Hedda Gabler | 19th – 24th February 2018

Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen.  A version by Christopher Hampton.

Directed by Alice Heather

Just married. Bored already. The beautiful and headstrong Hedda longs to be free.

Hedda and the ineffectual academic George Tesman have just returned from their honeymoon and the relationship is already in trouble.

Her one hope of escaping is that Tesman has expectations of promotion and he becomes the outlet for her ambitions.

But when those ambitions are threatened Hedda comes up with a plan to remove the obstacles, and have some excitement in the process.  If everyone will play along nicely then everything will work out fine.

But Hedda is not the only one with a manipulative streak…

Cast
Hedda Gabler                         Sophia Danes
George Tesman                      Richard Stewart
Thea Elvsted                           Laura Gamble
Ellert Lovborg                        Rob Chambers
Miss Juliane Tesman            Lynn Rushby
Judge Brack                             Wayne Sheridan
Berte                                          Janet Clark

Backstage
Director                               Alice Heather
Set Design                          Andrew Heather
Lighting Design                  Jon Lewis
Sound Design                     Abel Fernandez
Stage Manager                   Ann Herbert
Asst Stage Manager            Andrew Heather
Stage Director                     John Heather
Set construction                 Andrew Heather, T62 members
Set Décor                            Adrian Pope
Technical Programming     Ian James, Jon Lewis
Technical Rigging               Members of T62
Technical Operators            Chloe Belgrave, James Quinn
Stage Crew                         Gilly Swinge
Costumes                            Margaret Uzzell, Diana Quinn
Make-Up & Hair                 Rachel Cormican, Jean Golder, Christine Lever, Penny Vetterlein
Properties                           Andrew Heather, Ann Herbert, Patricia Melluish
Technical Support              Andrew Herbert
Rehearsal Prompt               Hannah Crisp
House Manager                   John Heather
Refreshments                      Lynne Craig & T62 members
Raffle                                 Hester Fernee
Box Office                          Nina James
Programme Editor               John Guttridge
Poster & Programme Design     Graham Copeland

Production photos:

 

Rehearsal photos:

 

 

Comfort and Joy | 4th – 9th December 2017

img_8739Comfort and Joy by Mike Harding

Directed by Sandie Campbell

Set over a three-day period from 23rd to 25th December.

Goff has volunteered, yet again, to dress up as Santa and hand out presents at the old folk’s home and someone has stolen his jacket and trousers.  Helen has brought her dog Trumpton (who is aptly named) for the Christmas holidays.

Kathy is coming to stay for Christmas and is bringing her ‘friend’ Crispin and her two cats because the cattery is closed (as the lady who runs it dropped dead in the Bran tub in Santa’s grotto).

Fiona (Goff’s daughter) and Jimmy are home from Australia for the first time in 30 years and Goff has not forgiven her for running off to Australia with Jimmy and never returning tools he borrowed.

Martin has bought an enormous Christmas tree ‘off the back of a lorry’ and has invited the new neighbours Monica and Chapman in for a drink, who turn out to be barking mad.

Margaret is the peacemaker doing her best to hold it all together, but when the dog runs off with the turkey she loses the plot.

Presents are exchanged, none of which are appropriately thought out, charades are played with quite a bit of cheating. The alcohol flows, tongues are loosened and buried resentments rear their ugly heads.  All in all…a traditional family Christmas!

Cast

Margaret          Pauline Wathen
Martin              Howard James
Goff                    Bernard Harriss
Helen                 Laura Gamble
Fiona                  Sharon Hawkes
Jimmy               John Randoll
Kathy                 Diane Carters
Crispin               Paul Newton
Monica              Christine Lever
Chapman          Tony Skeggs
Pat                      Jan Stockwell
Hughie               Ian Evans

