Saturday, March 30, 2024

THE BENEFIT an extract

 The Benefit is a show intended for solo performance this Autumn.  It is a mix of narrative, verse and dialogue.  The protagonist is a bespoke, black men's overcoat travelling from back to back - or hand to hand - across time and space.    

I'm introducing here one of the characters who 'owns' the overcoat for a short period of time.  Marlon describes herself as a 'flaneur -or 'flaneuse - take your pick'.  She cruises the streets of her war-torn city in the spirit of the great French poet Baudelaire seeking out subjects for the poetry she writes.  She  dresses impeccably in a man's lounge suit channelling the style of the German actress Marlene Dietrich. 

She is arrested by an army officer and interrogated.  She charms him and wins our Overcoat from him in an arm wrestling contest.  She is freed, but on condition that she does a bit of spying for him 'out the back' of a cafe where anarchists supposedly meet.  Marlon, of course,  has no intention of doing this and sets off to do a bit of flaneuring around the city.

 Now Marlon has  absolutely no intention of going out the back or in the front or even round the side of any premises and having missed her daily flaneur round the city, she sets out to see what or whom catches her eye.  But feeling in need of a stiff drink after her interrogation she finds a seat on the terrace of a café.  Sure the tables are a little charred and half the bar is missing but it’s business as usual.  As she sips a large brandy, she notices  a girl picking her way like an angry pigeon through snow sludge and chunks of masonry.  She is wearing a top dollar  fox fur coat but it doesn’t sit well with her,  this girl being  in no fit state to benefit from either its warmth or elegance. Yes, a very angry pigeon, Marlon thinks when she notices that the fur on one sleeve is horribly burnt, burnt black. A poem takes shape in her mind.  Damaged Stock

she’ll call it.

A red fox fur I saw the other week

Draped on a mannequin with a

Sharp jaw and sharper carmine lips

Dead animals the both of them

On display in the window of a department store

Screaming ‘Look at me’

For the respectable amongst us to

Conspicuously consume,

To feed our greed for privilege,

To nourish an illusion of some certainty

In our oh so fractured lives.


Fur and skin,

The skin of the fur stretched

Stretched tight, nailed,

Stretched and nailed down,

 Alive, wasn’t it?  Once.

Yet the red fox fur moves,

And  lives in the mind of   

Our angry little pigeon,

Sharp, hungry eyes and sharper carmine lips

Short-changed, short sighted

Aware she’s drawn the short straw

When she should have  won the prize.

Look at her, trying for all she’s worth,

To hide her disfigurement

That charred black sleeve,

That dead red fox fur

Who’s  more damaged now?

The fur coat or the wearer?

A soldier at a café table laughs

And throws a bottle at the angry little pigeon.  

Now Marlon, sensing she  might get a bottle thrown in her direction, and conscious of looking like a slag heap in our overcoat,   decides to move on.  Plus she’s dying for a pee and she’s not running the gauntlet of what this café has to offer.  She knows just the place. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024


My blog has served me more as an aide memoire or diary than an interactive blog inviting comment and discussion.  Over the last year I've explored the option of having a website or self-publishing some of the essays I've written, particularly those composed during Lockdown. Unfortunately the cost of living blows these options out of the water. 

Firstly technical help is imminent  in tidying up this blog so titles of posts are evident on the home page. Such as my more detailed CV accessible in the April 2023 post below.  

Secondly help at changing the domain name. I have done so much work on later life academically, in my writing (Age Queer)  and through  performance  (Artivist in a Box). I have so many other directions I want to go in. 

The last year has seen me:-

 In two  supporting artist roles in local filming via Phoenix Casting of the blink and you'll miss me kind,  Also playing a dying woman in a University of Bristol student film, Evenescent Nexus, for which the highly professional young film makers raised the money to pay the cast.  

Spending much time on immensely rewarding trustee duties for Travelling Light Theatre. 

Being an Open Mic impresario (?) for fundraisers at Cafe 5 (Bristol Refugee Rights) and at the Dark Horse (Travelling Light's Big Give Challenge). 

Enjoying improv workshops at the amazing Wardrobe Theatre

Seeing great theatre here in Bristol.  

And finally researching and writing my  script for The Benefit. The first draft has been completed and excerpts have been performed at the above Open Mic events.  


Thursday, April 27, 2023




JO CROSS   e.mail:  jecross19 [at]  mob.: 079756565473


I am a Bristol based actor, writer, activist,  para-academic and drama workshop facilitator. I identify as she/her and am proud of my east London background.

