Vintage Nordic Noir Comes to Newport

March 23, 2016

Long before television became captivated by so-called Nordic Noir dramas, the Norwegian playwright Ibsen was writing controversial brooding stories with strong female characters taking the lead.

Sofia Helin as Saga Norén and Sofie Gråbøl as Sarah Lund.

Sofia Helin as Saga Norén and Sofie Gråbøl as Sarah Lund.

Before Sarah Lund and Saga Noren there was Helene Alving in ‘Ghosts’, a play being presented by Newport Playgoers at the Dolman Theatre.

In this brooding tale of suppressed Scandinavian sexuality, Helene is a woman who has spent her life suspended in an emotional void after the death of her cruel but outwardly charming husband.

Graeme Johnson as Manders, Clare Drewett as Helene, Jerry Grummit as Jacob and Stuart Moss as Oswald in 'Ghosts'. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Graeme Johnson as Manders, Clare Drewett as Helene, Jerry Grummitt as Jacob and Stuart Moss as Oswald in ‘Ghosts’. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

She is determined to escape the ghosts of her past by telling her son, Oswald, the truth about his philandering father.

But on his return from his life as a painter in Paris, Oswald reveals how he has inherited the legacy of his father’s dissolute life and is being destroyed by syphilis.

Oswald (Sturart Moss) is nursed by his mother (Clare Drewett) and Regina (Fay Grummit). (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Oswald (Stuart Moss) is nursed by his mother (Clare Drewett) and Regina (Fay Grummitt). (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

This tale of family relations, malicious infections and distorted Victorian morals was considered shockingly indecent when it premiered in 1882.

Director Ruth Ferguson gives ‘Ghosts’ chilling new life in this production.

“The ghosts in Ibsen’s great play are not spirits but the dead ideas and customs that we inherit and find it almost impossible to escape,” she said.

Fay Grummit as Regina and Stuart Moss as Oswald. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Stuart Moss as Oswald and Fay Grummitt as Regina. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

‘Ghosts’ by Henrick Ibsen is at the Dolman Theatre from Tuesday 12th – Friday 15th April at 7.15 pm, with a matinee performance on Saturday 16th at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.

The Cast of 'Ghosts' (PHOTO: BEN JONES)

The Cast of ‘Ghosts’ (PHOTO: BEN JONES)


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.


Could Play’s Seance Scene Summon Up Spirits Haunting Newport Theatre?

August 13, 2012

Ghosts in a Newport theatre are playing a spooky role in rehearsals for a play in which a medium holds a séance and summons up a spirit from the past. Actors from Newport Playgoers preparing for Noel Coward’s witty comedy ‘Blithe Spirit’ are concerned that their onstage séance may disturb the two ghosts that are said to haunt the Dolman Theatre.

Newport Playgoers' production of 'Blithe Spirit' photos by Phil Mansell

Clare Drewett as medium Madame Arcati holds a séance during rehearsals for ‘Blithe Spirit’. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The main ghost, nick-named Aggie, is said to be a woman who lived in a house on the site where the Dolman Theatre was built in 1965, and apparently she wasn’t keen to leave her home prior to its demolition. She has made her presence felt in the theatre ever since.

Audrey Aston, who lived in the theatre when her husband John was the warden, recalled, “I often passed the kitchen and heard someone washing up – but when I went in to say hello there would be no-one there. I vividly remember the night a member of Playgoers came up to me, as white as a sheet, and said that she’d been alone in the council room and someone had whispered in both her ears. She was absolutely terrified!

“It was also strange that our cat, Tammy, would never go into the theatre. When we tried to take her in, her hackles would rise as if she was scared of something in there.”

Newport Playgoers' production of 'Blithe Spirit' photos by Phil Mansell

Charles Condomine (DavidConstant) accidentally summons up the spirit of his first wife, Elvira (Eloise Rossiter) much to the annoyance of his second wife Ruth (Rosamund Jones-Griffiths)
(PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Audrey’s grandson Dan, who is the theatre’s deputy manager, has also had some eerie experiences. He said, “When I lock up at night I’ve checked the building to make sure it’s empty, but I still hear footsteps. When I investigate there’s no-one there. It used to spook me at first but now I just think ‘Oh that’s only Aggie.”

Newport Playgoers' production of 'Blithe Spirit' photos by Phil Mansell

A spooky moment in the play as Madame Arcati summons up a ghost (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The other ghost is said to be that of Eric Lane who stage managed many productions years ago. During rehearsals he would puff away on his pipe and today many Playgoers say they can smell his pipe tobacco in parts of the theatre.

Playgoer Chris Bissex-Williams remembers the time he was standing onstage with Eric’s widow, Lorraine. “She suddenly said ‘Eric’s here’ and straightaway I could smell the very distinctive pipe tobacco that he used to smoke wafting across the stage.”

Clare Drewett, who plays the medium Madame Arcati in ‘Blithe Spirit’, said, “I’ve had quite a few psychic experiences in my life and when I’m doing the séance scenes it worries me that I’m going to summon up a real ghost. During one rehearsal I had a very real sense that there was someone there watching us, and the other night I heard a woman singing in one of the empty rehearsal rooms. It’s just like something out of the TV programmes about the most haunted places in Britain. I think they should come and do one from the Dolman Theatre!”

To check out the ghosts for yourself – both real and onstage – go to see ‘Blithe Spirit’ which is at the Dolman Theatre from 12th – 15th 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.  New members are always welcome to become involved both onstage and behind the scenes.