Backstage
Director                                      Sandie Campbell
Set Design                                  Alan Matthews
Lighting Design                          Andrew Herbert
Sound Design                             Ivan Buckle
Stage Manager                           Maggie Matthews
Asst Stage Manager                    Alan Matthews
Stage Director                            John Heather
Set construction                         John Heather, T62 members
Set Décor                                    Adrian Pope & T62 members
Technical Programming             Jon Lewis, Ian James
Technical Rigging                      Members of T62
Technical Operators                   Chloe Belgrave, James Quinn
Costumes                                   Val Polydorou and the cast
Properties                                  Gilly Swinge, Tina Stancombe
Prompt                                       Nina James, Janet Clark
Technical Support                      Ian James, Abel Fernandez
House Manager                          John Heather
Refreshments                             Lynne Craig and T62 members
Raffle                                         Sandie Campbell
Box Office                                  Margaret Uzzell
Programme Editor                      John Guttridge
Poster & Programme Design     Graham Copeland
“Alien” Voices                            Ailbe Lonergan, Anna Philpotts, Emma Wilson, Harley Baron
Carol Singers                             Tivs Raventheran, Subanu Raventheran, Zannette Paulsen, Zuzette Paulsen, T62 Members

 

Neighbourhood Watch | 25th – 30th September 2017

Neighbourhood Watch by Alan Ayckbourn - posterNeighbourhood Watch by Alan Ayckbourn

Middle-aged brother and sister Martin and Hilda have just moved into a new development called Bluebell Hill. They are looking forward to leading a quiet, Christian life, but feel they should at least introduce themselves to their neighbours by means of a little housewarming gathering.

Whilst waiting for their guests to arrive, their peace is shattered by a young trespasser and that peace will never return after Monty, their beloved garden gnome, is set upon.

The resultant well-intentioned scheme for a safer community is jeopardised by Martin’s burgeoning romance with Bluebell resident Amy (married to Gareth), who has just finished an affair with Martin and Hilda’s next door neighbour Luther, husband of Magda. This has surprising outcomes for all concerned.

Who could have thought that a young trespasser taking a shortcut through a garden could start a chain of events just as shocking as any crime drama seen on television?

Cast

Martin Massie            Rob Chambers
Hilda Massie               Margaret Glen
Luther Bradley           Geoff Dillon
Magda Bradley           Nomi Bailey
Gareth Janner            Richard Stewart
Amy Janner                Rachel Cormican
Rod Trusser                Richard Toynton
Dorothy Doggett        Margaret Hey

Backstage
Director                                      Nikki Packham
Set Design                                 Alan Matthews
Lighting Design                          Jon Lewis
Sound Design                             Ian James
Stage Manager                           John Oakenfull
Asst Stage Manager                   Nikki Packham
Fight Director                             Emma Christmas
Stage Director                            John Heather
Set construction                         Alan Matthews
Technical Programming             Jon Lewis, Ian James
Technical Operators                   Chloe Belgrave, James Quinn
Properties                                   Ann Herbert, Audrey Knighton
Rehearsal Prompt                       Audrey Knighton
Gnome Makers                            Jan Greenhough, Mike Greenhough
House Manager                           John Heather
Refreshments                              Stuart Scott
Raffle                                          Sandie Campbell
Box Office                                   Nina James
Programme Editor                       John Guttridge
Poster & Programme Design      Graham Copeland

 

Nell Gwynn | 3rd – 8th July 2017

Nell GwynnNell Gwynn by Jessica Swale

It’s 1660 and the Puritans have run away with their drab grey tails between their legs. Charles II has exploded onto the scene with a love of all things loud, French and sexy. And at Drury Lane, a young Nell Gwynn is selling oranges for sixpence. Little does she know who’s watching.

Nell Gwynn charts the rise of an unlikely heroine, from her roots in Coal Yard Alley to her success as Britain’s most celebrated actress and her hard-won place in the heart of the king. But at a time when women are second-class citizens, can her charm and spirit protect her from the dangers of the court? And at what cost?

Bawdy, playfully anachronistic with plenty of innuendo, this is highly entertaining new play – fresh from the West End.

