RepositoryFalmouth University (GB 3241)
Ref NoCPA1
Date1960s-2018
LevelCollection
Extent23 boxes and 2 o/s bundles/4.64 linear metres
TitleThe Nick Darke Archive - cataloguing in progress please contact archives@fxplus.ac.uk for more details
DescriptionDarke's work for stage, radio, film and television are all well represented within this Collection. This inlcudes preparatory and research materials such as notes and press cuttings, writer's notebooks, draft script parts and scene breakdowns along with completed scripts, screenplays, treatments, and press and promotional materials relating to the following works.

Stage plays:
- Mother Goose (1974)
- Never Say Rabbit in a Boat (1977)
- Low Tide (1977)
- Sinbad the Sailor (1978)
- Summer Trade (1979)
- Beauty and The Beast (1979)
- Landmarks (1979)
- A Tickle on the River's Back (1979)
- High Water (1980)
- Say Your Prayers (1981)
- The Catch (1981)
- Cider with Rosie (1981)
- Lowestoft Man (1982)
- The Body (1983)
- The Earth Turned Inside Out (1984)
- Bud (1985)
- The Oven Glove Murders (1986)
- The Dead Monkey (1986)
- Ting Tang Mine (1987)
- A Place Called Mars (1988)
- Kissing The Pope (1989)
- Fears and Miseries of the Third Term (1989)
- Odo (1989)
- Hell's Mouth (1992)
- Danger My Ally (1993)
- The Bogus (1994)
- Knock Out the Pin (1994)
- The King of Prussia (1996)
- The Man with Green Hair (1997)
- The Riot (2000)
- Laughing Gas (2005)


Radio:
- Foggy Anniversary (1979)
- Summer Trade (1980)
- Landmarks (1981)
- Lifeboat (1981)
- The Catch (1983)
- Another Strand (1997)
- Postcards (1997)
- Cider with Rosie (1998)
- Gone Fishing (1998)
- Bawcocks Eve (1999)
- Flotsam and Jetsam (1999)
- The King of Prussia (1999)
- Underground (2000)
- In Quest of Joseph Emidy (2000)
-The Fisherman's Tale (2000)
- Atlantic Drifting (2002)
- Dumbstruck (2003)
- Hooked (2005)

Television:
- Feel Free (1981)
- Dancers (1982)
- Farmers Arms (1983)
- The Bench (1999)

Screenplays (Darke wrote several screenplays, many of which were based on his original stage plays:
- The Dead Monkey
- Rabbit (Adapted from Never Say Rabbit in a Boat)
- Hudson Freight
- Canarton
- Koyt
- Down and Out in Paris and London
- Padstow Trilogy/ The Art of catching Lobsters (Three feature-length dramas under the collective title The Art of Catching Lobsters
- Diligence/Hell
- High Water/Boobies Bay

Darke's writing process itself is particularly strongly evidenced within this Collection, noteably, the series of over 80 notebooks that span Darke's writing career. These notebooks contain ideas and proposals for writing projects, research notes, developments for plots, characters and dialogue, observational notes, sketches, diagrams and often diary-style entries for specific periods. Some of the notebooks have a central focus of a specific production or project where others reflect Darke's balancing of a number of ongoing writing projects at any one time. Observations regarding early performances of productions are also often noted with Darke striking through amendments when complete. The notebooks are also populated with text relating to Darke's wider interests and daily realities. Notes from Parish Council meetings are accompanied by draft letters, lists of beach finds, contact details for individuals and organisations, lists of words (often a cure for writer's block), and ongoing calculations of existing and potential income. The numberous annotated draft scripts, script parts and final scripts are a core component of this Collection allowing the development of many plays to be tracked from their earliest days. This is evident where productions are renamed several times or the plays either in part or in entirety are rewritten for new audiences or different performance mediums.

Alongside the records for the writing that was produced and performed, the Collection contains examples of Darke's incomplete and unseen works. The degree to which these works are resolved varies from the briefest outline of initial ideas through more detailed, researched and scripted pieces. These materials include the sketches Picture of Innocence and Namedropping which Darke wrote for Morecombe and Wise through to more substantial work such as 'Crown Versus Slave' (later the Slave Saver) a play set in 1771/2 on which Darke worked for a prolonged period with producer Michael Winner. Darke's archive contains research notes and scripts for this piece at various stages of completion although the play was never actually produced. Other incomplete works include:
- The Curates Daughter
- The Seat
- When The Rooster Crows
- The Sheddist (1984)
- Le Cochon Miserable (1989-1990)
- The Hotel (1992)
- Mr Hands and Mr Legge
- Let's All Go to Acapulco
- The Great Storm
- Bonanza
- Spannerman
- Lost Nation
- Holiday Schapps
- King Canarton
- Nuggets Gardens
- Silent Movie.

