Steve’s Mum Played the Original “Mother from Hell”!

January 26, 2016

“Mum on a broomstick” is how the South Wales Argus headlined a review of the family drama ‘The Anniversary’ when it was last presented by Newport Playgoers in 1972.

Family gathering: Rose Bissex as Mrs Taggart with Stuart Fouweather as Terry, Angharad Jones as his wife Karen. Paul Cotton as Henry, Emma Williams as Shirley and Luke Bowkett as Tom. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Family gathering: Rose Bissex as Mrs Taggart with Stuart Fouweather as Terry, Angharad Jones as his wife Karen, Paul Cotton as Henry, Emma Williams as Shirley and Luke Bowkett as Tom. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

This comedy of family power-play set in 1960s London centres around evil one-eyed Mrs Taggart, an emasculating woman who dominates her three sons who all work in the family construction business.

Director Steve Bissex-Williams and his mother Fay Williams, who played the lead in Playgoers' last production of 'The Anniversary'.

Director Steve Bissex-Williams and his mother Fay Williams, who played the lead in Playgoers’ last production of ‘The Anniversary’.

Now Playgoers are producing the play again and the director, Steve Bissex-Williams, has fond memories of his own mother playing the malevolent matriarch who gathers her sons and their partners to celebrate her wedding anniversary – despite the fact her husband has been dead for 10 years.

Rose Bissex plays the evil domineering matriarch Mrs Taggart. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Rose Bissex plays the evil domineering matriarch Mrs Taggart in the new production. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

“I remember seeing my Mum, Fay Williams, playing this vile, manipulative woman and being horrified by her amazing portrayal which earned a great review by Norrie Drummond, who was the Argus drama critic back then.

“When I was first asked to direct ‘The Anniversary’, I wondered whether the play would be as powerful today as it was then – we tend to be fairly unshockable these days. However, when I picked up the script it read brilliantly. Audiences can expect to be as shocked as I was by this scalpel-tongued, deviously possessive mother who exerts total control over her three weak sons.”

Henry (Paul Cotton) is shocked by the antics of philandering brother Tom (Luke Bowkett) and his girlfriend Shirley (Emma Williams) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Henry (Paul Cotton) is shocked by the antics of philandering brother Tom (Luke Bowkett) and his girlfriend Shirley (Emma Williams) (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Throughout the “celebration” the evil, manipulative matriarch does everything in her power to remind her children who controls the family finances and ultimately their future.

The eldest, Henry, is a transvestite, middle son Terry is planning to emigrate to Canada with his shrewish wife Karen, and the youngest, Tom, a promiscuous philanderer whose many past relationships have ended at his mother’s insistence, arrives with his pregnant girlfriend Shirley.

This stage version is based on a celebrated film that starred Bette Davis as the mother from hell. This production will be celebrating the plays 50th anniversary, as it first opened in March 1966.

‘The Anniversary’ is at the Dolman Theatre from Tuesday 9 – Friday 12h February at 7.15 pm, with a matinee performance on Saturday 13 at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.

Bothers Tom (Luke Bowkett) and Terry (Stuart Fouweather) have a difference of opinion. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Bothers Tom (Luke Bowkett) and Terry (Stuart Fouweather) have a difference of opinion. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

 

 


Wanted – ‘80s Style Fashions for Updated Shakespeare!

November 17, 2015

A local theatre company is on the hunt for 1980s fashion items that people may have tucked away in the wardrobe. Anyone who can help Newport Playgoers kit out their actors for an updated version of Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ will receive a credit in the show’s programme.

Desperate for ‘80s clothes: director Emma Brunnock and the cast of ‘As You Like It’ need your help. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Desperate for ‘80s clothes: director Emma Brunnock and the cast of ‘As You Like It’ need your help. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

“We’re looking for shell suits, flared skirts, dresses with shoulder pads and stretch pants – anything that says 1980s,” said the play’s director Emma Brunnock.

