Delusions – new stage play and screenplay by Ian Kennedy

This thriller sees sees a traumatised clinical psychologist battling flashbacks and hallucinations  to rescue a patient and his career. A forerunner to the play was hastily scribbled and performed at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham (aka Wayne Manor in The Dark Knight Rises!) to fill an unexpected Hallowe’en slot for New Matrix Productions, and after seeing it performed I was convinced that at heart there was a strong play waiting to be written. I feel now that years of painstaking research with the police and psychologists and other development work have made that a reality.

Delusions – new stage play and screenplay by Ian Kennedy

After lengthy and highly detailed research and development with psychologists and the police, I’m now happy to share and discuss the play with interested producers. There’s a screen version currently in progress and roughly half-done, and I might like to improve the opening of the stage version even further, but I believe that once the format and the innovative staging of the piece are established the plot takes compelling twists and turns which can draw captivating performances from its leading actors.

I’ve added the play’s synopsis here for your interest. If you’d like to see the full play or commission me to write a play for you, email me at!


Delusions, by Ian Kennedy: Full Synopsis

In different ways, Delusions is a murder mystery, a modern ghost story, and a psychological thriller. A forerunner to the play was staged at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham, and an early draft was ‘widely and read and enjoyed’ at Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s Literature Department, who praised its ‘good dialogue, strong characterisation and strong plot’. Since then Delusions has received detailed input from professional psychologists and police officers as well as my peers, to ensure that the play is credible, accurate and compelling. The play is primarily a two-hander between the protagonist and his missing patient (whose presence he is hallucinating), and I believe that these roles could be highly attractive to star talent.

The play unfolds within and outside the mind of Rory, a troubled clinical psychologist, who has to relive his own traumatic memories in order to track down his patient before the police can arrest him for her murder. At first, Rory breaks into his own treatment room in a desperate final attempt to find Tanya, and cannot believe that she is not there – only to find that he begins hallucinating her presence, to his horror. Rory realises that this is much worse than his own previous experiences of mental illness (hypomanic traits, and possible manic depression) as Tanya alternately condemns, baits and challenges him. Finally he makes a deal with Tanya to relive his memories of their sessions together, while he attempts to understand how it is that she has disappeared and he is accused of her murder, in a letter that Tanya herself wrote.

To shut out all distractions, Rory stays inside an area of the treatment room which is illuminated by a bright circular spotlight, but Tanya and other figures from her life flit in and out of the shadows all around him. Any of them might have conspired to frame Rory – Tanya herself, her half-sister Amy, her mother Julia, Amy’s father Lee, and Tanya’s legal client Harker – but even Rory himself may have murdered Tanya, as his mind and memory are in pieces as a result of the traumas he is experiencing. As Rory gets closer and closer to the truth, the initially hostile Tanya becomes increasingly supportive and nurtures him through the memories and thoughts that he has been blocking out, like he tried to do for her during their sessions.

Two stories unfold in parallel as Rory makes his painful journey towards self-realisation and the truth. In her sessions, Tanya – initially preoccupied with her relationships with her mother and half-sister – comes to admit that her current problems began when she experienced possible memories of possible child abuse by Amy’s father Lee, which were triggered when she was about to represent an alleged child abuser in court – Harker. The breakdown that followed may have cost her job, and has resulted in her having to live with her critical half-sister Amy again, where Tanya is deeply unhappy yet unable to escape. Meanwhile, Rory – initially unable to reconcile the deeply conflicting aspects of Tanya that he has witnessed – comes to realise that, like the hidden aspects of Tanya’s own character, his mind has fragmented under extreme pressure and that everything he is experiencing could be explained together.

Just as Rory and Tanya seem to be making progress together, their process is interrupted. Amy storms in, having overheard Rory’s bizarre hallucinations, and lays into him – and his picture of Tanya – as the police arrive to arrest him. Rory admits that Tanya came to him on the night she disappeared – he may have been the last person to see her alive. The police reveal that both Lee and Harker are dead, and take Rory away. It seems that all is lost for both Rory and Tanya.

