In the aftermath of victory, even the defeated regime’s lowliest secretaries must be interrogated. A creepy encounter between victim and victor, but in this cat-and-mouse game, which is which?
The Spoils  is a musical play scored throughout by the brilliant, Emmy-Award winning composer, Paul Englishby.


A man in a foreign land. A minor official in an army of occupation. Assigned the task of translating the interrogations of secretaries and orderlies. The clerical staff of a defeated regime. Young women considered of low priority in the ‘rehabilitation’ of the native population.

The official has artistic ambitions beyond his military duty and a romantic’s faith in the transcendent power of music. His idealism is sorely tested by his interviewees – women whose survival has been (and will be) determined by their unwillingness to compromise.

Associating each of his ‘subjects’ with a particular musical refrain, the interrogator conducts his investigation in the firm conviction that he alone can reanimate the women’s humanity and bring about their redemption.

But once ensnared in an emotionally fraught (and increasingly intimate) relationship with his captives, he begins to doubt not only the purpose of his task, but the integrity of his country’s ‘mission’.

Playwright’s Note

This musical play – commissioned by Shady Dolls Theatre Company – gave me the opportunity to work with the brilliant, Emmy-Award winning composer, Paul Englishby, once again in a further exploration of the themes that had characterised our previous collaborations: the tension between converts and nonbelievers; the guilt of the impotent in a time of crisis; individual promiscuity in the shadow of state prohibition.

Drawing on a panoply of musical sources – from Beethoven to folk – Englishby composed the score first and I wrote in response to what I heard. This was a fundamental change from our previous method where Paul wrote music to my lyrics.

Over seven years and four incarnations The Spoils travelled from the Edinburgh Fringe to Spain, the Arcola Theatre and off-Broadway.

It was also adapted for a unique simultaneous performance event in which a promenade audience engaged with the live site-specific performance, while a virtual audience around the world simultaneously watched on-line. The production’s integration of digital technology was pioneering and the play’s themes of occupation, interrogation and surveillance have only gained potency in the years since.


That men and women experience war differently is a truism, but the thrust of this new play by Steven Dykes and Paul Englishby is that our assumptions about those differences are almost certainly wrong. A member of a conquering army interrogates four women who were mere secretaries in various ministries of the losing government. The man is enamoured of a piece of the defeated country’s classical music, and hopes this will create a bond with the women. But it is soon apparent that he has sentimentalised the music, which has no special meaning for them, as much as he has the women, the war, and just about everything else he addresses. They, in contrast, are practical, matter of fact and generally disdainful of all men whose romantic visions disrupted and destroyed their neat and smooth running bureaucracies. Far from representing the softer sex, the women’s clear vision and impatience with male sentimentality exposes it for the destructive fantasy it is … [A] chilling and corrective vision. 

Gerald Berkowitz, The Stage, August 2008


As a new play the writing, characterisation and narrative are strong and the original music composed by Paul Englishby adds that extra frission. The real strength of this piece for me was it’s accessibility – taking a subject matter that is as relevant today as it has been in the past. A regime kept in power by the utter blind belief in the system by its supporters – even when they understand that much of the system is just smoke and mirrors. In the able hands of Steven Dykes who both wrote and directed the piece Shady Dolls Theatre Company have produced a production that can legitimately stand up against most of the professional new plays that are touring today.   

JG, The Fringe Review, August 2008


Steven Dykes’ and Paul Englishby’s collaboration has produced a strange dark tale of the public and private compromises and sacrifices of war, ably performed by the Shady Dolls’ cast of five. … compelling.

Louise Hill, British Theatre Guide, August 2008

Production History

Commissioned and first produced by Shady Dolls Theatre Company, C Venues, Edinburgh, August 2007


Loti, Laura Churchill

Tala, Rebecca Pollock

Dobra, Polly Henson

Kyat, Marina Burton

Shilling, Clark Devlin

Director, Steven Dykes

The play was revived by Shady Dolls at the Sala El Granero Theatre, Cuenca Spain and Arcola Theatre, London, September 2009



Loti, Laura Churchill

Tala, Rebecca Pollock

Dobra, Polly Henson

Kyat, Roanna Mitchell

Shilling, Steven Dykes

Pianist, Jennifer Johnson / Holly Cullen Davies

Directors, Steven Dykes and Nesta Jones

Lighting Designer, Rachel Nicholson / Chris Farncombe

Sound Designer Josh Richardson 


The production was then revived and expanded by Shady Dolls/NXT in collaboration with Liam Hayter and ravemedia for a simultaneous (on-line video & live) performance in Lamorbey House, Rose Bruford College, in April 2010

Paul Englishby provided a further score for the ‘lieder’ that were introduced as part of the multi-media performance.


Loti, Nesba Crenshaw

Tala, Rebecca Pollock

Dobra, Joanna McCarthy

Kyat, Hollie Garrett

Shilling, Paul Kemp

Pianist, Holly Cullen Davies

Soprano, Charlotte Derry

Sergeant, Paul Britton

Military Psychiatrist, Elin Hughes

Guards, Billy Lyons & David Mowbray

Director, Steven Dykes 

Video & On-line technologies and Production Manager, Liam Hayter

Designer, Nigel Hook

Lighting Designer, Rachel Nicholson

Sound Designer, Josh Richardson 


The Spoils was produced (with a light gathering of dust) in a double bill entitled Territories by the Potomac Theatre Project (PYP/NYC) at Atlantic Theatre Stage II, New York, July 2011


Loti, Nesba Crenshaw

Tala, Cori Hundt

Dobra, Gillian Durkee

Kyat, Lilli Stein

Shilling, Alex Draper

Director, Cheryl Faraone

Designer, Hallie Zieselman

Lighting Designer, Mark Evancho


NXT / Shady Dolls / Rave Media, Simultaneous Broadcast, April 2010

PTP/NYC, Atlantic Stage II, New York, 2011


The Spoils

  • Categories: Cast size less than 8 / Period / Set in Europe
  • Cast: 4 women, 1 man
  • Setting: Undisclosed location, Contemporary
  • Running Time: 80 minutes
  • Characters:
  • Scripts:
  • Performance Licence: Apply for a Performance Licence

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