a way of phonetic spelling, which had enabled him to gain his own unique style of writing, which I was to find out later was prolific.  

When Katrin started at secondary school, they put her in a class called The Shed along with all the other head-bangers. If it hadn’t been for an unusual teacher seeing into Katrin’s abundant soul, enough to understand her poetic depths, no doubt she would have stayed there. Her family were wonderfully hospitable; many a poet, actor, or friendly person could turn up at their house, for a night of heartfelt debate, good wine and copious food.   


Nick Ward may have eaten from the same trough as many of the head-wise in Cambridge, but, mainly through Katrin’s intervention, he became refreshingly open about his struggles at school, sharing his difficulties deciphering numbers and words. He had no shame in telling us how being up at Cambridge had made him feel more of a distinct outsider, rather than someone elite. He told us how he had to sink or swim his own way, if there was going to be any chance of surviving his time there. While others made their theatrical début through The Footlights, The Mummers, The Marlow Society and other such clubs, which paved a way for the stars through an open door; Nick had to go underground, inventing his own very distinctive style of theatre in small rooms, cellars, or any other space that might suggest a frame for his subtle innovative work.

My friendship with Katrin and Nick grew by the day and opened me up to a place of trust I hadn’t known before. This was the first time in my life that I began to understand at a gut level, how difficulties with spelling, grammar, punctuation and even reading shouldn’t have to hamper the creative process. As well as being a deeply imaginative actor, Katrin was a gifted poet and Nick wrote and directed exemplary plays; in both cases neither of them could spell nor punctuate in the accepted sense, but this didn’t mean they weren’t extremely talented.

Working with Nick brought vulnerability of the human spirit closer to home. Apart from George was born out of an intensive workshop, where Nick allowed us in, to find the foundations of the play, with an intelligent and sensitive respect for the staging. The weight and complexities of the characters were carved in granite. Here I discovered an introverted father, a man eaten up inside, tortured by chronic loneliness and suicidal depression.


In the aftermath of that initial vital work, Nick produced a superlative play, a piece of writing that was received as an acclaimed and powerful work of art.’  Matthew Scurfield

Nick Ward emerges as an artist with two priceless gifts: the ability to 'play' the stage like a musical instrument, and to make the theatre speak through inarticulate characters. Irving Wardle, The Times

Ward commands the resonant simplicity that is one of a writers rarest gifts. Michael Ratcliffe, The Observer

Bleak and beautifully spare…Mr Ward shows us how much a good play can convey through few words and eloquent action…A writer to watch. Michael Billington, The Guardian