When actress Rebecca Peyton met writer/director Martin Bartelt on a course at the Actors Centre in London, the two hit it off so well that Martin broached the subject of them working together.
“I said ‘I am only interested in making a show about my sister’s murder’,” recalls Rebecca. “He said ‘ok’.”
That was in 2007. The show, Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister, comes to the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, tomorrow (Friday).
It is a combination of memoir and observational comedy about what happened to the Peyton family after the death of Rebecca’s sister, Kate, in 2005.
The news flashed round the media world because Kate was a BBC journalist, a producer, who was shot shortly after arriving in Mogadishu, Somalia, to report on the peace process.
Rebecca, who was then in her early 30s, said that as events unfolded her gut instinct was that she wanted her voice to be heard.
She said: “I felt I had something interesting and important to say, about press freedom and the pressures people are put under at work to the strange process of grief to the situation in Somalia.”
It was a volcano of emotion that had been building since she was a small child, when her father died after being knocked off his bike in the village where they lived.
“I realised in the process that yes, the 32-year-old whose sister had been murdered wanted to speak but, my word, the six-year-old child that I was really had something to say.”
There are some who might question whether this was an appropriate subject for entertainment, but Rebecca says her mother and older brother have been supportive of what she has done.
“I think they are glad that some of these matters are out in the open. Mum laughed like a drain all the way through it. We wanted to see if we could afford to take her on tour so we could have her in the audience.
“The thing she found nerve-wracking was, having had one daughter die, the thought that I’d receive very critical feedback about having made a show about it. Putting myself in the proverbial firing line.”
Rebecca and Martin are used to it provoking extreme emotions in audiences.
“We have had people cry all the way through, but we have had people laugh most of the way through as well.
“We have had journalists come in and find it very distressing because it is so reminiscent of experiences they have had. That ranges from people they have known who have been killed to employers putting them under the kind of pressure my sister was under.”
* Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister is on at the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, on Friday (April 8) at 8pm. Box office 01902 321321 Details: www.vitaldigression.org