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by Joe Orton
March 7, 8, 9, 10 2001
directed by Hannah
Joe Orton's reputation
for dramatic writing has rested mainly on just three full-length plays: Entertaining
Mr. Sloane , Loot , and What the Butler Saw [staged posthumously, 1969]. In their time - which was still the time
of the Lord Chamberlain's power of censorship over the theatre - these were
controversial plays, because of the casual immorality of the characters and
their irreverence or 'tastelessness' of some of the subject matter.
But, with the passing of time, other more classic qualities have become
clearer. Joe Orton actually stands in a long line of comedy
playwrights, from Congreve and Sheridan, through Wilde and Coward, for whom
the comedy is in the style rather than the substance. The situations
are absurd and the characters are exaggerated, while their language and
reactions are outrageously superficial. It's a wicked combination.
Hemmings - McLeavy
|Jo Hopper -
|Ben de Silva
Goodger - Truscott
Bickers - Meadows
Manager - David Collis
- David Comber, Brian Box, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis, David Collis
Frances Thorne, Sheila Neesham
Margaret Davy, Sue Whittaker
Publicity - Rosemary Bouchy, Frances Thorne, Rosemary Brown
Programme - Bob Ryder
|Box Office -
Margaret Murrell & the Barn Team
House Managers - David Pierce, Antony Muzzall, Lucien Bouchy, Peter
February 22 issue - page 1
" Dirty work afoot as pair hide
the loot "
THE blackest of black farces, full of wry
humour, shocks and surprises, is Wick Theatre Company's choice for its
first production of the year at the Barn Theatre, Southwick. Loot
by Joe Orton tells the the of two young thieves. Dennis drives a
hearse, Hal's mother has just died.
When they rob a bank
and return to Hal's home with the loot, it isn't hard to guess the hiding
place they choose The Inspector Truscott arrives, hot on the trail
of the two villains. The plot gets even thicker and conventional
morality flies out the window.
New your director
Hannah Collis has assembled an interesting cast which blends newcomers to
the Barn with some well known regulars.
Dennis is played by
Lee Stevens and Hal by Ben de Silva, both in their first production for
Wick. Hugh Hemmings plays Hal's father, McLeavy, while David Goodger
is Insp Truscott. Another Barn regular, Joanne Hopper, is appearing
as Fay, a femme fatale dangerous in more ways than one.
Loot will be
performed at the Barn Theatre from Wednesday, March 7, to Saturday, March
10, at 7.45pm Contact the box office on 01273 597094.
March 15 issue - page 18 - Frank Horsley
" 'Lovely jubbly' as
Wick cash in on Orton wit "
THE halcyon year of 1966 and all that - seems like
only yesterday, doesn't it? England won the World Cup, Thunderbirds
were 'go', the Beatles were living in a Yellow Submarine - and Joe Orton
brought us Loot. Good grief, was it really 35 years ago?
How time flies when you're galloping towards a new millennium. Left
smouldering in the hoof marks, Orton's jolt-a-minute classic had almost a
period feel to it as Wick Theatre Company staged it at the Barn Theatre,
Southwick, last week.
So much black
comedy - both fictional and actual - has passed under the bridge of
desensitisation since, that Orton's [at the time] controversial shock
tactics now seem to border on the quaint. His targets were obvious
ones - death, sex, religion and alleged police corruption and violence.
Comparatively tame though some of his dramatic devices might appear by
modern-day standards, his savage wit and verbal dexterity have more than
stood the test of time - and these qualities shone through in Hannah
Collis's directorial debut for Wick.
Whatever else you glean from Loot, it is
that Orton would appear not to have had too high a regard for the British
constabulary. David Goodger, in a memorable portrayal, was arguably
too funny as the grotesque Inspector Truscott. That is if you took
Truscott purely at face value and failed to acknowledge the totally
repugnant human being behind the caricature. Full of nervous tics and
Tourette's syndrome-like noises, this pipe-smoking monster was Monsieur
Hulot on drugs. One of his most telling assertions was that a police
officer ought not dwell too long on the truth - unless he wants to spend the
rest of his career pounding the beat.
Orton, who admitted to finding Catholics plain
funny rather than being against them, was more kindly in his ribbing of the
central Irish character McLeavy. Hugh Hemmings [McLeavy], whose stage
wife had just died and was in her coffin in the front room, and Jo Hopper,
as Mrs McLeavy's man-eating nurse, Fay, kept the prompt a little busier than
they might have wished on opening night. Yet this detracted hardly at
all from two thoroughly engaging performances.
The young villains of the piece, McLeavy's son
Hal and his mate Dennis, who hide their bank robbery loot in the coffin,
were well played by Wick newcomers Ben de Silva and Lee Stevens. They
contrasted nicely, Hal the less than coruscating bright spark being led
astray by wide-boy Dennis, although I'm not sure Orton ever coined the
phrase 'lovely jubbly', which one of them uttered!
Completing the cast was David Bickers as the
police officer Meadows.
Vile characters, foul language, criminal
behaviour, homosexual undertones, corrupt police, ridiculous plot - all the
ingredients for a near disaster. And it was. Luckily, that was
the production seen at the Theatre Royal a few years ago and not the one by
Wick. Orton's farce was brought to life by Hannah Collis for her
directorial debut at the Wick. On this evidence, I look forward to many
future productions from her.
Goodger as Inspector Truscott dominated the show and stole each scene he was
in. However, it was evident that Hannah had kept control of the
character and he seemed more human and believable that previous Truscotts.
Jo Hopper was acting her socks off and was utterly believable as Fay - you
could see the deviousness in her eyes! Her arguments in favour of
McLeavy marrying her so soon after his wife's death were very persuasive,
even though we knew it would surely end with his premature death. A
few weeks with Fay would surely be worth it! Hugh Hemmings had perhaps
the most difficult part of McLeavy, as was evident in the occasional lapse
of memory and accent. However, he effectively portrayed a
grief-stricken man lost without his wife and could be related to as the only
'real' character in the play.
It was a joy to see new faces on the Wick stage
and we look forward to seeing more of them, David Bickers who had little to
do as Meadows but certainly made the most of it. Ben de Silva's Hal
was the 'innocent' of the piece and this was portrayed well. It was a
shame some of the lines were lost, but with a bit of work on the delivery,
he will be a valuable asset to the Wick. Lee Steven gave David a run
for his money in the scene-stealing stakes. Everyone's energy seemed
to double whenever Lee was on stage. The interaction between Truscott
and Dennis was a delight and the extra touches such as Dennis pocketing cash
whenever he had the chance was inspired. Maybe it would have been good
if Dennis had started off gentler, therefore allowing room for the character
to become more manic.
Richard Porter's set design was up to the usual
high standard and congratulations must go to the workshop team for making it
look so right.
Congratulations to Hannah and her cast for
giving us an extremely enjoyable evening.
by Arthur Wing Pinero
May 23, 24, 25, 26 2001
directed by Olive
Pinero and His Plays - from an introduction
by Denys Blakelock: "Arthur Wing Pinero was a past master at creating
comedy situations and entertaining lines. His specially written plays
for the Old court theatre The Magistrate in 1885 and The
Schoolmistress in 1886 began his long successful career as a comic
dramatist and were followed in 1887 by Dandy Dick which ran for 171
performances at the Royal Court and another 75 when it was transferred to
Pinero wrote with great carefulness and scrupulous attention to
detail. He was reputed to take the best part of a year over a play
before it satisfied him. He brought to his writing a special gift for delineation
of character and the suggestion of a fundamental reality underlying the extravagances
of the convention. This talent of giving his characters an essential
core of truth has the effect of keeping the wild improbability of the
situations he creates JUST within the bounds of our acceptance!"
The Director understands that character of Noah Topping was inspired by the
rural constable of a village adjacent to Brighton - but hasn't yet
discovered which one!
Hemmings - The Very Reverend Augustin Jedd, DD
Berrill - Salome [his daughter]
Szeless - Sheba [his daughter]
Ockenden - Georgiana Tidman [his sister]
Thompson - Blore [Butler at the Deanery]
Goodger - Sir Tristram Mardon, Bart.
- Hatcham [his groom]
Phil Balding - Major Tarver
[Officer quartered at Durnstone, near St Marvells]
John Garland - Mr. Darby [Officer quartered at Durnstone, near St Marvells]
|Ray Hopper -
Noah Topping [Constable at St Marvells]
Robinson - Hannah Topping [previously Cook at the Deanery]
Manager - Marc Lewis
the Director - Betty Dawes
- David Comber, Dave Collis, Brian Box, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis, Mark Flower
- Sheila Neesham, Frances Thorne
Sue Whittaker, Margaret Davy
Team - Sheila Neesham, Margaret Pierce, Cherry Briggs, Adrian Kenward
Publicity - Rosemary Bouchy, Frances Thorne, Rosemary Brown, Judith
|Box Office -
Margaret Murrell and the Barn Team
House Co-ordinator - Valerie Bray
House Managers - Lucien Bouchy, Frank Child, Peter Harrison, Antony
Porter for production design
from Overture Di Ballo by Sir Arthur Sullivan, with warmest thanks
to Alan Skull
costumes from Harveys of Hove
May 10 issue - page 16 - publicity -
" Under starter's orders for Wick horseplay "
AN array of larger-than-life characters will be
strutting their stuff on the Barn Theatre stage when Wick Theatre Company
presents Dandy Dick, writes Michelle Nevell.
Horse-racing is at the
heart of this amusing period comedy by Arthur Wing Pinero, with Dandy Dick
as its off-stage hero. The Dean of St Marvells longs for a quiet
life but money worries and his lively daughters, who are in hot pursuit of
their military admirers, make this impossible. Enter the Dean's
feisty sister, George - who jointly owns Dandy Dick with his old college
friend Sir Tristram - and life becomes even more chaotic. Everything
depends on Dandy winning his next race, but he gets nobbled by Blore, the
rascally butler, and this lands the hapless Dean in jail. More
complications are caused by the jealousy of Constable Noah, now married to
the Dean's former cook, Hannah. All kinds of funny goings-on
eventually lead to a happy ending.
Director Olive Smith
has chosen a cast of familiar Barn Theatre faces for this
production. Hugh Hemmings plays the Dean of St Marvells with Judith
Berrill and Kati Szeless as his daughters, Salome and Sheba. Philip
Balding and John Garland are their suitors Tarver and Darbey and Margaret
Ockenden is George. David Goodger plays Sir Tristram and Peter
Thompson is Blore. Ray Hopper has the rôle of Constable Noah.
Performances run from
Wednesday, May 23, to May 26 at 7.35pm [sic] at the Barn Theatre
Tickets are priced £5
and £6 and are available by calling the Barn box office on 01273 597094.
May 31 issue - page 19 - Frank Horsley
" Odds-on for laughs
from a racy tale "
IT might not have been an out-and-out
thoroughbred, but Wick Theatre Company's latest offering was still a decent
sort which gave the audience a good run for their money at the Barn Theatre,
Southwick, last week. Racehorse Dandy Dick was the offstage hero of
Arthur Wing Pinero's period comedy of the same name.
Hugh Hemmings played a late-19th-century
cleric, the Dean of St Marvells, who longed for a quiet life, but money
worries and his lively daughters' [Judith Berrill and Katalin Szeless]
pursuit of their military admirers [Phil Balding and John Garland] furrowed
his brow. Enter the feisty sister Georgina [Margaret Ockenden] - joint
owner of Dandy Dick with his old college friend Sir Tristram [David Goodger]
- and life became even more chaotic. Everything depended on Dandy
winning his next race at the spring meeting, but rescued from a fire at a
nearby inn, he was then nobbled by the Dean's rascally butler Blore [Peter
Thompson] and this landed the hapless Very Reverend in jail. More
complications followed because of the jealousy of Constable Topping [Ray
Hopper], married to the Dean's former cook Hannah [Diane Robinson], but
Dandy Dick duly obliged in the big race and all was well that ended well.
Some coughing in the stables on the opening
night, in the form of an over-loud prompt, handicapped proceedings.
And despite some spirited individual contributions from an experienced cast
and Oliver Smith's directorial efforts, the piece didn't quite hang together
as a totally satisfactory whole. Nevertheless, another idiosyncratic
performance by David Goodger [following up his Inspector Truscott in
Loot meant the next laugh was never more than a
short head away. And complementing him in the chuckle stakes was
Margaret Ockenden, who reined herself in nicely after a breakneck start to
be feisty with a capital F. Katalin Szeless, Peter Thompson and Diane
Robinson also particularly impressed and Ray Hopper and Ralph Dawes [the
Dean's groom] revelled in their cameo rôles.
A jolly comedy by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero was acted
by strong cast. Pious clergyman needs racing certainty to
satisfy emergent daughters.
First I must say that it is essential that
well-known lines are spoken with clarity, particularly in fast delivery or
dialect. This became apparent at times in the otherwise excellent
oening scene as also in the goalhouse.
Judith Berrill as Salome and and Katalin
Szeless as Sheba gave beautifully stylistic and symmetrically choreographed
performances from the word go. Teasing their diaconate Very Rev. Father
[Hugh Hemmings in a real Chasibule] they tried hard to winkle from him by
wiles that only young women can know, financial solutions to their
profligacy. Believing himself of sterner stuff, he also had to solve
his own financial problem. Enter Dandy Dick the racehorse jointly
owned by his sister Georgina and old friend Sir Tristram who arrive on the
scene unaware of each other's presence but very old racing habitués,
realised so well by Margaret Ockenden and David Goodger giving us plenty of
laughs, she more more woman of the world than her brother. Peter
Thompson the scoundrelly butler scored well with his misplaced [h]aspirates,
and at last had the honesty to save his master's reputation whose honest
attempts to use a renowned notebook on horses to supply a tonic had been
nearly scuppered by a cyanide pep-up. Ray Hopper as the gaoling
country constable and Diane Robinson whose blandishments so nearly caught
the Dean on the wrong foot, added further hilarity. Ralph was suitable
All ended well talented camp officers Phil
Balding and John Garland being the lucky pair to capture the charming
daughters, settle outstanding problems and leave an untainted but bemused
clergyman, his penitent butler and relieved ex-cook housewife, her mollified
husband, a happy aunt and a winning baronet. What more could you want?
Director Olive Smith can be proud of her cast
which did full justice to Pinero's comedy.
In-House review by Jane
Arthur Wing Pinero's comedy was written to
entertain his late Victorian audience. He achieved this by writing a
well-crafted play where the humour is provided by the ludicrous situations
in which the characters find themselves. I have to confess to a
personal preference for plays that provide rather more in the way of mental
stimulation & character development, however, Olive Smith and her team gave
us, overall, a very enjoyable evening.
Olive's meticulous direction was, most appropriately, very stylised in
character and it was clear that a great deal of hard work had been put in.
In fact, I think that this element could, perhaps, have been even more
exaggerate which would have allowed the ridiculous situations to come across
more clearly. The stylised touch was echoed by Richard Porter's
splendid set - particularly the conservatory. An excellent job by the
workshop team, as always! Mike Medway's lighting, too, was most
effective, especially the lovely 'night sky'. The costumes had been
well selected by the costume team and looked wonderful. I thought that
Sullivan's Overture di Ballo was a very good choice for the music,
conveying just the right mood.
I understand that the stage was miked [this
gave us a chance to hear with increasing clarity the actors' footsteps and
the sound of the tea trolley!] but despite this, I did struggle at times to
hear all the words spoken by some of the actors, particularly when they were
speaking quickly - words were jumbled together and final consonants were
lost. I guess this is something that we all need to be reminded about
from time to time.
Hugh Hemmings coped well with the central
character of the Dean, and lent a nice bemused, ecclesiastical toe to his
portrayal. Judith Berrill and Kati Szeless struck just the right note
as his 'innocent', frivolous and scheming daughters - there was a nice
rapport between them. Their ineffectual suitors were well played by
Phil Balding [with a touch of Prince Charles in his characterisation] and
John Garland [pity he didn't get to play the violin!]. Margaret
Ockenden and David Goodger were well cast respectively as the jolly, horsy
Georgine Tidman and the hearty and equally horsy Sir Tristram Marden.
Again, they created a good rapport together on the stage. David's
splendid performance demonstrated, for me, just the right exaggerated style
appropriate for this play.
Moving on the the 'lower orders', it was nice
to see Ray Hopper on the Barn stage again with an effective character
portrayal of the jealous policeman, Noah Topping, ably partnered by Diane
Robinson as his wife Hannah [she made it clear that he had ample cause for
jealousy!] Last but not least, there were good performances from Peter
Thompson as the 'aitch'-dropping butler, Blore and Ralph Dawes as Hatcham
Congratulations again to everyone involved on
an enjoyable and successful production.
Month of Sundays
June 28, 29, 30 2001
Directed by Jan King
STUDIO THEATRE AT THE BARN -
Welcome to an exciting new chapter in the history 0f the Wick Theatre
Company and Southwick's historic Barn Hall!
This production marks the start of a new
approach for Wick. We are now expanding our traditional season of
four productions a year, up to six a year - or more And at least two
of those productions will now be performed in a 'studio' style.
Sometimes this will mean that plays are
presented 'in the round', with the audience sitting around the acting
area, in the main body of the Barn. Sometime the production my be
presented in the even more intimate are of the big new stage. In any
event the maximum audience will be no more than 100 people - and all the
action will be very exciting and 'close up'!
The next studio production this year will be a
double bill - by two of the masters of modern British comedy.
Black and Silver by Michael Frayn is a brilliant comic miniature, by
the playwright of Noises Off. It's a nightmare farce, as a
young couple try to enjoy a quiet night in a honeymoon hotel - but with
the handicap of having to share their room with their own screaming baby.
The Real Inspector Hound, by Tom Stoppard, ia an acknowledged
comedy masterpiece. It's the ultimate spoof of the Agatha Christie 'whodunnit'
- and a whole lot more besides!
But - to start our expansion into different
styles of production at the Barn - is Bob Larbey's A Month of Sundays.
Tonight's play is a gem of subtle comedy, rising above the sadness and
disappointments of life. Larbey, the writer of TV's The Good
Life, has created a heart-warming look at the challenges of growing
old - and the way that humour and humanity can rise above the problem.
This production also marks the directing debut
of Jan King at the Barn. She is one of six Wick members in 2001 who
will be presenting their first production for the Company. This is a
sure sign of the 'strength in depth' that Wick Theatre Company can now
draw on. We wish Jan and her cast and crew all the very best for a
successful production - and for the first demonstration of an additional
style of theatre now on offer at the Barn!
Fraser - Cooper
Hemmings - Aylott
Richards - Wilson
Wiggins - Julia
Isaac - Peter
Richards - Mrs. Baker
Prompt - Christine Fearns
and Sound Design - Mike Medway
- Margaret Davy, Sue Whittaker
- Margaret Pierce
- Rosemary Bouchy, Rosemary Brown, Frances Thorne
Team - Brian Box, Dave Collis, Dave Comber, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis
of House - Valerie Bray and members of the Wick Team
Office - Margaret Murrell and the Barn Team
June 21 issue - page 20
" Gather round for Wick's
first play in the round "
WICK Theatre Company's first presentation "in
the round" at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, is A Month of Sundays by
A delightful cocktail
of humour and pathos, the play revolves around the droll and independent
Cooper [Derek Fraser] and his friend Aylott [Hugh Hemmings].
Together in their rest home, they keep ageing at bay with flippant
determination, wit and humour. Cooper's daughter Julia [Claire
Wiggins] and her husband Peter [Kevin Isaac] dutifully drive over to see
him once a month, but with nothing left in common between them, it is a
visit dreaded by all concerned. But Cooper does get on rather well
with the warm-hearted Nurse Wilson [Jane Richards] and the cleaning lady
Mrs Baker [Heather Richards].
The director is Jan
King and performances at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre, are
from Thursday to Saturday at 7.45pm. Tickets are £5 and are
available from the box office on 01273 597094.
July 5 issue - page 20 - Frank Horsley
" A round of applause
for a real gem "
OH my Compton and Edrich of long ago and the other
eight men good and true who helped make up Middlesex's county
championship-winning side of 1947 - but who was the eleventh man?
