“This play has been written entirely from interviews with people with whom I was in hospital as well as certain professionals who offer more alternative ideas on how people in mental distress can be cared for and insights into why staff in the current NHS psychiatric system treat patients the way they do. These interviews have been woven between my own account of my stay in hospital. Aside from my story, everything else that is said in the play has been said, word for word by one of the interviewees”.
Clare Summerskill


  • PAM BLACKWOOD was Head of Operations with Samaritans between 2003 and 2009 and was also a member of the Guideline Development Group for the 2005 NICE report on Self-Harm.
  • DR. RUFUS MAY works as a clinical psychologist in Bradford. He was once diagnosed as a “paranoid schizophrenic” but hasn’t taken any medication in twenty two years.
  • DR. RACHEL PERKINS worked as a clinical psychologist and Director of Quality Assurance and User Experience in South West London and St Georges Mental Health NHS Trust. She is a member of the Disability Rights Commission’s Mental Health Advisory Group and a Trustee of Rethink and she is a user of Mental Health Services because she has Bi-Polar Disorder.
  • PADDY BAZELEY was one of the founding Directors of Maytree, a sanctuary for the suicidal in London where people can stay up to four nights at no cost. Maytree is run by a few full-time people and over sixty volunteers.
  • DEB ELTHALION is a singer and musician and mother of five who has Bi-Polar Disorder.
  • EILEEN, ALISON, MARY and TONY have all given their permission for their testimonies to be used in this play.
  • CLARE SUMMERSKILL is a stand-up, a singer/songwriter and a playwright.

The Playwright

Clare Summerskill is the Artistic Director of Artemis Theatre Company. She has written and produced several plays using the verbatim theatre technique. For several years she worked for the Reminiscence theatre company, Age Exchange, based in London, writing plays from interviews with older people about their memories on specific subjects, which were then enacted by Age Exchange professional theatre company. For the last few years she has mainly been writing scripts in a similar manner for her own theatre company, Artemis.

“GATEWAY TO HEAVEN” toured to to theatres around the country in 2004 and 2005. This piece was based entirely on the memories of older lesbians and gay men whom Clare interviewed ( The research, writing and then the full production were funded entirely by The Arts Council. The play was then commissioned by Age Concern England – Opening Doors, to be made into a training film for Age Concern staff as well as to be available to the general public. Clare has recently finished writing and filming a DVD called “QUEENS’ EVIDENCE”. This piece, also made entirely from interviews, was commissioned by The Metropolitan Police and Age Concern and it is about the relationship between older LGBT people and the police from the 1940s to the present day.

As well as a writer, Clare is also a stand-up comedienne and has been touring for many years to mainly gay and lesbian audiences on the cabaret circuit as well taking her latest one- woman shows to theatres around the country every couple of years. Her acting and comedy credits range from appearances on Richard and Judy to The Royal Variety Show to playing a lead in the West End musical BUDDY. Dubbed “A lesbian Victoria Wood” by Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, Clare performs her own unique style of humour combining original comedy songs, stand-up material and character monologues. What’s On magazine called her “One of the funniest women in the country” and the Independent claims that she is “Unorthodox and uninhibited.”

Clare’s website:

Writing, publications and music by Clare Summerskill

Clare’s latest publication is:


  • Gateway to Heaven – Fifty Years of Lesbian and Gay Oral History. Tollington Press, 2012.


  • Hearing Voices. Tollington Press, 2010. Based on interviews with patients who met on a secure psychiatric ward.
  • Rights of Passage. Tollington Press, 2016. Based on interviews with lesbian and gay asylum seekers in the UK.
  • Gateway to Heaven – The Play. Tollington Press, 2019. Based on interviews with older lesbians and gay men.


  • We’re The Girls. Diana Publishing, 2008. A collection of Clare’s comedy monologues, short stories, and favourite song lyrics. This book is beautifully illustrated by the renowned lesbian cartoonist Kate Charlesworth. Described by Sarah Waters as: “Smart, witty, and with an eye for the sometimes poignant detail of everyday life.”

Her publications can be ordered online.


  • Gateway To Heaven, 2007
  • Queens’ Evidence, 2009
  • Hearing Voices, 2010


  • Feels Like Coming Home
  • Make It Sound Easy
  • Feels Like Coming Home
  • Still Let Me Fly

All inquiries to