Further Developments with The Marlowe Papers


filming trailer for The Marlowe Papers stage versionThis week, I had the huge privilege to be present at the filming of a trailer for our stage adaptation of The Marlowe Papers. A high quality affair thanks to professional film company Drop Dead Films, who have all the right gear (HD cameras, jibs etc.) and who offered their services after seeing the play during its run in the last week of January.

The snowballing of a creative project is a great process. It’s wonderful to consider how something goes from being you, all alone with your idea and typing a few words on a keyboard… to ten years later, having six creative people in a room all bringing your idea to life with skill and passion.  What’s even more wonderful is knowing that this won’t be the end of it: dozens more people, perhaps eventually hundreds, will end up giving their creative input into various iterations of a story that began in my head.  The contract for the option of The Marlowe Papers opera was finally signed this week.

And in further developments, I am currently working (and loving working!) on a film script. It’s a great joy to enter the world of my characters once more, and the stripping out of Marlowe’s internal musings (such a huge part of the book and a significant part of the play), as well as the words whose work will be far more effectively done with cameras, has left me some room to develop and deepen some strands and even add new scenes.

None of this would be possible without the huge enthusiasm of everyone who loved the original book, from my agent, my editor and the rest of the team at Sceptre and Hodder, to readers and reviewers.  And Nicky Haydn, whose insistence we adapt it for the stage has led to so many delightful things, and to even more people being able to enter and enjoy this imaginary world.  And Jamie Martin, whose masterly acting has brought to life the most challenging of scripts and persuaded me I can adapt it for the screen.  Here’s to all of you wonderful people, and all the wonderful people to come: deep gratitude and appreciation for everything you have done and are yet to do.


The Marlowe Papers on Stage – Jamie Martin as Kit

The Marlowe Papers on Stage – Jamie Martin as Kit


Jamie Martin as Kit MarloweThe first run of the Marlowe Papers opens in Brighton on Tuesday 26th January 2016. It’s on for just five days, with the final night on Saturday 30th. The director is my friend Nicola Haydn, who helped me adapt this one-man version from the book. The adaptation was no mean feat: the audio book version (which is unfortunately read very badly and which I cannot recommend) was 9 and a half hours and the play – with original music by by Fiddes Smith – runs to 110 minutes (plus interval). I worked closely with the actor and director to hone the script for performance am loving the results. There something really wonderful about your characters being brought to life in front of your eyes.

Jamie Martin (who was most recently in the Young Vic’s very successful World Factory) is tremendous, both as Kit and as numerous other characters. I hope many people who loved the book will get a chance to see it and well as many people who haven’t read the book at all. We plan to take the play to London, and perhaps tour it across the UK, even beyond if that proves to be feasible.  Come and see if you possibly can!


Update: 5-Star review: “It is impossible to take your eyes off Martin’s performance – which is a masterclass in how to perform a one-man piece.” – Brighton Argus, 29 Jan 2016.

Reading in Nayland, Suffolk


Signed copies of The Marlowe Papers will be sale here The Marlowe Papers near Colchester

Ros is returning to her old stomping ground to read from The Marlowe Papers at Stoke By Nayland on Thursday 20 September. The Independent said of her book this month:

“Treason, heresy, espionage, counterfeiting, brawling and some lusty but distinctly illegal ménages à trois are all thrown into the mix, with a spritz of gallows humour.

Themes of identity and self-esteem, of truth and loyalty, give substance to Barber’s enthralling plot in a work that combines historical erudition with a sharply satisfying read. Marlowe’s passion infects the page; Barber’s skill draws the fever.”

– The Independent, Sept 11 2012

Ros will be reading from The Marlowe Papers, answering questions about it, and generally catching up with old pals at this charming establishment of David Charleston’s:

The Open Road Bookshop
Park Street

on Thursday 20 September 2012
7pm – 8pm


Do come along if you’re in the vicinity.