There lay the rub in Wick Theatre Company's poignant production of A
Month of Sundays at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, last week.
Rest home residents Cooper and Aylott manage daily
to name only 10 members of the Lord's super team of '47. Yet the
all-in wrestling required to try to pluck the 11th name from the birdlimes
brains is one of the few things that keeps them going in their struggle
against mental and physical decay.
Jan King's 'in the round' adaptation of Bob
Larbey's comedy, with the front row of the audience within touching
distance of the actors, brought the piece beautifully to life. Humour
and pathos touched us in equal measure. Derek Fraser [Cooper] and Hugh
Hemmings [Aylott] complemented each other perfectly. The former gave a
brilliant reading of a crotchety, overwrought mind [what Ernest Hemingway
called an 'in-growing brain'] trapped within a creaking, soon-to-be leaking
incontinent body. The latter, in contrast, looked as dapper and as
spry as they come, seemingly togged out for a visit to Henley Regatta, but
the tragic, irreversible decline into senility was just around the corner.
Jane Richards, as Cooper's favourite nurse, Wilson, struck just the right
balance between professional self-possession and a deeply humane
understanding of the old man's need to flirt outrageously with her.
here were two people who really did respect, if not love, each other.
Anyone who has had to honour a regular familial
visiting arrangement that is about as pleasurable as sitting in a bath of
cold porridge will have recognised the looks on the faces of Claire Wiggins
and Kevin Isaacs. They got the resigned martyrdom bit off to a tee as
Copper's daughter Julia and son-in-law Peter, whose monthly Sunday chore it
was to visit him, a visit he no more wanted t receive than they wanted to
make. And there was the nice touch of the
Miriam Karlins or maybe Dot Cotton about
Heather Richards' all-singing all-dancing cleaning lady Mrs baker.
If you missed this gem, there's another chance
to see Wick in the round when they perform comedy double bill The Real
Inspector Hound [by Tom Stoppard] and Black and Silver [Michael Frayn] at
the Barn from August 9 to 11.
Anorak's corner: The 11th man whom
Cooper and Aylott could not remember was none other than the Middlesex
skipper himself, R. W. V. Robins. What memory they did have didn't
serve them quite right, because J. G. Dawes never played for the '47 side.
Alec Thompson did. Finally, a 1947 Wisden was produced on stage
which would have been no good for looking up the Middlesex team of that
summer. A 1948 edition would have done the trick. Spot the
Once again Wick Theatre Company has turned up
trumps with a good feeling for A Month of Sundays, set in a
retirement home. In her first production, Jan King has shown
sensitivity for the sentiments of old age expressed, choosing an effectively
simple set in the round for Bob Larbey's slightly outdated play. This
could have been remedied by allowing Nurse Wilson to be addressed by her
Cooper [Derek Fraser] as the
lame officer carried the action impeccably. His stalwart success in
maintaining the limp deserves special praise. Aylott [Hugh Hemmings]
was a worthy foil with appropriate degage look as required. Wilson
[Jane Richards] the adored about-to-be-wed nurse was a modest but attractive
charmer able to excite, yet uncompromisingly comfort cooper, the lonely
widower. Nor did he lose opportunity to banter with the cheeky cleaner
[Heather Richards] who convincingly elicited the maximum humour from her
small rôle. The visiting daughter and husband [Kevin Isaacs and Claire
Wiggins] had exactly the right touch as they dutifully carried out their
regular monthly chore.
Breaking new ground in the history of theatre will
always, I suppose, be a challenge to enable the possibility, certainly in
the history of this company, of moving into uncharted territory. The
new Studio experiment has enabled Wick to do precisely this. That the
opening night, indeed the night under review by yours truly, was very well
attended [particularly for a Thursday], was one positive factor that nobody
Using the Barn as a theatre 'in the round',
which meant discarding the main stage altogether and using only five rows of
the raked seating plus two or three rows of seats with rostra to make up
three sides, could be seen as much more involving for the audience.
Despite the pillars, practically no one person's view was seriously
obscured. The arrangement maximised the use of the floor for the
actors. I was concerned that the main 'stage' area was accessible to
people generally other than the actors, in that it was being walked on
quite freely during the interval and before the performance.
Fortunately no disruption to the set resulted.
The audience's attention was focussed towards
the east-facing wall of the Barn, so this became the main backdrop.
Screens were used for this purpose, which was quite telling in view of the
setting of a room in a nursing home. The arrangement also enabled use
of two exits left and right. Lighting was clear and simply arranged.
The sound was crystal clear. So far, so good.
So what of the actual play, and the performance
generally? The music was well chosen. Songs such as My Way
and other Sinatra classics, which pointed back to past memories, were
The play itself centred on one person's
reflections on his past life, good and bad, cocooned as he was in his room,
and how this is portrayed in the ensuing relationships that unfolded.
Derek Fraser's performance as Cooper was a tour de force, being on stage
more or less the whole time, maintaining throughout a limping gait when
required. He brought the script, so crisply written, to life regarding
the character's ongoing use of sarcasm and regret, and unconscious
references to symptoms concerning ageing, death and dying. The regret
particularly came out in the fact that he missed his wife, long since dead,
and his grandson. Jane Richards as Nurse Wilson, came across as the
caring, tolerant and sometimes confiding professional, aware of Cooper's
foibles and weaknesses, even playing on them sometimes. Her
performance over the death of the Colonel was true and full of pathos.
Heather Richards as Mrs Baker, came across well
as the knowing housekeeper, gently yet firmly able to chide Cooper for his
sarcastic, idiotic ways, yet having an undercurrent of concern for him.
Her off-key singing, when she had the stage to herself, was delightful!
Hugh Hemmings as Aylott, Cooper's cricketing and chess-playing companion,
showed him to be Cooper's only real ally in relation to those of his
generation. Yet not even he was able to escape a] Cooper's biting
sarcasm and b] the dreadful realisation, despite his efforts to the
contrary, that he too was ageing more than he wanted to realise.
Nowhere was this more dramatic than in the final scene over the winegums,
and how this pointed to his fast-fading memory. The performance here
Claire Wiggins and Kevin Isaacs, as Julia and
Peter [Cooper's son-in-law], played well the part o the dutiful couple,
Julia being particularly infuriated by her father's outbursts, how this
rebounded on Peter, as well as her father's lack of understanding as to why
he could not see his grandson. Thus was particularly poignant during
the emotional outburst after Peter left the room to get Cooper's gift of a
1947 copy of Wisden. The relationship between Cooper and Peter
portrayed a son-in-law ready to make allowances, yet the brunt of it being
borne between him and Julia.
