WHEN Liz Mente-Bishop signed up to direct, produce and star in a series of darkly comic short plays at this year's Camden Fringe, one of which sees her play an undertaker, she could never have guessed how eerily close to life her performance would end up being.

In the space of just one month while rehearsing for the morbid show, the mum-of-two suffered three family bereavements, including her children's father.

At the end of June and near the end of her tether, the 45-year-old came close to cancelling the run entirely, until she remembered the inspirational words of the uncle she had lost days before, and decided the show must go on – as a tribute to everyone she had loved and lost.

The tragic story starts in March, when Mrs Mente-Bishop, who lives in Watlington, signed up to put on the series of shorts written by North Oxford playwright Paul Ekert entitled Outbursts!

The first of the quartet, entitled Being Dead, sees Mrs Mente-Bishop playing an undertaker.

It was while rehearsing that part at the beginning of June that tragedy struck for the first time.

Her ex-husband and the father of her adult children Bruce Mente, who had been diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the year, passed away on June 5.

His funeral was booked for Thursday, June 15, but on the Monday of that week Mrs Mente-Bishop's current husband Murray got a call saying his father was critically ill.

Mr Bishop drove to see his dad only to come back the next day for Mr Mente's funeral on the Thursday.

His father passed away at 8pm that night.

His funeral was on booked for June 28, but on the Monday of that week Mrs Mente-Bishop went to see her aunt and uncle Cleone and Frank in Henley, only to be told her uncle had been taken into Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed.

It was the same hospice her ex-husband had stayed at for the last week of his life.

By the end of the week Frank, too, had passed away.

Mrs Mente-Bishop said: "At that point I thought 'I can't put this show on'.

"But then I thought of my uncle Frank: he was a great actor and director and he had supported me in all of my plays.

"After my last show my aunt told me: 'Frank thinks you're really rather good dear – and he doesn't say that about everyone'.

"I knew that Frank would have been mortified if I cancelled the show, and I just thought 'I've got to do this'."

Mrs Mente-Bishop will stage a preview of Outbursts! in Watlington on Saturday, July 29, before the full run at the The Hen and Chickens Theatre Bar in St Paul's Road, London, from August 9 to 13.