A Night Of Chekhov

Sussex Playwrights Reviews
A Night Of Chekhov
Mosh Pit
Three short Chekhov plays, plus Afterplay by Brian Friel, presented by Mosh Pit and directed by the actors.
It’s energetic, entertaining and fun – not what I’d expected, and vague expectations of languid wilting and moping about quickly vanished tonight, at my first ever encounter with Chekhov.
In A Tragic Figure, Jack Kristiansen is the despairing put-upon husband manically manipulating his boxes round the theatre as the audience files in, at the end of his tether lamenting his terrible lot to kindly yet presuming friend Paul Moriarty.
In The Bear, Tom Dussek’s loud lairy landowner; a scruffy Falstaffian slob (or maybe a Romeo if he’d survived to get bitter) and Penny Scott Andrews’ austerely buttoned-up shut-down widow whip up some unexpected sexual tension, refereed by Kristiansen’s appalled butler.
They’re pacey and amusing – and I think there are still more laughs to be teased out of these characterful pieces as the run continues.
Part two changes pace with a sharp little piece, The Ninny, with Kristiansen as a disdainful, bullying employer, tormenting that most powerless member of a household, the governess, played with sweet restraint by Jenny Rowe.
A neat scene change slips Rowe into the final piece, stories and lies, half truths and tales spinning out in a gradually revealed and subtly played encounter between Rowe’s love-inspired Sonya from Uncle Vanya and Moriarty’s valiant Andrey from Three Sisters.
Brian Friel’s gentle, contemplative play revisits these two faded Chekhovian characters in later life and reduced circumstances, both clinging to hope and finding it where they can. And money’s a recurring theme throughout the night; the reckless spending, owing, controlling and fear the having and the lack of it can spark.
The Rialto Theatre Brighton
October 8-11 7pm £15/£12

October 6th meeting 2019

Sussex Playwrights October 6th meeting 2019

Monthly networking and drinks for writers, producers and makers of new drama for stage, screen and audio


Miles Mlambo and Chris Gates whose new play Dancing In The Moonlight: A Play About Phil Lynott won acclaim at Edinburgh 2019. Writer / actor Miles performed an extract from the play followed by discussion with Philippa joined by director Chris.

Tom Dussek introduced his production of a night of short plays by Chekhov and Brian Friel

Director Mill Goble, writer David Wells and actor Gordon Foggo presented an extract from David’s Suicide Notes, a new play in preparation for the upcoming Brighton Horrorfest, followed by audience discussions and conversations.

Members’ news

Chair Philippa and Russell Shaw read two of the dramatic monologues as part of a Jackanory-style evening of horror tales in The Other 1% Live, produced by our own Simon Moorhead, at Sweetwerks on October 16th, kicking off Brighton Horrorfest 2019.

Previous guests Unmasked Theatre presented Brighton Scratch Night 2019  at the Rialto Theatre.

Previous guest Howard Ford’s family adventure film Adventure Boyz, featuring member Russell Shaw, had further showings this month.

Honorary VP Judy Upton’s radio drama The Bulbul Was Singing was BBC Radio 4’s Drama of the Week.

December advance news

Our Honorary President William Nicholson will be our special guest speaker at our December meeting! Playwright, novelist and screenwriter William Nicholson, author of his latest film Breathe, directed by Andy Serkis, Shadowlands, Les Miserables, Gladiator, First Knight, Elizabeth: The Golden Age http://www.williamnicholson.com/

For your diary – our future meeting dates

3 Nov, 1 Dec, 5 Jan, 2 Feb, 1 Mar, 5 Apr, 3 May, 7 Jun, 5 Jul & 2 Aug.

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]

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


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


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

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


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


Mercury Theatre Productions

Oxford University National Tour Production

Written and directed by Alex Blanc
Jack: Henry Waddon
Michael: Joe Woodman
Brianna: Abi Harindra

Rialto Theatre, Brighton (Edinburgh preview)

‘… a lighthearted, honest look at male mental health in the 21st century, and we’re really proud to be working in association with the UK’s leading mental health charity SANE on the production. It aims to show that recovery is possible; in the midst of a crisis in mental health, Numbers’ core message is one of hope.’ (producers)

We think we’ve seen this before – three young actors, three chairs, an Edinburgh-focussed hour on a black box stage. But this goes above and beyond expectations. Writer/director Alex Blanc’s tale of three troubled young people is sharply observed and written in a fluent, natural voice.

A therapy group’s a classic storytelling setting. We’re the other members of the circle, hearing Jack and Michael sharing their stories of who they are and what’s happening to them, with the message that boys too suffer emotional distress and tortured self image.

The writing slips between monologues and conversations, with Jack sometimes commenting on the story and moving the scenes along. On a directorial note, it’s sometimes a little on the nose – characters saying how they feel in an appropriate tone of voice – and a more contradictory reading of the lines might add intrigue and deeper layers, while at times, rapid speaking meant words and meaning were difficult to catch. That great performance energy and a very simple pared down staging kept the pace zipping along, while the few issues with the lighting can be easily polished ready for Edinburgh.

As Brianna, Abi Harindra’s sincere, giving performance is the initially ‘all about me’ girlfriend who gradually comes to a deeper understanding of what’s happening and matures into her new more adult self.

There’s ambiguity too in Michael’s story, Joe Woodman’s tightly-wound portrayal of the all too familiar tale of a gay teen rejected by his parents and seen as a problem to be solved by their church. Is he telling the truth, though?

In the lead role, Henry Waddon’s Jack is a young man struggling to deal with life. Little setbacks, a lost football match, trigger a spiral into depression, anxiety and bulimia. Waddon delivers a physically relaxed and vocally assured exploration of explosive emotional depths engagingly flavoured with a sweet sense of humour. One to watch.

The Numbers tour continues:

Edinburgh Fringe, C Aquila Temple: 1-26th Aug
Oxford, Old Fire Station: 4-6th September

Philippa Hammond

July 7th 2019 meeting report

Sussex Goes To Edinburgh!

Playwrights, performers and producers in Sussex are preparing their shows for the long journey to Edinburgh this August.

We were delighted to welcome our July 7th special guests:

Emily Carding, winner of Fringe Review Outstanding Show award at the 2019 Brighton Fringe Awards for Quintessence

Simon Jenner’s review: Quintessence Fringe Review

Roger Kay and Lauren Varnfield of the Rialto Theatre

Lauren is writer, director and performer of Myra, the solo play on the story of Myra Hindley

Our review: Myra Sussex Playwrights

Roger and Lauren invite shows scouted at Edinburgh to the Rialto each year

Actor/playwright Jules Craig, in discussion with Philippa and Emily Carding about the experience of playing Shakespeare’s iconic male roles. Jules is currently playing Shylock for the Brighton Shakespeare Company.

The Merchant of Venice review by Simon Jenner


The Merchant of Venice

Sussex Playwrights Reviews

The Merchant of Venice
Brighton Shakespeare Company
BOAT, June 2019

The hottest day of the year slanted through a green amphitheatre lends occasion to comedy lanced with shadows. Brailsford’s Brighton troupe – the Brighton Shakespeare Company – make BOAT the Shakespeare go-to in late June. Last year’s vigorous The Comedy of Errors darkens this year with The Merchant of Venice from 1597.

The title role’s taken by Paul Moriarty (also Duke of Arragon), Shylock by Jules Craig. With Amy Sutton as Portia – a role she rightly claims she’s born to play – Kerren Garner’s raucous Nerissa and Duncan Drury’s ardent Bassanio, it’s a line-up that almost guarantees distinction.

Moriarty’s melancholic voice commands distinction from the first, as gadflies Lorenzo (Andrew Crouch, excellent) and Stewart Barham’s skirling Gratiano float round before the entrance of Bassanio. The initially quiet Crouch livens up when courting Rachel Mullock’s joyous, flirty Jessica.

Drury and Moriarty render the homoeroticism latent and affectionate, the latter fatalistic and weary from the first, his young friend in Drury’s reading. Drury’s not quite the ruthless go-getter, his feeling for Antonio and later Portia is genuine and alter (with the ring scene) conflicted. There’s no sense that Moriarty’s delicate but firm underlining of his feelings are reciprocated or perhaps recognized. Drury’s Bassanio is casually venal, entitled to a degree, an attractive insider-dealer heedless of consequence. But he’s neither cruel not within his limits insincere. As we find.

Barham’s gravelly disdain is venom contained, less sheerly cruel to Shylock than some and winningly raunch for raunch with Garner’s in-your-face lust as Nerissa, the maid to Portia who unlike her mistress can choose and blatantly does in front of her (no matter decorum would forbid, the emotional truth of it is overwhelming). Her desire’s expressed in dance-offs. In this production the constraints of the ardent aristos are underscored by their servants’ licence (Gratiano’s status cemented after wedding Nerissa). Barham too makes a parodic peacock of the Prince of Morocco.

It’s the same with Crouch and Mullock: flirty, passionate (Jessica grabs Lorenzo from the start) less lusty than sexy. Their playful badinage in V I is beautifully pointed, darkening from mythic classics to parries at ‘pretty Jessica’ fully answered but not really portending any fractiousness. Crouch literally dances attendance and their playfulness is balletic. This Jessica casts few shadows save at the end when she realizes how she inherits what she does.

