Play Poses Question: “Just what is funny?”

September 23, 2014

“Humour’s a funny thing,” remarks one of the characters in ‘Dead Funny’, the next production by Newport Playgoers. It’s a play about comedians and comedy, but the drama focuses on the fact that there is no universal agreement about what is funny. Different people laugh at different things.

Members of the Dead Funny Society (played by Simon Hurley, Ros Jones-Griffiths, Chris Edmunds and Luke Bowkett) dust off an old Morecambe and Wise routine. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Members of the Dead Funny Society (played by Simon Hurley, Ros Jones-Griffiths, Chris Edmunds and Luke Bowkett) dust off an old Morecambe and Wise routine. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The action is set during the days in 1992 that saw the death of both Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd. This spate of dying comics comes as a deep blow to the Dead Funny Society, a group of suburban comedy buffs – equipped with much the same mentality as train-spotters – to whom the play introduces us.

Eleanor (Nicky Davies) wants a baby but husband Richard (Simon Hurley) prefers to celebrate the lives of his comedy heroes. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Eleanor (Nicky Davies) wants a baby but husband Richard (Simon Hurley) prefers to celebrate the lives of his comedy heroes. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Eleanor, the main character in the play, is out of step with her husband Richard’s Dead Funny Society and its small membership, all dedicated to celebrating stars of the variety theatre such as Max Miler, Tony Hancock and Tommy Cooper.

The death of Benny Hill provides the impetus for this comedy about impotence, sex therapy and the English sense of humour. Eleanor desperately wants what husband Richard will not give her – a baby – but all he wants is to be left in peace to celebrate his comedy heroes with his friends.

Eleanor doesn’t find Benny Hill the least bit funny. She thinks he’s tasteless and sexist, as do many people.  The undeniable truth is that he has many people rolling in the aisles.

Richard Dymond, the play’s director,  commented, “One of the pleasures of plays such as ‘Dead Funny’ is its ability to stop an audience in its tracks, the laughter flipped into silence as the mood switches from riotous humour to real pain.

“The play reveals how the men in the Dead Funny Society, like their comedy heroes, exist in emotionally dysfunctional states, a bunch of misfits and in no way the “sexual magnets” their sketches would suggest.”

The drama revolves around a very different kind of death – Eleanor and Richard’s marriage is in a state of terminal decay. She is the only one who is able to see this. He prefers to gather his friends round for a custard pie fight and a re-enactment of old Morecambe and Wise routines.

Audiences will find a great deal in this play to make them laugh – and also to reflect upon, as various aspects of human emotions are skilfully explored.

‘Dead Funny’ is at the Dolman Theatre from 15  –18 October at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.


Newport Writer Signs Publishing Deal

August 28, 2014

A writer from Newport has signed a deal which will see his plays published for performance in the UK, USA and Australia.

Playwright Phil Mansell with a poster for his play ‘According to Claudia’ which will be the cover of his first published play. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Playwright Phil Mansell with a poster for his play ‘According to Claudia’ which will be the cover of his first published play. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Phil Mansell has been signed up with Silvermoon Publishing which specialises in providing plays for hundreds of dramatic companies worldwide. His first play to go into print will be ‘According to Claudia’, which launches the new season by Newport Playgoers at the 400-seat Dolman Theatre in September.

“I’m really pleased to have found a publisher for my work,” said Phil who, until ill health forced him to take early retirement was the Press Officer at Newport University.

“I’ve been writing plays for many years and Silvermoon Publishing want to create a catalogue of my work which they will promote to potential performers including over a thousand contacts they have who are looking for plays.

Claudia (Angharad Jones) admires David (Bob Brown) for his tea-making skills (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Claudia (Angharad Jones) admires David (Bob Brown) for his tea-making skills. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

“Very few authors make a fortune from their plays but I will have the satisfaction of knowing that there’s a good chance my work will be staged, not only in this country but across the world.”

As well as ‘According to Claudia’, Phil has several plays lined up for his new publisher including ‘Poor Yorick’ and ‘Bunkered’ both of which won one act play competitions and were staged at the Dolman Theatre. He has recently completed two plays, one of which is about the ghost of John Lennon striking up an unlikely relationship with a retired quantity surveyor.

