January 2019 meeting

January report

We kicked off our 2020 with new writing, a glass of wine and great conversation with Sussex Playwrights.


Our guest, actor Heather-Rose Andrews, had just returned from her Christmas in New York where she performed Sam Chittenden’s adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, to audience and critical acclaim.


Heather was in conversation with Philippa discussing the business of adaptation, re-imagining a classic work for the stage, and performing in an iconic New York venue to great reviews.


And James Alexander Allen presented a reading by Tristan Woolf and Kevin Cherry from his latest script We Can Be Villains for discussion and analysis.


If you’d like to bring a short piece for a scratch reading on a club night, email Philippa Hammond chair@sussexplaywrights.co.uk

December 2020 meeting

 
Sussex Playwrights presents:
An evening with William Nicholson
 
Thank you to William Nicholson, our Honorary President and special guest at last night’s Sussex Playwrights
 
 
William gave terrific insights into the reality of being a novelist, playwright and A-list screenwriter, his personal practice, including developing self discipline and lifelong writing habits, the stages of getting a film from first talks to release, the process of raising a budget for a self-directed feature and how the industry really works.
 
He also shared the personal impact that feedback, reviews and the awards process can have on the writer.
 
The event concluded with audience Q&A, networking and drinks in a room packed with writers, actors and drama makers.
 
William also directs and his new film Hope Gap, based on his Tony award-nominated play The Retreat from Moscow and partly filmed in Sussex, will be released next year
 
 
 
 
    

September 2019

Kick off a dramatic autumn with Sussex Playwrights

Kick off a dramatic autumn with the next Sussex Playwrights meeting this Sunday September 1st – all welcome.

Our special guests had all just returned from the Edinburgh experience, with audience and critical acclaim to their credit!

We discussed their work producing, writing and performing new drama at the Fringe.

Magician, comedian, actor, writer, corporate presenter, paranormal sceptic, bon viveur Paul Zenon discussing

Trust Me!

‘The master at work …’ Must See Show [Fringe Review]
Review

Different Theatre – Writer, producer, director, actor Sam Chittenden discussing

Sary

‘a beautiful piece of theatre, crafted with elegance and passion …’ [Fringe Review]
Review

Metamorphosis

‘Assiduously constructed and impressively acted, Different Theatre’s female-oriented Metamorphosis rings with a new voice …’ [A Younger Theatre]
Review

Bite-Size Plays – Producer and driving force behind this Brighton and Edinburgh phenomenon, Nicolas Brice discussing and performing with Philippa a short play from the menu; ‘Vintage’, by Lucy Kaufman.

The Big Bite Size Breakfast Show

‘a winning formula for good plays … guaranteed good theatre.’ [The British Theatre Guide], shortlisted for the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award

Review

August 2019 meeting report

Writers’ Night

Sussex Playwrights was established originally to read and discuss writers’ plays.

Now we’ve re-established it as a great place for writers, performers, producers and makers of new stage, screen, audio and online drama, we’re going to be weaving this idea back into our monthly meetings schedule over the next few months. We’ll be keeping the mix of networking, special guests and guest performances too. Monologues, dialogue, sketches, screenplays – we’ll be inviting writers to come along with short examples of your writing to be read and discussed on Writers’ Nights.

August 2019’s meeting was a Writers’ Night.

We featured playwright and poet Simon Jenner, in discussion about his work with a reading of his first short play Stemming the Flow, an encounter between Byron and Keats, with Simon as Byron, Russell Shaw as Keats and Philippa Hammond as the Doctor, a reading by Simon of his latest piece My Shit Year and some in depth group discussion on the writing and reading of the works.

We’ll be featuring more play readings over the autumn and winter – please let us know if you have a piece you would like to propose for a reading at a meeting.

Philippa  chair@sussexplaywrights.co.uk

June 2019 meeting

Sussex Playwrights Summer Party: ‘Achievements’

The Fringe is nearly over for another year – time to gather and talk about what we saw, performed and reviewed over a month of theatre, performance, artists, open houses, music, comedy, dance …

We also featured a theme of writing on film, and we focussed on the various film productions that are happening at the moment and some that have been to Cannes this year.

Special guest producer/director Howard J Ford introducing his new family film Adventure Boyz

Trailer

Special guest Justin Hayward discussing the success of the new film script Z.APP which he is developing in collaboration with screenwriter James Alexander Allen

May 5th 2019 Fringe-time meeting

Our May 5th Fringe-time meeting

Our May meeting happened during the Brighton Fringe – Check out our April meeting report for details and responses to five more of the upcoming shows we previewed then.

