Sussex Playwrights Reviews: The Madness of George III

Sussex Playwrights Reviews: The Madness of George III
By Alan Bennett
The Sarah Mann Company
Georgian sophistication in music, architecture, dress and art coupled with ghastly primitive approaches to medicine and mental health plus a decadent royal family – Bennett’s celebrated play captures that strange time when the world tipped over from centuries old ways into revolution and change.
The Sarah Mann Company presents a new production and it all looks rather marvellous. The wardrobe’s delicious – mad wigs, some fabulous gowns and characterful touches, with a few ornate and elegant pieces of furniture easily moved about to set scene.
The play speaks of lot what being a king does to a man – and what being a future king in endless useless waiting does to a son.
Nathan Arris is magnificent as King George – confident, mannered, rather grumpy and at times disconcertingly looking very like Charles, his descent into pitiful raging foul mouthed rambling is superbly done. As his Mrs King, Sarah Mann portrays a genuinely loving and remarkably understanding wife. Their private moments are sweet and believable glimpses into what a normal life might have been for them.
Into this mannered, deferential and stagnant world with its political power-scrabbling undercurrents, steps Doug Devaney as Doctor Willis, shifting gears and changing the tone – it’s a huge, charismatic performance of a perhaps monstrous character. His understanding of the need for activity, connection and productivity for treating mental health was years ahead of its time, yet some audience members around us were audibly upset by the scenes of some of the more brutal treatments inflicted.
The unexpected arrival of a full choir building to Zadok the Priest plays on our recent memory of the dignified moment of anointing – but the moment this king is bundled into a horrible device and wheeled helplessly away is the most powerful moment of the whole night.
With wind in the trees, sounds from the surrounding world plus its long stage with audience on three sides, sometimes the staging means dialogue is inevitably lost, especially in moments where actors turn upstage, and that walk from entrance to speaking can be a waiting moment. BOAT presents its usual challenges, largely handled well by a powerful cast.
The play’s full of little battles for power, position and status. The politicians and courtiers have their own struggles for supremacy throughout, and the three doctors are an audience delight, their various obsessions and awful remedies played off against each other, scrapping for top position.
So many moments and clever touches – the equerries’ and footmen’s distress at having to manhandle and disrespect their King was very affecting, their love for him quite the contrast to the languid ever-waiting disdain of Paddy Cooper’s Prince Regent and Amelia Armande’s Prince Frederick draped over velvet sofas.
The Victorian age of more immense change is on the horizon, but in the end, for now at least, all is restored.
The play is on at BOAT from 12-15 July
Details and tickets
Philippa Hammond
Sussex Playwrights Reviews
Thomas Everchild

Thomas Everchild’s workshop for Hastings Writers’ Group

Sussex Playwrights’ secretary Thomas Everchild delivered a workshop this week for the Hastings Writers Group, at the charming and characterful Regency Rooms bar, in the seafront Crown House, St Leonard’s.

The group are preparing for their latest in-house writing competition; a short dramatic monologue. They invited Thomas, whose set of four solo plays under the title Glimpse won a series of four star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, to deliver a workshop on plot and character for creating their monologues.

The event began by featuring a spot task to introduce yourself with a brief summary of the plot of a favourite book, film or play – the aim being to convey intrigue and detail in a very short space.

The conversation ranged through narrator style, tone of voice, subtext, settings and location, and the question … should the writer include stage directions to the director and actors?

We talked soliloquy and monologue, establishing that though they both have the same roots meaning ‘one’ and ‘words’, they do convey different ideas.

Several demonstrations included anecdote and impromptu short story / shaggy dog story from Thomas and an extract from Glimpse: Turning the Handle, performed by Philippa Hammond.

Top tips included imaginatively ‘casting’ well known actors or friends in the role you’re writing as a way to inspire, taking inspiration from animal behaviour and presenting the quirk – the oddity that identifies your character.

Then if you’re writing for a particular actor who’ll be playing it, taking their essence, their voice, and building that in can be a great guide.

