Philippa appeared in the Arts Council England-funded The Trials of Colonel Barker, adapted by Rose Collis from her own book about the extraordinary ‘Colonel Victor Barker’, in the Hove Grown Festival 2017.


The play

You can watch a video of the full reading at Rose’s own website here



‘A highly enjoyable script-in-hand performance skilfully brought to life this amazing true story. The play twisted and turned with pace, humour and pathos and I loved the framing device of the sideshow where Barker and ‘wife’ exploited their notoriety. I was impressed too by the objectivity and complexity in Colonel Barker’s portrayal, letting us decide for ourselves if she was a con-woman or victim of gender/sexual discrimination.’

Playwright Judy Upton

Audience comments

‘Entertaining, witty, well-researched, extraordinary story.’

‘Outstanding – the twist in this true story was unforeseen and brilliantly delivered that left audience astounded by this enjoyable performance’

‘Eye-opening story of gender-bending marriage and duplicity in 1920s Britain, told mainly through fairground freakshow and courtroom drama.’


Production history

Writer and performer Rose Collis has been awarded research and development funding from Grants for the Arts, supported by Arts Council England, to create a two-act stage play based on her book Colonel Barker’s Monstrous Regiment, about the extraordinary life of Valerie Arkell-Smith aka ‘Colonel Victor Barker’.

Virago published Colonel Barker’s Monstrous Regiment in 2001, and it garnered enormous critical acclaim:

‘Excellent… treads a careful line between sensation and sentiment.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Collis’s unpretentious, ribald, chatty style carries this ripping yarn.’ Time Out

‘A fascinating tale…Collis has researched this book thoroughly, and she writes with a lively sense of humour.’ Times Literary Supplement

‘Rose Collis has delved meticulously…and produced a remarkably gripping and, at times, quite hilarious story.’ Val Hennessy, Daily Mail, ‘Critic’s Choice’

‘Written with style and feeling…’ Financial Times

The Trials of Colonel Barker will be developed to rehearsed reading stage, in time for the second (Brighton And) Hove Grown Festival of new writing which takes place March 24 to April 2 2017.

Participating artists for The Trials of Colonel Barker will include Keith Drinkel, Philippa Hammond and Guy Wah.

This first rehearsed reading will be directed by Thomas Everchild.