Tess Berry-Hart

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Tess Berry-Hart is a playwright and novelist writing for adults, young adults and children.[1] Their novels and theatre plays deal with themes such as the European migrant crisis, LGBT rights, mental illness, genetic engineering, and the sex-positive movement. Berry-Hart has also written fiction and verbatim theatre pieces for stage to support human rights campaigns [2] and to raise funds for the refugee crisis.[3]

Early life[edit]

Tess Berry-Hart is the child of painter and sculptor David Berry-Hart. Their grandmother, Alice Berry-Hart, was a journalist and author of children's books and aunt Marian Lines was a playwright and children's author. Great-grandfather David Berry Hart was a noted gynaecologist and one of the first male practitioners in the UK.

Berry-Hart was born in Warwickshire, brought up in Oswestry on the Welsh Marches, and from age 11 to 18, won a music scholarship to study at Howell's School, Denbigh in North Wales. After school they spent a year travelling and working in Turkey and Pakistan's North West Frontier as a teacher of English. Berry-Hart graduated magna cum laude with a first-class degree in law from King's College London.[4]

Career[edit]

Berry-Hart studied at the Royal Court Theatre Young Writers’ Programme in London under the tutorship of Hanif Kureishi and Simon Stephens and was selected to be the Royal Court young writing representative at the Interplay Young European Playwrights Festival in Warsaw, Poland, with their first play Legoland which dealt with post-traumatic stress and mental illness.

Tess's theatre work has been subsequently produced in London, New York, Los Angeles, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Ankara, and translated into German and Turkish. In 2019 Berry-Hart was shortlisted for the BBC Wales Writer in Residence Award in partnership with National Theatre Wales [5].

Young Adult Novels[edit]

In 2007 Berry-Hart's first novel, Escape from Genopolis, was published. This was followed by the sequel, Fearless, in 2009.[6]

Verbatim theatre[edit]

In 2012 Berry-Hart was commissioned to create a verbatim theatre piece, "Someone To Blame"[7][8] based on the real-life case of Sam Hallam,[9] a teenager wrongfully convicted of murder and imprisoned for 7 years.[10] The play highlighted the inaccuracies in the case against Hallam and was performed by the King's Head Theatre in the weeks before his second appeal. Hallam was released after a second three-hour hearing at the Court of Appeal.[11]

An updated gala performance of Someone To Blame was staged at the King's Head after Hallam's release.[12][13]

In 2014, Berry-Hart was further commissioned by the King's Head Theatre in London to write a play about the lives of LGBT Russians following the passing of the anti-gay laws in Russia ahead of the Winter Olympics.[14][15]

"Sochi 2014" was performed at the King's Head's new writing venue, The Hope Theatre London, in 2014, with other benefit performances occurring in New York (performed by Uzo Aduba, Masha Gessen and Catherine Curtin) as well as Los Angeles that same year.[16]

An updated version of Sochi 2014 was produced and won an NSDF commendation award at the Edinburgh Festival, during August 2014.[17]

In 2019, Berry-Hart curated the testimonies of women workers in the developing world to produce a short play for International Women's Day (#March4Women Rally) hosted by CARE International at Central Hall Westminster.[18] The play was performed live by Helena Bonham Carter, Meera Syal, Nicola Thorp, Naana Agyei-Ampadu and Nina Sosanya.[19]

Refugee Crisis[edit]

In September 2015, during the European migrant crisis, Tess Berry-Hart visited the Calais Jungle refugee camp in France[20] and upon returning became aid and advocacy co-ordinator for Calais Action, part of the UK Grassroots Aid movement, sending aid to Calais. Athens, and the islands of Samos, Chios, and Lesvos.