May Guests

A celebration of writing and performance during the 2019 Brighton Fringe showcasing two more upcoming Fringe shows and an award-winning short monologue, featuring performances and conversations with

Joshua Plummer

Writer, actor and stage combat tutor Joshua performed and discussed his short solo piece ‘Samaritans’ – one of three winners of London Theatre Podcast’s New Year, Same Me competition. Joshua also gave  some insights on dramatic combat on the night.

[More about Joshua at www.joshuaplummer.co.uk ]

The Harbour Theatre Company

Eddie Alford presented and discussed an extract from his upcoming play ‘Hello Who’s Calling’

[See Simon Jenner’s Fringe Review at http://fringereview.co.uk/review/brighton-fringe/2019/hello-whos-calling/ ]

Jenny Rowe

Jenny performed and discussed an extract from her solo play ‘Tiptree: No-one Else’s Damn Secret But My Own’

[see our review at www.sussexplaywrights.co.uk/tiptree-no-one-elses-damn-secret-but-my-own]

Most Curious Productions

Tristan Woolf presented an extract from his new play ‘The Hunters of Ghost Hall’, with writer and actors in conversation.

[see our review at www.sussexplaywrights.co.uk/the-hunters-of-ghost-hall ]

Members’ news

Protect and Survive

Sussex Playwrights’ writers, actors and producer collaborate on this major online audio drama series. Contributors include Russell Shaw, Sorcha Brooks, Philippa Hammond, Robert Cohen, Simon Jenner and TBC Audio producer Simon Moorhead.

You can hear the whole cycle 7 to 19 May as part of Brighton Fringe, in the Jubilee Library.

Imagine what life would be like in Brighton following a nuclear attack on the UK? The chaos, the anguish, the resilience….

What would you do to survive?

As the UK is hit by 160 nuclear warheads, The Other 1% takes you in and around Brighton from the day before to 1000 years after the attack. Systems at the local council collapse, the hospital can’t cope with the human tide and the postman is conscripted to maintain law and order. What exactly is the farmer feeding her pigs, what struggles will humanity face hundreds of years after a nuclear holocaust and how will language and our relationships evolve?

Brighton-based award-winning producer and director, Simon Moorhead: ‘The entire series is produced, cast and recorded in Brighton and Sussex. We are fortunate to have so much talent on our doorstep.’

[listen to The Other 1% complete portfolio of audio dramas at https://audioboom.com/channels/4966632 ]

April 2019 meeting

Our April 2019 meeting report

Our Brighton Fringe preview event featured extracts and discussions on five upcoming shows. Here’s Simon Jenner’s review of the evening and a great way to consider what to see at this year’s Fringe:#

SPC are gaining a reputation for showcasing and preview. Here the April session featured five such shows, and the acting was already up to performative strength. It’s an ideal way to choose some of the Fringe’s strongest shows, and I’d recommend making a date for every April at SPC to get your fix.

Risqué! by Timothy Coakley

Directed by Murray Hecht

There’s a nice blurb worth quoting: ‘Meet the strip club owner who can’t get the staff, the incompetent sex line operator, the lift attendant with a secret, the man who wants a bigger one, Desperate Denise, inappropriate behaviour, the girl who can’t stop, the wife who can’t believe her eyes, the doctor who gets a shock, and the swingers who want to try something new!’

It’s clearly an ensemble cast playing various characters in a series of 5 to 10 minute sketches.

Tonight featured Sascha Cooper as the lift operator, with a desire to hook a man, and Stewart James Barham
 as the one who’s almost up for it. Cooper manages to flesh her role as it were as someone who’ll invoke the end of the world to get a little lift.

It’s a fun role but resolutely a sketch, and the kind of genre worth enjoying on 1970s TV.

Female agency and sexuality’s less stereotyped, though and as part of a suite of such sketches it’s enjoyable and well-wrought, if a bit formulaic. Barham too was fine though had less to do. Cooper on this evidence deserves a larger role somewhere and it’d be good to see if Coakley might provide us with a stretch into substantial comedy.

Four Thieves Vinegar by Christine Foster

Here’s a revival worth waiting for, sicne its London premiere. The writer gave a talk on it last tine, and it’s invigorating to see it performed here. Directed by Margot Jobbins, for Four Tails Theatre Company, it’s a privilege too.

Four Thieves Vinegar is a consummate black comedy about the black death and on this evidence easily one of the best things to see in the Fringe when it opens at the Rialto.

