Peter John Cooper – Dorset Poet and Playwright, UK Poet and Playwright


Poetry collides with playwriting


From the rural Dorset of Thomas Hardy to the world’s greatest metropolis, the poet and playwright who wormed his way to becoming an underground arts legend.

Full Biography

Peter John Cooper is a UK Theatre professional and poet with over 40 years experience in directing, writing and script development. He has over thirty plays recorded on the Doollee Database of UK produced playwrights. A number of his works are published online and in paperback and he can be seen performing in clubs and small theatres in London and his home town of Bournemouth.
Peter is best known for his involvement with experimental performance but He has been Artistic Director of funded companies and managed and served on the board of several arts organisations. As a director he has been responsible for commissioning work from new and otherwise forgotten playwrights. He has worked extensively with Adults with Learning Disabilities and has been part of ACDC European initiative on Arts for Excluded Groups. A number of his plays are published online with one of them “She Opened the Door” about Thomas Hardy’s first wife Emma published in illustrated paperback form. He is a passionate advocate for the skills and craft of writing plays and mentors a number of projects both as writer and director. His play “Eve of War: Little Arthur’s History of England” about the futility of war still tours occasionally.
Peter has collaborated with many groups and individuals but has most notably worked with musician and composer Roderick Skeaping on joint ventures for choir and orchestra including The Elements (Royal Festival Hall) and Our World of Shopping an Oratorio commissioned for the Brighton Festival. They are both members of Le Collectif International des Improvisateurs where they collaborated on The Next Room Project at The Barbican, London.

His poetry is witty and hard hitting and he is known for his extended poems most notably “Flexigesis” and “Life Death and Everything in Between” He recently completed a line for line translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic The Wanderer which he adapted with a contemporary twist as “Dirty Truckers”

100 word Biography

Peter John Cooper is a UK Theatre professional and poet with over 40 years experience in directing and writing. He has over thirty plays recorded on the Doollee Database of UK produced playwrights. A number of his works are published online and in paperback and he can be seen performing in clubs and small theatres in London and his home town of Bournemouth. He is best known for his experimental work both as a playwright and poet. He has worked extensively with Adults with Learning Disabilities and has been part of ACDC European initiative on Arts for Excluded Groups.

Some comments about Productions by Peter John Cooper

“…a play that is certain to become a theatrical treasure in the future”
‘She Opened the Door’ for AsOne Theatre Co. (Dorset Echo)
“ A genuine masterstroke of theatre”
‘ Don Quixote’ for Oxfordshire Touring Theatre (Oxford Mail)
“The unshowy positiveness of Peter Cooper’s direction”
‘Toeing the Line’ for Oxfordshire Touring Theatre (Oxford Mail)
“Peter Cooper directs with the utmost clarity and economy”
Frankenstein’ for Oxfordshire Touring Theatre (Oxford Mail)
“It was a wonderful event. I am so pleased I went and found it incredibly moving. Brilliant writing, acting, production.”
‘Field of Fantasy’ (Christine Aziz, novelist)

“Playwright Peter John Cooper delighted the audience with a multi-media poem with the attempt of understanding where we end and the rest of the universe begins.”

Life and Death and Everything in Between (BEAF Review)

Customer Reviews of the Novels

The Death of the Hurdy Gurdy Boy

“Short Unusual Modern and Victorian
This book is a real mixture. A who dunnit, told from the viewpoint of the victim some hundred or more years after his demise. It covers the confusion of why he was killed, although there are several plot twists in this along the way. The squalor of Victorian tenements to the modern glass and computer world, quaintly described by Thomas, and modern day travails of childhood and growing up in the city.
A good read and thought provoking too. We have, mostly removed starving waifs from the city, but there are other forms of neglect which we seem to have increased on the way?”
By Mr Andrew W Knights 2 Mar. 2014

A murder mystery that leaves you thinking (and humming Donovan songs!)
I really enjoyed this story, especially the two main characters Tammy and Tommy. Peter is a wonderful wordsmith and writer. I recommend children and adults to read this story but you should also try to get an opportunity to listen to him read his amazing poems.”

By Steven THOMAS  31 Dec. 2013
“The Death of the Hurdy Gurdy Boy ~ an anytime read.
An anytime book which will leave you wanting to read more.. Actually it’s a good holiday read for a sunny day under a brolly with a jug of crushed ice. I enjoyed it. Easy Kindle bought and easy to read.”

By Fur preferred  30 Jun. 2013

“Good story.
Well written story with an insight to a boys life in the past and his new found friend of the future. Good conclusion and would recommend it to my friends.”

By Cathym  12 July 2013

“A great generational novel
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I found it very imaginative as a detective story. It was dark sometimes, as history is dark, but any generation should find something to like in this tale of the hurdy gurdy boy and the girl that helps him with the mystery of his life. This is the second book that I’ve read by mister Cooper. I have a tendency to become attached to authors: Updike, Mishima, any old Russian and the great Thomas Hardy from whom I discovered Peter John Cooper, a great playwright and hopefully more novels wil soonl fill up his biography.”

By Ronald Phillips June 25, 2013

Fascinating story

A fascinating story switching between today and Victorian London. To be enjoyed by adults on holiday and teenagers. The author must have spent time on researching family history as lots of tips are embedded as the mystery unfolds. It is a quick read so no long explanations or descriptions. Just enough to enable the story to move along. An unexpected ending. More please.”

The Hurdy Gurdy Boy and the New York Kidnap

Mr.Cooper’s second installment of his Hurdy Gurdy series is a fast paced adventure in the states. In the last book, Tamara helped the Hurdy Gurdy boy to discover the incidents that led to his demise and in this book Tamara is the one that needs help. It’s a fascinating story of how the ghost detective learns to grapple with a modern world in order to lessen his loneliness and to help a friend, his only friend. Great movie material in this constant-flowing mystery that rips across America. I’ve enjoyed everything that I have read by Mister Cooper and always looking forward for more.

Feer of the Future

Mister Cooper takes you through many sci-fi scenarios in a series of short stories and delightful poems which shows off his treasures as a poet and a writer of fanciful tales. His poems are a rain of words that flow down in an emotional trough of images. They blend nicely with his creative narratives.
It takes you back

She Opened the Door

 “I shall be certainly reporting very positively back to the THS (Thomas Hardy Society) Council. This play is an exciting take on hardy’s women: the playwright has very cleverly interwoven the real and fictional women of hardy’s life and work. I am sure the audience tonight will spread the word like wild-fire.”
Mike Nixon – Secretary Thomas Hardy Society
She Opened The Door, Lighthouse, Poole

“FACT and fiction interweave in Peter John Cooper’s powerful study of the tensions that may have taken Thomas Hardy’s first marriage close to breaking point.
Using a mixture of recorded facts, Hardy’s novels and a fertile but logical leap or two of the imagination, the local playwright imagines a meeting in the garden at Max Gate, the Hardys’ Dorchester home,that lays bare the anxieties of Emma, the writer’s troubled wife.
Award winning AsOne Theatre Company originally staged this searching new play – subtitled The Wife, the Mother, the Other Woman and the Ruined Maid – at the International Thomas Hardy Festival last summer. It was deservedly a huge success.
On Friday, a packed house at the Lighthouse Studio Theatre discovered why. It opens in the late summer of 1885 as Emma (Jane McKell), horrified by the direction that her husband’s work is taking, is about to burn the manuscript of his latest novel Jude the Obscure. There are forces at work, however, that prevent her. Hardy’s mother (Mary Lou Delaplanque), the maid (Dani Bright) and Hardy’s close friend Mrs Florence Henniker (Trisha Lewis) seem to favour such different values But are they really there or are they characters from the novels? Confused and confounded, Emma watches with mounting paranoia as her hopes and aspirations (and possibly her marriage) gradually disintegrate.
Fine acting, superbly crafted dialogue, an excellent musical score from Ronald Skeaping and intelligent direction from Peter John Cooper himself make this a play to treasure. “
By Jeremy Miles »

 “Opening up a theatrical treasure
“THE Thomas Hardy story takes on a fresh twist with this new play by Peter J Cooper, which was commissioned and performed by the Dorset-based As One Theatre Company Four women weave fact with fiction and mix real people with characters from Hardy’s novels in a fascinating insight into the troubled relationship between the author and his first wife, Emma.
The drama takes place over a single day, when Hardy’s mother Jemima, the free-thinking feminist Florence Henniker and housemaid Amelia are confronted by Emma’s mental instability and her paranoia about her husband’s apparent infidelity Jane McKell is in tremendous form as the obsessional Emma, adding a real emotional depth to her role.
Trish Lewis, Mary Lou Delaplanque and Dani Bright complete the fine cast in a tale that blends beautifully some of Hardy’s own words into the largely fictional story and includes a neat sub-plot in which the original script of the writer’s final novel, Jude the Obscure, teeters on the brink of extinction as it is tossed around between all four women.
There are further performances at Bournemouth and Swanage of a play that is almost certain to become a theatrical treasure in the future.”
Marion Cox Evening Echo

Sell Out Success for Premier
“The Thomas Hardy Conference (2013) ended on a high with a sell-out performance of She Opened the Door by As One Theatre Company
The Mayor of Dorchester, Leslie Phillips said that he thought the play was “brilliant” and 104 year-old Norrie Woodhall, one of the original Hardy Players also gave her support…” (The published play was dedicated to Norrie)
Ruth Meech Dorset Echo

And a review of the Paperback

Mr Cooper’s play was a delight. As a Hardy fan it gave me insight into a facet of Hardy’s life that I did not know. The history of Max gate and the surrounding area was fascinating, taking you back to some of those great old novels that you really never wanted to end.

By Ronald Phillips on December 11, 2012