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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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:


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


Supported by

Steaming Ltd

Sussex Playwrights

Speaking Well In Public






About Sussex Playwrights

For writers, producers, directors, actors and anyone with a passion for plays

Networking, meeting, reading and discussing new drama

Are you looking for an opportunity to showcase your play, explore a work-in-progress or listen to and discuss members’ plays?

Would you like to learn how to get your work professionally produced?

Meetings are held usually on the first Sunday evening [always check] of the month at the New Venture Theatre, Bedford Place, Brighton BN1 2PT.

Please note – although we meet at the NVT, Sussex Playwrights is not affiliated to the NVT and does not share membership.

Features include:

Guest speakers

Established writers, producers and performers talk about their careers, their work and their insights into how to get your work read, performed and broadcast.

Readings of members’ plays

By professional actors and experienced actors from local drama groups. All members are encouraged to discuss the play constructively, and make suggestions for improving, staging and marketing the play.

Writing workshops

Develop your writing with valuable group and individual exercises.


The Constance Cox Prize Playwriting Competition

Other events will be announced


The Summer Party in June and the Christmas Party


Membership costs £15 per year and entitles you to:

Free entry to all monthly meetings

Free wine or juice

One free entry to the annual Constance Cox Prize Playwriting Competition

You’ll be welcome to come along to any meeting and join on the night.

Visitors are always welcome to join us at meetings for a £3 contribution, which includes wine or juice.


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February 2018 meeting

Our Writers’ Night event

Writers’ Night

Sussex Playwrights host a monthly playwrights’ meetup night – writers of film, theatre, TV, radio, online drama, plus actors, directors, producers, crew and their friends are welcome to come along for networking, sharing writing, reading and discussing their work.

This month, we hosted some live readings of short extracts / short plays / works in progress / finished pieces.

Thanks to the Playwrights Roz Scott, Peter Gardiner and Tristan Wolfe and all the readers, who got the plays on their feet and sparked lively audience discussions.

Simon Jenner’s report:

Sussex Playwrights Quartet February 4th 2018

Sussex Playwrights thrives on a tradition of performing shorts, indeed these provide the staple fare for workshopping, extending and the busy rewrites inevitably following a try-out or rehearsed reading.

What’s particularly refreshing is how carefully put together these selections are. Pippa Hammond and Thomas Everchild must be congratulated on this. It works tellingly and allows dramatists, actors and audience to reflect on different approaches to a similar theme. Tonight, two plays are about coming out, one about the outfall of a relationship triggering latent expression; finally one dealing with sex call centres and here, heterosexual insecurity. All deal with mental distress in some form. Maria, the longest, foregrounds this rather than sexual relationships.

It’s doubly important now as SP moves into pre-production readings – that is, like The Engagement so superbly realized last month, which Thomas Everchild is producing for Hove Grown with a new cast – these plays too are up for Hove Grown and even the Fringe.

Two of these plays have undergone immediate rewrites since being performed here so I’ll not be giving too much away. The small company of actors who interlaced the four productions were neatly co-ordinated by Pippa Hammond who played one part.

The quartet of plays performed were necessarily more rehearsed readings than last month’s performance. Still, with several professional actors again engaged there was a real spark, particularly to the last.

Tristan Wolfe Finding Yourself Offside

In this gentle play in the tradition of Peter Gill, we discover a man talking through his anxieties in the face of some incomprehension. To a therapist. There are hankies. That isn’t the point though. He’s a footballer and coming out is still virtually unknown despite all the positive exhortations in media and even sports commentaries.

Wolfe’s cast were Barbara Halsey, Cosmo Rana-Iozzi and Daren Callow.

The title’s punning reference to sport and the divides of machismo and sexuality is neatly summarized. Therapist Barbara Halsey attempts to deal with the sportsman’s sexual anxieties, whilst male protagonists Rana-Iozzi and Callow tenderly unravel mutual attraction through a chance encounter outside. It’s a play reminding us of that tradition more overt from the 1990s, where talking in quiet attenuated moments of drama can be telling. Wolfe’s vignette seeks to establish a discourse prior to the engagement of the two men. That is, we’re exposed at the end to a possible relationship, as if this short were a beginning of something too.

Halsey creates a good few nuances as do both Rana-Iozzi and Callow. Themed like this it has fine triangular potential and there’s a difference to other plays about coming out. Gill for instance wouldn’t bother with a therapist: his plays usually deal with those already out to themselves. So this work could explore more tentative territory. It neatly counterpoints the play immediately succeeding it by Peter Gardiner.

Wolfe’s currently rewriting his play along lines explored in the post-show discussion. We look forward to a remodeled, and with luck more extended treatment.

Peter Gardiner Late to the Party

As Gardiner puts it: ‘An older couple experiment with visiting a 1980s gay bar’. It’s as weird as that. But it isn’t of course. We’re a laugh away from the winced coming out of the previous play, but it’s ultimately as tender, as exploratory and potentially painful. Here though, there’s been a gentle resolution and this scenario deals with the last part of that resolve.