Lucy (Eloise Rossiter) with ex-crook husband Micky (Paul Howells) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Lucy (Eloise Rossiter) with ex-crook husband Micky (Paul Howells) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

People will have a chance to get a taste of Phil’s writing when ‘According to Claudia’, about the sexy secrets and surprises revealed at a family reunion, runs at the Dolman Theatre from 10 –13 September.

This comedy drama brings together a sexy psychologist married to an ex-crook, her man-hungry sister hoping to seduce a crime writer and a mystery gunman for a birthday party none of them will forget.

‘According To Claudia’ is at the Dolman Theatre from 10  –13 September at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.

Pictured in rehearsal: a breakfast scene dispute between Michael (Chris Bissex-Williams) and Charlotte (Sue Morgan) while Belle (Karen Davies) looks on. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Pictured in rehearsal: a dispute over breakfast between Michael (Chris Bissex-Williams) and Charlotte (Sue Morgan) while Belle (Karen Davies) looks on. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)


Newport Writer’s Play To Launch New Season at Dolman Theatre

July 15, 2014

A play by a writer from Newport has been selected to launch the new season by Newport Playgoers at the 400-seat Dolman Theatre.

Phil Mansell, writer of 'According to Claudia'

Phil Mansell

Phil Mansell’s play ‘According To Claudia’ was chosen by the society’s artistic committee to open a line-up which includes plays by Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham, Ira Levin, Richard Curtis and Ben Elton.

“I feel honoured and proud that my play has been selected to be among work by such illustrious writers,” said 63-year-old Phil, whose wife Caroline will be directing the production.

A tense moment as former crook Micky (Paul Howells) confronts his disapproving father-in-law Michael (Chris Bissex-Williams) as Lucy (Eloise Rossiter) looks on in 'According to Claudia'. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

A tense moment as former crook Micky (Paul Howells) confronts his disapproving father-in-law Michael (Chris Bissex-Williams) as Lucy (Eloise Rossiter) looks on. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

“The play is a comedy drama about the secrets that emerge when a family gathers to celebrate the 80th birthday of a crusty Oxford don.

His daughters fuel the fire by bringing along partners who include a crime writer and a former East End gangster returning in disguise from the Costa del Crime.”

Three sisters are reunited in Phil Mansell's play 'According to Claudia: Lucy (Eloise Rossiter), Claudia (Angharad Jones) and Belle (Karen Davies). (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Three sisters are reunited – Lucy (Eloise Rossiter), Claudia (Angharad Jones) and Belle (Karen Davies). (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

A mystery gunman interrupts the planning of the birthday party in Phil Mansell's play 'According to Claudia'. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

A mystery gunman interrupts the planning of the birthday party. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

This is the latest success that Phil has enjoyed as a writer. His play ‘Poor Yorick’ was a winning entry in a competition run as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages project and was performed at both the Dolman Theatre and at Blackwood Little Theatre.

Phil’s play ‘Bunkered’  was one of the winning entries in a competition judged by Welsh playwright Frank Vickery, and enjoyed a very successful run at the Dolman Theatre. 

‘According To Claudia’ is at the Dolman Theatre from10  –13 September at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.


Minack Hosts ‘Pygmalion’ – Shaw’s Version of the ‘X Factor’!

June 25, 2014
As Eliza (Rachel Fenwick) sells her flowers in Covent Garden, Professor Higgins (Steve Drowley) and Colonel Pickering (Wayne Fenton) are listening in. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

As Eliza (Rachel Fenwick) sells her flowers in Covent Garden, Professor Higgins (Steve Drowley) and Colonel Pickering (Wayne Fenton) are listening in. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Anyone who enjoys TV shows like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent will see that George Bernard Shaw got there first in his 1912 play Pygmalion, which formed the basis of the hit musical My Fair Lady.

The playwright anticipates the pleasures and dangers of taking the dreams of a working class girl and attempting to transform her into a star in the latest production by Newport Playgoers Society when it returns to the Minack Theatre from 7 – 11 July.