We looked at the importance of deciding whether your character is talking to someone who is ‘there’ but invisible, or if the audience represents the character, if they’re talking to an audience … or if the audience are eavesdropping on their thoughts and observing them in secret.

We finished with a practical task – an out-of-the air location, a few story points and we were off, with seven minutes or so to write a monologue based on that premise.

Then we shared the stories and finished with a brief Q and A.

Thankyou to the Hastings Writers Group for your participation and enthusiasm – a great opportunity for Sussex Playwrights to meet and connect with you.

Philippa Hammond


Sussex Playwrights Reviews: Architecture for Beginners


Sussex Playwrights Reviews
Architecture for Beginners
A new novel by Robert Cohen
Published by Hobart Books
Robert Cohen has created a monster. A larger than life faded football hero with enormous ambitions for movie stardom and a big vision for a new stadium – but something’s not right. Quite a lot isn’t right.
Reggie’s a barnstorming bully; grandiose and charismatic, with a violent streak and a flair for sentimental display.
The narrator, architect Alex, is a mesmerised Watson drawn back into his orbit decades later, crashing back into a childhood ‘friendship’ remembered rather differently by them both.
Seizing the chance to numb his own perilously teetering marriage and problematic workplace, Alex embarks on a project that will bring its own form of chaos.
This is a book by a playwright and actor and it shows – the writing’s a pacey hurtle, dialogue tumbles out, each distinctive character voice instantly identifiable.
The layered structure works well; a set of flashbacks within flashbacks wrapped in a disaster, memory retrieval a driving force here. There’s a rather enigmatic element too, possibly supernatural or psychological, that will leave you wondering.
It’s a book that wants to be a TV series – visual, energetic and character-driven, with a spectacular ending.
Philippa Hammond

March 5th 2023 meeting

About the March 2023 meeting

All are welcome to attend our March meeting this Sunday 5th.

Advance notice There will shortly be a formal call for entries to Sussex Playwrights 2023 script writing competition.

Last time we had 48 entries. As before, this time we’ll be calling for volunteer readers to help review the entries and establish a long list and short list.

The competition will open for entries very soon. More details on the night.

See and our Sussex Playwrights Facebook Page for news about the competitions as it develops.

Play readings We’re inviting you to bring along your short 10 minute two-hander pieces for reading and discussing on the night. Work in progress, performance-ready pieces, stage, audio, film scripts – everything welcome!

Members’ news Congratulations to Robert Cohen whose new novel Architecture for Beginners has just been published.

Robert will be reading from and discussing his new novel at the April meeting.

Congratulations to Judy Upton whose Sussex set mystery thriller ‘Sniff Them Out, Brownlow!’ has a lovely review in the new issue of Ingenue Magazine p68

Meeting details

Sunday March 5th 7-9pm

New Venture Theatre
Bedford Place

In the bar as usual

Free to Sussex Playwrights members

Guests and friends: £3 on the door – includes wine/juice

February meeting

We read and discussed two extracts from plays in progress:

The Big Interview by John Laurenson


Shillingworth by Dave Patchett

Sussex Playwrights Reviews: Pugs of the Frozen North

A little cracker for the Christmas holidays

Pugs Of The Frozen North
By Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
Adapted by Philip Reeve and Brian Mitchell
Original music by Brian Mitchell
The Foundry Group
Kick off your family Christmas at this little venue in the roof at Brighton’s Presuming Ed, full of families, small children, bobble hats and woolly scarves, and some toy dogs, too.
Cast Brian Mitchell, Emma Howarth and Murray Simon multi-role and quick-change their way through a pacey, cosy-scary tale of magic in the mysterious legend-sparking strangeness of the frozen north, with energy, verve and buckets of snowy charm.
With a kraken encounter, singing yetis, a great example of just how to make a sledge from two dining chairs and an audience full of yipyipyipping pugs, it’s the tale of an epic race to the ice palace.
There are some huge themes in this little cracker for the Christmas holidays; friendship, courage, the circle of life, and how the smallest pug can PULL like a husky team if they all PULL together.
It’s on til Friday December 23rd, with performances at 11.00 and 2.00. (One-hour show).
Philippa Hammond

Sussex Playwrights 2nd October 2022 meeting

October 2022 meeting news
September 2022 meeting report

October meeting – October 2nd 2022 7-9 pm:

All are welcome to attend our October meeting.

