Juliet Ace

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Ann Juliet Ace (born 27 June 1938) is a dramatist and playwright who wrote for EastEnders and The District Nurse. She has contributed many original scripts and dramatisations to BBC Radio drama, including The Archers. Her screenplay for the Welsh film Cameleon[1] saw the movie win the Golden Spire Award for Best Dramatic Television Feature at the 1998 San Francisco International Film Festival.[2]

Juliet Ace was the third daughter of Charles and Glenys Ace, born and raised in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire in South Wales. She was educated at Llanelli Girls’ Grammar School, City of Coventry Training College[3] (which was soon to become Coventry College of Education and be incorporated into the University of Warwick), where she specialised in Drama and Art, and then trained at Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama.

She taught for three years in St Mary Cray before joining a children’s theatre and then working in The Grand Theatre, Swansea for two seasons, in weekly repertory. In 1964, she began to work in Special Education, working with children with special needs.

After her marriage to Richard Alexander in 1966 she moved to Dartmouth in Devon where her husband worked as a civilian lecturer in The Britannia Royal Naval College. For the next 18 years she brought up their two children, Daniel Alexander (now a business consultant) and Catherine Alexander,[4] now a theatre director and drama teacher. At the same time, Ace continued working with special needs children, privately and in local schools, and directed and acted with local drama groups. She began writing plays in 1976 after taking part in an Arvon Foundation Writing Course.

In 1979 Ace won a Gulbenkian Foundation/Arts Council of Great Britain Award to work with professional directors and actors on new writing. As a result of this workshop her first play, Speak No Evil was produced first as a stage play in Bristol and then as a radio play, directed by Enyd Williams. It was nominated for a Pye Award[5]

After her early work in radio she moved into television, where she worked with Julia Smith and Tony Holland and was taken from The District Nurse series to the creation of the BBC’s EastEnders and then to the short-lived expatriate soap opera Eldorado.

While her dramatic imagination is rich – a leading character in the radio play Lobby Talk[6] is a parrot – her background in life is also significant. Two successful sequences of radio dramas are uncommonly open semi-autobiographical journeys: first there is young Mattie Jones, growing up in South Wales, who appears as a child in The New Look: Tailor’s Tacks, set in 1946, and then completes her growth into a teenager in 1955, four plays later, in Mattie and Bluebottle. An older Mattie, liberated by writing and performed by Patricia Hodge in four plays, starting with The Captain's Wife, and concluding with Upside Down in the Roasting Tin,[7] is a testament to experience.

Her other radio plays include Her Infinite Variety, Small Parts, Dead-Heading the Roses, Skin and Chocolate Frigates. Her dramatisations for radio include Love Story,[8] The Marseilles Trilogy, and Lynne Reid Banks's The L-Shaped Room.

Juliet Ace tutored theatre undergraduates at Dartington College of Arts, as a visiting playwright, 1985-1987, and tutored post-graduate students of writing and directing at Goldsmiths’ College, in the Media and Communications Department, from 1995-2005. She served as a judge of the Koestler Awards, for writing by prisoners, in the 1990s and is a BAFTA jury member.

(Ace was also part of an answer in a Trivial Pursuit Quiz Machine in a pub in Southend, Essex: Question. What links Ace, Bravo and Mills? Answer: they were all Juliet.)

In 1988, her play A Slight Hitch was included in the Oxford University Press collection, New Plays, Volume 1edited by Peter Terson, which included plays by Terson, Arnold Wesker and Henry Livings. As described by the publisher: ‘The plays are particularly suitable for GCSE course work. Each play is accompanied by a short preamble, and there is a follow-up section consisting of biographical notes on the playwrights and ideas for discussion, improvization and follow-up work. Each play has been specially written for the series.’

Ace’s book about the actor Terence Rigby, Rigby Shlept Here: A Memoir of Terence Rigby 1937-2008, was published in November, 2014, and the actor and director Peter Eyre described it in his review as ‘a fascinating and unusual memoir of a fascinating and unusual actor ... There is an unknown and detailed documentation of his work with Pinter, Peter Hall and Ian McKellen, among others, some of it quite shocking’.[9] It includes diary entries from Ace covering decades of her friendship with Rigby, interviews with colleagues such as Michael Gambon, and letters and extracts from an attempted autobiography by Rigby, interrupted by his early death.

Juliet Ace lives in London.[10] In September 2014 she was made a Fellow of the renamed Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance, in a ceremony which also made Katie Mitchell and Jenny Sealey Honorary Fellows.[11]

Radio plays[edit]

Radio Plays written by Juliet Ace
Date first broadcast Play Director Cast Synopsis
6 September 1980 Speak No Evil Enyd Williams Elizabeth Morgan, John Griffiths and Rhys Powis Runner-up Society of Authors/Pye Award[5] Mam tries to keep the isolation of her deafness a secret from her sons. But she thinks she has an even greater secret from which to protect them. BBC Radio 4 Thirty-Minute Theatre
5 February 1983 Dreams Remembered[12] Shaun MacLaughlin Steve Hodson, Petra Markham, Sean Barrett and Jo Anderson Corporal Michael Lamb has been shot while on duty in Belfast. He is paralysed from the waist down. In hospital back in England he is visited by Chrissie Drew, who is in the sixth form at school and is doing compulsory community work. Michael has decided to remain silent for the time being and it Is Chrissie's job to make him talk again. BBC Radio 4

Thirty-Minute Theatre

10 December 1983 A Time Between Comets Enyd Williams Iwan Jones, Rhys Thomas, Simon Williams and Guto Harri Based on a true story and set in a South Wales village at the beginning of this century, the play evolves around two boys growing up in a society in which affluence was unknown. Davy has the brains and leuan has the ability to help him achieve his ambitions.[13] BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Theatre

7 August 1984 Model Answers[14] or, Tarzan and the Cross-eyed Baby Shaun MacLaughlin Elizabeth Proud and Marcus D'Amico Runner-up Sony Awards[5] Middle-class Jane is the invigilator and working-class Harry an examinee at an A-level sociology examination. They never talk to each other, but both of them relate the questions on family life and behaviour patterns to their own home lives. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Theatre

18 February 1986 Embroideries Shaun MacLaughlin Stephen Thorne and Elizabeth Proud 'Alison is so pretty, so pert, so industrious, so witty and caring and loving; Andrew is so successful, so fit, so gregarious, so witty and caring and loving; and David and Jonathan are cleverer, more sporting and more interested and interesting than anybody else's children.' But have the Goods become a little smug, and what do the neighbours think? A play about how we mis-hear. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

25 February 1986 The Red Shoes Penny Gold Anna Massey, Martin Jarvis and Natasha Pyne A seaside holiday to an old haunt may provide the opportunity to rebuild a marriage or to admit its irrevocable collapse. BBC Radio 4

Thirty-Minute Theatre

13 May 1986 Jonathan George Can Walk on the Water Shaun MacLauglin Peter Jeffrey and Shirley Dixon Kydleigh used to be a grimy fishing port. Now it has become a glamorous film set. Jonathon George is shocked by what he sees. He decides to do something about it. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

30 October 198818 December 1988 Crown House[Note 1] Graham Gauld Martin Jarvis, Jane Asher, Margaret Rawlings, Dinah Sheridan, Richard Pasco, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Gayle Hunnicutt and Dominic Rickhards Adapted from Peter Ling’s trilogy of Crown House novels. Eight 30-minute episodes. BBC Radio 4
17 November 1988 Digressions Shaun MacLaughlin Jenny Funnell BBC Radio 4
8 January 1990 The Spur Shaun MacLaughlin Christian Rodska, Anthony Jackson, Vincent Brimble and Anne Morrish Land deals, an ex-farmer and an illegal cockfighting ring. BBC Radio 4

Monday Play

22 November 1990 Lobby Talk [Note 2] Shaun MacLaughlin Andrew Sachs, Stephen Thorne, Steve Hodson, Christian Rodska, Kim Wall, June Barrie, William Eedle, Danny Schiller, Meg Davies, Jonathan Nibbs and Kate Lynn-Evans In the early 1980s in the Hotel Commodore, Beirut, there lived a famous parrot called Coco. He was the favourite of the war correspondents, which was why Walid the barman was intensely jealous of him. BBC Radio 4
2 November 1991 The Little Walls[Note 3] Ned Chaillet Alex Jennings, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Kate Bufferey, Vivian Pickles, Norman Jones, Helen Cooper, Terence Edmond, Timothy Morand, Eric Allen, Ronald Herdman, Siriol Jenkins, Cassie MacFarlane, Neil Roberts, David Sinclair, Matthew Sim and Auriol Smith Winston Graham’s novel was the first winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Crossed Red Herring award for best crime novel of the year.

Philip has returned to Europe from America after his brother appears to commit suicide in Amsterdam. His search for the truth takes him from England to Holland and Italy.

BBC Radio 4

Saturday Play Gold and Silver Daggers Season

10 March 1992 Jacob's Folly Penny Gold Jennie Linden, Paola Dionisotti and John Church BBC Radio 4
8 April 1993 Truth Confined Shaun McLoughlin David Learner, Charles Simpson, Melinda Walker and Kate Binchy Between the time of the court martial and execution of a soldier. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

7 August 1995 Twin Reaction –

Part One: Look Again

Shaun MacLoughlin Jenny Funnell, Carolyn Backhouse, Eric Allen, Cornelius Garrett, Lindsay Mack, Ian Sanders, Rachel Oldfield, Paul Nicholson, Janet Dale, Marilla Robson, Brian Gear and Jilly Bond Three-part police drama

Alice and Belinda are identical twins. They have always wanted to be detectives, and because of a computer error, they begin at the same North London police station on the same day.

BBC Radio 4
14 August 1995 Twin Reaction –

Part Two: Come Follow

Shaun MacLoughlin See Part One BBC Radio 4
21 August 1995 Twin Reaction –

Part Three: Double Trouble

Shaun MacLoughlin See Part One BBC Radio 4
9 October 1995 Zinar's Tower Shaun MacLoughlin Zia Mohyeddin and Karzan Krekar Zinar, a Kurdish council tenant living on the 23rd floor of a North London tower block, is soon joined by other Kurdish refugees, each with a tale to tell.[15] BBC Radio 4

Monday Play

30 August 1997 Love Story[Note 4][8] Ned Chaillet Ingri Damon, Mark Leake, Patrick Allen, Sheila Allen, John Guerrasio, David Brooks, William Dufris, Gerrard McDermott, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Christopher Wright

Harpsichord: David Roblou

"What do you say about a twenty-five year old girl who died? That she was brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me." The most potent romantic novel of the 1970s in a new dramatic version by Juliet Ace. BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play[16]

90 Minutes

8 May 1998 The Captain's Wife[17] Ned Chaillet Patricia Hodge As the years pass, a navy spouse moves from craving conformity to rebellion. BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play
14 May 1999 The New Look:

Tailor's Tacks

Tanya Nash Stephanie Wookey and Jennifer Hill A sequence of plays by Juliet Ace that focus on Mattie Jones' childhood in a small town in the South Wales of the 1940s and 50s. (See also Blind and Mattie and Bluebottle.) It is 1946 and Mattie is often hearing things she should not. BBC Radio 4
21 May 1999 The New Look:

Beeny's Camiknickers

Tanya Nash Stephanie Wookey and Jennifer Hill In the winter of 1947, Mattie spends most of her time with Beeny in the bakery, where she learns to make faggots and discovers the perils of flirting with boys. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

28 May 1999 The New Look:

Celluloid Lady

Tanya Nash Stephanie Wookey and Jennifer Hill It is 1948 and Mattie is now fascinated by Mona Morgan and her daydreams about Hollywood film stars, as she pulls pints in her father's pub. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

6 December 1999 Her Infinite Variety

Play One: Writing to Veronica

Ned Chaillet Eleanor Moriarty Five 15-minute plays inspired by Shakespeare’s Women.

Play One: Faced with parental disapproval of the boy of her choice, at least a young Juliet of today has the internet and an agony aunt.

