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