February 2019 meeting review

February 2019 report by Simon Jenner

Sussex Playwrights Meeting February 3rd 2019

Simon Jenner’s report:

Tonight after Pippa introduced with updates (more TBC Audio podcasts from Simon Moorhead, more Fringe events including Jenny Rowe’s one-person show, and Judy Upton’s film also with Moorhead), came the single event of the evening. It gave rise to the most extended, animated discussion I’ve seen at SPC, more even than January last year.

This all came about through an extract from Jules Craig’s new play in progress, Requiem for a Ratcatcher’s Daughter, featuring Jenny Rowe and Sian Webber. Jules Craig says she’s often meant to come to SPC, and only lives round the corner. But she’s a striking talent on the Brighton Fringe and farther afield, as writer and actor.

She trained as an actor at Rose Bruford College, and as a voice coach at Central School of Speech and Drama. Recent credits include Marjorie in Sisterhood (Kriah Arts) and Mustardseed/Snout in Midsummer Nights Dream (BSC at BOAT). She teaches Voice at ‘ACT’, Brighton and ‘Identity’ Drama School, London. You can see why, since her own voice is distinctive, inflecting the singular quiddity of her own written characters.

Whilst she’s provided short stories for ‘White Rabbit’, ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably’ (Basement, Brighton), contributions to ‘Brighton, A Graphic Novel’, and ‘Backstage Brighton’ (QueenSpark Books), it’s her one woman show, Edith, Elizabeth and I which Craig wrote, produced, performed, and toured nationally throughout 2016 which put her on the playwriting radar.

This, a subtle, witty exploration between Elizabeth I and the poet who just might have toyed with the idea of being her reincarnation, was memorably, teasingly inhabited by Craig with a flash-through of reversed profiles worthy of some 39 Steps routines. Humour and pathos were struck through.

Tonight in this ‘second-draft’ piece Jenny Rowe played Rebecca, Sian Webber was Eva and Robert Cohen reading directions, for an excerpt early on, in fact the kernel of the play, being written first.

A two-hander at the moment, Requiem for a Ratcatcher’s Daughter explores ingrained loneliness, ulterior matchmaking, and occluded kinship. Briefly, a young woman Rebecca with a lanyard from the Social Services round her neck arrives at an older woman’s house, recently de-trapped by her rat-catcher father.

His report – she has it – appreciates Eva the older woman’s ingenious traps but felt this, combined with rat stews – and what’s that cooking at the moment? – caused complaints.

Particularly when a neighbour’s good mousing cat accidentally tripped one and got a bread knife through the eye: exit cat. ‘Couldn’t use it for the bread after that’ reflected the trap-worded Eva. Craig’s giving Eva the same snappy voice as her own traps is of course a given, but she makes it naturalistic, and a paean to older people and independence.

Er, and that huge thing with a supermarket trolley and everything closed over it hanging suspended. What’s that? ‘Abstract art.’ ‘What’s it called.’ ‘Abstract.’ ‘And that stew?’ ‘Chicken.’ Later ‘Well rats.. taste like… chicken… there’s far less meat or fat on though than you’d think…. and there’s a use for tails…’

Rebecca’s character is in fact far more nuanced. It appears finally she’s only a librarian, hence borrowed library lanyard, and finds both her lonely father and this woman rather like two halves she’d like to bring together because, it seems, she might not be around that much longer.

Eva’s having none of it though, and a Keystone Cops chase ensues as she ushers Rebecca out and instead falls into her own vertical trap, that abstract sculpture called Abstract she’d explained away to Rebecca earlier. Trapped there, all the women can do, Rebecca on the outside, is tell each other stories. Where will it go? Well, there’s unsuspected kinship for one thing. Let’s watch Craig’s space.


The discussion afterwards centred on how it’d develop. Two hander or more? There’s thoughts about the father for instance. Should he be brought in as a character in what might be Act Two? After all of it Jules is keeping her options open. Yes for this part it’s sensible to revert to first names.

The overall impression of Jules’ work was immensely positive. Theatrical, funny, with parts tailored to the characters, and utterly intriguing. There’s a conspiratorial way one enters another’s screwball plotting, a bit like Lettice and Loveage SJ suggested though in fact it’s a rich work – richer than the rat stew certainly. The extract had us wanting more. Crisp, funny touching, it portends far more emotional territory. It had started as black comedy but its reach is farther than that.