Later, exhausted after a searching interrogation, Rory realises that he is hallucinating that his prison cell is in fact his treatment room (now covered in plastic forensic wrapping; every aspect of the set ironically echoes Act 1, including the substitution of a paper suit for Rory’s suit). Rory is now bounded by the cell’s illuminated rectangular shape, but Tanya and the other hallucinated characters can return and roam across the rest of the space outside it, while Rory is powerless to follow. An exhausted Rory discovers that Tanya is not letting go of him yet, and agrees to resume the process they began before his arrest. They continue to relive his memories of their sessions, coming closer and closer to the truth. Rory admits that he might indeed have murdered Tanya; Lee or Harker cannot be framing him, now that both of them are dead.

In their sessions, Tanya provokes Rory into overstepping his professional boundaries after admitting she is in love with him. But when Rory tries to pull back, Tanya lashes out, and Amy discovers them in a compromising situation. With his career potentially in tatters, Rory is in limbo and – suffering intense pressure and confusion – begins to doubt his own mind. When Tanya comes to him on the night she will disappear, the scene unfolds like a waking nightmare, and Rory is too traumatised to understand what has happened. Perhaps he really did kill Tanya afterwards, and simply cannot remember it.

With all of his memories recovered and brought back to life, Rory’s shattered mind is beginning to rebuild itself at last. But this means that Tanya is no longer needed – echoing the wording of her letter and the way she appeared to him at the outset, Tanya tells Rory that he needs her to disappear now, and she does. But she has left behind enough clues and echoes that Rory can finally recognise what she has been telling him to see all along – she hid a note for him in his treatment room on the night she disappeared.

Rory summons the detectives, and persuades them to have his treatment room checked. His eyes closed, Rory hallucinates or envisages the presence of the SOCO officer that does this, and when the officer reads the note that Tanya had hidden, Rory hears it in Tanya’s voice. The note warns Rory that Amy and Julia have forced Tanya to write the letter implicating Rory and to attack him in person, and are now planning something terrible for Tanya, Rory and Lee. The note begs Rory to help. Rory realises that – as Tanya tried to tell him, and has continued to throughout – he was supposed to see the note straight away, and prevent the sequence of events that has followed.

The note seems to put the blame squarely upon Amy and Julia for Tanya’s disappearance, Lee’s murder, and the framing of Rory. The police prepare to act upon this, but Rory does not let them. He has come to his own conclusions, and finally understands what has really happened. Tanya and the other figures from her life once again float around him in the shadows as he explains. Tanya was experiencing severe depression throughout her treatment; when she discovered that Harker was dead in prison and that she had consequently lost her job and independence, she set a desperate plan in motion. One by one, she planned to bring down each of the other people who had jointly left her at the mercy of her unbearable memories and her controlling relatives. First, she arrived to condemn Rory, making him the last person to see her alive – though, as a token of her love for him, she left him the note in the hope that he might save her in time to prevent further bloodshed. Then she murdered Lee and buried him close to Rory’s home. Finally she committed suicide, knowing that not only would Rory be implicated for both deaths, but that – after Rory’s career and life were in tatters – the blame would then fall upon Amy and Julia, once the note in his treatment room was finally discovered.

The police are surprised at Rory’s explanation of events, especially when Rory reveals where and how Tanya would have committed suicide (he even envisages this taking place before him). The police promise to check all of these leads, but refuse to come to any definite conclusions until all of the evidence has been gathered; they hope that Tanya may still be found alive. But Rory has his own answers now. After the police have left, he curls up at the heart of his dwindling circle of light. When Tanya returns and curls up around him, he ceases shivering and the light fades to nothing.

© Ian Kennedy. Not to be reproduced without permission – email and I’ll be happy to oblige!

Share →

One Response to Delusions – intense new stage and screen play

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *