Sussex Playwrights Reviews: The Maestro

A new piece on the life and work of Donizetti from Magichour Productions, featuring live operatic performance

Written by Duncan Hopper and Mike Wells

The music of Donizetti

This new piece on the life and work of Donizetti from Magichour Productions, featuring live operatic performance, is currently on tour around some beautiful Sussex locations. Tonight’s venue, the Regency St George’s church, Kemptown, Brighton, perfectly sets the scene.

Donizetti is dying, his mind filling with memories of life, love and music in his final hours.

Robert Tremayne makes a dashing Donizetti, handsome and magnetic in his prime, fading from glamorous peacock to ruined wreck at the end of life. There’s tragedy and humour here too, with knowing digs at the outrage of lockdown and masks ‘in this day and age’.

As the flirtatious opera singers and battling divas in his life, Karen Orchin fills the generous space with soaring voice, with solo grand piano accompaniment by Simon Gray. Being this close to a soprano delivering some of Donizetti’s greatest arias is a terrific experience.

Sophie Methuen-Turner gives a gentle sweetness as his supportive, loving wife Virginia, and transforms physically and vocally into the formidable Contessa, both commanding and frail.

While the piece reads more as a musical docu-drama than a play and recorded music occasionally played under the spoken word can make a few speeches a little challenging to hear, it’s an intriguing glimpse into key points from the composer’s life and work, with live operatic highlights.

Philippa Hammond

Sussex Playwrights Reviews: God of Carnage

Yasmina Reza’s award winning 2008 play all feels very contemporary; a middle class comedy of manners for now, with the main theme ‘what lies beneath?’

Yasmina Reza’s award winning 2008 play all feels very contemporary; a middle class comedy of manners for now, with the main theme ‘what lies beneath?’

On the surface, it all starts in such a civilised, cultured way. Coffee and clafoutis, chaise longues and tulips. Two pleasant couples, meeting for a nice chat about a little … disagreement … between their young sons. Then all begins to unravel.

Roger Kay’s direction is tight, pacey and assured, delivering a quartet of pin-sharp and pointedly observed performances. Physical and verbal energy fizz in the tiny Rialto space, with a lovely sofa shift from one couple per sofa to the men briefly united in rum and resentment on one and the women united on the other.

Tom Dussek’s urbane Alain is bullish and confident, barking orders into an endlessly intrusive mobile, while making light of the ‘boys will be boys’ situation – until the appearance of the rum shifts his focus, never really on family responsibility, always on his own terms

Jenny Delisle as Annette battles with anxiety over her husband’s refusal to engage over their son’s deed, until the shock vom scene brings everything to crisis point, in a brittle study in how it can all become too much to bear.

As Veronique and Michel, parents of the injured boy, Sophie Dearlove and Neil James are the ‘nice’ ones, Veronique committed to supporting every good cause and Michel gently supporting the women in his life – yet revealing a surprisingly cruel streak.

Of course, the boys’ playground spat isn’t the only instance of childish rage boiling over; little digs and bubbling anger begin to mount, each character brooding over their own stored up issues, the civilised veneer scraped away as the booze takes hold and the masks slide off.

One of the most attention-grabbing and interest-gripping pieces I’ve seen on the Fringe, thanks to terrific harmony of writing, directing, performance and staging.

But I’m left with questions … What happened to the poor little hamster? Does mum stop taking the tablets? What happens next??

Philippa Hammond

Sussex Playwrights Reviews: Caitlin

Caitlin

by Mike Kenny

WLTM Productions

Performed by Christine Kempell

There’s a moment in the play where Caitlin asks us just why audiences want to watch others’ pain. And in a month where the world is watching two stars rip each other to bits in public – it’s a great and timeless question.

This piece by Mike Kenny shows us Caitlin’s pain – married to the genius Dylan Thomas, she was a dancer, but if she hadn’t married him, would we ever have heard of her?

Visceral, passionate and raw, the writing opens up old wounds and reveals deep and dreadful love for an unfaithful alcoholic slob.

We’re drawn into their world – the babies and the ghastliness of childbirth, infidelity, violation and violence, including her own attack on Dylan, the stifling little Welsh world she found herself trapped in, the glorious landscape, the mother in law she loathed – and there are moments of laughter, observations on the ridiculous situations she somehow found herself in. This just wasn’t the life she’d thought she’d have, but there’s a sense of inevitability here, the feeling that they’re both trapped and doomed by their mutual fatal-flaw addiction to the booze.

Racketing between loathing and love, indifference and absolute possession, Kempell gives a powerhouse of a performance. Rich-voiced, physical and athletic, she’s absolutely magnificent in Caitlin’s tenderness, eroticism and rage.

