DEADSTOCK by Steven Dykes & AN ORNERY TALE by the Shady Dolls

In 2008 Shady Dolls received a grant from the London Development Agency to develop their skills in projection and lighting design, and worked alongside a number of leading theatre practitioners to develop An Ornery Tale the Company’s first self-written project. Continuing their fascination with the grotesque, and employing a keen sense of the perverse, the Shady Dolls conjured a world of distorted images in the tale of sisters Minnie, Ruby and Constance Hately, who found fame and notoriety upon the Music Hall stage.

Continuing the Company’s collaboration with playwright Steven Dykes and in association with New Cross Theatre (NXT), Shady Dolls produced his part Gothic fairy-tale / part polemic play Deadstock, as the perfect accompaniment to An Ornery Tale, in a series of special platform performances in April 2008. The invited audience included a range of industry professionals, practitioners, students and collaborators, and tickets were also awarded as a thank you to those who had shown particular support to the Company over the years.

Shady Dolls continue to develop An Ornery Tale, performing scratch pieces at venues such as the Blue Elephant Theatre, and working towards securing funding for a second intensive developmental phase in the near future.

DEADSTOCK by Steven Dykes

Deadstock tells the story of a young woman struggling with the recent suicide of her father, a farmer, whose entire dairy herd has been forcibly culled at the height of a rural pandemic the previous Spring. She now lives alone on a deserted farm, but is regularly visited by Allen, an American vet (one of thousands of overseas veterinarians imported to help in the slaughter), who reluctantly oversaw the extermination of her father's cattle.  

I like it because it’s old. And strange. And familiar. It’s in the blood. In the skin and bone of things. Heather and bracken and hale on the moor. Something worth remembering because it’s something you can’t forget.

Myrrah is in the process of emptying the contents of the farmhouse into the barn - a seemingly pointless exercise she undertakes with grim determination. Although Allen is concerned that her grief has left her mentally unbalanced, his love for Myrrah and his 'adopted' country means he does all he can to support her; even when she takes a migrant farm work 'hostage' after knocking him down one night on a back road. Their 'prisoner' is Ondriy: one of thousands of young men from Ukraine, working illegally in England. 

As a fearsome storm hits the isolated farm on the eve of May Day (and the Pagan Feast of Beltane), the three become inexorably drawn into a dangerous game, the climax of which will reveal the full horror of Myrrah's plan to revive the ‘spirit’ of her ravaged land.

In the tradition of our collaborations with Steven Dykes, the company created from a vital current affair, a performance of urgency, mischief and passion. Dark art with a light touch.


Steven Dykes Director & Playwright

Laura Churchill ‘Myrrah’

Gareth Kieran Jones ‘Ondriy’

Luis Alberto Soto ‘Allen’

Clare Baker Stage Manager

Victoria Johnstone Designer

Rachel Nicholson Lighting Design

AN ORNERY TALE by Shady Dolls Theatre Company

An Ornery Tale draws heavily on a breadth of influences including Vaudeville, Grimm fairy tales, Angela Carter, the Wisconsin Death Trip, Spoon River Anthologies and Tom Waits. It is a constantly evolving piece which draws upon the full range of Shady Dolls skills in multimedia, improvisation, storytelling, cabaret and musical theatre.

This is the Ballad of Mary Ricks, formerly Mary Facher, Only remembered by Tippington Twee as the hysterical window smasher.
— Ruby Hately, AN ORNERY TALE

Having previously produced new work by several well known and inspirational playwrights, in 2008 Shady Dolls were lucky enough to work alongside a number of leading theatre practitioners to develop their first self – written project. An Ornery Tale marked a major development in their approach to creating new material, and drew upon a diverse range of influences and experiences, utilising all the Company's theatrical, musical and artistic skills.

Chris Goode is a performer, writer, director and former Artistic Director of the Camden Peoples’ Theatre and was described by the Guardian as “British Theatre’s greatest maverick talent”. As facilitator, Chris is helped the Company explore themes, realise ideas and develop their creative writing as an ensemble.

Andrew Friesner is a senior staff member at the Royal Academy of Music and an outstanding Musical Director and Composer, whose work has included national tours and West End musicals. Shady Dolls' work with Andrew focused on integrating musical influences within their writing, and developing improvisational musicianship. 

The Shady Dolls received funding from the London Development Agency which enabled them to develop new skills in projection and lighting design, and they worked closely with Richard Porter to integrate multi-media into An Ornery Tale. Richard is another Rose Bruford Graduate, who works not only in theatre, but has carved a hugely successful career in projection – working internationally with leading production companies including Walt Disney.


The Shady DOlls Director & PLaywright

Laura Churchill 'Constance Hately'

Polly Henson 'Minnie Hately'

Rebecca Pollock 'Ruby Hately'

Clare Baker Stage Manager

Victoria Johnstone Designer

Rachel Nicholson Lighting Design

Chris GoodE Facilitator

Andrew Friesner Musical Director

Richard Porter Projection

Projection video from the Shady Dolls' original production 'An Ornery Tale'.