Cast:
Nell Gwynn – Emma Wickenden
Rose Gwynn – Alice Heather
Nancy – Lynn Rushby
Old Ma Gywnn – Janet Clark
Queen Catherine – Sue Hicks
Lady Castlemaine – Sue Bailey
Louise de Keroualle – Sue Bailey
King Charles II – Mark Storey
Charles Hart – Paul Newton
Thomas Killigrew – Pieter Swinge
Edward Kynaston – Ian Evans
John Drydon – Charles Langdon
Lord Arlington – Alec Raemers
Other characters played by members of the cast

Backstage
Director                                  Patricia Melluish
Choreographer                      Catherine Jarvie
Asst Director                          Sue Smith
Set Design                             Alan Matthews
Lighting Design                     Jon Lewis
Sound Design                        Ian James, Ivan Buckle
Stage Manager                     Sue Hicks
Asst Stage Manager              Janet Clark
Accompanist                         Petra Hajduchova
Rehearsal Pianist                  Louise Dunsby
Stage Director                       John Heather
Set construction                   Alan Matthews, Ian Saunders, Andrew Heather, T62 members
Set Décor                             Adrian Pope
Technical Programming      Jon Lewis
Technical Rigging                 Members of T62
Technical Operators             Chloe Belgrave, James Quinn
Costumes                              T62 Wardrobe Team
Make-Up & Hair                    Jean Golder, Christine Lever, Penny Vetterlein, Rachel Cormican, Jenny Jones
Properties                              Lynne Craig
Prompt                                  Audrey Knighton
Technical Support                 Andrew Herbert
House Manager                     John Heather
Refreshments                       Ann Herbert, Nina James
Raffle                                   Sandie Campbell
Box Office                            Gilly Swinge
Programme Editor               John Guttridge
Poster & Programme Design     Graham Copeland

WANTED

We are looking for a plastic or glass insect/fish/reptile tank.  One is needed for the December 2017 production Comfort and Joy.

If you possess one, or know someone who does, please contact Sandie on 07971 415 680 or s.cambell5@btinternet.com.

Tanks a lot.

My Mother Said I Never Should | 1st – 6th May 2017

My Mother Said I Never ShouldMy Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley

“My Mother said, I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood.
If I did, she would say;
‘Naughty girl to disobey”

Secrets and lies! “My Mother Said I Never Should” explores the complex and difficult relationships between mothers and daughters.  Spanning 1940 to 1987, though in non-linear fashion, the lives of four generations of women develop.  Their loves, expectation and choices are set against the huge social changes of the twentieth century.  Unmarried Jacky gives birth to Rosie, unable to cope she hands Rosie over to her mother Margaret. Rosie is brought up believing Margaret is her mother, while Jackie is her older sister.  The play looks at the consequences of this secret and the emotional repercussions.

This was a change from the originally published production The Women

Cast
Doris              Lynn Rushby
Margaret       Christine Lever
Jackie             Janet Sharrock
Rosie             Nomi Bailey

Backstage
Director                                      Lorraine Spenceley
Set Design                                 Alan Matthews
Lighting Design                         Andrew Herbert
Sound Design                            Ian James
Stage Manager                           Maggie Matthews
Asst Stage Manager                   Alan Matthews
Stage Director                           John Heather
Set construction                        Alan Matthews, Ian Saunders, T62 members
Set Décor                                  Adrian Pope
Technical Programming            Jon Lewis
Technical Rigging                     Members of T62
Technical Operators                  Chloe Belgrave, James Quinn, Ivan Buckle
Stage Crew                                Stephen Harper
Costumes                                   Margaret Uzzell and team
Radio Announcer                       Paul Newton
Prompt                                       Nina James, Janet Clark
Technical Support                     Andrew Herbert
House Manager                         John Heather
Refreshments                            Ann Herbert
Raffle                                         Sandie Campbell
Box Office                                  Margaret Uzzell
Programme Editor                      John Guttridge
Poster & Programme Design     Graham Copeland

 

 

Life and Beth | 5th -10th December 2016

imageLife And Beth by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Nikki Packham

It’s Christmas, and Beth is mourning the recent death of her health and safety officer husband, Gordon.

Beth’s sister-in-law Connie and son Martin have come to stay, determined to ensure that she should have a stress-free Christmas, but between Connie’s booziness and Martin’s unspeaking and emotionally volatile girlfriend Ella, their intentions prove to be short-lived.

Only David, the local vicar, provides Beth with any comfort, but when he says a prayer for her bereavement he unwittingly summons Gordon’s ghost to return to the family home.

