An idea by playwright Greg Cullen will finally be brought to life on stage next week – 17 years after it first came to him.
Like many writers, he stores away his observations before they work their way into his plays.
The first draft of his new drama, Fallen, was penned almost two decades ago after he read that a body had been discovered on a West London garage forecourt. As it was surrounded by high barbed-wire fences, it was a mystery at first as to how it had got there.
“It’s always been there in my mind,” he says of the plotline. “And then a couple of things fell into place for me more recently and I got really excited about potentially picking up the story again.
“After reading about the body, I discovered that people sometimes climb up inside the undercarriages of aeroplanes (to illegally try to seek asylum in another country). They don’t realise that when they get to 30,000ft it’s -65° and there’s no oxygen, so they die.
“As the plane lands, the undercarriage comes down and they fall out of the sky. In a recent case, one guy from Angola was found on a pavement in Staines.”
Cullen has now revisited the story and woven it into a rural Welsh setting. It will be premiered at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff next week by his theatre company Shock n AweCOR.
The cast for the darkly comic play includes Jâms Thomas, Joanna Simpkins, Francois Pandolfo, Ceri Lloyd and Gerald Tyler.
The drama unfolds on a Friday night when the body of an exotic, beautiful man falls from the sky, washing up in the river by a seemingly cursed Welsh farm.
When the farmer and his three adult children discover the corpse, the web of guilt and history binding them together begins to unravel.
As they each fall in love become obsessed with the angelic strangerdead man, they wonder where he could have fallen from – and why a sinister man in a green Barbour coat is so desperate to find him.
It features choreography by Jem Treays, music by Jak Poore and design by Jess Scott.
“Something clicked this year, which made me desperate to finish the play,” says Cullen, who co-founded Mid Wales Youth Theatre and ran Theatr Powys.
“The play is set on the Radnor/Breconshire border and is outrageously funny at times, dealing with a farmer and his three adult children whose relationships have become skewed by isolation and history.
“However, it’s also a joyous, anarchic and innocent play, which ultimately is about the power of beauty to transform and redeem humanity.”
Cullen received a grant from the Arts Council of Wales to research and develop the piece and he hopes to tour it nationally next year.
“It’s been a fantastic opportunity to take my material and experiment with it,” he says, adding that it’s been a collaborative experience with the actors.
“I’ve been rewriting every night after rehearsals and every weekend.”
Cullen – whose actor son Tom has landed a role in the new series of Downton Abbey – founded Cardiff-based Shock n Awe in 2010.
“I had been working as a professional writer and director for other companies for 30 years and I always had it at the back of my mind that I should really start my own company,” he says.
“In the face of the economic downturn I just wanted to break out and be free of the companies which were perhaps overburdened by their own history and unable to change and adapt to the times. I also wanted to be free to write what I wanted to without any specific audience in mind or demands to fit in with a company’s style or format.
“It seems counterintuitive to start a company in the face of the worst recession in history, but we’ve built the company up and it’s been very successful.”
Since launching, Shock n Awe has toured Cullen’s production Muscle, based on interviews with apparently ordinary men from Wales, which won the Herald Angel Award at Edinburgh in 2011. It was followed by Love At First Light, premiering at Chapter Arts Centre last year.
This year Shock n Awe has been touring Wales, creating nine short films with young people who lead challenging lives. The completed films for the project, Putting People In Their Place, will premiere at the Welsh Assembly in November.
Meanwhile, Cullen has been working with new writers from the African diaspora, exploring their history in Wales. He hopes the project, Cymru Ddu, will be rolled out across the whole of Wales in the coming year.
Fallen will be at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, from July 31 to August 3. Tickets are available from the box office on 029 2030 4400 or at www.chapter.org