Life from Mars discovered on the fringe

While Nasa has pledged to pour resources into establishing whether there is life on Mars, a fringe show at the Edinburgh Festival is conducting its own exploration into the apparent arrival of two Martian children on earth in the 12th century.

The verse play by the poet and playwright Glyn Maxwell, winner of the Somerset Maugham Prize for poetry, dramatises accounts by two monks of the bizarre discovery of a green girl and boy in a wolfpit near the Suffolk village of St Mary Woolpit in 1154.

According to the tales, their skin was "leek green" and they refused to eat until they came upon some green beans, which they ate with avidity.

The boy, who was "oppressed by langour", died, but his sister gradually lost her green colour after she started to eat bread and later married.

Ralph of Coggeshall, one of the monks, observes dispassionately that the girl was "very lascivious and wanton. Questioned frequently concerning the men of the region, she averred that all dwellers and things in the region were tinged with a green colour, and that they perceived no sun, but enjoyed a certain brightness such as happens after sunset.

"Questioned further by what means she had come into this land with the aforesaid boy, she replied that because they were following some cattle, they came into a cave. Having entered which, they heard a certain delectable sound of bells; caught up in sweetness of which sound, they walked for a long time, wandering through the cavern, until they came to the exit of it."

The premiere of Wolfpit is being performed at the Garage Theatre by the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, whose former members include Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, John Cleese, Sam Mendes and Tony Slattery.

Sally Moss, the second-year English student who is directing the play, made contact with Maxwell after attending one of his poetry readings and sending him a fan letter. He offered her the play when she asked if he had any unknown work she could direct.

The Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, described Wolfpit, published by Arc last week, as a "fascinating and intriguing work" after reading the manuscript.

Maxwell said: "The play is about how we don't actually want the miraculous to happen. In the end, you see the village closing up again like a wound that has healed."

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