August 4

Why Should We Remember The Great War?

Although there is no shortage of history to learn, seldom is there a time in history that you can say that one moment in time, those seconds, minutes, hours, months or years changed the path of the human race for ever and it will never be the same again. The Great War is one of those times.

A hundred years ago today something started that changed the course of the world forever. An event that should have been over by Christmas, but lasted four long, bloodied and traumatic years. A war that did not finish at its end but continued to send ripples of consequence through many more years to come, even up to the present day.

Over the next four years you are going to be told stories, shown images and given accounts of men that, as far as we are aware, are no longer alive to tell the stories themselves. You are going to be asked to remember the lives of men and women that you don’t know and probably bare no relation to you, your family or your friends today.

Four years is a long time to remember, and over time there will be a lot of people that will become disillusioned with the meaning of the commemorations. Some will not understand why so much emphasis, and come to that money, is being placed on the memory of men that died long before they were born and don’t believe that they had an impact on their lives today.

So why should you remember these men? Why should you listen to their stories? Why should you give a damn about anything that happened back then, I mean it didn’t even happen in this country… did it?

The truth is that you don’t have to. You can if you want to ignore the posters, the films, the newspaper articles and all the other information that will be sent your way. You don’t have to pay attention to any of it.

But before you do ignore them, I want you to look at this picture. Don’t just glance at it, don’t cast an eye as you read, take your time to really look at the picture and see what is happening.

Soldiers going over the top into battle



The men in these pictures are not actors or models. The men in these pictures did not have a laugh as someone snapped the images from behind. All of these men where running towards a line in front of them. They ran over barren ground that didn’t hold firm causing them to slide and fall, a ground that is peppered with broken metal, twisted barbed wire and unclaimed bodies. They are tired, they have witnessed unspeakable sights and probably have done unspeakable things. These men are running at a line in front of them that flashes, not with lights to guide them in safely, but with lights that are spitting out round after round each one trying to kill them.

All of these men are running to their death.

If you think that these men had nothing to do with you, walk to your local memorial that you probably pass every day on the way to the shop. Stop a second and read each name that is written. If your family is from the area you will more than likely see a surname that you will recognize. Each name is a man that gave his life. Each name is a man that was son, a husband or a father. Now think how many of these memorials you see when you travel around the country. On each of these separate memorials each name is different, each name representing yet another life lost.

Some of these men enlisted themselves, such as Private John Parr, who died on 21st August 1914 at the age 15 at Oburg Belgium after lying about his age. Some were shamed into signing up by women such as Christabel Pankhurst as she encouraged the use of white feathers to other women as a means humiliating men that had not yet joined up. And some like George Slater from Ripon were enlisted under the Military Service Act 1916, facing execution if he refused. Each one ended up in a living hell that we will never be able to comprehend.

It wasn’t only the men that suffered though. Women had more and more pressure put upon them to suppress their feelings towards loved ones and send them off to war. If you have a child take a second to think if you could push them towards the recruiting office and then on to a war zone. Look at your partner and ask if you could face the long lonely nights of not knowing if they were safe, if they had been injured or worse killed. There was no internet and no phones so the only communication was by letter. Imagine the feeling of waiting for the post every day to see if you had the only means of communicating with the man you loved. Now imagine the feeling of not receiving any post in a week from them and the dread that must fill your body due to the uncertainty that this would cause.

There was, of course, a lot more going on and sacrifices being made from both the men and women. I am only trying to give you an idea of the most personal feelings that would have been felt during this time.

So why should we remember?

On August 4th 1914 a chain reaction began that tore apart the world as it was. Over the next 100 years events that have taken the world by storm lie with their routes in the aftermath of World War One.

But the biggest reason is those that fought, were wounded or died were our families. They lived in the cities, towns and villages that you do now. They were just like you. They were ordinary hard working people from all spectrums of the social classes and they were all scared. If a family member passes away today, we give them a day of memorial, to do this for every allied man that died in World War One you would have to hold a memorial every day for the next 22,000 years. All the nation asks for now is four.