Directed by Mark Brailsford and with costumes designed by Sean Chapman (Shylock and ‘Balthazar’ striking in black, period robes seamed mainly with old reds and saffron) this production is segmented by a music system directed by Brailsford (Strauss waltzes in the interval, Praetorius period dances otherwise), with Associate director Sarah Mann and Assistant director cast-member Kerren Garner. The set’s by ‘Ethel Mermen’. With minimal props – two benches, three caskets and a set of scales – there’s otherwise just a seductive backdrop panel of Venice with gondolas in yellow and black duo-chrome. The BOAT team supply standard facilities and lighting.

The badinage between Sutton and Garner is exquisite, both in their initial scene together when they parody previous suitors with basso and falsetto voices, and when confronting Barham’s preening Morocco and Moriarty’s rickety Arragon, full of frog Franglais.

Sutton’s distinctly terraced voicing and stage command from purr to latter steely judgement is quicksilver contained in dignity. Sutton never overstates the envelope of a rich woman richly left but inured to one constraint; but she’s deliriously playful within that. She manages though a different entitlement to Bassanio: one who knows the use of things for others’ sake, admittedly easy for her.

It’s here when Drury proves his mettle, quick sincere and decisive in his rejection of the gold and silver to Sutton’s quickening excitement, he chooses true. Drury proves here and in the subsequent trial scene his genuine agonizing and worthiness as much as any Bassanio can deserve the depth of a Portia.

There’s different registers for suitors, for Bassanio – where she breaks decorum when demanding to be claimed with a passionate kiss – and her later avatar: all recognizably different but in character. Thus Sutton’s Dr Balthazar really does seem and look different: by turns a paper-fumbling Colombo, pleading, steely, remorseless. Sutton spares some of the anti-Semitism now attributed to Portia. The text has been lightly edited.

Similarly she and Garner run rings round their hapless spouses in the two ring scenes, where Sutton literally rings with consonants. The trial scene where she takes on Craig is notably powerful: keen, spare, rivetingly lucid – which goes for the production but never more so than here.

Brailsford’s major role is Launcelot Gobbo – a role he takes in the spirit of Eric Morecombe judging by his dancing exits. It’s a characterful almost kindly reading, not as nasty as some and without the anti-Semitic point of the original. There’s a sense in which tis production wants to underscore the summery outdoors of its setting and concentrate tragedy in Shylock alone, but for Antonio’s incurable melancholy.

Garner’s Tubal to Craig’s Shylock. It occasions one of Shylock’s great monologues after an earlier one to Gratiano (‘Hath not a Jew…’). Craig’s Shylock is doubly discriminated against as a Jew and a woman. Craig brings out the desperation and revenge Shylock seeks through the only recourse she has: law. Craig’s quiet tread to judgement is riven by first Antonio’s unrepentant hostility even when making the bond – Moriarty spits in fact. And by the later discovery of Jessica’s betrayal.

This is expressed – to Tubal – in the ring (originally ‘had of Leah’) which is substituted ‘husband’ and ‘his’ not ‘my bachelor days’ of the engagement ring casually discarded by Jessica for a monkey, which Craig laments she would not have parted ‘for a wilderness of monkeys’ Rather quite in the first three acts, Craig is notably commanding in the latter two acts, basilisk-eyed and like Sutton, remorseless in front of Brailsford’s Duke of Venice. Her final ‘I am content’ after judgement is taken after a long pause and a visible shrinking into herself. It’s masterly.

There’s fine support from Katy Matthews as Solario and Gaoler as well as stage manager.

The final scenes as suggested are taken at a light lick. There’s no lingering fear from either Portia or Jessica, let alone Nerissa that things will go wrong. They’ve all commanded their respective husbands and as the final dance-off shows ‘put a ring on it’ to Beyoncé’s bouncy send-off. Despite a very occasional energy drop in Acts Two and Three this is a production of real distinction, one of the best I’ve seen outside the Globe and RSC. Sutton matches any Portia and Craig’s Shylock is a revelation.

Directed by Mark Brailsford and with costumes designed by Sean Chapman (supplied by Gladrags) this production is segmented by a music system directed by Brailsford (Strauss waltzes in the interval, Praetorius period dances otherwise), with Associate director Sarah Mann and Assistant director cast-member Kerren Garner. ASM’s Oscar Smart.

The set’s by ‘Ethel Mermen’. With minimal props – two benches, three caskets and a set of scales, there’s otherwise just a seductive backdrop panel of Venice with gondolas in yellow and black duo-chrome.

The BOAT team supply standard facilities and lighting.

Tour dates TBA.

Simon Jenner
Sussex Playwrights

The production will next appear at Lewes Castle

Brighton Shakespeare Company