BBC Radio 4

Woman's Hour Serial

7 December 1999 Her Infinite Variety

Play Two: Talking to my Shrink

Sarah Brown Gavin Muir and Gemma Saunders Confronted by the increasingly maddening (and mad) behaviour of her boyfriend, a Nineties Ophelia discusses the nature of insanity with her psychotherapist. BBC Radio 4

Woman's Hour Serial

8 December 1999 Her Infinite Variety

Play Three: Diary of a Dutiful Daughter

Ned Chaillet Anna Massey Faced with a doddering dad and a nursing home she runs as a business, what can a modern Goneril do but offer him the box room? BBC Radio 4

Woman's Hour Serial

9 December 1999 Her Infinite Variety

Play Four: And All That Jazz

Ned Chaillet Bette Bourne Count Orso offers a modern Viola a spectacular twelfth night, with a wardrobe beyond most cross- dressers' dreams. BBC Radio 4

Woman's Hour Serial

10 December 1999 Her Infinite Variety

Play Five: Dirty Linen

Ned Chaillet Elizabeth Bell and Oliver Cotton Everyone thought Rocky would tame the shrewish Cat, but 20 years on their tempestuous marriage is played out in a national newspaper. BBC Radio 4

Woman's Hour Serial

24 January 2000 Private Papers[Note 5][18] Tanya Nash Angela Pleasence, Nichola McAuliffe, Simon Armstrong and Jenny Funnell Rosemary finds some papers, written by her mother, hidden at the back of a drawer. They contain her mother's version of their family history. Rosemary secretly adds her views. BBC Radio 4

Woman's Hour Serial

21 August 2000 Small Parts[19] Ned Chaillet Patricia Hodge The second play written for Patricia Hodge about Mattie – a semi-autobiographical character based on Ace’s life. Seduced by the theatre, Mattie joins a repertory company in Wales where she finds that the quick-change artistry of bit parts is a kind of preparation for life. BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play
22 January 2001 Young Victoria[20] Cherry Cookson Imogen Stubbs, Anna Massey, Adrian Lukis and Christopher Cazenove Ten-part serial about the early life of Queen Victoria based on her letters and diaries. BBC Radio 4

Woman's Hour Serial

3 December 2001 Money for Old Rope Gilly Adams Di Botcher, Aled Pugh and Jennifer Vaughan Taking a few pills in the interests of scientific research and extra cash should not be a problem, but Jason finds there are unexpected consequences. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

1 September 2001 The Marseilles Trilogy: Marius[Note 6] Ned Chaillet Richard Johnson, Simon Scardifield, Monica Dolan and Andrew Sachs Marius, son of César, feels the pull of the sea, and is prepared to sacrifice his family and his love for beautiful Fanny to fulfil his dreams. BBC Radio 4 The Saturday Play
8 September 2001 The Marseilles Trilogy: Fanny[Note 6] Ned Chaillet Monica Dolan, Richard Johnson, Andrew Sachs and Simon Scardifield The story of a lovely young woman abandoned by César's son Marius, who is unaware she is pregnant. BBC Radio 4 The Saturday Play
15 September 2001 The Marseilles Trilogy: César[Note 6] Ned Chaillet Richard Johnson, Simon Scardifield, Monica Dolan, Andrew Sachs, Tam Williams, Steve Hodson, Stephen Thorne, Struan Rodger, Phillip Joseph and Sean Baker Twenty years after the events of the first play, the sad comedy of lost love is touched by a rich comedy of death and disclosure. A mother's secrets send her son off in search of a father he never knew. BBC Radio 4 The Saturday Play
27 September 2002 Blind Gilly Adams Mali Harries and Jennifer Hill In "Blind", the fourth play about young Mattie Jones in a Welsh childhood, Mattie has reached adolescence. She is 15 and frustrated because she has to spend her Saturdays cooking for her grandfather and her blind aunt when what she really wants to do is speculate about sex and boys with her friend Merle or bury her head in yet another book. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

12 December 2003 Dead-Heading the Roses[21][22][23] Ned Chaillet Jill Balcon, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cheryl Campbell, Graham Crowden and William Hootkins Jill Balcon is joined by her son, Daniel Day-Lewis, in a new drama specially written to celebrate her 60th year of performing on radio. She takes the role of Ariadne, a naval officer’s wife who has become the benign queen of death, arranging tasteful memorial services – which will include her husband’s. But before his departure, her husband has plotted a final surprise. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