The Collection also holds material relating to other writing activities such as the Freehand writing course he ran, proposals for Giant Fish Films, poems and song lyrics and content for theatre workshops and teaching sessions.

Also included in the Archive is a significant series of correspondence (incoming and outgoing) and draft correspondence in the form of letters and postcards covering the period 1978 - 2004, which relates to individual productions or projects, publishers, agents, colleagues, family and friends and financial considerations such royalty payments and salaries.

Other materials in this Collection include:
- Audio recordings including material relating to Darke's work at The Victoria Theatre Stoke-on-Trent and plays such as Landmarks and Bonanza
- Photographs
- Promotional materials such as posters, playbills and flyers
- Press Cuttings & Reviews.
Admin HistoryNicholas Temperley Watson Darke (1948-2005) was born in the North Cornwall village of Porthcothan in the parish of St Eval, near Padstow to parents T.O. (Bob) Darke, chicken farmer, fisherman and ornithologist and the actress Betty Cowan. The Darke family had a long standing connection with the sea, his father was a merchant seaman and had been around the world twice by the age of seventeen. Darke's grandfather was sea captain wrecked twice off the Cape of Good Hope and his great grandfather was the owner of a shipping firm Temperley, Carter and Darke, operating out of the East India Docks in London. Growing up on the coast Darke soon also developed a love of the sea. By the age of ten he had his own boat and had learned how to fish, a passion that would stay with him for the rest of his years and become a reoccurring motif and influence throughout his life and work.

Darke was educated at St Merryn Primary School, Truro Cathedral School and Newquay Grammar School before attending Rose Bruford College in Sidcup to study acting. After completing his training as an actor, Darke initially performed in a theatre tour of Sweden and in repertory theatre in Ireland before taking up a position as a permanent company member at The Victoria Theatre Stoke-on-Trent in the 1970s. Here he honed his acting skills performing in over 80 plays. During his time at the Victoria Theatre Darke developed a further interest in directing and most pertinently writing, which would soon overshadow his ambitions as an actor. Although Darke had always written, this period as actor would prove invaluable to developing his later skills as a playwright. During his time at Stoke he directed productions of Man is Man, The Miser, Absurd Person Singular, The Scarlet Pimpernel and A Cuckoo in the Nest and adapted new versions of Cider with Rosie, Sinbad the Sailor and Beauty & The Beast. Perhaps the most significant development, however, was when the first full length play he wrote Never Say Rabbit in a Boat (1977) was performed at the Theatre in 1978. Shortly after he would leave acting to write full time, going on to win the George Devine Award in 1979.

During his career as a writer Darke would go on to produce an output of a prolific scale, not only as a playwright, but also as a scriptwriter for film, television and radio working both singularly and in collaboration. His writing not only vividly reflected his life, influences and environment, in particular his strong Cornish background, but often addressed serious social issues which he balanced with a distinctly personal wit and humour. His diverse repertoire of writing skills is evident even from his earliest days as a full time writer. In the decade after his departure from the Victoria Theatre, Darke would have success with plays such as Summer Trade, Landmarks, High Water and The Catch which reflected changing times in the traditions of rural and coastal landscapes. Whilst many of these plays referenced his former life and experiences in Cornwall, further plays such as A Tickle on the Rivers Back tackled change in his new home of London and Campesinos (later retitled Kissing the Pope) would confront issues related to the on-going conflict in Nicaragua during the 1980s.

Another key play from this period was The Dead Monkey. 'A play about America set in America' this play explores the story of a troubled married couple and their relationship with a recently deceased pet monkey. The play was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Pit, Barbican, London in July 1986 and went on to be one of Darke's most successful plays, staged many times across the world, including a major revival in 1998 featuring David Soul in the title role. The Dead Monkey was also translated into Russian and Swedish.

During the 1980s Darke lived in London and latterly in a shed in a wood in Kent (which he had previously used for writing), making extensions and adaptations to turn it into a home for his wife Jane and their children Jim and Henry. This environment would inspire a treatment Darke wrote for TV called The Sheddist (1984) and would also become the central focus of a short film produced by his son Henry whilst attending the London Film School after Darke's death in 2005.