Gordon has been busy implementing health and safety measures in the afterlife and is now determined to stick around to help Beth manage her affairs. It soon becomes apparent, however, that his return is not altogether welcome. This play is both comic and touching. And then there’s the matter of the cat…!

1

Some of the cast in rehearsal:

image

Cast
BETH TIMMS:                       Kay Samways
GORDON TIMMS:                Stuart Scott
MARTIN TIMMS:                  Robert Hall
ELLA PACKER:                      Emma Wickenden
CONNIE BUNTING:             Sharon Hawkes
DAVID GRINSEED:              Spencer Hawkes

Backstage
Director                                      Nikki Packham
Set Design                                  Alan Matthews, John Heather
Lighting Design                          Jon Lewis
Sound Design                             Ian James
Stage Manager                           Sandie Campbell
Asst Stage Manager                   Christine Lever
Stage Director                             John Heather
Set construction                         T62 members
Set Décor                                    Adrian Pope
Technical Programming             Jon Lewis, Ian James
Technical Operators                   Chloe Belgrave, James Quinn, Ivan Buckle, Andrew Herbert, Stuart Scott
Costumes                                    Margaret Uzzell and the cast
Make-Up & Hair                         Christine Lever, Heather Phelps
Properties                                   Ann Herbert, Audrey Knighton
Prompt                                        Audrey Knighton
House Manager                           John Heather
Refreshments                              Ann Herbert
Raffle                                           Sandie Campbell
Box Office                                    Nina James
Programme Editor                       John Guttridge
Poster & Programme Design       Graham Copeland

5 423

Review by Adrian McLoughlin:

First of all, thank you all so much for the chance to see this play again. It was my first contact with it since we finished our last performance of it in Oxford several years ago. It was a pleasure to see it so well performed and presented.

About the play

Like many of Sir Alan Ayckbourns’ plays, “Life and Beth” is not an out and out comedy. It is certainly funny in places but has a lot of pathos in it too and some genuinely thought provoking ideas. This means that playing it can be tricky as one never quite knows when the laughs will come – or if they will come at all. Sir Alan himself never calls his plays comedies – he always just calls them plays – and talks eloquently to his casts about not expecting a particular response. Indeed, in playing them we always discovered that responses differed wildly from one night to the next and we got used to playing to quiet houses and riotous ones on succeeding nights. This particularly applies to “Life and Beth” and it’s a great credit to you all that you absolutely understood this and didn’t play for laughs or become dispirited if they didn’t come. Well done for succeeding where many have failed in the past!

This Production

I was very impressed with the verve and pace of this show. The cardinal sin is to let the pace or energy drop and this did not happen at all throughout the evening. From the start it went at a lick and never let up. Cues were picked up and everyone came on stage with plenty of attack.

I was also particularly impressed with the movement on stage. I can’t remember any time when I thought “why are they moving there?” or “why are they standing up/sitting down?”. This is a tricky task and it was handled extremely well.

I don’t tend to notice sets much but this one seemed to do the job perfectly well. In the original production Gordon came up – and went back down – through a trap door in the stage which was very effective. We couldn’t repeat that on tour as not every theatre would be able to convert their traps quickly enough so we re-blocked as we went with Gordon appearing and disappearing in a variety of ways. You would have the same problem of course. My one thought would be that, in this production, his entrances were handled fantastically but his final exit could perhaps have been more dramatic. Maybe another “explosion” and then he was gone? Not sure but it would have given a kick to his demise. As it was, we were straight into Wagstaffes reappearance and that was wonderfully well done so we soon forgot about poor Gordon!

The performances

It was extremely well cast. Everyone seemed right for their role and there were no weak links. This can be a problem in all productions, amateur or professional, as only one weak link can completely destabilize a production – happily that didn’t happen here.

Volume was generally very good. I heard what was said without feeling it was being punched out at me. Again this is tricky, especially on proscenium arch stages, but here everything felt natural and not forced.

There was a potential hazard at the very beginning when Kay as Beth suffered a bout of coughing. Fortunately, she worked through this with little fuss and it was commendable the way neither the play nor Kay faltered at a crucial time. It gave us confidence that any difficulties would be dealt with and we knew we were in safe hands.

