January 2019 meeting review

Sussex Playwrights January 6th 2019

Happy New Year!

All about Sussex Playwrights’ January meeting for writers, actors, producers – anyone interested in new drama and all media.

Special guests:

Brighton’s TBC Audio producer / director Simon Moorhead brings all the latest news of his current work – the huge online audio drama project The Other 1%, recently mentioned in the BBC Sounds’ Drama Podcast Report. Essential networking for writers and actors in the region!

Writers, actors, crew, post production work – this series is almost entirely Sussex-created and made.

Fascinating insights and essential networking opportunity for any writer or actor interested in connecting with a commissioning producer working in the city.

Philippa Hammond gives a live performance of Delicacy, a brand new monologue by Grant Gillespie and Laura Lockington, which will also shortly be recorded for the series.

And writer-actor-producer Robert Cohen will be performing a preview extract from his solo show ‘Hi Vis’, which will be running at Sweet Venues in February, followed by discussion on the practicalities of writing, performing and producing solo work.

———

‘January kicked off with a high turnout, high-energy meeting. And if it wasn’t for that riveting one-act play we had exactly a year ago J A Allen’s The Engagement, it was as it were riveting in rivets. The envelope of SPC was pushed again.

And it’s now a go-to for writers wishing to look for radio commissions. Whilst theatre will always be the core of SPC, this reinvigorating of SPC’s core function, getting writers into professional engagements, reconnects us with the world of Constance Cox, a founder member who often had plays on at the West End or commissions with the BBC.

Simon Moorhead producer/director of TBC Audio was back to introduce some exceptionally spooked readings that are about to get canned. That is, Moorhead’s production team with cast, crew, recording studios and audio-podcasts that are now amongst the 10% most-listened to in the UK. And that doesn’t even take into account the rest of the world where in fact TBC Audio garners most of its loyal listeners. Sussex-based, it’s a new force pulling in a range of new and experienced writers, several of whom have worked with Moorhead at the BBC.

Enough puff. Moorhead introduced a new strand and orientation for TBC. The Other 1% has concentrated on the unexplained 1&5 of phenomena that can’t be explained away, whether psychic, alien or sci-fi dystopia.

Now the emphasis will also be on adult content. Just hwo adult…. We found out. Philippa Hammond gave a live performance of Delicacy, ‘a brand new monologue by Grant Gillespie and Laura Lockington’. And it’s branding all right, its storyline signaling an exciting disturbing new direction that can’t be given away. A food vlogger divulges to her unseen audience what delicacies she’s envisaged, things like orangutans fried in palm oil… you get the whiff. Styled in the persuasive sensory enticements in presenter style so enamored of the BBC, it crosses cooking with a glistening of porn. Hammond has the gift of teasing out unreason in a perfectly reasonable way, with a kick of vlogger sexiness, the kind vloggers sue to get your attention. And this one does. The mild culinary horrors multiply in Hammond’s delight, till she makes use of something you never thought she would.

Robert Cohen was back too to discuss his 2011 solo play High-Vis, now part of a trilogy of Men Without Friends alongside his McCarthyite-smashing masterpiece The Trials of Harvey Matusow based on real documents housed at Sussex University, and Something Rotten, from Hamlet’s uncle’s point of view. High Vis, the middle one, seemed to me the weakest when I saw it, concerning a man with OCD re-assigned as traffic warden then re-assigned again without quite understanding why he’s so loathed.

Cohen this time performed the piece with a snap and extra edge of dark that convinced me that with the tightening he’s given it, the piece can hold its own with its companions, though its scope is never going to trump as it were the real-life of the one and the real-imagined of the other riffing easily as it does on a famed theatrical villain. Cohen catches the delusion and pathos and even more, the imagined characters flitting across his face with their disdain, dislike, even fear. The man’s blank pathos is pitiable. Cohen’s cornered the market here in unlovable men with different degrees of illusion, or disillusion. I’m really glad to have been re-acquainted with this play. It’d be good now to hear more of Cohen’s twenty-eight plays written on a play-a-day challenge last year. Cohen took a few questions. High Vis is running at Sweet Venues The Welly in February’. Simon Jenner

December 2018 meeting review

Sussex Playwrights December 2nd 2018

‘There was an explosion of red this Christmas as Gareth Strachan’s ingenious take on Father Christmas in Hard Talk was waylaid by mind-altering ads, a self-identifying elf, a Father Christmas bankrupted by Eartha Kitt and nearly causing WW3 with a Kruschev-Kennedy face-off over who owned the North Pole (Coca-Cola won). And who on earth gave those reindeer them idea of munching mind-altering trouble-with-lichen psychedelic food sending them sky-high over the moon? And why on earth is father Christmas or Sir Nicholas or whatever talking like Hannibal Lecter, and why on earth too is Felicity Fists suddenly softening? No, you’ll have to listen to the subsequent recording. Simon Jenner’s acting I cannot speak. Jessica Hilliard sashayed with aplomb from nasty to nice with an exasperation that had most people reacting in sympathy as Strachan the elf and Jenner the over-privileged avuncular thing in red cavorted over the text and should have been led gently outside and had their chests massaged with a warm steam-roller as Bernard Shaw once said of audience coughers. And you can listen again on Radio Foreplay.

