Clare Summerskill is a playwright, a director, an actress, a comedienne, a singer-songwriter and an independent academic. As well as writing and directing plays for Artemis, she regularly performs her own one-woman comedy shows and tours them to theatres internationally. Clare has written and produced several plays and films in the verbatim theatre style including Rights of Passage, Hearing Voices and Gateway to Heaven and she has also written for sketch shows for BBC Radio 4 which include Weekending and Heated Rollers. Prior to setting up her own company, she worked with Pam Schweitzer for many years as an actress, writer and director for the London reminiscence theatre company, Age Exchange. Clare has a PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London and her research interests include the role of a contributor to verbatim theatre processes, and LGBTQ oral history methodology.
Plays Clare has written include An Evening with Katie’s Gang, performed at Oval House, directed by Kate Crutchley and shortlisted for the Drill Hall New Playwriting Awards. For Age Exchange Theatre Company she wrote Once Upon A Lifetime, and co-wrote Memory Lane, Winter Warmers and the second tour of Just Like the Country.
She has also written several commissioned plays for the social sector. For the NHS she wrote and, with members of her theatre company, performed two short plays: One was for a Chief Nursing Officers Conference and the issues that were addressed dramatically were around Inequality and Social Exclusion. The other NHS play was performed to nurses at a national NHS conference, the theme being “Shifting The Balance Of Power”. Issues covered in this piece included Primary Care Trusts, Strategic Health Authorities and Securing Clinical and Professional Leadership. For Mosaic Housing Association Clare produced a short play addressing issues concerning older tenants. Areas covered in this piece included Housing Associations’ communication with older tenants.
For an Age Concern, National AGM, Clare, in partnership with Women And Theatre, wrote a short play addressing issues such as images of older people in the media, grey power, the financial and emotional costs of nursing home provision, older people and sexuality and older people’s transport needs.
In 2011 in association with Pascal Theatre Company, Clare worked with a group of older LGBT people in Camden looking at concerns about their sexual orientation and being in need of care in later life. From six drama workshops, spanning six weeks, Clare wrote a script called Staying Out Late from the participants’ improvisations and personal stories, as well as from her own research and the show was performed by the participants themselves at The Drill Hall, London.
In 2012 Artemis worked in association with the LGBT Disabled group Regard to create a show based on the improvisations by, and stories from, participants in six drama workshops. The show was called Vis A Visibility and was directed and scripted by Clare.
Clare’s most recent publication is Creating Verbatim Theatre from Oral Histories (2021), published by Routledge.
Gateway to Heaven – Fifty Years of Lesbian and Gay Oral History. Tollington Press, 2012.
We’re The Girls. Diana Publishing, 2008.
A collection of Clare’s comedy monologues, short stories, and favourite song lyrics. This book is beautifully illustrated by the renowned lesbian cartoonist Kate Charlesworth. Described by Sarah Waters as: “Smart, witty, and with an eye for the sometimes poignant detail of everyday life.”
Hearing Voices. Tollington Press, 2010. Based on interviews with patients who met on a secure psychiatric ward.
Rights of Passage. Tollington Press, 2016. Based on interviews with lesbian and gay asylum seekers in the UK.
Gateway to Heaven – The Play. Tollington Press, 2019. Based on interviews with older lesbians and gay men.
Powerful Personal Stories for Teaching History and Citizenship. Ed. David Savill with Bernie Arigho, Pam Schweitzer and Clare Summerskill. Age Exchange Publications: 2002
‘Hearing Voices: Creating Theatre from Stories Given by Mental Health Service Users’ Eds: Karen Partridge and Sue McNab. Inside Out/Outside In: Creative Positions in Adult Mental Health. Karnac.
Performing Our Experience. Asylum, the Magazine for Democratic Psychiatry. Summer 2013. Vol 20. Number 2.
Recollections from older lesbians of clubs, pubs, political groups and movements up to the 1980s. Diva Magazine. March 2013.
Several of her publications can be ordered online.