The cast including Robert all contributed. The contrast between actors and improv, how actors can discuss their play – and say Beckett and Pinter – became dominant.

Sian talked of how these authors were tightly controlling – Pippa and Thomas added detail about authors’ estates. Sian pointed out how Ibsen spent an age drawing character, then three weeks actually writing.

Eddie Alford, whose Breakfast at Dalkey Harbour, Red Roaster was a hit in the Brighton Fringe in May 2013, emerged to tell of the way he hunched defensively when first on a Sussex Creative writing MA in 2010; by the end criticisms were flying over him. So much so that when a priest brother of a corrupt politician upbraided him for a play where two women kiss (this back in Dublin) ‘I’m very disappointed, I’m very disappointed’ Eddie commented: ‘it’s art, you’re quite right to make such a comment’; adding he couldn’t have said that before the course. He commented on the way directors work with an author is similar, though more respectful (if it’s got that far).

Judy Upton agreed, outlining how she was always given a choice when actors came back with modifications: nothing would get past unless she agreed, and she usually did. SJ asked too about the way Churchill worked with devised work-shopping – a theme that emerged tonight – in both Out of Joint for Light Shining in Buckinghamshire where actors brought their own research, Vinegar Tom for Monstrous Regiment, both 1976; and in 1983 Fen. And contrasts with e.g. these days where directors are working solely with the writer, as Lucy Kirkwood suggests when she added in a Royal Court interview for The Children in December 2016 that she tends to really overwrite and her director James Macdonald helps her fine it down.

SJ asked Judy her experience and Judy said she was an under-writer, so all the actors’ suggestions tended to go in and help to build the piece up. Jules herself took this up and said she had the same tendencies herself. But actors’ material really helps.

Eddie also added that of course everything goes now, but writers on the whole – as Pippa, Thomas and Robert said – need a point of letting go – and if actors really can’t work with Beckett and Pinter, well they just leave. Thomas – and was it Pippa? -suggested that you need to let the written character be what the writer thinks they are. In other words the actors has no agency in determining that written character is different just because their own subjective reading of it makes it so. If you don’t like it, you don’t do it. Robert felt the actor and writer tended to gel at an earlier stage and this conflict was minimal.

This led to a discussion of the traditional ‘my character would never say that’ with Judy suggesting an attentive listening by both actor and writer, directors usually good at this. Sian added a fine dramaturg usually sorted things out.

There was agreement that though money came into it if you really disliked a text you’d leave. Those who accepted Beckett and Pinter with their controlling estates, accepted the rules. For the rest as Judy SJ and Eddie said with Jules, we should be so lucky actors add to and inhabit their character. Judy said her completed work usually incorporated actors’ material.

Eddie reverted to the devised theatre, suggesting Abigail’s Party, recently starting a revival tour at Theatre Royal, was a perfect example of how Leigh brought together the original devised material of built-up character. Then Leigh wrote from that as Sian, Pippa and Thomas thought. SJ wondered who brought in Dennis Roussos. But added this was another mid-late 1970s piece like the Churchills, and Eddie agreed. We see less of it now though it still occurs.

SJ at the end asked two brief questions of Jules. How long would the play last – about 60-75 minutes till Tuesday last made her think, Jules suggested. And what about those wonderfully impossible traps? Jules wasn’t sure but said this time she hoped a producer would take care of that, she’d not be producing this piece herself. Either that or re-think the piece in terms of viable props. Personally I hope Jules keeps her traps, as it were open and shut, and at least gestured to.

Jules was very happy with the response and discussion her piece generated – as were we all. This is a partially recalled account of an absorbing new play, with genuine theatrical possibilities, and discussion. But I hope does the evening some justice.

August 2018 meeting report

August 2018 meeting report

Rehearsed play readings

An excerpt from ‘The Road To Nowhere’ by Colin Brake – part of the new ‘The Other 1%’ audio drama series currently in production.