One point I would mention – generally, though it applied more to some of you than to others – is that Ayckbourns’ plays really need to be very accurate to the script to work at their best. His writing is very precise and, unlike some playwrights, changing his text even only slightly or adding in additional short phrases can unbalance sentences and disrupt the rhythm of scenes.  I was aware this was happening once or twice and I feel it’s something that could be looked at in any future Ayckbourn productions.

The other general point would be that the play doesn’t need help in the form of over-characterisation or too much gesturing or face pulling. There was only a little of that here but just occasionally I felt one or two of you could have taken the emphasis out of what you were saying and delivered lines more neutrally and with fewer “helpful” facial expressions. It’s difficult to do, especially without long and intensive daily rehearsals, but very rewarding when you can achieve it.

I won’t say much about individual performances – all were commendable and one or two outstanding. I particularly loved the mother and son scenes and felt they had a sadness that was implicit and not elaborated upon. Well done on those. It was extremely well cast and everyone contributed to the overall success of the production. Kay had the most to do – as Beth she effectively carries the play – but handled it brilliantly and the support she received from all of you was terrific.

There were at least two added scenes – the very funny scene change with the bed making (or unmaking) to enable Beth to effect  a quick change and the actual appearance of the police as opposed to voices off. Both worked very well. They didn’t disrupt the rhythm of the play.

General points to think about

Performing plays with only two or three rehearsals a week in evenings and at weekends, presents problems that professional productions don’t – or shouldn’t – have. Here are some observations about this point for future thought!

Line learning: It’s imperative to be on top of lines. It can be very difficult when you are not involved in doing the play all day every day for three to four weeks before opening, but not impossible. I felt this was achieved here very admirably with the exception that there were some inaccuracies that disrupted the flow a little. Worth working on I think, but don’t expect perfection – just keep working towards it! But well done for keeping the play zooming along and giving the prompter nothing to do!

Over characterization: Again this wasn’t a serious problem and, again, it is something that is much easier with prolonged and intense rehearsal periods followed by runs of at least three or four week. In general the less we signal humour or sadness or anger, the funnier – or sadder or angrier – things come over to the audience. It takes courage though and commitment to try these things on stage and that only comes with practice and opportunity. It is thoroughly commendable how well you did on this without the intensity of a prolonged professional rehearsal period.

Pacing: This is even trickier and almost impossible without hours to experiment and, ideally, previews in front of paying audiences to try things out. In this production the pace was great and that was most important – to stop the play flagging. It never once did and that helped the audience feel comfortable and ready to laugh when things were funny and stay silent when things were sad etc. Sometimes though scenes benefit from changes of pace, slowing the pace down, speeding it up etc so that all characters on stage aren’t speaking at the same speed and in the same tone. It’s often referred to as picking up each others’ pace, which is something generally to be avoided.

Relationship with the audience: Once or twice I was aware that characters who were struggling with their emotions would look down or across stage rather than out at the audience. This is difficult because, in life, we don’t tend to stare helpfully into space as we emote – and in fact we often look down and away from anyone else present Nevertheless, it’s worth from time to time finding ways to look out front as naturally as you can – without overdoing it – as we, the audience like to see your eyes occasionally. To not do so begins to indicate after a while that you know we’re out there…………. A small point but it can make a big difference to how your character is perceived.

And that’s it! Thanks again for a thoroughly enjoyable evening and an incidental trip down memory lane. I’m sorry I can’t join you all tonight but I hope you have a good – and well deserved – drink or several. Have good Christmas’s and perhaps we’ll meet again somewhere along the way.

Review by Raymond Langford Jones for Sardines Magazine:

Each half of Nikki Packham’s highly enjoyable and polished production of Life And Beth for Wickham Theatre Centre, opens with the bright refrain of ‘Tis the season to be jolly’. This being Ayckbourn, we know, as with his other yuletide comedy Season’s Greetings, we can settle down and revel in the discomfiture of – other – suburban folk as they endure the dubious delights of the festive holiday. Well, we couldn’t possibly admit to recognising aspects of ourselves and our family and friends in them. Could we?

This was Alan Ayckbourn’s seventy-first play, and the first written two years after suffering his stroke in 2006. His illness may have drawn his attention to his own mortality, leading him to such questions, as ‘how will I be remembered – as I really was, or as people have been persuaded, I was?’