It’s set in the dingy depths of Newgate Prison, 1665: the height of the plague. The play finds its four characters – three prisoners and their jailer – in one of the few places currently untouched by the disease rampaging throughout the land.

Simon Holt’s jailor David Parton has little to do here save usher in new inmates. It’d be good to see how his role plays out.

Poor Jennet Flyte – Char Brockes – is the first. It’s a winning performance of fearful containment. Innocent of any real wrongdoing, as far as we see, Flyte’s frightened and clearly never seen the inside of a prison; more than can be said for nurse Hannah Jeakes played by the consummate Sorcha Brooks.

Their attention’s anchored by the one prisoner already in the cell, Liam Murray Scott’s Matthias Richards (the Alchemist). Richards believes he’s found a cure for the plague and implores his fellow inmates to help him make it. But to do that they’ll need gold, and to get that they’ll need to make good use of the only resources at their disposal: sex, wit and lies.

The title’s based on a truth that thieves worked out that vinegar repels the plague – the fleas, though they didn’t know it – to allow them to rob from the plague-consumed dead.

Scott draws a nervous authority, a man obsessed to the extent that he’s relatively oblivious to Flyte, who gradually warms to Jeakes’ persuading her to tell her story, as Jeakes cheerfully tells hers. Still the scene circles around Richards’ offering a way out. a few props and the trio’s acting was exciting, consummate stuff.

At the Rialto at the opening and end of May. Do see this if it’s one of two plays you get to. The other’s recommended directly below. The two that follow that though are eminently fine third and fourth choices

The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm

Directed by Kevin Nash, and produced by Eugene Doyle, Lloyd Malcolm’s now famed for Emelia, a superb play premiered at the Globe in 2018 and transferring earlier this year to the West End. This really is a worthy precursor.

Amy Coutts’ Heather has made a success of her life. Gala Orsborn’s Carla is out of cash, willing to take part in an unusual proposition. The women meet up for the first time since leaving school: intrigue and manipulation begins. Carla’s already pregnant with her fifth. Twins she reckons. The prosthesis is remarkably convincing – just one detail showing we’re not just getting an excerpt but a sampled preview.

The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in January 2015. Hailed as a psychological thriller it’s more than that yet fulfills this consummately – as anyone who saw it at Hampstead or on its transfer to Trafalgar Studios in January 2016 will confirm. An all-female Sleuth might furnish one parallel.

Anyone seeing this will be struck at how close to its original casting these two actors – who never saw the production – have intuited these roles. That’s not necessary of course but Lloyd Malcolm’s writing suggests similar responses from casting to performance.

Carla’s language is clipped and acutely observed, equally refusing Heather’s unpleasantly articulate assumptions, casually lumping infidelity and failure to nappy-change with wife-beating. Challenged by Carla Heather rejoins unforgivably: ’That is acceptable to some… It’s basically normal. For them.’ Carla, no ‘them’ ripostes ‘My bloke lays one finger on me or the kids and he’s out… what are you going on about?’

What Heather’s going on about is the fact that unlike Carla, her moving on has all been on the outside: she’s still sixteen and wants to drag Carla back there too. It’s an intimately vicious two-hander, Heather’s hyper-articulate rationalising answering every angle that might be aimed at her personal solution.

Coutts conveys Heather’s easily-triggered defences, her gleaming carapace and deep insecurity. Lloyd Malcolm’s neatly prescriptive suggestion that the more manicured middle class woman has trouble conceiving whilst the working class Carla has none might seem a sad cliché out of Blood Brothers, but there’s a reason Carla might remember and this is why Lloyd Malcolm digs deeper than even that musical on class motivation and backstory.

Orsborn’s clipped Carla is savagely good, her every inflection watchful, suspicious, and it transpires flecked with recall at Coutts’ Heather. Like the original Carla, Orsborn’s blonde hair is scraped up, a coping housewife with no time for glamour. Coutts is svelte. This promises to be a first-rate revival.

Chain written and directed by Peter Gardiner, Two Bit Productions

From the team that brought you 2018’s Bully Beef comes Chain, a contemporary play with audio drama interludes. A group of anti-war activists commit themselves to radical new tactics, when they lead to consequences none of them could of foreseen it pushes their beliefs to the edge and threatens to tear the group apart.

The unnamed ensemble cast are excellent and Gardiner should have provided their names as well as roles, so this summary’s a little balder. Piquant is the reappearance of one character who was in an eco-action of 1992, now legendary. Another young man well plays the jaded Marxist and another a man who’s just discovered him. They’re about to act, but it’s a little Rebels Without A Clue or perhaps a route map, and they’re leaning on earlier activists for support.