In 1990 Darke moved back to Cornwall with his family, resuming his childhood loves of fishing and wrecking (beachcombing), drawing heavily once again on the Cornish environment as a source of inspiration. His return to this locality would also signify the start of a close association with Kneehigh Theatre Company, in what is often defined as the 'Second phase of the Kneehigh' (Mike Shepherd) beginning in the early 1990s. Already with an established reputation as a playwright Darke, in collaboration with Kneehigh, would develop more explicitly Cornish-themed pieces, often using regional dialect, with the partnership producing some of the most well known and best loved work by both parties. This included The King of Prussia (1996), The Riot (2000) and a new version of Hell's Mouth (2000) set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia dealing with issues of Cornish Nationalism and Independence. Of his collaborations with Kneehigh The King of Prussia is perhaps Darke's best known, based on the lives of the 'free trading' Carter family in particular John Carter (1736-1807) and Harry Carter (1749-1809) who lived in West Cornwall at the end of the 18th century. Originally staged by Plymouth Theatre Royal and Kneehigh Theatre and directed by Mike Shepherd the production premiered on the 4th of March 1996 and went on to tour extensively. The King of Prussia was also performed by Kneehigh at the Donmar Warehouse Four Corners festival in February 1996. Performances sold out, raising Darke's profile, resulting in Richard Eyre (then Artistic Director of the National Theatre) becoming interested in commissioning Darke for the National and Darke receiving a nomination for best regional play at the Writer's Guild Awards.

Throughout his career Darke also produced a series of plays to be performed by communities which include The Earth Turned Inside Out (1984) set in 1815 about two rival copper mining communities with a cast of 90, A Place Called Mars (1988) a community play for Thornbury, Avon about a haunted marshland and Knock out the Pin (1994) a play for Cornwall Youth Theatre about the Newquay Lifeboat.

In 2001 Darke suffered a stroke which affected his speech and writing. The resulting physical limitations of this event did not, however, stop him from working, producing a radio documentary entitled Dumbstruck about the effects of his stroke, and making a film with his wife Jane, The Wrecking Season, about the lives of Cornish beachcombers. Darke was later diagnosed with Cancer and died in 2005, aged 56. His funeral took place on Porthcothan beach. Darke and wife Jane filmed the last few months of his life, footage which became central to the film The Art of Catching Lobsters about their life together and the grieving process. Due to his premature death, his last play Laughing Gas, commissioned by the National Theatre concerning the life of scientist Sir Humphry Davey, remained unfinished to be later by writer Carl Grose.

After his death, Darke's work remains very much in the public consciousness, performed by and inspiring professional and amateur groups alike. The Darke Visions Showcase, an event held at the Hall for Cornwall in January 2010, brought together schools and community groups from across the county to dance and perform extracts based on Darke's work. Darke has also inspired the Cornish-based production company O-Region to create a show 'One Darke Night' (2011) combining excerpts of his lesser-known works, and private journals and correspondence along with perennial favourites such as The King of Prussia and Hell's Mouth, in a performance that celebrated Darke's life and work. In 2018 to mark what would have been Darke's 70th Birthday a series of productions reflecting different aspects of his work were performed. Darke's one man show 'Bud' was performed alongside 'The Fisherman's Tale' (written as Darke's contribution to 2000 Tales, celebrating the 600th anniversary of Chaucer's death) by Edward Rowe (Kernow King). 'Darke Women' created and performed by Bec Applebee celebrated Darke's work and his 'fabulous female characters', whilst Musician Jim Carey's show 'Riots & Lobsters' explored teh collaboration of Darke's words and Carey's music.

The Nick Darke Award for writing was set up in 2006. Conceived by his wife Jane, with the support of his family, and now hosted by Falmouth University, seeks to support writers in the production of emmerging new work.

Carole Green, 2020
LanguageEnglish
Access StatusOpen
Related Material- Material relating to plays by Darke performed by Kneehigh Theatre can also be found in:
- FCP12 - Kneehigh Theatre Archive
- FCP8 - Records of Kneehigh Theatre collected by Fred & Phyllis Shepherd
- FCP7 - Bill Mitchell Archive.

Published material, films and radio recordings are accessible through the main library holdings at the Penryn Campus.
Access ConditionsIndividual records may be closed under data protection legislation.
Finding_AidsDetailed box lists are available for this Collection.
Creator_NameNick Darke
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