Write On Festival – The Magnetic Diaries

The Write On Festival returns this summer with a plethora of brand new and exciting works performed at The Courtyard. The festival, now in its fifth year, will take place Wednesday 1 – Saturday 4 July 2015 and will showcase new work from writers, directors and actors!

The Magnetic Diaries – Sat 4 July, 7pm

Guest Blog by Writer of The Magnetic Diaries, Sarah James.


Two weeks to the premiere of my poetry-play The Magnetic Diaries, and I have been musing on how this whole production has come together “as lightly as water slides from glass”. 

What was the inspiration for The Magnetic Diaries?

“in the moon’s mortar | thoughts ground to fine powder”

A narrative of love, lust, betrayal and depression, The Magnetic Diaries re-envisages the characters and storyline of Gustave Flaubert’s masterpiece Madame Bovary in a modern twenty-first century English, poetry setting. The contemporary heroine, Emma Bailey, battles with romantic idealism, illusions about love, a stifling middle-class lifestyle, boredom and depression.

Moving lyrical fragments and crafted poems reconstructed by fictional researchers from Emma’s diary and treatment notes are set alongside the voices of her doctors and emails from her husband Carl. But will modern medicine save Emma and her marriage in the wake of two affairs?

The initial inspiration for The Magnetic Diaries came after being treated for depression with repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. I had loved Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary in sixth form and studying French at Oxford University. The storyline and characters seemed the perfect fictional background for my own experiences.

Having started life as a poetry collection on the page, I soon realised that this narrative in poems was also ideal for stage. Being selected for The Courtyard’s Write On Fest gave me the opportunity to work on and develop my script with the help of consultant actor-playwright-director Nick Lane, actress Vey Straker and director Tiffany Hosking. Seeing it all come together has been an amazing experience!

The Magnetic Diaries - Her Heart Poem

Why a poetry-play?

“mist dreams skimmed | from my waking skin”

The beautiful language of Flaubert’s novel in the original French is extraordinary. As those with troubled minds are often encouraged to keep mood diaries and to express themselves in poetry, it seemed absolutely natural that Emma’s retelling of the story should be through poems.

As such, I also hope it will offer audiences a new, exciting and unusual piece of theatre that they’re unlikely to find elsewhere.

Who will be playing Emma?

“my body a zoetrope that won’t stop spinning”

Although I had originally started writing the stage version as a one woman poetry show featuring myself and a pre-recorded soundtrack, I was delighted when I heard Vey Straker was interested in playing Emma.

Vey Straker

Vey’s previous roles include 4Play Theatre productions: ‘Iron’ by Rona Munro (lead character Faye), ‘Two’ by Jim Cartwright (all 7 female characters) and ‘The Pillowman’ by Martin McDonough (Mother/Foster Mother). She also appeared in local writers’ plays; the monologue ‘The Reason I’m Here’ (Max), ‘Talking Tortoise’ (Dee Dee) and ‘Butchers Yard’ (Ellen Knox) and has devised and performed with Reaction Theatre Company. She reached the semi-finals of the Norman Beaton BBC Radio Drama scholarship and featured in the short film ‘Shadows’ which premiered at Borderlines Film Festival.

“giddy with nausea | heartbeat and thrill”