Jessie Coller as Ceventry-born Delia Derbyshire best know for her pioneering work on the original Dr Who theme tune. Photo: Arnim Freiss

Hymns for Robots

Coventry Belgrade B2


If like me you are in later middle age, you might have messed around with a tape recorder, a lot more capable of being meddled with than its descendant the cassette. 

You could play things back slow or fast, or even backwards, and laugh at the never heard before sounds. 

Delia Derbyshire the subject of this play took it to a whole new level, turning annoying or funny sounds into a musical aural experience.  Doing what today we call sampling, and mixing. 

So an experimenter, and visionary. 

The play captures brilliantly the eras that she worked in, and the inequality she faced in trying to find work and recognition.  And although her life story is not full of adventure and drama, anymore than any number of people at that period, the play draws you in to the personality of the women, her obsession with creating soundscapes, and her, by the standards of the time, eccentric behavior and attitude. 

The part of Miss Derbyshire was realized by a virtuoso performance by Jessie Coller.  Most of the play being a monologue of episodes from the life of Delia. The other person on stage is her assistant and friend Brian, played by Charles Craggs who also had his hands full providing the electronic sounds, which ran through almost continuously. 

The stage set is festooned with old brown magnetic tape and tape recorders, and some office furniture.

I found the play involved you in it and held you by power of its well written script and its great delivery, how she managed to remember all those lines is a mystery to a mortal like me.

Definitely a play to see.  Worth 5 stars from anyone I should think. To 21-09-18

Craig Boulton


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