Marlowe Talk & Reading at The Rose Theatre, London


The Rose Theatre, Bankside, LondonThe Marlowe Papers – London reading

On Sunday Sept 30th, Ros Barber will read from and talk about The Marlowe Papers.  The event will be held in the wonderful historic setting of the excavated footings of the original Rose Theatre, not far from The Globe on the south bank of the Thames.  Ros will read from The Marlowe Papers and talk about her re-imagined life of the Elizabethan poet and playwright.

This is the only reading in London this year since the sell-out launch event at the British Library in May.  Critically acclaimed verse novel The Marlowe Papers, written entirely in iambic pentameter, was joint winner of the Hoffmann Prize 2011.  Described as  ‘a striking performer of her own poems’, this promises to be a powerful reading in the spot where Kit Marlowe’s plays were first performed in London and is not to be missed.

“This is the most complete Marlowe I’ve ever encountered.” – Will Self

“Ros Barber’s work is exquisitely honed in meter and metaphor — she makes the iambic pentameter sound as if she just invented it.  Her voice is an instrument of creativity, intellect and emotion. Her performance at Pure Poetry was one of the most memorable I have seen in fifteen years.” – Patience Agbabi

“Wonderful poetry, incorporating fantastic imagery, and an accomplished direct stage manner.” –  John Agard

“Ros Barber doesn’t read so much as put her whole personal, emotional creativity into sharing her words. From the outset the audience were transfixed. For me, it was a whole new experience in the immediacy of a creative mind connecting with people.” –  Andrew Fitch, “Booktalk”

Organised by The Marlowe Society: contact them for details/tickets.

Sunday 30th September


Other Voices Other Times Conference, Bath


Conference: Other Voices Other Times

Title of Paper: Resurrecting Marlowe


The Marlowe Papers (Sceptre, 2012) is the fictional autobiography of sixteenth century playwright Christopher Marlowe and is a novel written entirely in blank verse.  In this presentation I will share the processes that led to its construction over a four year period and which facilitated the development of an authentic voice for the protagonist and the creation of a believable and inhabitable Elizabethan world.The following questions will be addressed. How does one ‘become’ Marlowe and speak – in a way that seems genuine – from the perspective of a four-hundred-year-old dead man?  How does one develop a vocabulary and tone that sounds authentically Elizabethan whilst staying within the readable confines of contemporary English? What decisions were necessary to strike the right balance between authenticity and readability?  What was learnt etymologically from the process of weeding out anachronisms in the text?  What level of research is necessary?  How are gaps in historical knowledge filled for modern readers through a first person narrator to whom such detail needs no description, being the background of everyday existence?

The Marlowe Papers resurrects Marlowe in more than one sense, not only appearing to bring him back to life so that he can tell his own story, but taking the line that his apparent death in Deptford was staged in order for him to escape capital charges of atheism and heresy, fleeing to a life of exile abroad, with his subsequent writing appearing under the pen-name William Shakespeare.  How does a construction of Marlowe that didn’t die at Deptford differ from the conventional construction of one who did?  And how does one overcome the massive act of hubris that becomes apparent when you realise you must write not only as if you are Marlowe, but as if you are the author of the greatest works of literature of all time?

See othervoicesothertimes.com

Venue: Bath Spa University

Time: 11am (conference 9am – 5pm)


Edinburgh Book Festival 2012 – The Marlowe Papers


John O'Connell at Edinburgh Book Festival 2012Edinburgh Book Festival 2012 highlights.


Sometimes, taking a risk on the less well known authors pays off.  In what promises to be one of the Edinburgh Book Festival 2012 highlights, Ros Barber (The Marlowe Papers) and John O’ Connell (The Baskerville Legacy) talk about recreating the inner lives of famous authors.