Housekeeper Mrs Pearce (Claudia Barnes) announces the arrival of dustman Alfred Doolittle (Richard Dymond) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Housekeeper Mrs Pearce (Claudia Barnes) announces the arrival of dustman Alfred Doolittle (Richard Dymond) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

“Eliza Doolittle’s wish is modest by today’s ambitions – she wants to be a lady with a flower shop,” says the play’s director Kevin Myers.

“So phonetics professor Henry Higgins admits her to his version of boot camp where she is scrubbed, clothed and subjected to intensive lessons in diction.

“For Higgins and his friend Colonel Pickering it’s an irresistible experiment – to teach Cockney flower girl Eliza to speak and act like a lady and pass her off as a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party. But for Eliza it’s a lifeline.”

Eliza chats to a real lady Mrs Eynsford Hill (Chris Burrows) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Eliza chats to a real lady Mrs Eynsford Hill (Chris Burrows) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Newport Playgoers have a well-earned reputation for staging outstanding productions and their last play at the Minack, Moliere’s ‘The Hypochondriac’, received rave reviews.

‘Pygmalion’ is at the Minack Theatre from Monday 7 to Friday 11 July. To book tickets call the Box Office on 01736 810181 or visit www.minack.com.


Pygmalion – Shaw to Please ‘X Factor’ Fans

May 27, 2014
As Eliza (Rachel Fenwick) sells her flowers in Covent Garden, Professor Higgins (Steve Drowley) and Colonel Pickering (Wayne Fenton) are listening in. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

As Eliza (Rachel Fenwick) sells her flowers in Covent Garden, Professor Higgins (Steve Drowley) and Colonel Pickering (Wayne Fenton) are listening in. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Anyone who enjoys TV shows like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent will see that George Bernard Shaw got there first in his 1912 play Pygmalion, which formed the basis of the hit musical My Fair Lady.

The playwright anticipates the pleasures and dangers of taking the dreams of a working class girl and attempting to transform her into a star in this latest production by Newport Playgoers.

When Eliza (Rache Fenwick) is transformed into a lady she has many admirers including Freddie Eynsford Hill (Tyron Davies Sullivan) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

When Eliza (Rache Fenwick) is transformed into a lady she has many admirers including Freddie Eynsford Hill (Tyron Davies Sullivan) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

“Eliza Doolittle’s wish is modest by today’s ambitions – she wants to be a lady with a flower shop,” says the play’s director Kevin Myers. “So phonetics professor Henry Higgins admits her to his version of boot camp where she is scrubbed, clothed and subjected to intensive lessons in diction.

“For Higgins and his friend Colonel Pickering it’s an irresistible experiment – to teach Cockney flower girl Eliza to speak and act like a lady and pass her off as a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party. But for Eliza it’s a lifeline.”

The transformation from Cockney flower girl to well-spoken lady is complete. Rachel Fenwick as Eliza Doolittle. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The transformation from Cockney flower girl to well-spoken lady is complete. Rachel Fenwick as Eliza Doolittle. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Higgins clearly sees Eliza, at least at first, as a human trophy he can add to his collection of professional triumphs, but when the end result produces a very ladylike Miss Doolittle, the lessons learned become much more far reaching. The successful musical My Fair Lady was based on this Bernard Shaw classic.

‘Pygmalion’ is at the Dolman Theatre from Wednesday 11 to Saturday 14 June at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.

This production will also be going to the marvellous open air Minack Theatre in Cornwall in July.


Four times the fun and laughter in ‘Duets’

April 29, 2014
Shelley (Nicky Davies) overdoes the sangria while newly divorced ex-hubby Bobby (Graeme Johnson) looks on. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Shelley (Nicky Davies) overdoes the sangria while newly divorced ex-hubby Bobby (Graeme Johnson) looks on. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Four pairs of characters at four crucial moments in their lives – welcome to the world of ‘Duets’. 

Newport Playgoers’ next production explores four very different relationships.

Jonathon and Wendy are on a blind date and hoping to get it right this time even though they’ve never got it right before. Barrie is not really interested in women but his secretary Janet sees that as no reason to stop trying.