AN ACTOR:  Theatre Training (Guildhall School of Music and Drama)  followed by Theatre in Education training at City of Birmingham College of Education. I spent some twenty years teaching in East London (South Hackney and Kingsland Schools). I continued to develop my  theatre skills at Chat’s Palace Community Theatre  in Hackney.

2006 – 1017 I worked as a freelance education facilitator working for Bristol City’s Museums, Galleries and Archives, also developing  actor/character led schools’ workshops at the Red Lodge, Blaise Castle and MShed.

2021-22 I  was employed as an actor on “The Creative Histories of Witchcraft”, a collaboration between Will Pooley of Bristol University’s History Department, playwright Poppy Corbett and poet, Anna Kisby Compton.

WHAT I CAN DO:  Develop and deliver bespoke drama workshops across the age  range  for collaborative/ developmental purposes.   Below part of a drama workshop I delivered at Trinity Centre Bristol, exploring ageing and identity:-


Play the part of an older woman -  so long as it’s not a stereotype!   

With Rebecca Braccialarghe in “How Many Things Can You Think About” 2021 Café 5, Easton.


A WRITER:  2021 saw me awarded support from Theatre West for my script “Age Queer” under their Arts Council funded, Zooming Ahead scheme for Women Writers.  A Zoom performance was followed up by a live performance at  Bristol’s Trinity Centre last year.



From Heather Lister   : That was wonderfully moving, funny and inspiring (from the P.O.V. of someone 70ish!!) I enjoyed all the performances; it is beautifully written, original and ingenious in many ways and I cannot think of any ways in which I think it could be improved. I'll look out for a future performance. Thank you!

From James Peries   : Very much enjoyed the detailed history of the early 80s for the characters; all felt very true.  Established very strongly the history, activism, and engagement that gets negated when older (in others' eyes). 'Elders' recruiter being a funeral director in his day job a good twist!  Decline of Norma at the end was strongly written and acted.  Thank you. 

From Jean Cooper Moran   : Jo's 'Age Queer' play was a superb idea, with realistic and robust themes, humour and a touching friendship between these chippy characters. The actors all jumped into character immediately; the PO's monologue at the beginning was gripping. The dramatic sequencing and dialogue were true to life and held our interest throughout.  Bobby Sands was a tragic theme, and foreshadowed Nora's own last act as a 'refusenik' - great phrase.  I accepted the use of sadism in the earlier scenes pointed up the internal conflicts of being gay, and the terrors and rewards of joining that community. My brother would have identified with Alan.  Brian the happy lanyard was a well acted and telling character.  God save us from the 'home' at the end of life...


2021 I wrote (within three weeks!)  “How Many Things Can You Think About (When You’re Lying Under an Immigration Removal Van)” for Odd Lot Theatre, this performed as a fundraiser for Bristol Refugee Rights at Café 5, Easton.

Current project.  A show for solo performance, working title The Benefit.

Elevator Pitch:   In this gothic  satire on human frailty – and the art of tailoring - a  black gentleman’s  overcoat passes through a turbulent, 20th century, European  city attracting a random  mix  of owners along the way.  Who gets to feel the benefit of this most universal of garments and who’s left out in the cold? And what purpose does our coat serve when it surfaces in the 21st century?


WHAT I CAN DO:   Develop script for a variety of media.  Serve as ‘writer in the room’ on projects as they develop. 



I have kept this simple blog going for the last, few years A progression from my doctorate and building on my concern for the subordination of later life in U.K. society, my experience of spending most of my life in multicultural Hackney where I raised my dual heritage family and myself being a ‘child of the 60s’ appalled at the monocultural assumptions about older people.



  From my ‘Artivist in a Box’ performance in Broadmead Galleries 2022.

My doctorate was in Applied Aesthetics:  how cultural diversity can best be understood through our everyday, aesthetic lives; the sensuality of the  very stuff that defines who we are, this being particularly important as we grow older.    

WHAT I CAN DO Advise on or  review  representational practices, whatever the media, which include older people.

Devise and deliver drama / storytelling workshops using artefacts of any type for the purpose of exploring their aesthetic worth and  significance to a project.  


I keep updating and expanding on my skills base attending Meisner and improvisation workshops, script writing workshops (recently with Matt Grinter) community theatre workshops with Acta under their Elevate scheme and recently workshops organised by Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment team.   

 I have served as  the lead on Bristol City Council’s  DIY Artists' Network Equality and Inclusion sub-group, as a Theatre Bristol agent  and am a trustee of Travelling Light Theatre.  I am a member of the actors’ union Equity,  Diverse Artists’ Network and Bristol Old Vic’s Artists’ Forum. 


