Hard to Swallow (paperback)


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2020 edition
This is the approved set text for the Eduqas GCSE 9-1 Drama exam

Based on Maureen Dunbar’s award-winning book and film Catherine: The Story of a Young Girl Who Died of Anorexia Nervosa. Catherine Dunbar died in 1984, after a seven-year battle against anorexia nervosa. She was just twenty-two.

Mark Wheeller’s potent documentary play uses the words from Catherine’s diaries and also of those most closely involved and affected. This 2020 edition includes a foreword by the late Maureen Dunbar, previously unseen extra scenes and a reflection by Mark, on the astonishing journey of this widely studied play since its first performances, including one by OYT on the Olivier Stage of the Royal National Theatre. 

Duration: 75 minutes approximately
Cast: 6 female, 3 male, 22 female/male, or 3 female and 2 male with doubling

‘This play reaches moments of almost unbearable intensity… naturalistic scenes flow seamlessly into sequences of highly stylised theatre… such potent theatre!’

Vera Lustig, The Independent

‘Elegantly structured, highly informative, and imaginatively theatrical. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.’
Anne McFerran, Stage and Television Today

Additional information




198 x 129 mm





Publication date

02 July 2020

About the writer

Mark Wheeller began writing whilst a student at Marlwood Comprehensive School, Bristol. After teaching drama for thirty-six years he retired in July 2015 to concentrate on writing and delivering Drama/Theatre workshops to students and teachers across the world.

Mark is one of the most-performed playwrights in Britain. Too Much Punch For Judy has been performed over 6,000 times and Chicken! nearly 6,000. Missing Dan Nolan and Hard to Swallow are both set texts for the GSCE Drama 9-1 exams. His work has been a staple part of the Drama curriculum both in the UK and abroad for the past three decades.

Professional productions of Hard to Swallow, I Love You Mum, I Promise I Won’t Die and Chicken regularly tour schools and many of Mark’s works are available on DVD, with digital formats forthcoming in late 2020. His study guides include Drama Schemes, The Story Behind Too Much Punch For Judy, Drama Club & Hard to Swallow – Easy to Digest.

He has three children and lives just outside the New Forest, with his wife Rachael, and Labrador, Dusty.