Champagne corks pop when Janet (Clare Jacobs) goes to Barrie’s flat (Chris Bissex-Williams) for a meal. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Champagne corks pop when Janet (Clare Jacobs) goes to Barrie’s flat (Chris Bissex-Williams) for a meal. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Shelley and Bobby have decided to holiday in Spain to finalise their divorce whilst drowning in cocktails. Angela is marrying for the third time to the dismay of brother Toby and amidst a barrage of bad omens and a dress resembling a parachute.

Wendy (Claudia Barnes) and Jonathon (Laurence Llewellyn) enjoy a quick tango on their blind date. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Wendy (Claudia Barnes) and Jonathon (Laurence Llewellyn) enjoy a quick tango on their blind date. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Put them all together and you have a quartet of scenarios in a gloriously funny examination of the chaotic world of love and relationships. Peter Quilter’s award-winning play, which has much in common with the work of Neil Simon, blends humour with pathos. ‘Duets’ is a hilarious tribute to the strength and madness of the human heart.

‘Duets’ is at the Dolman Theatre from Wednesday 14  – Saturday 17 May at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.

Toby (Jerry Grummit) panics when his sister Angela (Clare Drewett) spills coffee on her hideous dress moments before her third wedding. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Toby (Jerry Grummit) panics when his sister Angela (Clare Drewett) spills coffee on her hideous dress moments before her third wedding. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

 


Award-Winning Composer Howard Goodall sends Good Luck Message to Playgoers

March 24, 2014

BAFTA-winning composer Howard Goodall has sent a personal good luck message to the director and cast of his musical ‘Love Story’ which receives its Welsh premiere at the Dolman Theatre in April.

It’s love at first sight for Oliver (David Constant) and Jenny (Eloise Rossiter) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

It’s love at first sight for Oliver (David Constant) and Jenny (Eloise Rossiter) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Mr Goodall, whose musicals have won many international awards, took time off from composing his latest work, to write to Steve Bissex-Williams who is directing the musical version of the hit 1970s tear-jerker.

“I was really pleased to receive the letter from such an illustrious composer who has won EMMY, BRIT and BAFTAs for his choral music, stage musicals, film and TV scores such as ‘Blackadder’ and ‘The Vicar of Dibley’,” said Steve. “He apologised for missing our production but he’ll be busy in France writing his latest musical.”

Mr Goodall wrote, “I hope you could pass on to the company my very best wishes for the opening night and the subsequent performances in Newport. I am touched that your interest in the piece stretches back to its first incarnation at the Minerva Chichester.

The cast rehearse with musical director Jeff Davies at the piano. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The cast rehearse with musical director Jeff Davies at the piano. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

“’Love Story’ presents a fair few challenges for its performers, especially those playing Jenny and Oliver who are more or less never off stage, and for the emotional stamina of its audience but I do hope that your players and audience alike will find it also surprisingly good-humoured, even funny, before its closing stages. Oddly enough, for a show with such a famously sad ending, we were a very happy crew putting it together in Chichester and London and enjoyed many a laugh in the rehearsal room. I very much hope that same has been true of your Newport company and you might have been encouraged by the experience to try on another occasion one of my other musicals with sad endings!

Smiles hide a secret heartache when Oliver (David Constant) and Jenny (Eloise Rossiter) marry. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Smiles hide a secret heartache when Oliver (David Constant) and Jenny (Eloise Rossiter) marry. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

“So break some collective legs and here’s to a great success for you all. Again, thank you for bringing Love Story to Welsh audiences with such obvious dedication and enthusiasm.”

Based on the best-selling novel by Erich Segal, the musical tells of a rich boy, Oliver, who falls in love with a poor girl, Jenny. He is a Harvard graduate who comes from a wealthy family, Jenny is a working-class, quick-witted student. He is sporty, she plays music. The two decide to marry against the wishes of Oliver’s father who severs all ties with his son and cuts off his financial support. The couple struggle to survive as Oliver works his way through Harvard Law School.

‘Love Story – The Musical’ is at the Dolman Theatre from Wednesday 2 – Saturday 5 April at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.


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