We’re inviting you to bring along your short two-hander pieces for reading on the night. Work in progress, performance-ready pieces, stage, audio, film scripts – everything welcome!

Sunday October 2nd 7-9pm

New Venture Theatre
Bedford Place

In the bar as usual

Free to Sussex Playwrights members

Guests and friends £3 – includes wine/juice/nibbles

September meeting report – Members’ and visitors’ latest

Adrian Jameson of The Other Realm horror Theatre Company, is appearing in A Triptych of Wrath 22/23 October at Horror Fest, [14th to the 23rd of October], based around the Wellington and the Poets. More at

Robert Cohen, actor and writer of solo shows has his first novel Architecture for Beginners published by Hobart books. Robert is appearing in Sussex Playwrights’ friend Christine Foster’s play Lost in the Willows, on the life of Kenneth Grahame, from the 5th of October at the Rialto Theatre then a short tour. He’s also about to appear at the Rialto in Who Is Number One, a new play on the making of The Prisoner by Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon [of The Shark is Broken’], happening from mid October – news to come.

John, a writer who has written his first comedy play, a two hander comedy, is looking for a Captain Mainwaring-esque character actor.

Philippa and Thomas have written and presented drama workshops for the New Venture Theatre and Reigate Theatre

Jenny Rowe, writer, actor and improv tutor presenting improvisation classes for actors in the region [also highly recommended for writers]

Honorary vice-president Judy Upton has a new novel out – Sniff Them Out, Brownlow, the adventures of pet detective Sophie Gorridge and sniffer dog Brownlow

Also welcomed Sophie, a writer from the arts magazine Monk and Bernard, film production director painter and actor

Wide ranging conversation covered:

Discussing venues for presenting new work in Brighton [the Poets venue was recommended], the concept of an experimental free fringe, how established venues are attracting an audience, the business of selling tickets for rehearsed readings and works in progress, frustrations around the Brighton Fringe ticket booking system, attracting donations via PayPal, writing workshops, Sussex Playwrights’ publishing plans, Brighton festival podcasts, taking shows to Edinburgh Fringe, Edinburgh venues and accommodation [what should one take?!], the heavyweight impression often given that Edinburgh is a comedy festival – is it even worth doing Theatre there, and is the BBC compliant in this image? How writers get discovered by the BBC, the route to stand-up comedians taking shows to Edinburgh, being ‘discovered’ then going on to write and appear in TV sitcoms … A lot covered in a two hour meeting!

Sussex Playwrights Reviews: Risqué

Written by Tim Coakley
Directed by Murray Hecht
First seen a few years ago, they’re back with a new set of nine sketches, in a fun and fond nod to Benny Hill, Carry On and every 60s and 70s sitcom. Chat line girls, dominatrices, adult babies and pups, a visit to the knobs and knockers shop in a ‘four candles’ sketch for post watershed, and of course Matron, it’s all here, like 80s alternative comedy never happened. The women are powerful, dominant and definitely in control in Risqué’s world.
Standouts include Lena Richardson’s dom, getting down to business with her furry newbie client (Dave Lee), ending in a surprisingly sweet and unexpected unmasked moment, and Sascha Cooper’s flamboyant visit to Tim Charles’ shy and helpless doctor.
The final sketch, set in a failing strip club with Hill as a glum wannabe stripper, Charles as the faded club owner and Cooper an exasperated pro is the highlight; echoing Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore it has the potential to develop into a play in itself.
Quick costume changes, simple settings and each sketch flowing into the next, I’d have liked the pace to be tightened up throughout, pepping up the pace, speeding up the changes – maybe even giving time for slipping another one in …
A 21st century take on a very British seaside postcard style of humour.
At the Latest Music Bar 30/5 – 1/6
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