Please don’t forget the reason for these commemorations. They gave their tomorrow for our today, and we must remember them.


Category: Uncategorized
June 10

Guest Post: A Fabulous Feature in Salisbury Life

Salisbury Life MagazineMorning Readers, I’m Tracey West, one of the editors at Magic Oxygen Publishing.

We were enormously proud to publish Dear Mother, our first playscript and we suspect, the first of many great pieces by Mark James.

This powerful little one act play has caught the eye of the media and last week, the National Operatic and Dramatic Association published a smashing piece on their website and in their newsletter.

This week, Mark has pride of place in the Salisbury Lives feature in the prestigious Salisbury Life magazine.

Undoubtedly, the strong emotional story of boy to man that unfolds in Dear Mother, will continue to be told on stage for years to come. David Childs CBE and Founder of the National Memorial Arboretum was absolutely right when he said that one could do little better than to read or see Dear Mother; it’s a literary gem and is playing an important part with a collective of other great works that are helping our generation mark the start of WW1.

Click here to read the issue.

Category: Dear Mother, Media
April 16

Dear Mother: The Perfect Audition Piece

What do you look for in an audition monologue?

Thomas writing to his mother in UniformDo you look for a piece that will engage the director or adjudicators?

Something that will give you the chance to really show off your acting range?

Do you want to be unique with a piece they have probably not seen before?

Or do you want something that is in the current mindset?

The award winning Great War play, Dear Mother can offer all of these points and more!

As it is written in letter format and each scene is performed by a single actor each time, with no other interactions, it allows that actor to reach out and talk to the audience directly, really drawing them into their dialogue.

Dear Mother is  recently published play (March 2014) so the chances of having the same audition piece as someone else is very small. It allows you to portray the part without prejudice of another actor who has played the role in film or on stage. You really can make the role your own. As it is new, you have more chance of being able to engage those that you are playing for, as they are unlikely to know the story. It can be very easy to turn off when you have heard the same piece time and time again, but listening to something new might give you an edge with an increased chance of them wanting to hear the story.

Scenes 2 and 3 of Dear Mother allow the actor a choice of different emotions and techniques to explore.

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Category: Uncategorized
March 31

Dear Mother Launch Day: Feelings & Interviews

Dear Mother by Mark JamesIn January 2011, as I sat down in my little one bedroom flat above an estate agent in the small village of Tisbury, I started to type away at my computer trying to write a script that I thought would play for a single night in a one act play festival. My only dream at that point was to try not to embarrass myself by writing something boring or that people couldn’t understand.

Today, over three years later, I am now looking back at what those few words have achieved.

Dear Mother has gone to tour different theatres and festivals in the South and South West. It has been widely accepted by audiences and has gained a following that have gone back to see the play time and time again. It continues to be requested at various events and theatres. It has also received excellent reviews from directors, authors, actors and also military personnel. Today it has been published as a play script and is available from any bookshop across the world and within literally hours of the launch date, it has now sold out on Amazon.

Dear Mother still continues to grow even now and as we enter the anniversary of the Great War, it is showing signs that it will pick up even more pace.

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Category: Dear Mother
March 25

Thomas Begins to Write…

Dear Mother by Mark JamesBarely able to hold the pencil in his frozen muddy fingers, Thomas started to etch the words on the dirty soggy paper that he had been storing for months in his uniform. The pencil was small and worn, the nib crudely shaved to a point with a small pocket knife that he carried.

Remembering how his handwriting use to flow across the page in small neat lines and swirls, the frustration of struggling to finish the first few words played on his mind.

Eyes that had seen pain and inhuman amounts of suffering, filled with a salty glaze as he began to try to recall them.

Taking a second to compose himself, Thomas looked up at the clay filled gully that had been his home for what seemed forever, but in fact had only been a few months. He could see his fellow soldiers lying on the thinnest planks of wood, helmets rested over their eyes to block out the drizzling rain. Others sat in puddles on the ground talking to each other, seemingly nonchalant of the conditions they lived in. After everything they’d experienced and done since arriving in the hell hole, no one seemed to care about feeling a little cold, they could only focus on what was happening now.

