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Dandy Dick

Real Inspector Hound & Silver and Black

George 111



by Joe Orton

March  7, 8, 9, 10  2001

directed by Hannah Collis  

Joe Orton's reputation for dramatic writing has rested mainly on just three full-length plays: Entertaining Mr. Sloane [1964], Loot [1066], 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.

Hugh Hemmings - McLeavy
Jo Hopper - Fay
Ben de Silva - Hal
Lee Stevens - Dennis
David Goodger - Truscott
David Bickers - Meadows
Production Team
Stage Manager - David Collis
ASM - Theresa Manville
Lighting - Mike Medway
Sound - Simon Snelling
Set building - David Comber, Brian Box, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis, David Collis
Painting - Frances Thorne, Sheila Neesham
Properties - Margaret Davy, Sue Whittaker
Wardrobe - Judith Berrill
Press & Publicity - Rosemary Bouchy, Frances Thorne, Rosemary Brown
Programme - Bob Ryder
Box Office - Margaret Murrell & the Barn Team
Front of House Managers - David Pierce, Antony Muzzall, Lucien Bouchy, Peter Harrison

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.

In-House review by Rols Ham-Riche

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.

David 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.

Dandy Dick

by Arthur Wing Pinero

May  23, 24, 25, 26  2001

directed by  Olive Smith

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 Toole's Theatre.

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!

Hugh Hemmings - The Very Reverend Augustin Jedd, DD
Judith Berrill - Salome [his daughter]
Katalin Szeless - Sheba [his daughter]
Margaret Ockenden - Georgiana Tidman [his sister] 
Peter Thompson - Blore [Butler at the Deanery]
David Goodger - Sir Tristram Mardon, Bart. 
Ralph Dawes - 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]
Diane Robinson - Hannah Topping [previously Cook at the Deanery]
Production Team
Stage Manager - Marc Lewis
Assistant to the Director - Betty Dawes
Lighting - Mike Medway
Sound - Simon Snelling
Set building - David Comber, Dave Collis, Brian Box, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis, Mark Flower
Set painting - Sheila Neesham, Frances Thorne
Properties - Sue Whittaker, Margaret Davy
Wardrobe Team - Sheila Neesham, Margaret Pierce, Cherry Briggs, Adrian Kenward
Press & Publicity - Rosemary Bouchy, Frances Thorne, Rosemary Brown, Judith Berrill
Box Office - Margaret Murrell and the Barn Team
Front of House Co-ordinator - Valerie Bray
Front of House Managers - Lucien Bouchy, Frank Child, Peter Harrison, Antony Muzzall
Richard Porter for production design
Music is from Overture Di Ballo by Sir Arthur Sullivan, with warmest thanks to Alan Skull
Additional costumes from Harveys of Hove

May 10 issue - page 16 - publicity - Michelle Nevell

" 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 Southwick.

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.

Gordon Bull

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 one-liner groom.

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 Richards

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 the groom.

Congratulations again to everyone involved on an enjoyable and successful production.

A Month of Sundays

 by Bob Larbey

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!

Derek Fraser - Cooper
Hugh Hemmings - Aylott
Jane Richards - Wilson
Claire Wiggins - Julia
Kevin Isaac - Peter
Heather Richards - Mrs. Baker
Production Team
Prompt - Christine Fearns
Lighting and Sound Design - Mike Medway
Properties - Margaret Davy, Sue Whittaker
Costume - Margaret Pierce
Publicity - Rosemary Bouchy, Rosemary Brown, Frances Thorne
Workshop Team - Brian Box, Dave Collis, Dave Comber, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis
Front of House - Valerie Bray and members of the Wick Team
Box 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 Bob Larbey.

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 trainspotter!

Gordon Bull

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 first name.

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.

Great entertainment.

In-House review by Peter Thompson

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 could dispute.  

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 especially poignant.

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 was unrelenting.

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 of venture. 

I commend it to the House. 

The Real Inspector Hound

by Tom Stoppard

Directed by Simon Druce

Black & Silver

by Michael Frayn

Directed by Peter Thompson

August  9, 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 besides!

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."  

Black and Silver

Adrian Kenward - Peter
Hazel Starns - Natalie

The Real Inspector Hound

John Garland - Moon 
Bob Ryder - Birdboot
Theresa Manville - Mrs. Drudge  
Adrian Kenward - Simon
Candice Gregory - Felicity
Zoë Edden - Cynthia
Peter Thompson - Magnus
Hugh Hemmings - Inspector Hound
Derek Fraser - Radio Announcer / Body
Production Team
Stage Manager - Marc Lewis
ASM - Judith Berrill
Lighting - Mike Medway
Sound - Simon Snelling
Properties - Margaret Davy, Sue Whittaker
Costume - Margaret Pierce
Publicity - Rosemary Bouchy, Rosemary Brown, Frances Thorne
Workshop Team - Brian Box, Dave Collis, David Comber, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis
Front of House - Valerie Bray and members and friends of the Company
Box Office - Margaret Murrell and Barn Team. 
Squires Fisheries and Tackle of Southwick Square for the loan of Inspector Hound's swamp boots

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 Noises Off.

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 Druce.

Performances at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, run from Thursday, August 9 to 11, at 7.45pm.  Tickets cost £5.  Box Office: [01273] 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.

The Real 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 show.

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 repertoire.

August 16 issue - page 6 -
letter from A R Clevett, Rowan Close, Portslade

" Double Bill was totally faultless "

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.

The Madness of George lll

by Alan Bennett

October  3, 4, 5, 6  2001

Directed by Bob Ryder 

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 nicely.

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."

Royal Family
David Creedon - George lll
Joan Braddock - Queen Charlotte
John Garland - Prince of Wales
John Robinson - Fitzroy
Simon Birks - Greville
Kevin Isaac - Braun
Judith Berrill - Papandiek
Diane Robinson - Lady Pembroke
Joan Bearman - Maid
Tony Brownings - Pitt
Ray Hopper - Thurlow
Sid Jones - Dundas
John Barham - Fox
Simon Druce - Sheridan
Hugh Hemmings - Baker
David Bickers - Warren
Malcolm Wood - Pepys
David Goodger - Willis
Other characters
Claire Wiggins - Margaret Nicholson
Ralph Dawes - Boothby
Eric Seymour - Ramsden
Stuart Isaac - Footman
David Pierce, Eric Seymour, Stuart Isaac - Dr Willis's assistants
Claire Wiggins - Dr MacAlpine
Production Team
Stage Manager - Dave Comber, Marc Lewis
ASM - Jean Porter
Lighting - Mike Medway
Sound - Simon Snelling
Set building - David Comber, Dave Collis, Brian Box, Mike Davy, Marc Lewis
Set Painting - Sheila Neesham, Susanna Chaplin
Properties - Sue Whittaker, Margaret Davy
Wardrobe - Sheila Neesham, Judith Berrill
Press & Publicity - Rosemary Bouchy, Rosemary Brown and Team
Poster & programme design - Judith Berrill
Box Office - Barn Box Office Team
Front of House Co-ordinator - Valerie Bray
Richard Porter for design
Royal Shakespeare Company for additional costumes
Royal 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 Dr Willis.

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 group bookings.

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.

Wick 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.

In-House Review by Margaret Ockenden

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 audience?

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 evening.

A production of which Wick can be proud.


Music by George Stiles 
Book & Lyrics by
Anthony Drewe

December  28, 29 [+mat]  2001
January 3, 4, 5 [+mat]  2002

Directed by Rols Ham-Riche

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, Farmer
Hazel Starns - Maureen, Queenie, Snowy, Penny
Jane Richards - Henrietta, Lowbutt, Dot, Mute Swan
Jan King - Grace, Pinkfoot, Old Woman
Tony Muzzall - Bullfrog
Joe Mott - Swotty Duckling, Boy
Ellie Infield - Stroppy Duckling, Girl
Olivia Robinson - Bossy Duckling
Tom Cullen - Cocky Duckling
Charlotte Kenward - Tomboy Duckling
Imogen Chalk - Tiny Duckling
The Band - Katalin Szeless [piano], Bob Ryder [guitar], Hugh Hemmings [keyboards], Jonathan Dawes [drums]
Production Team
Musical Director - Katalin Szeless
Choreography - Cherry Briggs, Adrian Kenward, Tony Muzzall, Rols Ham-Roche
Consultant choreographer - Wendy Whatling
Costumes: National Theatre Costume Hire, Harveys of Hove, Adrian Kenward [Agnews], Katalin Szeless
Publicity - Rosemary Bouchy
Lighting - Mike Medway
Sound - Simon Snelling
Stage Managers - Marc Lewis, David Comber
Properties - Margaret Davy, Sue Whittaker, Judith Berrill, Rols Ham-Riche
Design - Rols Ham-Riche
Set building, painting, design - Marc Lewis, David Comber, Dave Collis, Mark Flower, Mike Davy, Brian Box, Sheila Neesham, Cherry Briggs
Photography - Lucien Bouchy
Window display - Rosemary Brown
Front of House Co-ordinator - Valerie Bray
December 20 2001 issue - page 4
" There once was an Ugly ducking .... in Honk!
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 through?

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: 01273 597094.

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!

In-House review by Rosemary Brown

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