In 2016 Berry-Hart produced a gala weekend of new writing at the Southwark Playhouse featuring short pieces of refugee-related writing by Timberlake Wertenbaker, Anders Lustgarten, Barney Norris, Mediah Ahmed, as well as a collection of Syrian refugee poetry performed by Denise Gough and Russell Tovey. The event was compered by comedians Robin Ince and Adam Riches.[21]

Berry-Hart has spoken at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and ALNAP in Stockholm [22] from a volunteer perspective, and appeared as commentator on refugee issues on the BBC, ITV, and various documentaries[23] and campaigns for the rights of refugees and the need for safe and legal routes to asylum.[24]

Tess is also a founding member of the Citizens of the World Choir for refugees, migrants and friends.[25][26]

Theatre[edit]

In July 2016 Berry-Hart's play CARGO (inspired by experiences encountering child refugees in Calais) set in a cargo container following unaccompanied minors travelling to Europe, was produced by the Arcola Theatre in London.[27]

The Turkish translation premiere of Cargo ("Kargo") was produced and toured by the Turkish State Theatres in November 2018.[28]

In 2018 Welsh theatre The Other Room, Cardiff commissioned Tess Berry-Hart to write a play for its 2019 Violence Series[29] inspired by her experiences as a volunteer during the refugee crisis.[30] "The Story" premiered in 2019 and will tour Wales and London in 2020.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.scholastic.co.uk/zone/authors_t-berry-hart_biog.htm
  2. ^ "TEDxSouthamptonUniversity | TED".
  3. ^ "Responsibilities of Representation".
  4. ^ http://www5.scholastic.co.uk/zone/authors_t-berry-hart_biog.htm
  5. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/writersroom/entries/2ac113c9-490b-49d6-a8fb-c83b4e9d51ee
  6. ^ "C&W Agency".
  7. ^ "Sam Hallam campaigners make drama of Hoxton murder case". 16 March 2011.
  8. ^ "Someone to Blame: Courtroom drama asks tough questions". 8 March 2012.
  9. ^ Evans, Martin (16 May 2012). "Sam Hallam freed from murder sentence after seven years as court hears of 'serious miscarriage of justice'".
  10. ^ Laville, Sandra (17 May 2012). "Sam Hallam released after seven years in prison". The Guardian.
  11. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9269413/Sam-Hallam-freed-from-murder-sentence-after-seven-years-as-court-hears-of-serious-miscarriage-of-justice.html/
  12. ^ "Someone to Blame review". 4 June 2012.
  13. ^ "Someone to Blame: Sam Hallam courtroom drama returns to the stage". June 2012.
  14. ^ "Gay Russia finds a voice in London play". September 2013.
  15. ^ Trueman, Matt (13 August 2013). "London theatre to stage protest play against Russia's anti-gay legislation". The Guardian.
  16. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/feb/09/sochi-2014-theatre-review}
  17. ^ "Error | National Student Drama Festival".
  18. ^ https://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/lifestyle/entertainment/helena-bonham-carter-joins-rally-for-gender-equality/
  19. ^ https://www.scoopnest.com/user/StylistMagazine/1102222956225286149-powerful-testimonies-from-women-in-bangladesh-cambodia-ecuador-and-nepal-are-now-being-read-out-on-s
  20. ^ "Inside the Calais Jungle".
  21. ^ "Refugees Welcome". 20 February 2016.
  22. ^ "Tess Berry-Hart | ALNAP".
  23. ^ "Eight Months On, A Reflection on the Calais Jungle". 13 July 2017.
  24. ^ "Refugee babies and toddlers are sleeping rough in France". 6 July 2017.
  25. ^ https://refugeeweek.org.uk/refugee-choir-start-summer-of-performances/
  26. ^ https://www.platforma.org.uk/citizens-of-the-world-choir/
  27. ^ "Feel what it's like to be a refugee in a cargo container in new play". 6 May 2016.
  28. ^ "T.C. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı Devlet Tiyatroları".
  29. ^ https://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/seasons/lovesick-21/the-story/
  30. ^ http://getthechance.wales/2019/10/01/an-interview-with-writer-tess-berry-hart%EF%BB%BF