All actors made continuous good use of whole
stage area, a tribute to Jan King's direction. Being so close up to the
actors was, in itself, a real test of each person's knowledge and use of
technique to carry the play through. Here was acting under the closest
scrutiny, and it worked. Body language, timing, overlap and pauses
were crucial to the play's success. the use of mime was convincing and
two prompts that were given did not detract from the performance to any
significant degree. The actors acknowledged each section of the
audience during curtain call, which was entirely appropriate.
All in all , judging by my own assessment of
the performance and that of the audience's reaction throughout, this was an
event not to be missed. It was strong enough to continually hold one's
attention, a very positive advertisement for future Studio productions, and
one which I do believe would answer the sternest of critics over this type
I commend it to the House.
by Tom Stoppard
Black & Silver
by Michael Frayn
Directed by Peter
10, 11 2001
"Welcome to Studio theatre
from the Wick Theatre Company in Southwick's historic Barn Hall!"
[ran a piece in the programme]
"This production is
the second in an exciting new development for Wick. We are now
expanding our traditional season of four productions, up to six a year -
or more. And at least two of those will now be performed in a
'studio' style. Sometimes this will man that plays will be presented
'in the round', with the audience sitting around the acting area, in the
main body of the Barn. Sometimes it may be presented in the even
more intimate area of the big new stage. In any event, the maximum
audience will be no more than 100 people - and all the action will be very
direct and 'close-up'!
Tonight it is a double bill - by two of the masters of modern British
comedy. Black and Silver by Michael Frayn is a
brilliant comic miniature, by the playwright of Noises Off. It's
a nightmare farce, as a young couple revisit the scene of their happy
honeymoon hotel - but this time with the handicap of having to share their
room with their own screaming baby. The Real Inspector Hound,
by Tom Stoppard, is an acknowledged comedy masterpiece. It's the
ultimate spoof on the Agatha Christie 'whodunnit' - and a whole lot more
This production marks the directing debut of both Peter Thompson and Simon
Druce. They are two of the six Wick members in 2001preenting their
first productions for the Company. This is a sure sign o the 'strength
in depth' that Wick Theatre company can now draw upon. We wish Simon
and Peter and their stage and backstage crew, all the very best for a
successful production and for a demonstration of an extra style of theatre
now on offer at the Barn."
Kenward - Peter
Starns - Natalie
Garland - Moon
Ryder - Birdboot
Manville - Mrs. Drudge
Kenward - Simon
Gregory - Felicity
Edden - Cynthia
Thompson - Magnus
Hemmings - Inspector Hound
Fraser - Radio Announcer / Body
Manager - Marc Lewis
- Judith Berrill
- Mike Medway
- Simon Snelling
- Margaret Davy, Sue Whittaker
- Margaret Pierce
- Rosemary Bouchy, Rosemary Brown, Frances Thorne
Team - Brian Box, Dave Collis, David Comber, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis
of House - Valerie Bray and members and friends of the Company
Office - Margaret Murrell and Barn Team.
Fisheries and Tackle of Southwick Square for the loan of Inspector Hound's
August 2 issue - page 20
" Comedies are twice as nice "
IT'S a double helping of comedy when Wick
Theatre Company presents its next production "in the round" at the Barn
Theatre this month.
The double comedy bill features two directors
making their debuts with the Wick.
First comes Black
and Silver by Michael Frayn, who also wrote the comical play
A young couple, played
by Hazel Starns and Adrian Kenward, revisit their honeymoon hotel in Venice.
There's moonlight on the water, romance in the air and a baby sleeping in
the bathroom. Only he doesn't sleep for long. Efforts by mum and
dad to prevent him from disturbing a hotel full of newly weds will strike a
chord with all parents. It is directed by Peter Thompson.
The Real Inspector
Hound by Tom Stoppard completes the bill.
His comedy is a satire
on Agatha Christie's thriller The Mousetrap. The heroes of this
murder mystery with a difference are two theatre critics, Birdboot and Moon,
played by Bob Ryder and John Garland. They are there to review this
new play. Events soon take a bizarre turn and the hapless scribes are
drawn into the action.
Director is Simon
Performances at the
Barn Theatre, Southwick, run from Thursday, August 9 to 11, at 7.45pm.
Tickets cost £5. Box Office:  597094.
August 16 issue - page 20 - Jamie Hailstone
" Comic capers in a
large helping of comedy from popular theatre company "
" Plenty of laughs in
Wick's double bill "
THE Wick Theatre Company's double bill at the Barn
Theatre last week pulled no punches when it came to delivering a double
whammy of laughs.
Sitting 'in the round',
the audience was treated to not one, but two directors making their debut.
The evening began with Black and Silver,
by Michael Frayn, and directed by Peter Thompson, about a young couple
returning to the scene of their honeymoon in Venice. Except this time
they have brought their baby too! Every parent in the theatre could
sympathise as the sleep deprived Peter [Adrian Kenward] and Natalie [Hazel
Starns] struggled to remember what the used to argue about before their baby
kept them awake. There were plenty of knowing laughs from the audience
during this short and sweet performance.
Adrian Kenward was also in the second play,
The Real Inspector Hound, by Tom Stoppard [directed by Simon Druce].
While the first play was all about the comedy of everyday life, the second
play had a much more post-modern approach. It started with two theatre
critics Moon [John Garland] and Birdboot [ Bob Ryder] sitting down to review
another production. And it's not everyday you get to review a play
about critics reviewing a play! Very strange.
Both hacks have other things on their mind than
the plot of the murder mystery that is unfolding in front of them, but
little by little, they are drawn into [the] drama, literally! The
mystery was a perfect homage to the likes of Agatha Christie, with humble
servant Mrs drudge [Theresa Manville] on hand to explain the plot.
There was the bounder Simon [Adrian Kenward], the flighty Felicity [Candice
Gregory], the glamorous widow Cynthia [Zoë Edden], the gruff Magnus [Peter
Thompson, who directed the first play] and Hound [Hugh Hemmings].
Special mention must also go to 'the body' [Derek Fraser] for lying on the
stage for the duration.
The cast brilliantly brought every cliché to
life, with hilarious consequences. Events soon started to take a
bizarre turn, but the cast kept the audience laughing at every step.
Peter Thompson and Simon Druce should be
justifiably proud of their directorial debuts. Let's hope Southwick
does not have to wait too long before they return.
In-House review by Claire Wiggins
There was no sign of first night nerves as Hazel
Starns and Adrian Kenward snuggled down into bed, looking as if they had
sunk into an exhausted sleep. This was the opening scene from Black
and Silver by Michael Frayn, the first play in the Wick's comedy double
bill. Director Peter Thompson should be proud of his debut. He
extracted beautiful performances from Hazel and Adrian. They were so
convincingly as the sleep deprived couple trying to enjoy a second
honeymoon, that if i didn't know otherwise, I would have said they were
playing this from experience. They worked well together to draw all
the humour out of Michael Frayn's cleverly written dialogue, whilst
achieving subtle changes in mood from sleepy, to angry, through to sexy and
affectionate. Mike Medway's use of subdued lighting served to enhance
these moods. Simon Snelling did an excellent job of providing
realistic baby cries as required. The timing of the sound effects with
the actors' responses added a further sense of realism to this amusing, but
rather moving, short play.