Thursday, January 12, 2023



2022 has been good year for watching amazing theatre, particularly at Bristol Old Vic.   Also  keeping my script Age Queer ticking over around my networks, including the Old Vic where it reached the second round of the Ferment (new work) commissioning process for further development. Glad I got that far!  At the time of writing this I plan to submit Age Queer for two imminent competitions prompting me to update/enhance it even more.

Thinking of changing titles, I’ll be moving  away from Ageing and Ageism to develop  new work throughout 2023.  Throughout the last few months of 2022 I started work on two new projects:  Euro Gothic – this an expansion of my early iterations of The Overcoat. I performed some of this at a fundraiser we held in December for Travelling Light Theatre / Big Give Challenge and will be considering its potential as  a solo  show.

Second up is Holiday Haunts for which I have been doing extensive research.  My source material is a battered, foxed copy of Great Western Railway’s Holiday Haunts Guide 1923.  I’m hoping to pitch  this historical artefact as a springboard for a community performing/applied arts project soonest. 

This blog  has served as deposit box for writing or an aide memoire rather than an interactive site.  The domain is just about to renew so I will stick with it for the time being.   I'm pleased with  some of the blogs I've written, particularly those I wrote at the outset and during Lockdown and plan to condense them.  Missing is a topic list and one of my things to do is to get help with the tech to sort it.   

Big love, big hugs.  



Thursday, September 1, 2022



Myself and Rebecca Braccialarghe, as respectively Hecuba and Cassandra, given yet another lease of life in an early draft  of The Black Overcoat. As captured in this image I am  feeling the cold. 


Another rehearsed reading for our summer slot at our spiritual base – Café 5, Easton Bristol. I hastily adapted early script for the above to fit Richard Worsnop’s theme of War in Times of Love. 

But ‘The Overcoat’ has been a brief working title.  Yes, I am profoundly influenced by Nikolai Gogol and Wolf Mankovitz’s brilliant play “The Bespoke Overcoat” and the relevance of both to anticipated fuel poverty in the U.K. 

There’s potential in this but I am mindful of Gecko Theatre’s recent interpretation of Gogol’s story. The Overcoat — Gecko ( I am also aware of the near universal association with the Shelby gang in Peaky Blinders.  And, relevant to Richard's theme, this image of a young Russian man wearing his grandfather's military overcoat on the subway, the back inscribed with anti-Putin slogans.  (A link needed for this). 

A future title might be“Bespoke”, given the connotations of the word.    A counter to the mass-production of warmth which we take for granted whether it’s a new boiler, an anorak or a duvet.  Anyway this is on the back boiler and the script as such has been fun to develop thus far. 

The Overcoat in my script is a character, speaking in verse:-

THE OVERCOAT:  Before you jump to conclusions,

Let me tell you,

I’m a cut above. Superior.

My origins on the back of a fat, greasy sheep,

But the very matter of my being  universal. 

Soaked, swivelled, stretched,

Flung folded, rolled and re-worked

into existence.

 Courtesy of J & J Crombie, Aberdeen.  


First the swift caress of the tailor’s chalk,

before  a brutal  intimacy with the very latest treadle machine.

 Courtesy of Mr. Isaac Singer.

 Second, the  tender tickle of the tailor’s needle and the exquisite pull of the waxed cotton.

Third,  a  communion  between myself and yards of  blood red satin lining.

Tiny stitches, a gentle   nibbling as we merge,

masculine and feminine.

 A  fusion.  Of sorts.

And four fittings!  Yes, four! Moulded and massaged over the broad shoulders of the man who

will never pay for me.

 Never pay for me to protect him from winter’s bite.

 Never, from this moment in time, mark him out  as a man of considerable means.……  


(and further on in the script)

THE OVERCOAT: Don’t forget I’m superior.  A cut above.

A work of my  tailor’s art.

And you’ve taken me for granted for decades.

On the ample backs of kings and generals,

Prime ministers and presidents,

Or day and night on the shrunken frames of men

In Round-ups,

Labour exchanges,

Marches or

Remembrance days,

No  poppy  on my lapel

Just a grubby, pawn ticket.

Take care when you unpick my stitching,

Take care when you deconstruct me. 

