The pandemic has seen the arts being forced to adapt in different ways to keep going.

For Simon Butteriss, the celebrated actor and opera singer, he faced the situation of having finished his first play, Making Massinger, just when the theatres were closed.

But rather than halting proceedings, he decided to continue production in a different way: releasing it as an audio version instead.

Recorded earlier in the year at Salisbury Playhouse, Making Massinger is currently available online for free (via until August 27). It’s a play that translates across surprisingly well, which says something about the quality of both the writing and those performing it.

Salisbury Journal:

With the growth of podcasts and audio books, we’re more attuned to spoken word these days, and the audio version might just result in a wider audience than originally intended. Indeed, the only slight shame is in the jokes – there are some extremely funny lines here, which deserve the roll of audience laughter only an auditorium can provide.

Making Massinger is based around the life of the 17th century playwright, Philip Massinger, who spent his early years in Salisbury. He’s someone whose work should be better known, and more recognised locally.

When I caught up with Simon, he explained how he’d first become interested in Massinger when reading his play The Roman Actor at university. ‘It’s a warts and all love letter to the theatre,’ Simon described, ‘and I was amazed by how directly he spoke to me.

It had heart, tenderness and vulnerability in the way that lots of Jacobean playwrights don’t’. This interest in Massinger was then piqued again by Simon visiting an exhibition at Shakespeare’s Globe of early editions of Jacobean plays. Two facts on an information card about Massinger stood out.

Salisbury Journal:

Firstly, a number of his manuscripts were used accidentally to line cake tins by the cook of the bibliophile who bought them. And secondly, Massinger had paid to be buried in the same grave as John Fletcher, another playwright he worked with, who’d died fifteen years before.

As Simon tried to research further, he was struck by how little was known about Massinger. ‘I just joined the dots between historical facts’, he explained of his play. While local figures such as the Earl of Pembroke and the Mompessons play their part, the relationship between Massinger and Fletcher is key.

Simon describes Massinger as having an ‘inquiring moral mind’, which brought him up against the puritans of the time: ‘Massinger was interested in moral debate. The puritans weren’t. It was very much like cancel culture today.’