Russell Shaw, Laura Savage and Daren Callow form a happy trio. Are this elderly couple really aware they’ve entered a gay bar? It’s the 1980s, not many people from up north have even heard of such things. They’ve clearly got it wrong suggests Callow’s bartender.

No they haven’t. Shaw utilizes his northern roots to telling effect as a man who’s taken so many years to come out openly that he’s retired. But this is no ordinary late coming-out. Savage as his sympathetic wife has always known, and theirs is a mutually loving, supportive relationship. Indeed it’s so tolerant that it’s she who’s suggested the gay bar.

This is an attractive if slightly anachronistic-seeming piece only in that one wonders how many northern couples would be that enlightened and dare to come down in the 1980s. But that’s the weasel under the cocktail cabinet, as Pinter once reflected, asked what his plays were about. In real life there really are weasels under cocktail cabinets and such a couple might well have pioneered such a move.

Shaw as ever finds a dimension by fracturing out the vulnerability behind the burling persona: one of the things he excels in. Savage finds a sympathetic nuance though her character doesn’t enjoy quite such a journey. Nevertheless Savage, hardly near retirement age, warms the edges of a woman valuing love, courage and tenderness in the face of overt sexual braggadocio. We learn that touchingly, her future husband had stood up to her father and others, made made her life possible. Again sexual stereotypes are overturned. He’d been her hero, standing up to her bullying father and liberating her: an act of love.

Callow excels as the knowing bartender, drawn in to the couple’s sympathetic ambit, happily at a quiet point of the day.

This play enjoys a surprise at its outset, and a revelation of what women often want towards its close. It’s difficult to see how this might be extended, but Gardiner reveals in two plays he has the knack of piling on surprises, so who knows?

Roz Scott Maria

Roz Scott’s debut play is to be performed in Hove Grown, and subsequent on this performance it’s undergoing rewrites: the final draft tells us more.

It’s an ambitious debut, dealing head-on with mental distress, alienation, a bleached narrative that hollows out conventional happenings: merely scalloped indents at the edges of the eponymous Maria’s brain.

It’s what clinical depression is like. Malignant Sadness as the psychiatrist Lewis Wolpert described it, from the inside.

Maria’s synopsis is evocatively straightforward, a narrative-based work. ‘Maria is an insider’s look at mental illness. It explores the cold isolation that emerges from deep in a depressed person’s soul and the glass doors that spring up all around. Everyone wants to help but no-one can.’

This is chillingly accurate. Maria starts with a saving of the protagonist’s life in busy Piccadilly, from a heavy truck. We then revert to familiar territory: familial incomprehension sufferers will know well. Here it’s Maria’s marriage that propels her to this. ‘The everyday dismissiveness, the arrogance, point scoring, the slow, relentless drip,’ though sometimes depression doesn’t have obvious triggers, which Maria explores with insistent, lapping evocation. Indeed we end near the shore. The gentle colloquies with Maria’s mother, counterpoints can-do sister Karen, unintentionally a living reproof of coping.

The third scene with snappier sibling dialogue is more engaging: shorter lines, less exposition needed. One wonders if such narrative interludes are necessary. Karen and their mother Libby now engage in the one dialogue where Maria’s not present. Although it shifts us from Maria’s envelope, this works as welcome relief, a normative dialogue where ‘normality’ as such is tested.

There’s a couple of evocative moments; Scott should certainly concentrate on her lyrically descriptive gifts, though this might be realized more energetically.

When asked: “How are you?” Maria sometimes answers simply: “Yes. I am here.” She feels plain and very, very small, very ordinary.

Narrator: Maria remembers lyrics by Jane Gilbert, a Scottish singer songwriter: “He has taken away the sun,” her world is washed in grey like a February sky.

After another colloquy with her mother and sister Maria encounters John on a Lowestoft beach. He’s the man who saved her life in London, has moved here. It’s an affirmative but inconclusive long walk, open-ended. But Maria ‘feels for the first time that there is a life beyond, as well as behind.’

Mary Rees played Maria with a muted raptness, Barbara Halsey was the empathic and occasionally bewildered Libby, Philippa Hammond narrated with pointed understatement, Laura Savage made a fine job of coaxing out the mildly infuriated side of sister-who-can, Alex. Tristan Wolfe was a gentle, firm giant as John and delivered Maria’s ex Jack’s one nasty little line.

This play’s evolving with real potential. Scott can let go of over-explanations, trust to images and sheer story-telling. She has a finely-grounded one with an acuity of insight and a lyrically-charged gift that literally pictures the un-nameable pearl-grey blanket of depression occluding Maria’s living. Like the spectrums she invokes, these are telling enough. It’s emerging as a confident debut of a theme where all confidence is shredded.

Peter Gardiner Please Hold

Gardiner returns for the final play. This proves a riot and a showcase of Gardiner’s exuberantly button-holing style – one where you can be confident of payoff and a satisfying finish as they say off singe malts.