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Category: Dear Mother
March 19

A Taster of Dear Mother

There are now less than two weeks until the launch of the script for Dear Mother. With this in mind over the last few week I have been working alongside the original actors of Dear Mother to produce a short trailer and allow you to get a feel for this highly emotive one act play.


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Category: Uncategorized
March 11

From Script to Stage: directional notes from the author

Mark James as Snr Thomas in the original cast of Dear Mother

Mark James as Snr Thomas in the original cast of Dear Mother

Before being published for a wider audience Dear Mother originally toured around small theatres and festivals in the Dorset and Wiltshire area for approximately 2 years. Even now 3 years on, I am still receiving requests to produce the play at various venues,  most of which have already hosted Dear Mother before.

The secret of Dear Mother and its success is not in elaborate scenery or big, over the top movements , but in the words that are portrayed and the actor’s ability to convince the audience that he is actually living the life that he is talking about.

The play has gone on to win many awards both for the acting and also for the production as a whole, so there is a formula that works to get the best possible reaction from audiences. This has been perfected over the run of the show and I am hoping by sharing my experiences, you will be able to produce Dear Mother to the highest standard possible, from the off.

My biggest piece of advice for any actor and director undertaking this play is to work closely together to really explore the character you are trying to portray. When you first glance at the script it may seem a bit boring having various monologues being delivered, whilst all the time the actors are sitting down writing. As I said before, the movement on stage is very minimal and so are the props. It will be the tone of the actors voice, the change in pace and emotion and the way that they are able to connect to the audience, that will make your production of the play a success. Continue reading

Category: Dear Mother
March 2

Dear Mother: Rave Reviews by Ramon Tikarum & Tracey West

Solider Sat writing a letter with poster of Lord Kitchener besideGood reviews are worth their weight in gold and it’s always fantastic for me as the author of Dear Mother to hear what the audience members think of the play when they’ve watched a performance.

This powerful little one act play regularly evokes tears and a burst of raw emotion from people watching it; now I’m finding out that it has a similar effect on the readers too.

As the time draws nearer to it being published as a performance script with Magic Oxygen Publishing, the excitement is building as we busy ourselves collecting written reviews for the back page.

It is with great pride and much thanks to Ramon Tikaram for his review of Dear Mother.

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Category: Dear Mother
March 1

The Motivation Behind Dear Mother: from history to respect

Cover of Dear Mother by Mark JamesVery soon you will be able to pre-order your copy of Dear Mother written by me and published by Magic Oxygen.

It’s a one act play and follows the journey of a young boy via letters to his mother at the turn of the 20th Century. Over the course of less than a decade, you discover how a man’s world was seen through the eyes of a young boy and find out how it managed to destroy a childhood before it had begun.

We have all heard stories and seen films of men in battle. Now, almost 100 years after the start of the Great War, it can be very easy to feel complacent about the challenges many service men and women had to face in the past. We see images of men in the trenches, we look out over those baron landscapes of no-man’s land and hear the stories that are told in so many different ways; these reminders almost seem to have lost their shock effect at first glance.

I have to admit, I too fell into this trap for a while.

War was something that my grandfather’s generation were involved in, then they spent the rest of their lives going on and on about; it was a life that I didn’t really understand and hadn’t fully considered.

Then one day I saw a photograph.

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Category: Dear Mother
February 20

The Website Sets Sail

Picture of a sailI am delighted to smash the obligatory bottle of champagne on the side of my shiny new website!

I’m Mark James, a dad, actor and passionate playwright and this is where I’ll be posting news of the strange thoughts that have been rattling around in my head, creative events and hot-off-the-press news about stuff, including my forthcoming play, Dear Mother.

Simon West and his small but perfectly formed team at Magic Oxygen Publishing have made the first of my dreams a reality.

My début play, Dear Mother will be be launched as a performance script on 28th April 2014 and I’m really looking forward to telling you all about it. It’s a very emotional piece, so make a mental note to have tissues to hand and I’ve lots more up my sleeves…plays, not tissues… Continue reading

Category: Dear Mother