Inspector Hound, by Tom Stoppard, the second play of the evening, was in
direct contrast to the gentle humour of the first. This spoof on the
Agatha Christie 'Whodunit' had a cast of 'larger than life' characters, who
worked well together to give a highly accomplished performance.
Director Simon Druce made full use of the studio space. I particularly
liked the way the set was used to make it look as if the people behind Moon
and Birdboot were part of the stage audience. His direction drew out
the humour of the spoof, without allowing it to descend into the ridiculous.
John Garland and Bob Ryder created believable
characters, gradually becoming involved in the show they had gone to review.
They straddled the two elements of the play effectively by maintaining their
characters, even when they were simply watching the action. Adrian
Kenward gave an energetic performance as the cad Simon, which required a
considerable change from his character in the earlier show. Candice
Gregory looked lovely as the rejected Felicity. She spoke clearly,
elegantly and emotionally as her character required. Scenes between
Felicity and Cynthia, played by Zoë Edden, worked particularly well.
Both maintained their pitch and tone of expression throughout the play,
giving powerful and yet humorous performances. More humour was added
by the witty characterisation of Magnus, played by Peter Thompson. His
control of the wheelchair was commendable. Hugh Hemmings as the
confused Inspector Hound, played the rôle with warmth and confidence.
The most understated performance of the
evening, and yet the one which for me 'stole the show' was Theresa Manville
as Mrs Drudge. while she remained in keeping with the style of the
show, she added a genuine note which made the spoof story appear even more
absurd. Her activities on stage when the focus was on the 'audience'
was just right. She maintained her character and looked busy, without
distracting from the actors who were speaking.
Finally comes the 'corpse'. It cannot be
easy to play dead on demand and Derek Fraser deserves credit for his ability to lie still, apparently without breathing, throughout the
Cast and backstage teams worked together well
to provide two slick, enjoyable productions. It is good to know that
there are now another two directors that the Wick can confidently add to its
August 16 issue - page 6 -
letter from A R Clevett, Rowan Close,
" Double Bill was totally
I WRITE to congratulate the Wick Theatre Company
on their recent double bill production of Michael Frayn's Black and Silver
and Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound.
The first short play showed the perils of a
return to a honeymoon hotel with a new baby in tow, and the second; a 'who
dun it' send up, and after seeing the play I am still not sure who did it.
The word perfect case made for a wonderful
evening's entertainment, in a faultless production.
by Alan Bennett
October 3, 4, 5, 6 2001
Directed by Bob
BR wrote: " When I first directed a
production for Wick Theatre Company, exactly ten years ago, the play was Habeas
Corpus, by a certain Alan Bennett. It's a generous play [much
more so than Joe Orton material which it echoes] and is packed with
music-hall gags and earthy humour of the seaside postcard. At its
heart is a sharp feeling of human frailty. In life there is death,
it seems to say, but laughter serves to hold our fears at bay. The
fact that two of the play's main comic characters are doctors, out of
their depth in the tide of mortality, ties all this together rather
So here we are, at the Barn, ten years later, with a Bennett play that on
the face of it is totally different, but in essence is very similar - the
generosity, the humour, the keen sense of mortality and the ways the
resourceful human spirit copes with it. The reappearance of 'comedy
doctors' is no mere coincidence either!
The challenges of producing George would make most theatre
companies turn tail. Its scale is impossible for any unsubsidised
professional group, because of the economics. Amateur groups don't
have to pay wages, but they still need to have real strength in depth, in
their acting resources and their technical teams. It is a tribute to
Wick Theatre Company that they have built up their membership, the skills
and the sheer ambition to take on challenges of this type.
A particular question in the staging of George is how to present
almost 40 scenes, some them very short, as smoothly as possible. In
fact, the jumps time and place, and the number of them, are not
unlike the plays of Shakespeare. Our approach has therefore been to
use the same free-flowing style that we have developed for
Shakespeare productions at the Barn - where action unfolds quickly on a
single set, and where no fittings, furniture or props appear unless they
are directly used in the action.
I hope you enjoy this production and the efforts of all those involved in
making it happen. A special welcome is due to Simon Birks, Malcolm
Wood, Sid Jones, Eric Seymour and David Pierce, for whom this is their
first production for Wick."
David Creedon - George lll
Braddock - Queen Charlotte
- Prince of Wales
Robinson - Fitzroy
Berrill - Papandiek
Robinson - Lady Pembroke
Brownings - Pitt
|Ray Hopper -
|Sid Jones -
Hemmings - Baker
Bickers - Warren
Goodger - Willis
Wiggins - Margaret Nicholson
Pierce, Eric Seymour, Stuart Isaac - Dr Willis's assistants
Wiggins - Dr MacAlpine
Manager - Dave Comber, Marc Lewis
|ASM - Jean Porter
- David Comber, Dave Collis, Brian Box, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis
Set Painting - Sheila Neesham, Susanna Chaplin
Sue Whittaker, Margaret Davy
Sheila Neesham, Judith Berrill
Publicity - Rosemary Bouchy, Rosemary Brown and Team
programme design - Judith Berrill
|Box Office -
Barn Box Office Team
House Co-ordinator - Valerie Bray
Porter for design
Shakespeare Company for additional costumes
National Theatre for additional props
September 27 issue - page 5
" You'd be raving mad to miss
this show! "
ALAN Bennett's The
Madness Of George lll is the latest production of the Wick Theatre
Company. The play is Wick Theatre Company's entry for the Brighton and
Hove Arts Council's 2001 Drama Festival. The Madness of the George lll
[sic] was inspired by historic events and later turned into a film starring
Sir Nigel Hawthorne. King George was an eccentric character at the
best of times, but when he suddenly develops a mystery illness, everyone
assumes he has gone insane.
The Prince of Wales and
his political friends leave the poor monarch to the mercies of various
doctors, whose treatment do little to help the situation. But King
George does make a recovery in time to restore some order at his court.
With director Bob Ryder
in charge, and a cast of experienced Barn regulars and talented newcomers,
this promises to be one production that you'd be mad to miss. King
George will be played by David Creedon, Queen Charlotte by Joan Braddock,
Lady Pembroke by Diane Robinson, the Prince of Wales by John Garland, Prime
Minister Pitt by Tony Brownings and Lord Chancellor Thurlow by Ray Hopper.
The Opposition MPs include John Barham as Fox and Simon Druce as Sheridan.