It’s a call centre, of sorts, the type that sued to be termed 0898, in the early 1990s. Mjka Scott, Brighton and Hove Equity chair, was most informative about the rates earned by young women. Half in fact on this high-rate calls, which were even then at £10 per minute.

Gardiner’s cheerful scenario puts me in mind of Barnes’ People, Peter Barnes’ radio plays from 1985-7. in particular The Moon Dog and the Mighty Hamster where two women wrestlers discuss how they’ll fight, carefully choreograph to avoid injuring each other. Gardiner’s piece renews that kind of complicit hilarity.

The two women working on a sex line in ‘conversation’ with clients, Mary Rees and Philippa Hammond enjoy – and deploy – a badinage. It’s partly genuine camaraderie, partly their relatively well-paid jobs, and of course the faux-bonhomie expressed to the punters. Disparities between what these workshift-dressed women wear and what they say they’re donning for each client with their particular smorgasbord of wish lists is as ever delectably silly.

It’s as old as Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, with its hapless line of cozened punters – each dispatched this way and that to Hammond’s and Rees’ conspiratorial laughter. Here at least though the fantasies can be realized after a fashion. Rees discusses her husband out of a job, depressed, not able to satisfy her. The locally-sourced grunge of their real lives forms a poignant contrast to the fantasy selves they fuel their clients with.

The regulars call spending thousands one feels, and we get newbies too. The line-up of Daren Callow, Russell Shaw, Tristan Wolfe and Peter Gardiner with degrees of haplessness and confidence is enthralling and of course there’s a twist you might predict. Gardiner’s good at not making it the fulcrum of the play and he might extend this further. The male actors too manage their displaced selves with aplomb; sadness seeps through, and something of the truth too.

Theatrically this is shaping up to be a winner: the actors clearly feel it and raise their comedic game. A great rounding-off.


The Ministry of Biscuits

. … clever, wistful and stirring little odes to love and loyalty, Britishness, betrayal and biscuits with delicate charm and heartwarming silliness … ‘

Sussex Playwrights reviews:

The Ministry of Biscuits

By Brian Mitchell and Philip Reeve

‘Stop! Think before you eat that biscuit!

Is it in any way fancy?

If so, then you are a criminal!’

Twenty something years ago, two chaps sat in a Brighton cafe and started to spin a musical tale of a shy, innocent young biscuit designer with a vision and a crush – and the Ministry of Biscuits was born. It travelled to Edinburgh, where The Stage called it ‘top-hole musical comedy’. Now it’s back for a second freshly polished revival; something different for Christmas, and a tour to follow.

It’s set perhaps somewhere in the grey decade between the end of WW2 and the birth of rock & roll – Spitfires are a fairly recent memory, though there’s no rationing, the Russians are a threat and all foreigners faintly suspect, so it’s hard to tell. Think Salad Days meets Brazil, with a nod to Ealing comedy style.

The show captures that pompous old world authority-mocking we used to see in Dad’s Army, Monty Python and the Goon Show, when ministers wore tailcoats and Bakelite still ruled.

The cast play and sing live in the Brighton production, and there will be additional backing track support on the tour. The Lantern Theatre felt rather small for the production – I’d love to see it expand, and the news that it will come to Brighton Open Air Theatre next year is an intriguing prospect.

Co-writer and composer Brian Mitchell’s bluff Machiavellian minister delivers a Gilbert & Sullivanesque turn, while Dave Mounfield’s flashy conman spinning tales of not quite true wartime exploits plus mad costume changes sparked real rich-tea-stuffed-in-mouth hysteria moments.

Amy Sutton and Murray Simon are a delight, singing clever, wistful and stirring little odes to love and loyalty, Britishness, betrayal and biscuits with delicate charm and heartwarming silliness.

Look out for the original pastiche public information film by Ben Rivers.

Philip Reeve’s science fiction novel Mortal Engines is about to get the Peter Jackson big screen treatment – we can’t wait!

The Ministry of Biscuits is on at The Lantern Theatre Rock Place, Kemptown until December 30th, with a UK tour to follow.

Details, dates and ticket information

Philippa Hammond

Honorary President and Vice President William Nicholson

Sussex Playwrights Honorary President and Vice President …


Playwright, novelist and screenwriter William Nicholson

Author of

His latest film Breathe, directed by Andy Serkis
Les Miserables
First Knight
Elizabeth: The Golden Age

is our Honorary President.

About William and his work:

For many years the late Sir Peter Shaffer was Sussex Playwrights’ Honorary President.

Honorary Vice President

In a role previously held by the actor Paul Moriarty, our Honorary Vice President is a long-term Sussex Playwrights member

Playwright and screenwriter Judy Upton

Author of

Ashes and Sand
Sliding with Suzanne
People on the River

Her plays are published by Methuen Drama

About Judy and her work:

Thank you to William and Judy for their support of new writing in the region

from Chair Philippa Hammond, Secretary Thomas Everchild and the Sussex Playwrights committee and members