Cicely and David: a play

August 2022 saw the premiere of my play Cicely and David at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It tells the story of a Polish migrant, David Tasma, who is dying from cancer in post-war London, estranged from home and family. A brief, intense relationship with his social worker, Cicely Saunders, helps him to find some resolution to what he feels has been a worthless life. In the process, an idea is born that later becomes the world’s first modern hospice, founded by Cicely Saunders in 1967 and soon to become a beacon for end of life care improvement around the world.

The play comes in the wake of some 20 years of scholarly interest on my part in the life, work and legacy of Cicely Saunders. She continues to be regarded as the founder of the hospice movement and a key architect in the widely recognised specialty of palliative care. As an academic I wrote her biography, published an edition of her letters, and two collections of her varied writings, and also authored numerous specialised journal articles about her.

Despite all this, I still felt there might be other ways to communicate her contribution, and with it the wider message of hospice and palliative care. So in 2021, I embarked on writing a play about her and some of her formative influences: Cicely and David.

I hope you will find interest in the play and I take this opportunity to thank the many people, and especially my friend Dr Jo Hockley, who have all helped Cicely and David to come into being.

What you’ll find here

On these pages there are links to more detailed articles about how the play was developed in collaboration with staff and students at Queen Margaret University and also in workshops at Wallace Hall School, Thornhill and with members of the Dumfries Musical Theatre. There is information about past and future performances and about a film made at the premiere. You can also find out how to access the playscript if you are considering a production of the play.

Cicely and David can work at a number of levels. It can be effective in a lightly prepared reading, or it can be developed into a full production with elaborate design and staging. It can be used purely as a piece of theatre. Or it can serve as a platform for public engagement, professional development and group discussion.

First performance

Following a ‘taster’ performance of Scene 1 at a conference of the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care in May 2022, Cicely and David was first performed in full by the Pennyland Players on 16-20 August at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe festival.

The cast – Older Cicely (Serena Park) , Paul (Michael Johnston), Younger Cicely (Tegan Smith/Caladh Walker), David (Jaimie Busuttil), Woozle (Arlene Mckay)

Directors – Caitlin Truscott, Meghan Wallace, Caladh Walker

Producer – Jo Hockley

Writer – David Clark

Design and Tech – Alex Shanks, Danny Menzies

Music – Kath Bruce

Stagehands/Front of House – Theo Nicholson, Lulu Perren, Joy and Michael Nicholson, Sally Hockley

Our sponsors – Dr Fiona Graham, Gilbert Archer, James and Antoinette Galbraith, Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care, St Columba’s Hospice, Marie Curie, Irish Hospice Foundation, St Christopher’s Hospice, Highland Hospice, Cicely Saunders International, Marie Curie, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

Coverage and reviews

Initial script development

Reaching the Edinburgh Fringe

Blog for the European Association of Palliative Care

Blog for E-Hospice

Diary of the five shows at Edinburgh

Fringe review (just scroll down, the shows are in alphabetical order).

Further performances and events

28th September 2022: At an evening event organised by Highland Hospice, in Inverness, a ‘taster’ from the play was read by two drama students at the University of the Highlands. After an inspiring opening talk by best-selling author Dr Kathryn Mannix, on ‘Tender Conversations’, Juliet Kelly and John Moar read scene 1 from the play to excellent effect. The scene is itself a conversation of great tenderness between the ageing Cicely and a newly bereaved father. Following thunderous, sustained applause and cheers from the capacity audience, there was much praise for the performance and enquiries about further opportunities to see the play.

Juliet Kelly and John Moar

Upcoming events

Week beginning 10th October 2022 Screening of the full play for those attending the multi-professional course at St Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham, London.

18th November 2022 Screening of the full play plus Q&A with David Clark and Jo Hockley, at an online conference on Palliative Care and the Arts, organised by Dr Giorgos Tsiris of St Columba’s Hospice, Edinburgh.

March 2023 (date tbc) A full production of the play by drama students at the University of the Highlands and Islands is planned as part of a Highland Hospice conference.

Accessing the playscript

If you are interested in using the script for performance or educational purposes, please contact me at: david.graham.clark53@gmail.com

Accessing a film of the first performance

A film of the performance at Edinburgh 2022 is currently being edited. If you wish to organise a screening of the film, please contact me at: david.graham.clark53@gmail.com

Some of my other writings about Cicely Saunders

Clark, D. (2018) Cicely Saunders: A Life and Legacy. Oxford University Press: Oxford. ISBN 9780190637934 (doi: 10.1093/oso/9780190637934.001.0001)

Clark, D. (2002) Cicely Saunders: Founder of the Hospice Movement: Selected Letters 1959-1999. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. ISBN 9780198516071

Clark, D. (2001) A special relationship: Cicely Saunders, the United States, and the early foundations of the modern hospice movement. Illness, Crisis and Loss, 9(1), pp. 15-30.

Clark, D. (1999) ‘Total pain’, disciplinary power and the body in the work of Cicely Saunders, 1958–1967. Social Science and Medicine, 49(6), pp. 727-736. (doi: 10.1016/S0277-9536(99)00098-2)

Clark, D. (1998) Originating a movement: Cicely Saunders and the development of St. Christopher’s Hospice. Mortality, 3(1), pp. 43-63. (doi: 10.1080/713685885)

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