Jessica Swale is a British playwright, theatre director and screenwriter, who makes her directorial debut with WWII-drama SUMMERLAND, out now in cinemas and available to stream on PVOD from Friday 14th August. To mark the release, we are celebrating her career to date – both on-stage and behind the camera.
Born in Reading, Jessica Swale studied drama at the University of Exeter. She completed her training at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama where she trained as a director. Following drama school, she worked as an associate director at Out of Joint. Productions she worked on include The Overwhelming at the National Theatre and Andersen’s English at Hampstead. In 2006, she set up Red Handed Theatre Company with writer Katie Bonna, which encourages performances of new works as well as the revival of lost classics. Swale is also involved with NGO Youth Bridge Global, a company which uses theatre as a development tool in war-torn countries.
Jessica’s first play, Blue Stockings, premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2013. It is widely performed by amateur drama groups in the UK, as well as being studied on the Drama GCSE syllabus. Blue Stockings earned Swale a nomination for the Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright award.
In 2016, her play Nell Gwynn won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, after it transferred from the Globe to the West End. The titular role of the eponymous heroine was performed by Gugu Mbatha Raw during its’ West End run before being taken over by Summerland co-star Gemma Arterton in its Globe transfer. The production received four Olivier nominations, winning Best New Comedy, and is currently being developed as a feature film.
Other plays in Jessica’s catalogue include All’s Will that Ends Will, Thomas Tallis, The Playhouse Apprentice and The Mission. Her adaptations include Sense and Sensibility, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Secret Garden and Stig of the Dump.
In 2012, Swale won the BAFTA JJ Screenwriting Bursary for which she developed original screenplay, Summerland.
Summerland follows the story of fiercely independent folklore investigator, Alice (Gemma Arterton) who secludes herself in her clifftop study, debunking myths using science to disprove the existence of other-worldly forces and magic. Consumed by her work, but also profoundly lonely, she is haunted by a love affair from her past.
When spirited young Frank, an evacuee from the London Blitz, is dumped into her irritable care, his innocence and wonder unlock deeply buried and painful secrets in Alice’s past, and make her re-evaluate what it really means to free your imagination. Bravely embracing life’s miraculous unpredictability, Alice learns that wounds may be healed, hope and second chances do exist, and any woman must defiantly be two things: who and what she wants.
Summerland is out in UK cinemas now and available on digital download from Friday 14th August.