Plays by Sue Townsend

Bazaar & Rummage

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In Sue Townsend’s heartfelt comedy, three severely agoraphobic women have left their houses for the first time in years, and made it to a jumble sale. The sale has been organised by their social workers, the young trainee Fliss and the ex-agoraphobic volunteer Gwenda, though as the afternoon progresses, the distinction between them and the anxious people they are supposed to be looking after becomes less and less clear.

As Margaret, Bell-Bell and Katrina prepare to meet the public, armed with the suits of a deceased husband, old sequinned show dresses, bric-a-brac and a standard lamp, nerves and neuroses are running high, and a sensitive portrait of the suffering behind their phobia emerges.

Bazaar and Rummage was first presented in 1982 at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London.

The Great Celestial Cow

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Comic, moving and feminist, The Great Celestial Cow is a play about Asian women in England, who have moved to a cold grey city where they are expected to be silent.

When Sita and her children Prem and Bibi leave India to join her husband Raj in England, she is forced to sell her cow, but she keeps her milking bucket in the hope that she will be able to buy another cow in Leicester. But England is nothing like she expected: faced with prejudice from the English and restrictions of tradition from her family, Sita clings to the dream of the cow and some sense of her own identity.

The Great Celestial Cow was first presented in 1984 at the Leicester Haymarket Studio.

Groping for Words

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Groping for Words is a warm comedy about an adult literacy evening class run by the middle-aged and well-meaning Joyce. She knows that teaching adult literacy requires tact and respect – unfortunately the only room that was free for her evening class is the crèche.

For her students, even admitting which class they want to attend is agonising, let alone being confronted with the written word. Thelma works as a nanny and her employer wants her to teach her charges to read, but there’s a danger the three-year-old will get ahead of her. George’s family have moved to Australia and he’s lost his job, and is finding that his employment prospects are limited. And Kevin the young stand-in caretaker keeps turning up to the class.

Townsend records their embarrassment and life-long difficulty with sensitivity and humour, as well as inflecting the play with an indignant condemnation of the society which has abandoned the illiterate. Groping for Words was first presented in 1983 at the Croydon Warehouse Theatre.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Sue Townsend's adaptation of her internationally best-selling book makes for a lively play about a splendidly comic and instantly recognisable adolescent.

In his secret diary, Adrian Mole excruciatingly details every morsel of his turbulent teenage years. He prides himself on being an intellectual, though he’s not quite as worldly-wise as he tries to seem; his trousers are the wrong shape, he doesn’t know how to French kiss and George Eliot isn’t answering any of his letters. Almost worse than this, his parent’s troubled marriage is disintegrating and the beautiful Pandora does not return his love. Adrian’s unique interpretations and delightfully self-centred complaints constitute a hilarious portrait of a boy equally worried about his poetry being ignored by the BBC and the zit appearing on his chin.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole was first presented in 1984 at the Phoenix Arts Centre, Leicester.

Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A story of motherhood set in a totalitarian society where children must be perfect specimens if they are to be allowed to live. Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes is caught between laughter and despair: a passionate, comic, alarming play.

In future Britain, the population is divided into five segregated classes: only those in the upper strata of society are permitted to reproduce, and Dot and Pete are arrested for an illegal pregnancy. Lucinda and Ralph haven’t been able to conceive; luckily for them they can afford to buy a Government baby, artificially conceived and guaranteed to be beautiful and healthy. But scans reveal that the foetus has nine toes instead of ten. In a world where babies are bought and sold and advertised, everyone is surprised to find that Lucinda doesn’t want her money back.

Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes was first performed in 1989 at the Library Theatre, Manchester.


Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Sue Townsend delights in smashing the grim silence of the hospital waiting room in a charming and comic short play, as Rita whirls into a drab gynaecology clinic and smokes, rearranges the furniture and frightens away the clerk.

Rita’s sparky no-nonsense attitude quickly livens up the sheepish patients: she gets Audrey to stand up to her husband for the first time, persuades Mrs Conelly to finally take off her corsets and hands everyone their own medical files. With the Assistant Hospital Administrator giving up and joining in with the general gin-drinking, and with no doctors anywhere to be seen, Rita takes charge and proves that there is sometimes no better tonic than wit, candour, and treating patients as people.

Womberang was first presented in 1979 at the Soho Poly Theatre Club, London.

Picture of Sue Townsend

© Eamonn McCabe

Sue Townend (1946-2014) was a playwright, novelist and screenwriter. Her plays include Womberang (Soho Poly, Lodnon, 1979); Dayroom (Croydon Warehouse Theatre, 1981); The Ghosts of Daniel Lambert (Liecester Phoenix, 1981); Bazaar & Rummage (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 1982, BBC Television, 1983); Groping for Words (Cryodon Warehouse, 1983); The Great Celestial Cow (The Joint Stock COmpany, 1984); The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 - The Play (Leicester Phoenix, 1984); Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes (Library Theatre, Manchester, 1989) and The Queen and I - The Play (Royal Court, London, 1994).

Her other published work includes the diaries of Adrian Mole. In addition she has written novels including Rebuilding Coventry (1988), The Queen and I (1992) and Ghost Children (2002).