Death in the Trenches and the Women Left Behind

January 23, 2015

Most of the 700 men from Accrington who marched off to serve their country in the First World War were killed in the Battle of the Somme. Newport Playgoers will tell their story by focusing on the women who were left behind when the ‘The Accrington Pals’ marched jauntily off to the front.

The Accrington Pals and the women they are about to leave behind. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The Accrington Pals and the women they are about to leave behind. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

This latest production follows the moving story of the innocent and enthusiastic men who volunteered to fight.

Their experiences of life on the Western Front are contrasted with the lives of their wives and girlfriends back home.

‘The Accrington Pals’ arrive at the Front. Stephen Saunders as Rivers, Luke Bowkett as Ralph, Eammon Corbett as Arthur and Owen Bennett as Tom. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

‘The Accrington Pals’ arrive at the Front. Stephen Saunders as Rivers, Luke Bowkett as Ralph, Eammon Corbett as Arthur and Owen Bennett as Tom. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

“These women came together as friends when facing financial, social and sexual deprivation, as well as being thrown into the social changes that came along with the absence of many men,” says the play’s director Sue Morgan.

“The women overcome their fierce sense of deprivation to band together, learn new skills and eventually march militantly on to the town hall and discover the truth about the annihilation of virtually the whole battalion.”

Back in Accrington the women put on a brave face. Bertha (Emma Williams), May (Nicola Carlyle) and Eva (Cathy Morgan) enjoy a glass of beer. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Back in Accrington the women put on a brave face. Bertha (Emma Williams), May (Nicola Carlyle) and Eva (Cathy Morgan) enjoy a glass of beer. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The intriguing mix of personalities in the women’s characters gives an engaging insight into the various impacts that the Pals’ leaving has on them and the challenging battles that begin when the terrible news of the losses comes home.

The play presents the harsh realities of fighting on the front line. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The play presents the harsh realities of fighting on the front line. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Peter Whelan’s play, directed by Sue Morgan, is a marvellously rich drama, first staged by the RSC in 1981. It combines social history with deep feeling.  The audience become totally caught up in the characters’ lives and loves, but there is toughness as well as compassion in this deeply rewarding play.

The strength of the play is that it captures, in the spirit of Oh What a Lovely War!, the contradictions of the time. In wartime, the women depicted fulfil their unrealised potential, the men rejoice in military comradeship. The end result, however, is closer to Armageddon than Utopia.

‘The Accrington Pals’ is at the Dolman Theatre from 11 –14 February 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.

Advertisements

Signing Introduced by Playgoers for Hard of Hearing

January 13, 2015

Newport Playgoers have introduced signing for theatregoers who are deaf or hard of hearing for their latest production,Deathtrap’.

Student Clifford (James Symonds) has written a script that Sidney (Chris Bissex-Williams) and his wife Myra (Clare Drewett) are keen to acquire. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Student Clifford (James Symonds) has written a script that Sidney (Chris Bissex-Williams) and his wife Myra (Clare Drewett) are keen to acquire. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The final performance of the play this Saturday night (17th January) will have a signing expert at the side of the stage to make the performance more accessible and enjoyable for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. If it proves to be a success then signing could be used in all future productions.

‘Deathtrap’, which is at the Dolman Theatre from 14 – 17 January is one of the longest running Broadway thrillers in history. It’s an ingenious play with a twisting plot that offers a rare and skilful blend of suspense and humour guaranteed to make audiences scream with both laughter and terror.

For more information and to book tickets phone 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.

The cast of 'Deathtrap' have fun during rehearsals. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The cast of ‘Deathtrap’ have fun during rehearsals. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)


Writer Presents Newly Published Play to Dolman Theatre Library

November 18, 2014

Newport writer Phil Mansell, who has recently had plays published, presented the first copy off the presses to the library at the Dolman Theatre where the play was first performed.

Phil Mansell presents a copy of his play ‘According to Claudia’ to Chris Burrows who runs the library at the Dolman Theatre.

Phil Mansell presents a copy of his play ‘According to Claudia’ to Chris Burrows who runs the library at the Dolman Theatre.

Phil handed over his play ‘According to Claudia’ to Chris Burrows who runs the library, which houses hundreds of plays, for Newport Playgoers.

“It was my way of saying thankyou to Newport Playgoers for having the faith to select this play to open the latest season back in September,” said Phil.

Phil and his wife Caroline, who directed the play, receive the Award for Theatre Show of the Year

Phil and his wife Caroline, who directed the play, receive the Award for Theatre Show of the Year

Since being produced at the Dolman the play has gone on to win the award for Theatre Show of the Year in Newport’s lively entertainment and lifestyle magazine Voice. Phil and his wife, Caroline, who directed the play, went to the presentation evening at the Celtic Manor Resort to receive the award.

Recently, Phil has had two more plays published. ‘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 400-seat Dolman Theatre and Blackwood Little Theatre. Another of Phil’s plays, ‘Bunkered’, was one of the winning entries in a competition judged by Welsh playwright Frank Vickery.

Phil's three published plays

Phil’s three published plays

All three plays are now available on Amazon and Silvermoon Publishing, which specialises in plays aimed at the huge market among drama companies in the UK, America and Australia, will be promoting Phil’s work to thousands of potential performers worldwide.


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.


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)