In truth there’s a powerful groundswell of activism and a regenerated left that needs no harking-back to earlier Anglo-Saxon attitudes. Just watch Novara media, let alone Owen Jones. But this is a strong opening, and twins with another play on radicalism featured tonight – it’s in the air, however sardonically drama needs to frame it.

Well to the fore are flourished acronyms like EDF (English Defence League) the home of Tommy Robinson and now banned. For those of us who share the political aspirations of the studenty types and eternal student types depicted, these are veggie burger and drink, but I’m not convinced everyone would know the names. Perhaps the strong ambiance will render this unimportant.

Further Education by Pete Barrett

Directed by Luke Ofield and Pip O’Neill, Unmasked Theatre

1985: Frank the miner likes doing his job and reading the Sun. Unfortunately, Maggie is after his job and his new housemates definitely don’t like him reading the Sun. In a riotous clash of class, morals and feminism, very traditional Frank finds himself bunking down with three very modern students at the heart of the picketing wars.

In a country seeking to eradicate his livelihood, Frank must decide how he would like to be remembered once the line is inevitably drawn.

We’re treated to three of the cast members, in order of appearance Brontë Sandwell as Claire, Jessica Smith’s Emma, and Ella Verity’s politically active and feminist Rachel. Before Rachel arrives Claire’s found asleep on the sofa – so student-land before loans crushed even lie-ins – is cajoled by Emma who can’t believe Claire’s having an affair with a married lecturer and decides egged on by Rachel to do something about it. But Rachel’s more direct even than that. It’s both funny and unnerving. The acting’s wholly convincing. Sandwell as dippy naïve Claire, Smith as more staunchly feminist, sensible sister mode, and finally Verity as dungareed feminist prepared to take drastic action.

The real drama is about to unfurl. These Essex University students are real, or their actions are. Expressing solidarity during the Miners Strike of 1984-85 they invite one, Frank, to their campus. A culture clash depicted above is more than on the work cards. It’s a strong play, historically grounded, setting us up for that very rare thing, a comedy about a historically grim clash. Here it’s between Thatcher and unions, union members and their naïve allies. Another to see.

SPC has scored with showcasing four strong dramas, all laced with comedy (if two are very black) and by contrast more typical fare in lightning sketches. I’ve booked.

Risqué! by Timothy Coakley

Directed by Murray Hecht

Meet the strip club owner who can’t get the staff, the incompetent sex line operator, the lift attendant with a secret, the man who wants a bigger one, Desperate Denise, inappropriate behaviour, the girl who can’t stop, the wife who can’t believe her eyes, the doctor who gets a shock, and the swingers who want to try something new!

Four Thieves Vinegar by Christine Foster

Directed by Margot Jobbins, FourTails Theatre Company

Four Thieves Vinegar is a black comedy about the black death. Set in the dingy depths of Newgate Prison, 1665: the height of the plague. The play finds its four characters – three prisoners and their jailer – in one of the few places currently untouched by the disease rampaging throughout the land. One prisoner, an alchemist, believes he has found a cure for the plague and implores his fellow inmates to help him make it. But to do that they’ll need gold, and to get that they’ll need to make good use of the only resources at their disposal: sex, wit and lies.

The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm

A twisting, taut psychological drama. Heather has made a success of her life. Carla is out of cash and she is willing to take part in an unusual proposition. The two women meet up for the first time since leaving school and the intrigue and manipulation begins. The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm had its original production at the Hampstead Theatre in January 2015.

Chain written and directed by Peter Gardiner, Two Bit Productions

From the team that brought you 2018’s “Bully Beef” comes Chain, a contemporary play with audio drama interludes. A group of anti-war activists commit themselves to radical new tactics, when they lead to consequences none of them could of for-seen it pushes their beliefs to the edge and threatens to tear the group apart.

Further Education by Pete Barrett

Directed by Luke Ofield and Pip O’Neill, Unmasked Theatre

1985: Frank the miner likes doing his job and reading the Sun. Unfortunately, Maggie is after his job and his new housemates definitely don’t like him reading the Sun. In a riotous clash of class, morals and feminism, very traditional Frank finds himself bunking down with three very modern students at the heart of the picketing wars.

In a country seeking to eradicate his livelihood, Frank must decide how he would like to be remembered once the line is inevitably drawn.

Award-winning Brighton company Unmasked Theatre returns with a winner from the highly successful Brighton Scratch Night.