“If anyone has big hair wigs or ‘Miami Vice’ style suits that would be great too. Our aim is to give all the characters a genuine ‘80s look. We promise to take excellent care of any items lent to us, and we’ll give people an acknowledgment in the programme to thank them.”

The cast of ‘As You Like It’ enjoying rehearsals for Shakespeare’s classic pastoral comedy. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The cast of ‘As You Like It’ enjoying rehearsals for Shakespeare’s classic pastoral comedy. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

‘As You Like It’ is one of Shakespeare’s early playsa comic take on pastoral romance that begins with a flurry of banishments and ends with true love conquering all after the heroes and heroines are forced to leave the city and retreat to the forest, where they learn the simple values of rustic life.

It was made into a highly successful, award-winning film by Kenneth Branagh in 2006. Packed with comedy and fast-paced action, Playgoers’ version promises to be totally accessible to modern audiences of all ages.

‘As You Like It’ can be seen at the Dolman Theatre from Tuesday 12th – Saturday 16th January 2016. You can book tickets now by phoning 01633 263670 or visiting www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.

 


Look Out for ‘The Ladykillers’ at the Dolman

October 26, 2015
Unsuspecting Mrs Wilberforce (Ruth Ferguson) is the target of ruthless villains Professor Marcus (Gareth Baskerville), Major Courtney (Richard Dymond), Louis (Wayne Fenton) and Harry (Luke Bowkett). (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Unsuspecting Mrs Wilberforce (Ruth Ferguson) is the target of ruthless villains Professor Marcus (Gareth Baskerville), Major Courtney (Richard Dymond), Louis (Wayne Fenton) and Harry (Luke Bowkett). (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

A sweet little old lady is pitted against a gang of criminal misfits who will stop at nothing – including murder! That’s the plot of Newport Playgoers’ next production, ‘The Ladykillers’.

This classic black comedy, based on the much-loved 1955 film of the same name, tells how Professor Marcus and his gang, posing as amateur musicians, rent rooms in the lopsided house of sweet but strict Mrs Wilberforce.

Misfit crooks Harry (Luke Bowkett) and Professor Marcus (Gareth Baskerville) are plotting do away with Mrs Wilberforce (Ruth Ferguson) even as they take tea with her. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Misfit crooks Harry (Luke Bowkett) and Professor Marcus (Gareth Baskerville) are plotting do away with Mrs Wilberforce (Ruth Ferguson) even as they take tea with her. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The villains plot to involve her, unwittingly, in Marcus’s brilliantly conceived heist job. The police are left stumped but Mrs Wilberforce becomes wise to their ruse and Marcus concludes that there is only one way to keep the old lady quiet. With only her parrot, General Gordon, to help her, Mrs Wilberforce is alone with five desperate men. But who will be forced to face the music?

 ‘The Ladykillers’: Gareth Baskerville (Professor Marcus, Richard Dymond ( Major Courtney), Wayne Fenton (Louis), Luke Bowkett (Harry and David Livingstone (One Round).  (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

‘The Ladykillers’: Gareth Baskerville (Professor Marcus, Richard Dymond ( Major Courtney), Wayne Fenton (Louis), Luke Bowkett (Harry and David Livingstone (One Round). (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The play is based on one of the most famous Ealing Comedies which included Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom and Alec Guinness in the cast. The stage version has been entirely reworked, by comedy writer Graham Linehan who scripted classic TV shows Father Ted and The IT Crowd.

‘The Ladykillers’ is at the Dolman Theatre from Tuesday 10 – Friday 13 November at 7.15 pm, with a matinee performance on Saturday 14 at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.


Playgoers Set to Spook Audiences

September 28, 2015
Lord Grey (Chris Bissex-Williams) finds David (James Symonds) alone in the dark. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Lord Grey (Chris Bissex-Williams) finds David (James Symonds) alone in the dark. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Theatregoers will get goose bumps – and giggles – at ‘The Haunting’, an adaptation of the ghost stories of Charles Dickens.

The intriguing title might lead people to supposing that this latest production from Newport Playgoers is a dark and moody social commentary of 19th century England based on a lesser known Dickens book.