The bungling medics feature Hugh Hemmings as Dr Baker and David Goodger as
The Madness Of George
lll will be performed at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre,
from October 3 to 6, at 7.45pm. Tickets cost £5 and £6 from the box
office on 01273 597094. Special prices are available for schools and
October 11 issue - page 22 - Frank Horsley
" Love a duck! Madness
reigned supreme at Barn "
THE Sun, which last week reported the Queen had a
rubber duck in her bath, would doubtless have made hay in the days of George
lll. Those crazy royals and their wacky antics will always make
brilliant copy - and even better play scripts, as proved by Alan Bennett's
The Madness of George lll.
Theatre Company could hardly have chosen more shrewdly in entering this
piece in Brighton and Hove Arts Council's 2001 drama festival. And I
doubt if few groups could have improved on the performance they gave, under
Bob Ryder's direction, at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, last Wednesday.
Barring one or two disregardable opening-night hitches, a large cast held us
rapt for well over two hours and through almost 40 scene against a
satisfying spartan set.
For those familiar with the necessarily
abridged film version starring Nigel Hawthorne, the play was both an ear and
eye-opener in terms of the scale of the lead rôle, magnificently filled by
David Creedon. Best, barely adequate tribute I can pay to his tragi-comic
fall into dementia is that he often looked like a particularly mad-looking
chemistry teacher I used to have. Joan Braddock stamped her own feisty
mark on the Helen Mirren film part of Queen Charlotte, AKA "Mrs King", and
John Garland was wonderfully indolent and louche as the Prince of Wales, who
hoped to rise to power through his father's indisposition.
The struggle between the politicians, trying
either to hang on like grim death or snatch the ascendancy during the king's
descent into blathering incapability, was strongly depicted. Rivals
Tony Brownings [Pitt] and John Barham [Fox] both gave measured portrayals
while Ray Hopper was suitably oleaginous as the Lord Chancellor Thurlow.
Newcomer Sid Jones [Dundas] and Simon Druce [Sheridan] lent sound support.
Just as compelling were the various modi
operandi and professional cluck-clucking of the doctors competing to restore
George to health. Again, the interaction of David Goodger [Willis],
Hugh Hemmings [Baker], David Bickers [Warren] and Malcolm Wood [Pepys] was
almost a play within a play. No one had to work harder than George's
long suffering attendants and this was reflected in the steadfastness of
John Robinson [Fitzroy], Simon Birks [Granville], Kevin Isaacs [Braun] and
Judith Berrill [Papandiek]. Diane Robinson, as Lady Pembroke, also
maintained stately composure while all around her was falling apart.
Completing what should be a festival award-winning cast were Joan Bearman,
Claire Wiggins, Ralph Dawes and Stuart Isaac and other newcomers Eric
Seymour and David Pierce.
I read this play about four weeks before seeing
the Wick's performance and could not see how it could be presented with any
truth or honesty on the Barn stage. Could I believe in a theatrical
representation of King George and his court? The scenes of madness
would seem to be alienating to an audience, disturbing and uncomfortable.
I saw the play tonight and was enthralled. George was real, all right,
and his madness sad and demanding of understanding.
The play is well crafted and written, but the
vision and ability to make this meaningful to an audience belongs solely to
the director. The play is about madness, specifically a King's and the
politicians, doctors and family response to the situation. It works on
many levels. How did director Bob Ryder make the play accessible to an
Firstly there was a well designed and built
set. The blocks convinced me they were made of stone, and the
different levels and arches permitted lighting to add perspective and made
creditable bedroom scenes - one of the few times I have been convinced that
the protagonists would have actually slept there [derisive laughter from
David and Joan, no doubt, who had to act in it.] The lighting and
sound enhanced the action and was especially effected in the Parliamentary
scenes. The costumes were superb, totally convincing in their detail.
Having been given such a good start, one hopes
the cast can live up to it! The word 'ensemble' comes to mind, in
which every actor understands the contributions they are making to the play,
and does that, no more, no less. This cast did that. It seems
churlish to pick out performances, but a review is expected to do this and
if you are not mentioned rest assured you did it well.
I have to mention David Creedon. His
madness is not attractive, but we sympathise because we knew the real
George. Goodness me, he even looked like George lll. his
appearance in the last scene was tear-jerking - so beautifully dressed and
so like the king everyone expected and wanted. And what about Lady
Pembroke? A cobra waiting for the right opportunity to strike - it was
chilling. And what about Thurlow? we see them today - nice
people, but they need to be on the right side. I could go on -Pitt,
whose life is politics, Fitzroy who knows what's what. I liked John
Garland's portrayal of the Prince, another actor who looked disturbingly
like the character. I really need to rave about everyone, but it would
take too much room. I can only say, well done to everyone.
The pace and change of mood, the seamless way
in which a complex story was told, relies very much on the ensemble playing
mentioned earlier. I realise now that ensemble does not only refer to
the cast, but to the set designer, workshop team, lighting team, wardrobe
team, props and stage mangers, and so on. Such production is a
fusion of all these elements, resulting in a satisfying and enjoyable
A production of which Wick can be proud.
Book & Lyrics by
December 28, 29 [+mat] 2001
January 3, 4, 5 [+mat] 2002
R H-R wrote:
"Welcome to the Wick's Christmas production of Honk!. This wonderful
musical, telling the story of the Ugly Duckling, was written in 1993 and
hatched at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury under the title The Ugly
Duckling or the Aesthetically Challenged Farmyard Fowl. A
revised version appeared in 1997 at Alan Ayckbourn's Steven Joseph Theatre
in Scarborough. This was directed by Julia Mackensie [Guys & Dolls,
Fresh Fields] and was now called Honk! Its quality was
recognised when it won 'Best New Musical' at the 2000 Olivier Awards and
was revived at the National Theatre for a sell out season. Early
this year the National embarked on a tour with Tracey Bennett [Coronation
Street] and Ida and Norman Pace [Hale & Pace] as Drake.
Our production ids the first time a full-scale version
of Honk! has been seen in
Sussex. It is perhaps the biggest and certainly the most technically
and musically challenging show Wick has ever tackled. Thank you for
coming to see Honk! and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank
everyone who has contributed to this huge team effort.