20 February 2004 Mattie and Bluebottle Alison Hindell[24] Mali Harries, Mared Swain and Matthew Gravelle The fifth and final play about Mattie Jones growing up in Wales. It's 1955 and she is 17 years old, studying (so she pretends) for her 'A' Levels. Her parents have said she must go to teacher training college but Mattie still dreams of becoming an actress. The one thing that draws the family together is listening to "The Goon Show". BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

23 February 20045 March 2004 The L-Shaped Room[Note 7][25] Alison Hindell Lynne Seymour, Trevor Laird, John McAndrew, Bill Wallis and John Rowe Ten-part serial. This ground-breaking story of middle-class Jane, pregnant and unmarried, has remained in print ever since it was first published in 1960. In her squalid, L-shaped bedsit, Jane has to overcome both her own prejudices and those of 1950's society against her. BBC Radio 4

Woman's Hour Serial

8 March 2004 Skin Ned Chaillet Patricia Hodge Mattie's road to liberation and success sees her shedding her clothes on a naturist beach only to be asked for her autograph; but the sun also has its shadows. A wry and powerfully affecting tale of sun, flesh, naturism and mortality. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

16 May 2005 The Backward Shadow[Note 7] Alison Hindell Siriol Jenkins, Rachel Atkins, Simon Ludders, Nickie Rainsford and John McAndrew Ten-part sequel to The L-Shaped Room. The unmarried Jane now living with her baby in an inherited cottage. BBC Radio 4

Woman's Hour Serial

10 January 2008 Chocolate Frigates[26] Tracey Neale Todd Carty, Lindsey Coulson, Jamie Kenna and Nick Sayce Jack prepares a leaving dinner for his captain whilst his own son is in action in Iraq. He thinks 'stiff upper lip', but his family don't see how things can be normal. BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play

2 June 2008 Shredder[27] Jane Morgan Gwen Taylor, Stephen Thorne, Avril Elgar, Helen Longworth, Nyasha Hatendi, Steve Hodson and Stephen Critchlow Bella wants to go to her grave confident that her children will never know what a wicked woman she once was.

But not even a shredder can wholly destroy the past.

BBC Radio 4

Afternoon Play


  1. ^ By Peter Ling and Juliet Ace
  2. ^ By Juliet Ace and Vic Aiken
  3. ^ By Winston Graham, dramatised by Juliet Ace
  4. ^ By Erich Segal, dramatised by Juliet Ace
  5. ^ By Margaret Forster, dramatised by Juliet Ace
  6. ^ a b c By Marcel Pagnol, adapted by Juliet Ace from a translation by Margaret Jarman
  7. ^ a b By Lynne Reid Banks, dramatised by Juliet Ace

Further radio and audio[edit]

Television series[edit]

  • The District Nurse (4 episodes )
    • Episode #1.9 (6 March 1984)
    • Episode #2.6 (20 November 1984)
    • Episode #2.7 (27 November 1984)
    • A Terrible Itch (12 April 1987)
  • EastEnders - Twenty-five episodes including:
    • Episode #1.26 (16 May 1985) Episode 26: Den and Angie decide to try to save their marriage and to end their respective affairs.
    • Episode #1.60 (12 September 1985)
    • Episode #1.95 (14 January 1986)
    • Episode #1.138 (12 June 1986)
    • Episode #1.201 (15 January 1987)
    • Episode dated 26 September 1989
  • Eldorado
    Twelve episodes for the expatriate BBC soap, beginning with Episode 13 shown on 3 August 1992.

Films for television[edit]

  • Out of Order[28] TV Movie BBC 2 directed by Prudence Fitzgerald starring Sarah Badel 1984
  • Llygad Y Ffynnon Feature-length film for the Welsh language station S4C directed by Huw Eirug. 23 October 1994.
  • Cameleon Prize-winning Welsh film directed by Ceri Sherlock with an award-winning performance by Aneirin Hughes. 1997 drama of a young soldier deserting in the Second World War to return to South Wales where he hides in the connected attics of a terrace of houses, adapting to the different households.[29]

Journalism and publications[edit]