ONE play, twelve endings. So begins the story of next April’s premiere by the Rowntree Players in York.

The Players will be working in tandem with York musician, public speaker and writer Ian Donaghy to produce a dramatic staging of his book, The Missing Peace: Creating A Life After Death.

Ian and director Gemma MacDonald will develop the anthology into an emotional and engaging one-act play to be performed at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in April 2020.

Gemma, a familiar face to York audiences as the daft comedy turn in the Rowntree Players pantomimes, will be supported by the Players team, overseeing a cast made up from the vast performing community in York.

All profits from the show will go to York charities St Leonard’s Hospice and Bereaved Children Support York, who Ian “bounced every page of the book off”.

“I wrote the book when I realised how many people were losing loved ones and noticed how both they and their friends felt powerless,” says Ian.

“The stories are about the power of kindness, family and friendship and the difference we can make. It took me three years to write after meeting some of the bravest people in the city, who opened their hearts to help others.

“That shared experience shows people it’s not just them. Bringing it to the York stage will enable us to share that strong and important message with an even wider audience.”

Gemma, not only a regular performer and director, but also assistant headteacher at Norton College, says: “I was fascinated by the book when I first read it. It’s such an honest account of how different people deal with death in different ways.

“I cried and I laughed while reading it; it’s a very emotional journey. I could see it being performed and being an amazing play, so, along with Rowntree Players, I approached Ian to ask if he would like to see the book brought to life on stage.

“Thankfully his answer was an emphatic ‘yes’! This is going to be a very exciting project for me as a director and I can’t wait to get started piecing it together.”

Howard Ella, the Players' chairman, says: “Rowntree Players sit at the heart of community theatre in York and have done for over 100 years.

“We have spent 11 years creating a locally scripted and produced pantomime, and to see that home-grown approach spread into a new genre, dramatic performance, is so exciting.

“Theatre is about telling stories that our audience can relate to and, hopefully, take something away with them. This will do just that. A book, written in York by a man who has made his home in York, adapted by a York dramatist and produced by a York theatre company. That is community theatre.”

Ian’s surprising and uplifting book, The Missing Peace, is a series of beautifully illustrated “Talking Heads-style” monologues. “There are stories of survival and thought-provoking chapters to highlight how people have survived and, in some cases, even thrived using their unique, bespoke survival kits after a loved one has died,” says Ian.

“It’s not a book about death; it’s a book about LIFE and being the friend you would love to have. It looks at death and loss from a number of different viewpoints, challenging the reader on every page. It will make you laugh, make you cry, but definitely make you think.”

Published in 2017 and available to buy on Amazon, The Missing Peace has been described as a “200-page hug”. Sherlock and League Of Gentleman writer Mark Gatiss called it “wonderful and inspirational” and the book has been championed by Leeds writer Kay Mellor and BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine.

Looking forward to next spring’s show, Ian concludes: “I honestly believe in it more than I’ve believed in anything.”

Charles Hutchinson