This is the
ultimate family show - starring a mother and daughter, an uncle and niece
and two unhatched ducklings! Enjoy"
|Pete Winstone - Ugly
|Jo Hopper - Ida
|Adrian Kenward - Cat
|Dan Newman - Drake, Barnacles, Bruv Swan
|Derek Fraser - Turkey. Greylag, Dad Swan,
|Hazel Starns - Maureen, Queenie, Snowy, Penny
|Jane Richards - Henrietta, Lowbutt, Dot, Mute
|Jan King - Grace, Pinkfoot, Old Woman
|Tony Muzzall - Bullfrog
|Joe Mott - Swotty Duckling, Boy
Infield - Stroppy Duckling, Girl
|Olivia Robinson - Bossy Duckling
|Tom Cullen - Cocky Duckling
|Charlotte Kenward - Tomboy Duckling
|Imogen Chalk - Tiny Duckling
Band - Katalin Szeless [piano], Bob Ryder [guitar], Hugh Hemmings
[keyboards], Jonathan Dawes [drums]
Director - Katalin Szeless
- Cherry Briggs, Adrian Kenward, Tony Muzzall, Rols Ham-Roche
choreographer - Wendy Whatling
National Theatre Costume Hire, Harveys of Hove, Adrian Kenward [Agnews],
- Rosemary Bouchy
- Mike Medway
- Simon Snelling
Managers - Marc Lewis, David Comber
- Margaret Davy, Sue Whittaker, Judith Berrill, Rols Ham-Riche
- Rols Ham-Riche
building, painting, design -
Marc Lewis, David Comber, Dave Collis, Mark Flower, Mike Davy, Brian Box,
Sheila Neesham, Cherry Briggs
- Lucien Bouchy
display - Rosemary Brown
of House Co-ordinator - Valerie Bray
December 20 2001 issue - page 4
" There once was an Ugly ducking .... in
Cooking up a real surprise "
WICK Theatre Company's
choice for Christmas is endearingly different - a musical with the magical
touch based on the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson.
Honk! won the Olivier "Best New Musical" award in 2000 and was performed
in the West End to rave reviews.
This tale of farmyard folk promises to be a
post-Christmas treat for the family. It is directed by Rols-Ham Riche,
who has gathered a cast of Wick's finest, some appearing in several guises,
plus a clutch of talented kinds. [sic] Musical direction is in the
hand of Kati Szeless.
What a furore in the farmyard when Ugly emerges
from his enormous egg! He's ridiculed by his brothers and sister and
other farmyard inhabitants. No one loves poor Ugly - except his mum
and the wicket cat, who fancies duckling for dinner. Ugly escapes,
only to get lost. He then meets up with some colourful characters on
his wanderings in the cold, winter. But will the duckling hero win
The cast includes Peter Winstone as Ugly, Jo
Hopper as his mum and Adrian Kenward, the cat. Other actors, most of
them well known faces at the Barn, are Derek Fraser, Jane Richards, Hazel
Starns, Jan King, Dan Newman and Anthony Muzzall. Playing the family
of ducklings are Joe Mott, Tom Cullen, Olivia Robinson, Charlotte Kenward,
Ellie Infield and Imogen Chalk.
Honk will be performed at the Barn
Theatre, Southwick Community Centre, Southwick, on December 28 and 29,
January 3, 4 and 5, at 7.45pm. There are 2.30 pm matinees on December
29 and January 5. For more information, telephone the box office:
Jan 3 2002 issue - page 11 - Michelle Nevell
" Don't miss ugly night out! "
Fed up with pantomimes full of
anonymous Australian actors and cartoon characters? Then you should
have been among the audience at Wick Theatre Company's production of Honk!
A musical re-working of the classic Ugly Duckling story and this production
was the first full-scale version to be put on in Sussex. With a
terrific ensemble cast, plenty of songs, a dastardly villain and the worst
marmalade joke ever, it was the perfect family evening out at the Barn
Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick.
The story starts with Ida [Jo
Hopper], a proud mother, waiting for all her eggs to hatch. One of the
eggs is a little bit bigger than the others, and, when it finally hatches,
out comes Ugly [Peter Winstone]. Poor old Ugly is the duck who cannot
quack: instead, he just says Honk! And all his brother and sisters
don't like him either. What makes matters worse is that his only
friend appears to be the evil cat [Adrian Kenward] who would like to have
him for lunch!
All of the cast delivered
first-rate performances, whether singing as a group or individually.
The children will have loved some of the characters, particularly the
Bullfrog [Tony Muzzall] and the scenes acted out between Ugly and the Cat.
Some highly impressive feline tap dancing was also worth watching out for.
Wick Theatre Company and
producer Rols Ham-Riche should be congratulated for delivering another
first-class production - definitely a swan, not a load of old quackers!
A Poultry Tale of folks down on the farm -
ducks, farmyard fowl, cats and other country creatures populated a fairy
tale land to delight and entertain an audience. The tale of the Ugly
Duckling can come as a surprise to people who really only know it from the
song. This play was a combination of Hans Christian Andersen [why no
credits to him I wonder?] and Anthony Drewe bringing to life the lesser
known details plus some imaginative additions.
The baby ducklings stole the show. I have
rarely seen such well disciplined and happy looking children on stage!
They all knew their words and were unfailingly cheerful. I should have
hated to have them as siblings! Imogen's yawns just added to the
delight! Well done all concerned.
Ugly [Peter Winstone] carried the central
rôle with charm and innocent enjoyment. His smile never failed him,
even as he was being loaded into the Aga to be the cat's dinner - did he
really not know his fate?!! Adrian as the Cat was pure evil and
insinuation. I would have liked to see lots more tap dancing though!
Tony Muzzall's Bullfrog was a gem; a lovely performance, thank you Tony.
Jo Hopper's Ida and Dan Newman's Drake also held their rôles well as the
parents of such an unusual brood. Hazel Starns was brilliant in all her
rôles, Queenie especially.
The whole cast was required to be very
versatile and active throughout the show. Quick changes of both
costume and character were demanding and successfully achieved by all the
small company. I would have thought that a larger company could have been
used just as effectively; to see the same face in different rôles can add to
the audience's confusion.
There was indeed some confusion to the story
line. The cast all knew who they were, but if the audience is unsure
it can hinder their full appreciation of the piece! What kind of fowl,
for instance, is dressed in Tartan and speaks with a Scottish accent?
What kind of duck is green? Or was she a moorhen? This was,
unfortunately, often the result of poor diction or projection in the
singing. The mikes were not ideally placed for all the singers; I
don't like them much, but I did wonder if a few radio mikes might have made
the difference. I also felt that the orchestra's position, right
across the front of the stage, served to drown out some of the voices.
A good attempt was, nonetheless, made at a very ambitious score.
The costuming was interesting, colourful and
imaginative. But, in the interest of ensuring that the audience
understands the plot line, I felt there was something lacking in the
depiction of animals as human. I would have liked the cat, for
instance, to have had a tail, or ears, just to clarify his character.
[My elderly companion did not realise he was a cat.]
The set was delightfully decorated with
bulrushes and irises, and the kitchen set was straight out of pantomime!
Other notable points of the production were the magnificent snow scene,
Adrian and Hazel's 'cat duet', the flying routine - I just loved the air
stewardess. The row of eggs, with the giant one in the middle and the
image of Derek as a frog will remain for quite a while. The music was
rousing and enjoyable, with the usual romance and pathos thrown in.
Well done to all the cast, and the production team for a good show.
This was a very enjoyable Christmas
entertainment, well worth the visit. It was a pity that the audiences
did not reflect the quality of the performances.
Next Season 2002