Playwright brings Kipling’s story back to Hampshire

Matt Jones as Rudyard Kipling and Lynn Pegler as his wife Carrie.
Matt Jones as Rudyard Kipling and Lynn Pegler as his wife Carrie.
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Lynn Pegler has written a play about the life of Rudyard Kipling.

Well, technically, The Jungle Book author can claim a co-writer’s credit, as If Only: An Audience with Rudyard Kipling also features extracts from his famous stories and poems.

It weaves his life and his writing together – some of his poems and extracts from his famous books like The Jungle book and the Just So stories are in there

Lynn Pegler

‘I definitely can’t claim all of the credit here!’ she laughs.

A writer, performer and director in her own right, when away from her day job in public relations, this is the first time she has taken one of her works on the road – it is heading to the Edinburgh Festival after visiting the south coast.

‘Normally when I’ve written anything, it’s a fresh play about something new, so this is the first time I’ve got inside the head of another author and written a play about them, it’s been a fascinating journey.’

The one-act play came about after Lynn, who lives in Cheshire, was invited to write something for a festival about authors at St George’s Hall in Liverpool which took place in March.

‘I was looking around and thinking who it could be about. Rudyard Kipling wrote If, which was voted the nation’s favourite poem and that was my starting point.

‘I started looking into his life, he obviously led a very interesting life and lived in India and America and here, and was constantly travelling. The more I delved into Kipling’s fascinating itinerant life, the more it became apparent that he suffered a series of major regrets – hence the title.

‘It fell naturally into making a great play.

‘I read his autobiography and some biographies, and from my mother, which I think she got from her mother, we had his complete works in their original 1920s bindings, so I had that treasure trove within the family too.

‘I found all sorts of lovely letters and more obscure pieces in that, and I’ve woven all that in to it.

‘It weaves his life and his writing together – some of his poems and extracts from his famous books like The Jungle book and the Just So stories are in there.

‘A friend and colleague of mine, Matt Jones plays Kipling and he’s the spitting image of him when he gets his moustache on. I play his wife Carrie and various other roles.

‘It’s gone down a storm with audiences in Liverpool and at literature festivals, and we are very much looking forward to performing it in Titchfield.’

There’s also a nice local link in bringing the show to Hampshire.

‘Kipling actually spent some of his young life in Southsea. He was born in India, but then at the age of six, as parents in the age of Empire did, shipped their children back to England for their education. They shipped Kipling and his sister back, and he spent about six years in a house with an old navy captain, who took in children from parents abroad and then acted in loco parentis, I don’t think it was a particularly happy experience though, and there was bullying involved. He calls it in his autobiography “a house of desolation”.’

And another of Southsea’s famous former literary residents also gets a mention in the play.

‘Arthur Conan Doyle came out to visit him in Vermont where he taught Kipling to play golf, in the snow – they painted the balls red so they could see them.’

IF ONLY: AN AUDIENCE WITH RUDYARD KIPLING

Titchfield Festival Theatre

July 28 and 29

titchfieldfestivaltheatre.com