What makes him such an enduring and much-loved playwright is his gift for confronting issues that many of us shirk from – and finding the humour in them. Haven’t a lot of us lost people whom we have loved, but because they were very old or incurable, discovered their passing gave us a huge sense of relief – not just for them but also ourselves? Though having only recently lost her husband of over thirty years, Ayckbourn’s Beth is grateful for getting her our own life back – on her terms. Yet it would seem she still needs permission to let go of any residual guilt – closure, in fact.

Beth’s sister-in-law-from-hell, Connie, and her well-intentioned, if none-too-bright son, Martin arrive on Christmas Eve to stay over and help cheer her up on the big day: ‘leave everything to us; treat this (i.e. her own home) as a luxury hotel.’ The warning signs are already flashing and Beth looks bleakly out at us. Up to that point, she has seemed quite sanguine about her situation, more preoccupied over the cat that mysteriously vanished on the day of the funeral than grief-stricken. To start with, she carefully fields the remarks about what a wonderful marriage she had and what a great chap her husband Gordon was. Kay Samways’ beautifully nuanced Beth finds a wide range of polite smiles, until she can take no more, her voice takes on an increasingly acid edge and home truths come raining down. Connie and Martin’s silent, accident-prone Cordon Bleu girlfriend, Ella, would appear to be far more in need of help than she is.

Then, at the end of the first half Gordon mysteriously appears. Whether he is actually an apparition or simply in her head, is left to us to decide. Anyway, our fears are confirmed: he was (is?) a self-satisfied control freak. His manifestation is professionally realised, technically by clever lighting and related special effects, whilst the excellent Stuart Scott brings his body back to life, oozing smugness from every pore. The thought that Gordon has dispensation from the powers above to return to help Beth because she is incapable of managing without him, sends her into a spin that ultimately releases her inner strength to send him packing once and for all; and maybe embark on a fresh courtship with another member of the cast? The exchanges between Beth and Gordon are finely judged, providing hilarious moments.

But all Ayckbourn’s plays require a well-integrated team of actors, each member finely attuned to the other’s delivery of his verbal choreography. A misjudged split second can play havoc with a potential laugh, even more so a paraphrased line. Nikki Packham has brought together a well-matched group of actors whose performances rarely lose pace and attack. Everyone make the most of their role.

In possibly the most difficult part, Sharon Hawkes shows us tiresome Connie dissolving first into self-pity and eventually drunkenness in a nicely controlled performance with good comic timing. But, as I said earlier, this is an ensemble piece and the key characters are well complimented by the rest of the company.

Robert Hall as Martin, who has inherited his father’s exasperating, jokey way of announcing himself every time with ‘knock-knock’ in a variety of garish Christmas jumpers, also succeeds in putting your teeth on edge with his Tigger-ish bonhomie and gets most of his laughs. Spencer Hawkes’ David Grinseed, whose prayer to comfort Beth accidentally sets in motion the supernatural events, is every inch the confident, well-meaning vicar.

In what could be the thankless part of the taciturn Ella, Emma Wickenden makes up for the loss of lines by demonstrating a wide vocabulary of bored and surly expressions highlighted by a Goth make-up, and good use of body language. Richard Stewart and Sue Hicks are convincing police officers.

Alan Matthews and John Heather’s set serves the play well and one fully believes in the world beyond the doors and windows of the living room, aided by the well-chosen furniture, and set dressing – although I would have liked to have seen a few more Christmas cards!

Jon Lewis’ lighting is exemplary and Ian James’ sound design – incorporating ‘electronic programming’ helps the play along, although I, personally, found the underscoring distracting. The final ‘appearance’ of Wagstaff, the cat was brilliantly handled, with props magically flying all over the stage. Superb!

I have been known to criticise some productions at Theatre 62 – especially comedies – for being tentative and, seemingly, under-rehearsed. This one, however, shows how the right team can transmit a joy of their crafts to a high standard, even at the first performance. Here, total commitment and strong direction have paid off handsomely. As another guy might have said: ‘Fab-u-lous!’ I can’t wait to see it again.