Featuring Russell Shaw, Laura Savage and Sorcha Brooks

 ‘Fran: Day 12’ by Robert Cohen – a monologue from ‘Protect and Survive’

Performed by Sorcha Brooks

Both produced by Simon Moorhead [TBC Audio]

‘Grey’ by Thomas Everchild, read by Thomas with Philippa Hammond

Scratch reading

Extract from ‘IVF Pistols’ by Simon Messingham, read by Simon with Murray Simon, Robert Cohen and Russell Shaw


If you have a short play or excerpt, work in progress or finished piece [up to 10 minutes long] and would like to present it at a meeting for discussion and feedback, or you would like to read on the night, please email us at chair@sussexplaywrights.co.uk



Lots of announcements and news for writers and actors in our August meeting:

The launch of our regular drama podcast: We’re currently post-producing the three winning plays from our last competition. The three full-cast audio dramas will then make up the first programmes in Sussex Playwrights’ new podcast feature.

Publishing: Sussex Playwrights is developing a plan using print-on-demand services to publish selected plays and writing under the Sussex Playwrights banner, so it can be available to companies, producers and actors worldwide.

Things are changing! You can be a part of this exciting new concept for Sussex Playwrights.

July 2018 meeting

About the July 2018 meeting

The group enjoyed a wide ranging discussion on plays and playwriting, production and performance, topics including:

Producing and performing at Brighton Open Air Theatre

The Read Not Dead project at the Globe Theatre, London

Getting your work onto BBC Radio 4 – changes in structure at Broadcasting House and how to contact the relevant BBC radio drama producers

The George Devine and Verity Bargate writing awards

The New Venture Theatre new season launch and programme

Crowd pleasers v challenging new theatre – how to run a theatre and plan a season

The practicalities of reviewing and critiquing theatre

Arts Council applications – the policies and processes

The relative merits of Brighton theatres from the producer/performer point of view

Practicalities of writing audio dramas, ten minute dramas and solo shows

The value of holding table readings with actors

The ‘self-directing actor’

A great sweeping conversation, this meeting!

We will be holding back our latest news about competition and future plans until our August 5th meeting.


Chair Philippa Hammond played several roles in Brighton Shakespeare Company’s summer production The Comedy of Errors at Shoreham Wordfest and Brighton Open Air Theatre in June.

Fringe Review said: ‘ … a light-footed, thump-fisted, limp-wristed and eye-poppingly uproarious production … Long may this company tie up our attention of a summer evening.’ Highly Recommended Show.

See the August meeting post for news of our next event and how you can take part.

May 2018 meeting

Constance Cox competition runners up performances

Our May 6th meeting presented rehearsed recorded readings by professional actors of the two runners up in the most recent Constance Cox playwriting competition.


Second prize: ‘Storm in a League Cup’ by Simon Josiffe

Performed by:

Paul Moriarty as Barry, the football team manager

Tom Dussek as Green, the antlered forest spirit

Sorcha Brooks as Julia, the sports journalist

Murray Simon as Commentator

And featuring … The Audience as the football crowd

Directed by Thomas Everchild

Produced by Philippa Hammond

A Sussex Playwrights Production


Third prize: ‘Rock and Chips’ by David Weir

Performed by:

Murray Simon as Bill

Philippa Hammond as Martina

Tom Dussek as Fantoni

Paul Moriarty as Mr Chips and the Barman

Directed by Thomas Everchild

Produced by Philippa Hammond

A Sussex Playwrights Production


The plays will be reviewed by Simon Jenner in due course

Both playwrights were our guests on the night, together with John Dutton, whose play The Teaswell Incident won first prize and was performed and recorded in October 2017.

All three plays are in post production and will be available for download soon.

April 2018 meeting Festival Fringe Preview

Our Fringe Preview night featured three highlights from the upcoming Brighton Festival Fringe

April 8th 2018 7.00 – 9.00 pm

Festival Fringe Preview

We welcomed three Brighton area theatre companies to the April  meeting to present works-in-progress extracts from their upcoming Fringe plays:


Unmasked Theatre presented ‘Cooked’ by Natalie Audley
Directed by Richard Evans-Thomas


Lucy – Sophie Stone
Adam – John Black
Henry – Tobias Clay
Brett – Jack Kristiansen


Margot Jobbins presented ‘What’s Wrong with Monotony?’ by Tim Coakley
Directed by Margot Jobbins


Writer – Owen Bleach
Director – Sharon Drain
Actress – Emma Howarth
Actor – Gordon Foggo


Two Bit Productions presented ‘Bully Beef’ by Peter Gardiner
Directed by Peter Gardiner
Produced by Dan Skelt

From the producers of audio drama series “Whispers Through The Static” comes a new production premiering at this years Brighton Fringe, inspired by true events. September 1916, the Somme, a British tank crew breaks down during an advance and the crew, fresh from training, must endure five nights in No-Man’s Land. Besieged from without and unravelling from within.


