On a winter night in 1876, young Mary Campbell witnessed something so horrific that she eventually wound up in a mental hospital. Now her doctor wants to try hypnosis to find out the truth of what happened and to restore Mary’s health.

Cover image of Skerryvore

Loosely based on a historical incident, Skerryvore was written for the London Horror Festival and premiered at the Old Operating Theatre in St. Thomas’s Church, near London Bridge.

It has only two actors. Mary Campbell is a patient in a mental hospital, haunted by the repressed memory of something that happened when she was only 12. She's the sole survivor of a mysterious event one winter night in 1876, when three crewmen went missing from Skerryvore lighthouse in the Scottish Hebrides. One eventually washed ashore, dead, but the other two were never found.

For the past nine years, Mary has been in the care of Professor Barrett, who tries hypnosis in order to retrieve Mary’s memories and relieve her trauma. Things do not end well.

Skerryvore is spooky on the page, absolutely terrifying on the stage. Asked in his Living Writers interview to describe how horror works on an audience—what the actual mechanism of it is—Mr. Punter replied, “It disrupts habit.”

Read Skerryvore if you’re the kind of person who likes disruption, who doesn’t mind being shaken up once in a while, who’s willing to be scared into thinking about things that, on most days, you’d prefer not to.

Michael Punter

A British playwright whose many works include The Wolves, Darker Shores, Stagefright, Bunker Girls, Skerryvore, 1066: Three Kings, and Dear God. Among Mr. Punter’s adaptations of Aristophanes’ plays are The Birds and The Wasps.

He has also written plays for children as well as scripts for radio and TV. Mr. Punter directs the theater program for CAPA, a global education network, and he teaches contemporary theater for Colgate study groups in London.


Meet Michael Punter at Colgate on Nov. 11

There are two ways to join us:

  • In person in Love Auditorium, Olin Hall,  4:30 p.m. No reservation required.
  • Via Zoom. 

Nov. 11 Zoom Registration

Everyone can participate in the audience Q&A following the reading, and there will be a book-signing in the Olin lobby after that. For information on how to purchase a signed book if you're not on campus, see the How to Participate section of the website.

Living Writers events are free and open to the public.

Listen to a 3-question podcast

“I always liked the idea of Hume’s, that we the humans just have this thing about cause and effect. It's an obsession, it's a strength and a weakness.” That’s Michael Punter speaking about his play, Skerryvore. Hear more in this Living Writers podcast.

Go beyond the book

  • “Michael Punter’s new play uses all the stylings of a late nineteenth-century natural science lecture to the gentlemen of an intellectual society, and, with just two actors, creates a tangible sense of both the location of the talk and of the remote and hostile experience of Skerryvore.” Read more in this review for The Reviews Hub by Maryam Philpott.
  • Skerryvore is described as “a riveting production immaculately acted” in this article for London Pub Theatres Archive.
  • Read about the true history of the disappearance at the Flannan Isles lighthouse that inspired Michael Punter in this article on the Northern Lighthouse Board website

Tell us what you think

Join us Monday, Nov. 8, 7-8 p.m., for a faculty roundtable and discussion of Skerryvore. Guests will include professors Adrian GiurgeaConstance Harsh and Jane Pinchin. Feel free to participate or simply listen in. If you're interested but can't make the session, the roundtable portion will be available to listen to later in the week.

Nov. 8 Zoom Registration

Follow the discussion on Twitter @ColgateLW using the hashtags #ColgateLivingWriters and #Skerryvore

Everything is magic to those who can see.

Join the conversation on Twitter @ColgateLW

Living Writers is put on by the Department of English at Colgate University with generous support from the Olive B. O'Connor Fund as well as the President and Provost/Dean of the Faculty. Support from the Office of Off-Campus Study helped make this event possible.