Sue Blundell

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 Sue Blundell is a playwright and lecturer in Classical Studies. Many of her plays have been inspired by ancient myths,  ideas, and objects. Now she's working on a piece about Beethoven, Silence and Joy. It will be performed in 2020, the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth.


In 1802, when he was only 31, Ludwig van Beethoven was on the edge of despair. His doctor had advised him to spend six months in a quiet village outside Vienna, in the hope that his hearing might improve. He returned to the city knowing this would never happen. 'A little more', he wrote, 'and I would have ended my life.' 

But he clung on, and eighteen months later the first performance of his 'Eroica' Symphony took place in Vienna. By the time he died in 1827 he was recognised as a composer whose works had changed the way we listen to music. He was also completely deaf.

'Silence and Joy' is a musical drama about Beethoven's search for sublimity in the midst of desperate circumstances. His father had died of alcoholism. Most of his love affairs ended in misery. Napoleon, his great hero, turned into a tyrant. And all around him there was growing silence. Yet Beethoven still struggled to capture in music the feelings of rapture he'd experienced when he first read Schiller's 'Ode to Joy'. Finally in his Ninth Symphony  - completed three years before he died - those feelings were triumphantly expressed in choral music.





FitzFest 2019!!!

In June David Acton returned to star in The Man from the Sleepy Lagoon, Sue's celebration of the life and music of Fitzrovia composer Eric Coates. Directed by Rob McIndoe, with music from the FitzFest Musicians under Daniel Bates.

"Someone added a few seagulls and used it to introduce a programme on the wireless. Desert Island?! Poppycock!"

No, it was a view of distant Bognor which inspired Coates to write his most enduring tune, 'By the Sleepy Lagoon' …


 ... which still introduces Radio 4's 'Desert Island Discs'. 


An absolute delight ...

I knew about Desert Island Discs, but Dambusters came as a lovely surprise …

Pure joy!



Sue's most recent play, Feet of Clay: Rodin and his London Friends, was commissioned by the British Museum and staged there on 18 May 2018. It complemented the Museum's major exhibition 'Rodin and the Art of Antiquity'.  

Your splendid museums … their marvellous collections … have provoked in me an avalanche of sensations




The French sculptor Auguste Rodin loved the British Museum and visited it whenever he could to sketch the Parthenon sculptures. In the play some of the friends he meets in the Museum take him on a journey through time. Past ordeals and future triumphs are conjured up before his - and the audience's - eyes. 



 Rodin (Lloyd Morris), Will Rothenstein (Matthew Coulton) and Camille Claudel (Lisa   Ronaghan)

Great sculpture … music … ideas … and lots of clay.


Presented by the Shipshape Theatre Company and The British Museum. Directed by Rob McIndoe




Sue's play, Tell Me The Truth About Love, celebrates the relationship between the composer Benjamin Britten and his long-term partner, the tenor Peter Pears. The first performance was on June 8th 2017 - a month before the 50th anniversary of  The Sexual Offences Act, which finally decriminalised love affairs like the one between Britten and Pears. It was staged again on February 25th at the Clapham Omnibus theatre. Matthew Coulton and Stewart Clegg returned to play the parts of Britten and Pears. Tim Langston was the soloist. 





Based on 'My Beloved Man: the Letters of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears' (Aldeburgh Studies in Music), the play opened FitzFest 2017 to great acclaim. 


"Two actors, six musicians and one opera singer tell the story of a great British composer who struggled with society's attitude to same-sex relationships, in a fascinating combination of live music and dynamic physical theatre."




2017: Britten and Pears play Happy Families with Rostropovich and Shostakovich 




2017: Andrew Staples sings 'Tell Me The Truth About Love'


 Some audience responses: 

It's one of those plays that carries on in the head - those two brilliant people sustaining and nourishing their love through such long separations, having to keep it secret for so long...


The actors were lovely, and the musicians brilliant  ... 




Older News



Sue's play Treasure featured Peter Mark Roget,  author of the famous Thesaurus, who started making lists of words as a way of coping with depression. Staged in Manchester in July 2015 during 24:7's Big Festival Weekend, Treasure was performed again in October 2015 in The Museum of Science and Industry, as part of The Manchester Science Festival



In June 2015 Sue was the keynote speaker at the conference Shoes, Slippers and Sandals: Feet and Footwear in Antiquity held in Newcastle. Her talk One Shoe Off and One Shoe On focussed on the Greek and Roman rite of monosandalism     




In October 2014, Sue's play 189 Pieces was performed at The British Museum and was sold out. It was produced by Maverick Theatre, and directed by Katie Merritt 

Some audience responses: 

 Ten times better than "A night in the Museum" ...

The actors were fantastic ...

Very cleverly conceived and splendidly performed - I especially liked the scene with the Parthenon sculptures sniggering at the poor Vase. The tricky 'smashing' scene was also done very well ...

We went up and had a look at the vase afterwards. It is really amazing, extraordinary and beautiful, seeing the breakage marks and knowing the story behind them made it especially fascinating ...

What a smashing afternoon! ...

Really fun, lovely, interesting. It had such lively energy and was great to look at. The words, direction and the actors were excellent ...

More please! 



189 Pieces tells the story of the Portland Vase, a Roman glass vessel in the British Museum with a traumatic past. "It can smash in an instant. Look after it, and it could last for 2000 years" 



To read more, click '189 Pieces' and 'Gallery, 189 Pieces'

189 Pieces was first performed by The Company on June 1st  as part of the Steyning Festival's theatre trail


 Sue's first book, The Origins of Civilisation in Greek and Roman Thought, was republished in 2014 by Routledge as part of the Routledge Revivals series


Vision and Viewing in Ancient Greece, which Sue co-edited with Douglas Cairns and Nancy Rabinowitz, appeared in 2013 as a special issue of Helios


Sue's chapter on 'Greek art and the Grand Tour' (featuring Emma Hamilton's Attitudes) has been published as part of Wiley-Blackwell's Companion to Greek Art


Sue has a blog on ideas about happiness: go to