In fact, it’s a humorous parody of Victorian horror stories mixed with séance-trickery complete with tapping and knocking, phantom footsteps, doors opening and closing of their own accord, ghostly apparitions, objects flying off walls and the occasional blood-curdling scream.

Lord Grey (Chris Bissex-Williams) employs David (James Symonds) to catalogue his estate's impressive library of rare books. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Lord Grey (Chris Bissex-Williams) employs David (James Symonds) to catalogue his estate’s impressive library of rare books. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The cleverly written play has all the elements needed to evoke Victorian theatre with an intriguing storyline and unravelling mysteries. Two characters bring the narrative alive – the esoteric and reserved Lord Grey who employs fresh-faced young David to catalogue his estate’s impressive library.

David (James Symonds) tries to convince Lord Grey (Chris Bissex-Williams) that the mysterious phenomena are real. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

David (James Symonds) tries to convince Lord Grey (Chris Bissex-Williams) that the mysterious phenomena are real. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

In an ancient, crumbling mansion, they stumble across a dark and terrifying secret that will change their lives forever. As a series of strange and unexplained events conspires to keep David from his work, he realises that in order to convince his sceptical employer that the mysterious phenomena are real they must journey together to the very edge of terror to discover the source of the terrifying visitations.

A genuinely spine-tingling Victorian ghost story, ‘The Haunting’ is at the Dolman Theatre from Tuesday 13th – Friday 16th October at 7.15 pm, with a matinee performance on Saturday 17th at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.


Playgoers Start Season with Roman Romp!

September 10, 2015

Newport Playgoers have started their 93rd season of plays with a bang – their production of ‘Up Pompeii’ has had the audiences rolling in the aisles this week.

Head slave Lurcio (Paul Cotton) tries to juggle everyone's problems. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Head slave Lurcio (Paul Cotton) tries to juggle everyone’s problems. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

This Roman romp whisks audiences back to ancient Pompeii where saucy shenanigans are played out against the backdrop of an ominously rumbling volcano.

This lively production, directed by Playgoers’ favourite Richard Dymond,  is based on the hugely popular comedy TV series starring Frankie Howerd. Few who saw it can forget the wonderful characters whose names speak for themselves: Ludicrus, Ammonia, Nauseus, Erotica, Voluptua and Suspenda.

There’s still a chance to catch it at the Dolman Theatre – the final two performances are on Friday at 7.15pm and Saturday at 2.30pm.

Other forthcoming attractions include ‘The Ladykillers’ based on the classic Ealing comedy and ‘The Graduate’ featuring the seductive Mrs Robinson.


All Set for Roman Scandals

September 1, 2015

Newport Playgoers plan to whisk audiences back to ancient Pompeii where saucy shenanigans are played out against the backdrop of an ominously rumbling volcano.

Head slave Lurcio (Paul Cotton) tries to juggle everyone's problems. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Head slave Lurcio (Paul Cotton) tries to juggle everyone’s problems. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Up Pompeii, which launches Playgoers’ 93rd season, was a hugely popular comedy TV series starring Frankie Howerd, and few who saw it can forget the wonderful characters whose names speak for themselves: Ludicrus, Ammonia, Nauseus, Erotica, Voluptua, Senna and Suspenda.

Ludicrus (Eamonn Corbett) and his wife Ammonia (Gwen Livingstone) are concerned about their daughter Erotica's (Olivia Harvey) writing. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Ludicrus (Eamonn Corbett) and his wife Ammonia (Gwen Livingstone) are concerned about their daughter Erotica’s (Olivia Harvey) writing. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Orchestrating both plot and characters is the head slave Lurcio, who becomes embroiled in the sexual liaisons of his master’s household, as all its members cheat, double cross and generally misbehave.

Lurcio conveys his thoughts to the audience through a series of innuendos and double entendres while trying to help his master’s daughter Erotica, rescue escaped slave girl, Voluptua, listen to Nauseus’s love poetry and enlist the help of local nymphomaniac Suspenda.