Aaron Ost
Jack Knibb
Ruben Pol
Russell Shaw
Neil James


Each extract was introduced by the director.

Rehearsals have just begun, so members and visitors had the chance to meet and discuss the scripts with the companies, the actors,writers and directors, and find out more about the productions as they develop ready for next month’s Brighton Festival Fringe.


And we just had time for two little bonus pieces:


Piece by Piece

Written and directed by Peter Gardiner, featuring members of the Bully Beef cast


For Art’s Sake

Written and directed by Christine Foster, featuring Russell Shaw and Laura Savage


See the Fringe Brochure  or visit the Fringe Website for details and bookings


May 6th Preview

Our May meeting will present rehearsed recorded readings by professional actors of the two runners up in the most recent Constance Cox playwriting competition:

Second: ‘Storm in a League Cup’ by Simon Josiffe

Third: ‘Rock and Chips’ by David Weir

Both playwrights will be our guests on the night.

Contact Philippa Hammond chair@sussexplaywrights.co.uk

2018 AGM and March meeting

Meeting minutes

Sussex Playwrights 83rd AGM March 4th 2018



Welcome and Apologies – none noted

2017 Minutes available here

Corrections – no corrections

Matters arising – none

Motions – none received or raised


Chair and Secretary’s report 2017 – 2018

It’s been a great second year as Chair & Secretary of Sussex Playwrights.

Over 11 meetings

  • Members and friends have reported back on their involvement in last year’s Hove Grown, Brighton Fringe and Edinburgh Festivals and many other writing and production successes.
  • We’ve held several impromptu scratch nights where writers brought their scripts along to workshop, interesting discussions too

We’ve had some big hits too

  • We held a well attended Writers’ Night, where four works in progress and finished work were given performed readings followed by lively discussion
  • A performance by Ross Gurney-Randall and Doug Devaney of an extract from ‘Ross and Doug Present Scenes From The Life And Death Of Lord Haw Haw’
  • A terrific reading of the new play ‘The Engagement’ by James Alexander Allen, described by Simon Jenner as ‘the finest SPC production of a rehearsed reading I’ve seen … ‘‘The Engagement’ is about to be presented at the Rialto Theatre as part of the Hove Grown festival of new drama. Directed by Secretary Thomas Everchild.

    And we’re looking to host more writers’ events like these over the next year.

Our guest speakers have included

  • Kelly Mikulla of the Sussex Film Office.
  • Brighton & Hove’s award-winning independent film writer and director Howard J Ford
  • Our Brighton Festival-time event featured the playwright, screenwriter and novelist William Nicholson [Shadowlands / Gladiator / Les Miserables] in conversation on writing for stage, page and screen.

We were delighted to announce

  • our new honorary President – William Nicholson [Gladiator]
  • our new honorary Vice President – Judy Upton


  • Most recent Constance Cox prize playwriting competition saw a rehearsed performed reading of the first prize winner,‘The Teaswell Incident’ by John Dutton, before an audience upstairs – this was recorded and is currently being edited as a full audio production by Simon Moorhead of TBC Audio
  • The runners up will also have recorded readings.

Special events

  • Our July meeting saw our first Summer Party – we announced the winners of the 2016-17 Constance Cox playwriting competition
  • Christmas Party featured a fiendish quiz, spooky storytelling and music from Jo Crocker

Our network develops

Over the last year we’ve welcomed many visitors and new members to our meetings.

Our social media following continues to grow online– at the time of writing

  • Sussex Playwrights Facebook Page 391 likes
  • @playwrightsclub Twitter 984 followers

Local links growing too:

  • with the Brighton and Sussex Equity Branch – a lovely thank you for promoting their events
  • with Brighton Actors Networking Group, Shooting People Brighton
  • with theatre and audio drama producers Simon Moorhead of TBC Audio, Brighton Theatre of the Air and Brighton Radio Playtime
  • Sussex Playwrights Reviews:

We began a new venture – reviewing shows in the city under the Sussex Playwrights Reviews banner. We started during the Fringe, so far reviewed 14 productions and will continue with more reviews of new theatre, audio and film drama in future.

So we’re really joining the dots in the city. It’s been a fun, productive and incredibly rewarding second year as Chair.