– I can’t be discrete –

Monday, April 25, 2022


  Bristol's multi-talented storyteller Kabbo Hue Ferdinand  Kabbo Hue Ferdinand | Facebook organized an amazing festival in March:The_Altered_Festival in the Galleries Shopping Centre in Bristol. This was intended to highlight the strong relationship between local artists and political activism.  This took place in a former large scale shop unit now occupied by an organization called Keep Art It.   
Artivist in a Box was a sealed off area in the shop window used as a performance space with microphone and outside speaker so you could be heard by the shoppers passing by.  Joined by good friend and fellow member of Odd Lot Theatre we jumped at the opportunity to showcase our work.  I performed a spoken word piece "Oddly Enough" from (heavens) 2020 and then some  monologues from Age Queer.  

The intention here was obviously to provide passers by with food for thought and if possible to do a bit of canvassing once I'd finished.  I did get some audience!  So once Andreea had performed a very moving piece she'd written about Ukraine we went off for a cup of coffee.  Something I realise, now I'm writing this, is a taken-for-granted activity not available to the Ukrainian families Andreea had drawn our attention to. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Live Rehearsed Reading of Age Queer


 My first experience of organizing a rehearsed reading. I learnt a lot!  Big thanks to my actors: Alan Coveney, Tom Cuthbertson and Poppy Germaine and my director Ellie Chadwick. Publicity and images below.

               The Graffiti Room, Trinity Centre, Trinity Road, Bristol BS2 0NW.   

                                          Thursday, January 20th., 7.00 p.m.

‘I want to be age queer by rejecting not my age but the fixed meanings that people assign to it, the roles and stereotypes that I decline to abide by.” (Applewhite, A. 2019:43)

Sickened by institutional ageism in U.K. society, a sociologist  explores age queerness through the lives of Alan, an architect and gay man and Norma, a barmaid, occasional sex worker and later in life, an artist.  He  guides us through the formative, political events and settings in 1980’s London that shape their  world-view, individuality and which ground their ongoing friendship.  The play takes the form of an ethnography,  the sociologist  alternately intruder and provocateur within the action, or guide, critic and narrator outside it. 

The play considers whether Alan’s  and Norma’s radical, sensual pasts inform their resistance to  the ageist stereotyping and challenges to their autonomy they face  in later life.  Is being age queer a viable identity?    

The play runs for approximately 1hr. 20 mins.

[This script was supported by Theatre West in 2021 under their Arts Council funded, Zooming Ahead Scheme for Women Writers  Theatre West - What (]

Some images (thank you Andreea Brown and Rebecca Braccialarghe)

I wish I had booked longer, allowing time for a proper Q & A rather than asking audience to scribble comments on the back of the programme sheets. However some good and useful feedback:-

Really enjoyed it, lots to like, very engaging. Thought the framing of the 1981 year / era worked well.  The images were very emotive eg. Bobby Sands.  One of my favourite bits was Brian the well meaning Silver Quester / Funeral Director. Some of these bits of dialogue were hilarious and highly accurate insightful. Think this could be developed further. Excellent writing.  Characters seemed very real.  Liked the use of props eg. toys.  Liked how Norma’s hunger strike linked back to Bobby Sands.


Script was beautiful, almost poetic.  The flow of the story was good.  I was able to keep track very easily.  I felt the scene at Mark’s house could have been put further towards the beginning to prevent the back and forth.  I cried at the end.   Truly captivating.


 I feel that it took shape and told a story in an imaginative, funny and moving way. The actors did a great job of it, I thought the young woman (Penny??) was really good - very focused, intensely human and likeable, great to watch on stage - they all did well, I thought.

I thought the scene at the door of the lockdown residential home was strong and got me all emotional - it portrayed the sense of powerlessness on both sides of the door with raw clarity. The loss of identity with that awful night dress!


Things that worked: Scene with 2 characters and charity worker in the café.  80s scene with brother of the artist who owned the flat.  80’s scene with policeman and Bobby Sands poster.

Things I found  challenging; Not sure about the sociologist too much telling and not enough showing?  Personally found the ending very sad but maybe that’s the reality!


Verbal comments:  The play highlighted how much age, as in later life,  is neglected in society and nobody takes account of how different we all are.  One audience member made reference to relatives whose lives  were reflected in the play.  How accurate the care home setting was. 


ACTORS’ feedback:  What about Norma and Alan being played by actors in their late thirties who might better capture both ends of the age spectrum in the play?

There’s a need to clarify the degree to which the sociologist objectifies his research subjects, Alan and Norma and the extent to which he empathises with them.

+ a very useful debrief session with Tom Cuthbertson giving me more thoughts for clarifying the script.