Roman soldiers Kretinus (Ryan Salter) and Trecherus (Owen Barrett) display their incompetence. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Roman soldiers Kretinus (Ryan Salter) and Trecherus (Owen Barrett) display their incompetence. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The play was originally written for Frankie Howerd to repeat his success in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, in which he played a similar role. If you like your history treated in a light-hearted and somewhat risqué manner, this is the play for you.

‘Up Pompeii’ is at the Dolman Theatre from Tuesday 8th – Saturday 12th September at 7.15 pm, with a matinee performance on Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.


Playgoers Set to Raise Curtain on New Season

July 28, 2015

Never let it be said that Newport Playgoers rest on their laurels. After a highly successful season that saw them win several awards, the local amateur dramatic society is preparing to unveil a new programme of plays.

Playgoers’ new season opens with ‘Up Pompeii’. Previously Playgoers ventured to ancient Rome with ‘A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum’. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Playgoers’ new season opens with ‘Up Pompeii’. Previously Playgoers ventured to ancient Rome with ‘A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum’. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Rehearsals are already well under way for September’s offering, ‘Up Pompeii’, the stage version of the show that Frankie Howerd made such a hit on TV. Like Playgoers’ last venture to ancient Rome, ‘A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum’, this romp is packed with nubile slave girls and saucy double meanings that are sure to raise lots of belly laughs.

In contrast, October’s play is Charles Dickens’ spooky classic ‘The Haunting’. It’s followed by ‘The Ladykillers’ based on the much-loved Ealing comedy about a gang of crooks in a boarding house and their clumsy attempts to murder their little old landlady.

The new year brings ‘As You Like It’ which is considered by many to be one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies with its heroine, Rosalind praised as one of his most inspiring characters. There’s plenty of black humour as well as drama in ‘The Anniversary’ in which a domineering mother keeps a tight hold on all three of her sons with gifts, threats and ruthless exploitation of their weaknesses – but as the family is brought together to celebrate Mum’s wedding anniversary (regardless of deceased Dad) revolt is in the air.

One of the highlights of last season - ‘According to Claudia’ by local writer Phil Mansell won the award for Best Play presented by the Gwent Drama League. (PHOTO; PHIL MANSELL)

One of the highlights of last season – ‘According to Claudia’ by local writer Phil Mansell won the award for Best Play presented by the Gwent Drama League with several cast members nominated for best actor awards. (PHOTO; PHIL MANSELL)

Playgoers New Generation take to the stage in March with a play about the swashbuckling adventures of ‘Robin Hood’, and this is followed Ibsen’s classic story of repressed Scandinavian sexuality, ‘Ghosts’.

On a lighter note, May sees the stage version of the 1960s film classic ‘The Graduate’ in which young Benjamin Braddock, who is worried about his future, is seduced by the infamous Mrs Robinson. The season ends with ‘Maurice’s Jubilee’, a play set in the royal celebrations of 1977. This play by award-winning actress and writer Nichola McAuliffe. is a funny and poignant exploration of one man’s enduring commitment to his dream of meeting the Queen – and an eternal love triangle fallen on hard times.

Another winning play  from last season – the musical comedy ‘Nunsense’ won the award for Best Overall Production. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Another winning play from last season – the musical comedy ‘Nunsense’ won the award for Best Overall Production. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

It all adds up to a season of plays with something for everyone. A new innovation will be the introduction of signing for the deaf on the Thursday evening performance of every play.

Playgoers who own and run the city’s 400-seat Dolman Theatre are always looking for new members and have a special introductory offer of a first year’s membership for £70 for adults (a saving of £42.50) or £35 for students (a saving of £41.50). They are always looking for volunteers keen to help out with the staging of each production. This includes everything from doing front of house, box office or serving refreshments and sweets and programmes. Or maybe you have the urge to tread the boards or work backstage. Everyone is welcome – you’ll find it’s a great way to make new friends – and have fun! For more information or to book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.


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