Cambridge and the Kidnapped Carrot

Sunday, November 8th: It was a clash of the leviathans. Chelsea and Manchester United, the only two teams who can now reasonably win the league, met for a kickabout. They are two of the only four teams that ever win anything in the English Premier League. These four have the most money, the best players, the greatest clout with referees. Just occasionally, however, smaller teams are cute and smart enough to beat them. Rarer still are the minnows who grab some silverware from under the noses of the four-team establishment.

As with football, the arts are similarly divided by rank, influence and wealth. On Sunday the 8th, however, Leicestershire outsiders travelled to an away fixture in Cambridge. Keith Large, a Loughborough writer, had won the rare accolade of having his 45 minute play, Carrot Nappers, read by professional actors at the legendary ADC theatre (erstwhile lair of the Cambridge Mafia). Keith took his team –including my good self– down to the performance. He even brought cake for everyone!


Cambridge Here We Are! L-R: Keith Morley, Me, Keith Large. Maria Smith took the photos.

Carrot Nappers is that rare thing in modern British theatre: a no-holds-barred, unapologetic ‘Carry-On’ style farce. The plot involves the theft of a 17-foot prize-winning carrot from an allotment. Vegilante Vinnie (Gary Mooney), the security guard who failed to protect the lengthy vegetable, plots to get it back. With the help of his third-best girlfriend Lisa (Genevieve Cleghorn) and the allures of the allotment’s “love-shed”, they set a honey-trap for the main suspect; the devious and amorous Onionhead (Steve Kantor). Acted with gusto, the vegetable-themed puns and snappy one-liners just kept on coming. In the end Onionhead lost his trousers and the play’s director (Francesca Brown) made an appearance as the carrot itself, returned to Vinny, Lisa and his pal Albert (Tim Waterfield) –who gets the girl in the end. Fabulous stuff.


L-R: Tim Waterfield (Albert), Gary Mooney(Vinnie), Genevieve Cleghorn (Lisa), Francesca Brown (Carrot), Keith Large and Steve Kantor (Onionhead)

The readings were organized by the Write On! Cambridge scriptwriting forum. An annual competition selects the best script submissions and performs them in front of an audience. This year, Naked Stage 09 held 14 readings, selected from a huge number of entries. The deal is that two or three play readings (per event) are performed and then the audience is invited to comment and critique. It is an opportunity for the writer to receive feedback and engage with a live audience.

In the case of Carrot Nappers, however, it was the actors who spoke –rather enthused– about the play. They loved it, explaining that it was a rare opportunity for them to play larger-than-life characters and to really have fun. All the actors involved in Naked Stage 09 had wanted to perform this play. Those that did, really did it justice. I was amazed to learn that they had reached their high level of performance after only three rehearsals. The craft and expertise of these actors was humbling to behold.


2 Keiths, one Dan among the dreaming spires.

Memories of the day? The sightseeing with fellow Carrot-heads Keith Morley, Maria Smith (great driver and photographer) and the playwright himself, Mr Large. The carrying of the carrot cakes back and forth from car to theatre to storage area and back. Meeting a bunch of talented actors and directors happy to help bring new authors to the stage. Most of all, it was knowing that we can win away from home. Keith Large in Theatre, Mehul Desai in Film and Graham Joyce in novel-writing: all from Leicestershire, all prize winners in 2009, all proving that minnows can have their day. Get in!


About floppybootstomp

Lecturer, teacher, writer and traveller all perfectly good nouns aren't they? Do they have anything to do with me? Ask the taxman.

Posted on November 10, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Great review – v. entertaining. Wish I’d caught the play. The short story was very funny and it sounds as though the actors captured the humour with gusto! Congrats to all concerned.

  2. I was there! It was fun, fun, fun…
    The cast in Cambridge pulled out all the stops, it was so obvious they’d had a rip roaring time rehearsing the scenes.

    I want to know when Nappers the sequel is out? If only we could see it in Leicestershire, that would be tops!

    Excellent review Dan…

  3. Well done Dan for plugging Leicestershire writing. The county has so much talent and it’s about time it’s winning writers were recognised. I love the photos from Cambridge. Looks a fun day and ‘Carrot Nappers’ sounds a fun, fun play. It’s a pity nobody in Leicestershire could back it and bring it home to a theatre near home.

    • David: Thanks. And I couldn’t agree more vis a vis the lack of appreciation in Leicester for this sort of thing. Maybe if the Little Theatre or somebody put on similar events/competitions? It would be an interesting experiment to try what Write On! have done so succesfully in Cambridge.

      Maria: Yep, it was fun. Thanks again for your photos. They really brought my report to life.

      Judith: Thanks! It was indeed a great day out. Looking forward to your course on Saturday @ the Writing School.

  4. Top review of a very special day Dan. To see a play performed for the first time is always a unique experience. The Carrot Nappers did not disappoint here. Very professional production. Allotment subterfuge at its best. A fun romp from start to finish.

  5. Wow – sounds incredible!
    Congratulations all round,

    • Thanks. I remember reading the part of Onionhead at a writers meeting. To see what a professional actor did with those lines was astonishing. It’s like they trained for years to do the job or something…

  6. sounds terrific 🙂 Is it going on tour?

    • The word on the streets regarding a tour of Carrot Nappers is that things are afoot.

      Watch this Space!

      Keith also dropped a hint that a carrot napper novel might also be on the cards (no news on action figures as yet, though).

  7. I read the short story this is based on in that story magazine (Agh! Can’t remember its name!)and would love to see it in play form.
    When will this tour de force come to old Leicester town?

  8. I’ve read the short story – I’ve got the T-Shirt, but unfortunately I haven’t seen the play. Great review here though – sounds like immense fun.

    And hmmm…. Carrot Napper the novel – that sounds like fun! Go for it!

  9. I see one or two people have asked if the Carrot Nappers are going to go on tour. Is there any news on that yet?

    We could do with some mirth in Leicestershire. What about the Y Theatre? They showcase writers as I understand it,and comedy is rare. Not to mention the fact a local chap has written it.

    Could they not put it on for a night?

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