Strachan’s a real comic force to be reckoned with now, as protean comedy writer and showing his capacity to write far darker fare. There’s a superbly- nervy quality to his whiplash puns and brilliant desperation. And he provides material rather like a lightning rod.

Far more intriguing – deliberately – was Philippa Hammond’s own take on her time as immigration control officer in Night Watch. This is a beautifully haunting story, with an ending that’s both poetic and profoundly questing, not a conventional ghost story, but if anything haunting that genre too. Hammond, managing everything as usual, didn’t quite give herself enough time to read it, and I’d relish a slower delivery. As it was Hammond’s as crystal clear as an old aeroplane’s wireless set.

Trevor Harvey read The Nativity Play by Mick Inkpen – both delicate and moving. Harvey was with Carole Bremson (also present) co-chair of SPC from 2011-13 and this pair did their best to modernize and move the SPC along at a crucial phase of its development. Harvey’s now less prone to travel so far on a Sunday night, but he deserves our thanks and memory for his selfless, and gifted involvement on so many levels since 1967 when he first joined.

Thomas Everchild led a fun game of literary consequences. Our co-chair lived up to his surname here. It was particularly silly as only he knows how! Not so much red noses as red faces. Everchild’s an ingenious writer and never gives himself enough room, sometimes craming a short piece in between longer ones by others. It’d be good to see him stretched again and with room to expand some of his fizzing set-pieces. As for next year, well, several of us I know would love that old nicked quirk of a quiz back. We’re none of us getting any older.

Tristan Wolfe and Lena Richardson Hill gave a performed reading of the short comedy play Christmas Presents by Roger Lee. Think of a forced confession from his wife by a man stuck halfway up a chimney on Christmas Eve. Richardson Hill added a measure of distinction to this decadent little piece.

A vintage night with reindeer gristle. Oops, they’re the reins you’ve boiled. As ever co-chairs Hammond and Everchild provided generous lashings of Christmas fare. They gain deserve our heartfelt baa-humbug or whatever thanks for keeping SPC thriving from a point of near extinction’. Simon Jenner

November 2018 meeting review

Sam Chittenden presented an extract from her latest play Sary, [part of October Horrorfest], featuring Sharon Drain and Rebecca Jones

She talked with Philippa Hammond about Different Theatre and her work as a writer, actor, producer and director of new drama.

We review Sary: http://www.sussexplaywrights.co.uk/reviews-sary/

Luke Ofield and Pip O’Neill discussed their latest Brighton Scratch Night – a celebration of new writing which has already become something of a feature on the Brighton theatre scene.

Ben Baeza and John Black performed an extract from Naked Kittens, by Max Wilkinson, directed by Luke & Pip.

Unmasked Theatre are a producing company based in Brighton, with four years’ experience of critically acclaimed productions, with a focus on new writing and adapting classical literature for the modern stage.

We review the latest edition of The Brighton Scratch Night: http://www.sussexplaywrights.co.uk/sussex-playwrights-reviews-the-brighton-scratch-night/

And from new drama and comedy to a piece of classic theatre – Thomas Everchild and Philippa Hammond discussed the experience of producing and directing Romeo and Juliet for the October Shoreham Wordfest. Romeo [John Black] and Benvolio [Ben Baeza] were there on the night.

Fringe Guru reviews Romeo and Juliet: http://brighton.fringeguru.com/reviews/brighton/romeo-and-juliet

October 2018 meeting review

Sussex Playwrights October 2018

‘TBC Audio was back. To those who don’t know him, Moorhead is a force SPC have enjoyed working with for now nearly two years.

As producer/director of TBC Audio Moorhead was back to introduce some exceptionally spooked readings that are about to get canned. That is, Moorhead’s production team with cast, crew, recording studios and audio-podcasts that are now amongst the 10% most-listened to in the UK. And that doesn’t even take into account the rest of the world where in fact TBC Audio garners most of its loyal listeners. Sussex-based, it’s a new force pulling in a range of new and experienced writers, several of whom have worked with Moorhead at the BBC.

Enough puff. Moorhead introduced a new strand and orientation for TBC. The Other 1% has concentrated on the unexplained 1% of phenomena that can’t be explained away, whether psychic, alien or sci-fi dystopia.

In particular he’s revisiting a work he was involved with in his early BBC days, Threads from 1984. This dealt in literally blistering detail with the aftermath of a nuclear strike, When the Wind Blows for adults, very much a miasma in the air in the time.

He’s commissioned a series of Zero Plus Days, the first of which by Simon Jenner Zero Plus 120, Farmer, read by Philippa Hammond I can’t possibly comment on save to comment on how consummately Hammond realised the de-humanized farmer’s shaft of humanity after a gruff of brutally realist touches. She’s already recorded it and it was a delight to hear this pitch-perfect Sussex drawl re-enacted by Hammond, who’s sovereign in such roles – an apparent ‘coping’ mechanism riven by humanity.

Moorhead commissioned Jenner to work with Gareth Strachan and Alison Fisher on writing a Zero Plus 1000 Years series which Jenner will kick off with.

Strachan was up next. His Zero Plus Seven, a postman, something Strachan has been, was acted with studied, bleached out conscience by Russell Shaw. Shaw brought a gravitas – perhaps it was just a touch too slow in parts – that showed his immersion in the subject. He actually revisited Threads, and rarely has something sounded as death-haunted as here. Shaw immersed himself in a superbly disjunct relation of a man commanded to shoot looters – his royal warrant meaning he must or be shot himself, an ingenious recognition of ancient writ – and how he’s forced to shoot old friends, lovers even, in a display of self-destruction that’s like PTSD in both slow-motion and super-quick at just over ten minutes, the commissioned length of these pieces. Throughout, Moorhead supplied the gunshots and actual bullets on display. I might have done with a couple less gunshots but make no mistake, this was gripping and left a great sunk silence for several seconds.

Discussions after took the form of how this inhumanity visited such individuals and left everyone keen to hear the recordings and indeed more of the same. Moorhead will be back in January, but Strachan will return with another piece in December’.

Simon Jenner

‘Philippa Hammond performed a reading of this new short monologue, which is part of the ‘Protect and Survive’ audio series, currently in production by TBC Audio, produced by Simon Moorhead. 120 days after a nuclear strike on Britain, a tenacious and resourceful farmer holds on and tries to survive, despite losing family members to radiation sickness. The Downs are no longer fit to grow vegetables or crops and the pigs are being reared on the only food available to them – the rotting human corpses that litter the countryside. Piglets are being born with two heads, but as the farmer ruefully remarks, in a time of famine “two heads are better than one.” Audience members remarked on the accuracy of the grim circumstances depicted, being similar to events reported after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Simon Jenner’s writing was visceral and bleak, yet also poetic and lyrical. Delivered by Philippa in a stoical, light Dorset burr, it reminded me of the scenes of harsh winter harvesting in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess Of The D’Urbervilles’.

Judy Upton

September 2018 meeting

About the September 2018 meeting

Sunday September 2nd

Thank you to our great guests at this month’s Sussex playwrights meet up.

September’s meeting welcomed producer, director and actor Sophie Flack of Lantern Light Theatre. We chatted with Sophie about her experience of winning a contract to write, produce and perform a series of shows in celebration of Portsmouth’s Summer of Sherlock, with performances and readings by Tom Dussek, Paul Zenon and Neil James from the play Sherlock’s Poisons which we reviewed here this month.

http://lanternlighttheatre.weebly.com/

Taking several plays at the same time from Brighton to Edinburgh is also quite a feat – we also heard from Cast Iron‘s Andrew Allen and Michelle Donkin about their Edinburgh Fringe experience.

https://castironbrighton.weebly.com/

Peter Gardiner of Two Bit Productions and the Brighton Theatre of the Air / Brighton Radio Playtime team brought two short plays to read and discuss – part of Peter’s Whisper Through the Static audio drama series, available online. If you’re an actor or writer interested in getting involved in audio drama in the city, do take a look at their Facebook Pages and have a chat with them on the night.

Featuring Philippa Hammond, Andrew Allen, Tom Clear, Lucy Mepsted, Neil James and Peter Gardiner.

http://www.twobitproductions.com

James Alexander Allen is writer of the acclaimed play The Engagement, which we previewed in January, to some of the best response ever seen at a Sussex Playwrights script reading. SPC Secretary Thomas Everchild directed The Engagement in the Hove Grown festival of new drama. This month James presented a reading of an extract from his latest short film script Edge of Insanity, with production news.

Featuring James, Andrew Allen, Philippa Hammond and Lucy Mepsted.

http://www.jamesalexanderallen.com/

And the latest news from Thomas and Philippa about Afterthought Theatre‘s new Romeo and Juliet production for Shoreham Wordfest this October.

 

June 2018 meeting – Summer Party

Our summer party

Our Summer Party happened on Sunday June 3rd 2018.

 

The evening:

Drinks, nibbles, good conversation and of course – drama!

News that Sussex Playwright the late Ted McFadyen has left SPC a legacy in his will – more news as it comes.

28 Plays Later challenge: Robert Cohen has achieved his goal of writing 28 scripts in 28 days, on receiving a writers’ prompt each day. Robert, Sorcha, John and Kitty read his play Valentine’s Index – a tight, neatly plotted and funny short play with a highly satisfying ending.

The group had a wide ranging Fringe discussion – who did or saw what at the Fringe?

Sussex Playwrights’ Philippa and Thomas were out and about throughout the Fringe, and have been reviewing productions including:

Cooked
What’s Wrong With Monotony
Bully Beef
– nominated for Best New Play from New Writing South
Franz Kafka Apparatus
Spin City
Anthony and Cleopatra
Whaddaya Know We’re In Love
After: Parenting and the Apocalypse [we also made contact with the writer, Dr Craig Jordan Baker, Brighton University’s senior lecturer in Creative Writing  – Sussex Playwrights continues to be about making connections and joining the creative dots in the region.

Thomas presented a teaser audio trailer for The Teaswell Incident – John Dutton’s winning Constance Cox competition entry.

Should reviewers be banned entirely? Simon Jenner introduced a conversation and brief debate.

Our friends at Brighton Radio Playtime and Brighton Theatre of the Air presented a reading of Dave Patchett’s King Charlie, with Jeff, Mary, Guy, Sue and Anthony followed by an interesting discussion around how the piece would be staged; as audio or theatre? The use of narrator was thought to be quite unusual as was the mix of several different genres – a burlesque-toned start, a static centre, physical theatre, storytelling, monologue and farce, coupled with some quite dark themes.

Thomas presented a teaser audio trailer for Storm in a League Cup, a runner up in the Constance Cox competition.

Robert presented a Monologue, also part of the 28 Plays Later Challenge – a chatty, angry rant about school play productions with a very clearly delineated central character, who rang a bell with several present. A great reading, commenting about education in general. One listener asked if we are perhaps ‘a bit fed up with strong language?’ This piece certainly generated most interest and conversation about teaching, hippies, and how getting jaded after not living up to one’s purpose can lead to bitterness. General intrigue around ‘how is it going to develop …?’

Thomas presented a teaser audio trailer for Rock and Chips, a runner up in the Constance Cox competition.

News: Philippa is appearing in The Comedy of Errors at BOAT at the end of June.

‘The Engagement’

The Engagement: Directed by Thomas Everchild ‘Must See Show’ – Fringe Review

In January, Sussex Playwrights hosted a performed reading of a new play by James Alexander Allen, based on a true story by actor Wayne Liversidge.

The reading won some of the best response we’ve ever had for any Sussex Playwrights event.

As a result, James revised the script and engaged Thomas Everchild to direct a production of the play in the March 2018 Hove Grown festival at the Rialto Theatre.

Fringe Review’s response:

The Engagement

‘Must See Show’ – Fringe Review
(Brighton &) Hove Grown 2018

‘Thomas Everchild co-produces and directs a taut, absorbing narrative …

Christina Thom’s EP Trade evokes bar backdrops and haunts lost weekends …

James Alexander Allen whose experience lies in screenwriting, has turned a true story by actor Wayne Liversidge into a haunting three-hander of delirious love turned dipsy nightmare …

It’s also love, pure and complex on both sides …

Avital Alexander and Bleach effortlessly enact realism, tenderness and a terrible recognition what it’s like to be in love and dependant at the same time …

There’s a dogged truth-seeking in John that Bleach plays up against Avital Alexander’s incandescent Gerri, a compellingly believable portrait of a young woman in alcoholic freefall. Bleach matches her in internalised then all-too-projected agonies …

Faith Elizabeth does sterling work as sensible sister Luanne earlier but here in the last third she explodes at a higher pitch with anxiety, despair and grief …

The mutual flame of partners Bleach and Avital Alexander burn everything else away and the final trio’s a shock no-one expects …

This is a true story, and heart-breaking enough. There’s a gritty cautionary note sounded too, but most of all this is about love against unimaginable odds …

Allen’s new version presented for Hove Grown is a fine script: idiomatic, even swifter, keenly observant in its naturalism. Which makes it all the more shocking …

It proves one of the absolute highlights of 2018’s Hove Grown Play Festival.’

Simon Jenner
Fringe Review
March 28, 2018

Read the full review here: http://fringereview.co.uk/review/hovegrown/2018/the-engagement/

 

The Company

Script: James Alexander Allen

Story: Wayne Liversidge

Director, sound, lighting and production design: Thomas Everchild

Music: Christina Thom

 

Gerri: Eden Avital Alexander

John: Owen Bleach

Luanne: Faith Elizabeth

 

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