Thank you

Philippa Hammond – Chair
Thomas Everchild – Secretary


Treasurer’s Report

Treasurer Jerry Attwood presented the accounts for the year. Sussex Playwrights currently holds £4,345.00.

Thomas will liaise with Jerry re establishing a Pay Pal account.

Jerry and Thomas discussed the current membership and funds situation.

From now on the membership will go up to £15.00.

This will allow any member to submit two scripts to any competition.

Any non member who submits a script to a competition will pay a £15.00 fee which will make them an automatic Sussex Playwrights member and entitle them to receive all club news and free entry to all events.

At present we are not charging yearly fees to existing members.

We are still considering reinstating the yearly fee, in order to boost club funds to support future events and projects.

Visitors will be able to buy tickets online as well as on the door – the visitors’ fee will increase to £3 per meeting, to include drinks, play-readings, discussions and special events.

Actors booked to read at Sussex Playwrights-produced rehearsed and performed readings and recordings will receive an expenses payment – amount to be decided.


2018 Elections

Chair – Philippa Hammond: proposed Thomas Everchild, seconded Murray Hecht – re-elected

Vice Chair – Robert Cohen: proposed Simon Jenner, seconded Murray Hecht – re-elected

Secretary – Thomas Everchild: proposed Simon Jenner, seconded Christine Foster – re-elected

Treasurer – Simon Moorhead: proposed Thomas Everchild, seconded Sorcha Brooks – elected [note as Simon has been otherwise engaged over the year, the role is being looked after by Keith Holman, son of Sussex Playwright the late Olive Holman]

Committee members – Judy Upton and Simon Jenner: proposed Philippa Hammond, seconded Thomas Everchild – re-elected

Thank you to former Committee Members John Dutton and Cherie Cherchie, who did not stand in this year’s election.

Jerry Attwood, the outgoing Treasurer, has served Sussex Playwright in various capacities – as Treasurer, Chair and Membership Secretary – for nine years, and is a long standing member of the club. A special thank you to Jerry for all he’s done for the club, from Philippa, Robert, Thomas and all the committee and members.



Simon Jenner said that the reading of ‘The Engagement’ had been a watershed, a wonderful production with a huge response – exciting theatre at Sussex Playwrights.

Simon Jenner also mentioned our relationship with the New Venture Theatre, where we have met for many years. In the past, SPC and NVT have collaborated and he asked that anyone with NVT connections start to reconnect with a view to future work together.

Simon Moorhead noted that the NVT are only using their varied theatre facilities over six days during the upcoming Brighton Fringe month.


After the AGM

We enjoyed and discussed performed readings of three short plays, by Peter Gardiner and Dave Patchett.

January 2018 meeting: ‘The Engagement’

‘ … the finest SPC production of a rehearsed reading I’ve seen … ‘ (Simon Jenner)

‘The Engagement’

Sussex Playwrights presented a well-received performance reading of this new play (under its working title) by James Alexander Allen, from a story of true events by Wayne Liversidge.

Performed by:

Joshua Crisp
Philippa Hammond
Russell Shaw
Amy Sutton

Produced by Philippa Hammond

Members and visitors were invited to come and watch and discuss the play with the writers and cast. The play had the reception that Sussex Playwrights is all about – a committed, energetic and collaborative response from a rapt and intrigued audience.


Here are some highlights from Simon Jenner’s review of the reading and report on the discussion:

‘ … this is the finest SPC production of a rehearsed reading I’ve seen … ‘

‘ … a fine script: idiomatic, swift, keenly observant in its naturalism … ‘

‘ … one of the most solidly imagined SPC productions I’ve seen … ‘

‘ … Sutton’s incandescent Gerri, a breathtakingly vivid and compellingly believable portrait … ‘

‘ … the audience and cast responded to this play as never before at SPC. Nearly everyone spoke eloquently, engaging cast and producers by turn; they themselves led off in discussion of what decisions had been or should be made … ‘

‘ … a staged version of this play … will prove one of the absolute highlights of 2018’s Hove Grown Play Festival … ‘

Simon Jenner (Sussex Playwrights Reviews)

Latest news

The play will be premiered at the Rialto Theatre with new cast as part of the 2018 Hove Grown festival of new drama.

It will be directed by Sussex Playwrights’ Secretary Thomas Everchild of Studio 1919.

The Engagement
Rialto Theatre
March 27th and 28th at 8.30 pm