With his debut play heading straight to the stages of Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Laura Hanton speak to Rex Fisher about Mallets, a dark comedy where drama unfolds on a croquet lawn.

MALLETS takes place on a croquet lawn in Middle England, when the most tranquil of summer afternoons takes a dark turn and the game becomes a bloodthirsty match between two rival couples.

"It's about couples, marriage, the post-retirement tedium, and the games people play," Rex Fisher, 21, who lives in Hooke, near Beaminster, says.

"It's a comedy, but it touches on darker themes like domestic abuse. Croquet is about as posh as it gets, but it's not a gentleman's game. It's full of cheating and lying, and brings out the worst in all of us."

Motivation for writing the script came about when Rex's friend, Felix Firth, who now directs the play, was in his final year studying theatre at Manchester University.

"He had to produce a play, so I pitched him my idea," Rex says. "He loved it. The only problem was that I hadn't actually written it yet. So I holed myself away for a week and a half."

It was Rex's first experience of playwriting. Having studied at Beaminster School and the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester, the only drama he did was at GCSE, where he had to put on a Japanese-inspired performance. "That put me off theatre until now," Rex jokes.

"I did do a lot of stand-up comedy between the ages of 12 and 16, so I had practise in comedy writing, but I never did anything dramatic," Rex says. "I've read a lot of plays, though, and have always loved going to the theatre."

Rex read geography at King's University in London, but left with little idea about what he wanted to do. With his dad part-owning a trawler boat, he trained for his licence and now works out of Lyme Bay.

"I would love to write full-time, but working on a trawling boat means I have time to write when there's bad weather. Trawlermen are also freelance, so I can choose what shifts I do."

Mallets was first performed at a bowling club in Manchester. "We insisted that the bar sold Pimm's, and had a croquet lawn set up," Rex recalls. "It was like walking into a summer's day, except it was November and everyone was wearing duffel coats."

The cast are all former students from Manchester University, some of whom have no experience in acting but who wanted to give it a go.

"They seem to have a natural talent," Rex says. "They make the play funny. I sometimes think my play doesn't do them justice."

Aside from being the mastermind behind the script, Rex also helps with production and publicity. He describes the feeling of seeing his play performed as "magical."

"On show night I'm more nervous than anyone else, because it's completely out of my hands. But once the show starts, I just enjoy it. Even though I wrote the words, I still laugh, because the way the actors perform them is just hilarious."

Rex has written a few television scripts and has another play in the works, relishing the freedom of being able to write creatively. "At university, in my academic writing, I always wanted to make it a bit weird," he says. "So when I graduated, the prospect of pure creative writing was very enticing."

Mallets was performed recently at Dorchester Corn Exchange and was a great success, selling out completely and receiving lots of laughs. The premiere acted as a fundraiser for the performance in Edinburgh, raising £800 through ticket sales and Rex now has plans to hold a massive croquet match on the meadow.

"I'm so excited," he said. "I can't wait to see what comes out of it."

Mark Tattersall, artistic director at Dorchester Arts, said: “Having been to Edinburgh as both a performer and a programmer I know just what a challenge it is to take a production up there, not least financially. Rex is a talented writer with a great young cast and one of our stated aims is to nurture and promote local talent, so we were delighted to be able to help by staging the performance and passing on all the ticket income to the theatre company”

Edinburgh Fringe is the biggest celebration of arts and culture in the world, and runs for three weeks every August. From big names to budding artists, thousands of performances take place across hundreds of venues every year and include theatre, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, children's shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.

*Mallets opens at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on August 12 and remains until August 24. For dates, times and prices, visit www.tickets.edfringe.com