Ros Barber’s novel in verse gives voice to Christopher Marlowe, allowing him to tell his version of the events that led to his ‘death’. John O’Connell’s The Baskerville Legacy tells of the encounter between Arthur Conan Doyle and Bertram Fletcher Robinson, which led to a writing collaboration that would become The Hound of the Baskervilles. Join the authors to learn how it felt to occupy another author’s mind.

Chaired by Kirsty Lang, presenter of Front Row on BBC Radio 4

Venue: Writers’ Retreat

Price: £7.00/ £5.00

Details and Booking:  http://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/ros-barber-john-o-connell

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Bodies In The Bookshop, Cambridge


Bodies in the Bookshop 2012
Saturday 14th July from 10am
The Cambridge Union Society, 9A Bridge Street Cambridge CB2 1UB (link to: http://www.cus.org/about/where-find-us)

Ros is on at 1.30, see below:

Join us in the Cambridge Union for our biggest crime fiction event of the year!  This year Bodies in the Bookshop is relocating to the Cambridge Union (link to: http://www.cus.org/) where we have a fantastic line-up of crime authors who will be taking part in a series of themed talks and panel discussions.

The Union Bar and Cafe will also be open all day for food, drink and socialising.

10am  Crime Through Time I 
Jane Finnis, Ruth Downie and Patrick Easter take us on a journey through time and space as they talk on historical crime fiction from Ancient Rome to Nineteenth Century England.

11am  Experts in Murder 
Nicola Upson, Catriona McPherson and Laura Wilson give us a glimpse of a pre-war world of murder and mystery which their canny heroes and sharp heroines set about solving, while Sally Spedding adds a more sinister edge to the historical theme.

12 noon  Poison in the Parish 
Settle in with Ann Purser, Veronica Heley, Rebecca Tope and Jayne Marie Barker who will be discussing mysteries with a distinctly English and traditional character.

1pm  Break for Lunch 
Lunch will be available at the Union Cafe
1.30pm Crime Through Time II 
Follow Ros Barber and Rory Clements to the criminal depths of Tudor England while Chris Nickson and Robin Blake transport us the 18th century and Peter Moore sheds light on the true crimes which took place in a rural Georgian village.

2.30pm Scene of the Crime 
Jim Kelly, Alison Bruce and Elly Griffiths discuss their novels set in Cambridge and the surrounding area, bringing crime a little too close for comfort.

3.30pm  International Intrigue 
Roger Morris, Edward Wilson and Adrian Magson take us from prerevolutionary Russia to 1960s France via the Cold War.  Detectives, spies and mysteries abound.

4.30pm Comic Cuts 
Len Tyler and Suzette Hill in discussion on the funny side of crime.
5.30pm Death in a Cold Climate 
Leading crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw and Quentin Bates, author of a crime fiction series set in Iceland, explore the growing popularity of Nordic Noir and Scandinavian settings.  Listen out for ideas on what to read after Stieg Larsson

Tickets: Adults £10, Concessions £7

Call  01223 463200 or come to Heffers to buy your ticket.
For more information email events.tst@heffers.co.uk or visit the Bodies in the Bookshop facebook page or our blog at bodiesinthebookshop.wordpress.com

Isn’t Poetry Difficult and Dull?


Isn’t poetry difficult and dull?  Though the population contains a small percentage of poetry lovers, the idea that poetry isn’t pleasurable is all-pervasive.  It’s easy to blame our education system (and it certainly has a lot to answer for with regards to the seed of this idea being planted) but the truth is, there’s a lot of difficult, dull poetry out there.  I’ve spent years going to poetry readings and struggling to hang on to the will to live while yet another poet drones their way through yet another (dull, or difficult) poem and just praying last orders won’t be called before they finish.  (You wonder why poets have a reputation for being drinkers?  Can you imagine how much bad poetry they have to listen to in the line of duty, and how polite they have try to be about it?)    How hard is it, do you think, to convince the people (who on the whole consider poetry difficult and/or dull) that The Marlowe Papers is neither?  Here’s my attempt:

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