Currently in performance at the Rialto for Brighton Fringe and heading to Edinburgh this August

Philippa Hammond

March 6th 2022 meeting

Members and friends’ news:

Jenny Rowe is currently appearing in the tour of the Connaught Theatre Worthing resident production company Conn Artists’ production of JM Barrie’s Mary Rose. https://www.conn-artists.co.uk/mary-rose

Simon Moorhead & Emily Rosen-Rawlings’ production of the short film “Breathe” directed by Josh Merrit, made for Screen South, Arts Council and the BBC, showed at the Komedia Brighton as part of a package of short films for the Oska Bright Film Festival.

James Allen’s short film currently in post production will be shown at the DAFTAS, parodying 2021 films at the ‘Rotunda’ (Pop-up on Regency Square) on May 15th 4.30pm. And he’s about to have his first stand up comedy gig in London, following a stand-up writing and performance course. https://www.brightonfringe.org/venues/the-daftas-comedy-short-films-screening-159799/

Wayne Liversidge’ true story is told in the book Love’s Poison, and will shortly be coming out as an audio book on Audible. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Loves-Poison-novel-based-events-ebook/dp/B08WRF4MYN

Also in the Fringe:

Lin Robinson’s play Mala Sororibus is at the Rotunda, Regency Square

Philip Willet appears in Crunch by Sarah Archer at the Latest Bar

Both will be presenting extracts at the next meeting.

More details and ticket info at https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/

March’s event saw several new short script readings:

The Frontline by Lin Robinson, was read by Philippa and Lin. Jason wants a job in the Prison Service – but what’s he really after? Funny, insightful look at what really drives some people to join the prison service, the police, the army? Dark undertones for today.

We agreed we’d welcome a return to sketch comedy over the current cheap panel and reality shows currently dominating the TV schedules.

Pickman’s Method (working title), written and presented by Adrian Jameson, a regular at Cabaret Lab and now reinventing the horror story. A two hander work in progress set in an art studio in a creepy old Boston house sparked great conversation around Gothic horror and Grand Guignol theatre, M.R. James and Christmas and Halloween horror stories on TV, film and stage. Adrian is planning live theatre around short, punchy, explosive tales.

Discussions ranged around:

The Warren will not be present at the Fringe this year.

The financial impact of lockdown for venues, production companies and individual performers.

What makes a venue?? Fly tower, lighting equipment, backstage facilities …

Critiquing some current films

And the Amazon/Apple/Netflix phenomenon – it’s a new world out there for writing and production – a new creativity, new studios and huge new TV series on the horizon.

February 6th 2022 meeting

No meeting held in January.

February’s meeting saw a friendly gathering

News:
 
Wayne’s story Love’s Poison will soon be available as an audio book on Audible.
 
James has several short films currently in production.
 
Louise is appearing in Let The Right One In at Northbrook College.
 
Robert announced his novel Architecture for Beginners is to be published by Hobart Books.
 
Sarah and Philip are in pre production with Sarah’s new comedy drama play Crunch, with Philip in the leading role, for their Fringe run at the Latest
 
Neil is teaching performing arts to 16-18 year olds and is involved with a playwriting competition from the National Theatre.
 
Jenny’s had a short story published, is rehearsing Mary Rose for a tour beginning at the Connaught Theatre then working with the Maydays improv troupe at Brighton Fringe.
 
Thomas & Philippa continue with a range of writing and training/coaching projects.
 
Wine and conversation covered …
 
Taking your play to the Edinburgh Fringe
Brighton Fringe venues, publicity & promotion, fliers and fees
Writing your show’s Fringe brochure blurb
Brighton Hippodrome Theatre
Arts Council England funding – and the practicalities of starting and running a new theatre venue in the region with no funding
Touring company tales – scenery that doesn’t fit the venue spec, lighting issues …
Casting your play and actors’ pay – lo/no pay and the national Minimum Wage
Things especially when filming your script on location that could potentially involve the police …
Taking your film to Cannes
Sending your script to film festivals
Sussex Playwrights are looking to start a short plays publishing project – news to come
Possible future collaborations for Sussex Playwrights with teen writers, workshops at the New Venture Theatre

December 5th 2021 Christmas party

In December, we held our first Christmas party in two years. We enjoyed great conversation, Thomas Everchild’s fiendish Christmas quiz, won by Robert Cohen, and drinks and nibbles.

As the days grow short …

And the nights grow long …

And the winter solstice approaches …

We’ve always gathered together round fire and feasts to share tales of what might be out there … beyond the firelight …

Lin and Russell read some spooky solo short stories, to get into the winter spirit!

Members’ and Friends’ News

Our Honorary President William Nicholson was special guest at Brighton and Sussex Equity meeting

Our Honorary Vice President Judy Upton has published two novels, Out Of The Frying Pan and What Maisie Didn’t Know, and a book of plays Judy Upton: Plays Two with Methuen.

Rose Collis’ documentary film The Boy And The Bear is winning multiple awards at film festivals round the world

Howard Ford’s horror feature The Lockdown Hauntings, largely filmed in the Brighton area, is having great success