The Owl Man


We are proud to be able to announce that our production partner for THE OWL MAN is Strode Theatre in Street, Somerset as part of their Cultural Recovery programme financed by Arts Council England and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

A collaboration between Richard Crowe (writer), Ben Sutcliffe (composer/musician), Zaid Al-Rikabi (musician/performer) and Hardy Gru (visual artist/designer) working with Ged Stephenson (director) and Emma Bettridge (creative producer)

‘The Owl Man’ is a celebration of two Walters…

Walter Strachan, an English public school master, published poet, francophile, and connoisseur of French book illustration (Le Livre d’Artiste), who, while working on behalf of the V&A, befriended many struggling artists in Paris following WW2.

Walter Spitzer, a Polish/Jewish artist, who survived the ghetto, Auschwitz, the Death March & Buchenwald, and went on to illustrate the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Andre Malraux.

The play takes as its theme, Spitzer’s obsession with the schism between man’s extreme cruelty and innate humanity, and Strachan’s extraordinary and holistic approach to life and education (‘I don’t teach French’, he once told me, ‘I teach France’).

The story is told through the eyes of Strachan’s young student, whose imagination is sparked by a staircase hung with images of owls by artists all over the world. Each a ‘thank you’ to Strachan for his help in promoting their work. A gift from Strachan, a lithograph by Spitzer, connects the boy to the magic and colour of the circus, and the despair of the concentration camps.

The relationships the boy makes now, with his teacher, with art, with artists, and the values he learns, will inspire him for a lifetime…

Owl by Walter Strachan from a letter to his granddaughter, Clare Quigley

‘I want to explore ways of bringing together my three passions – theatre, music, visual art – to reflect the different languages that would be used across this piece (English, French, German, Polish, Yiddish), and create a sort of synaesthesia (a part of the make-up of my own bipolar disorder) with words evoking images, evoking sounds – a single touch of a picture transporting us through time & space to a different scene entirely’

Richard Crowe – March 2021