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.


Exploring the thin line between madness and murder

February 23, 2013

“Like being trapped in someone else’s nightmare.” That’s how one critic described ‘Veronica’s Room’ which is the next presentation from Newport Playgoers.

Newport Playgoers present 'Veronica's Room' by Ira Levin

Rachel Fenwick, Connor Jenkins, Chris Bissex-Williams and Eileen Symonds in ‘Veronica’s Room’ (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Written by Ira Levin, author of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, The Stepford Wives’ and ‘Deathtrap’, this chilling thriller tells of two college students who are enticed to a fading mansion by an elderly couple because the girl bears a striking resemblance to Veronica, the long dead daughter of the mansion’s owners.

What follows is a tale packed with twists and surprises. A great night out for anyone who loves well-acted mystery and suspense.

Newport Playgoers present 'Veronica's Room' by Ira Levin

Rachel Fenwick as Susan in ‘Veronica’s Room’
(PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

‘Veronica’s Room’ is at the Dolman Theatre from Wednesday 27 February – Saturday 2 March 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. More information is available online at www.newportplaygoers.wordpress.com. New members are always welcome to become involved both onstage and behind the scenes!


Sherlock Holmes is on the Case in Newport

October 11, 2012

Something wicked this way comes – and it’s a case for the world’s greatest detective when an ancient curse returns to terrify the Baskerville family in the shape of a gigantic hound.

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Sherlock Holmes, ably assisted by Dr Watson, sets out to solve the mystery of ‘The Hound of The Baskervilles’ at the Dolman Theatre later this month. When Sir Charles Baskerville dies in mysterious circumstances, his last remaining relative, Sir Henry Baskerville, travels home from America to claim his inheritance, Baskerville Hall. Is Sir Henry doomed to suffer the same gruesome fate as his ancestors or can Holmes save him? Only time will tell in this fast paced adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic story, revised for the stage by Simon Williams.

Almost as soon as it was written, the most famous case of Britain’s most famous detective was adapted from the original novel for other media. The challenge for a theatre production is to recreate the sinister atmosphere so easily achieved in film. Audiences will be on the edge of their seat as the chilling plot unfolds when Newport Playgoers present ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ at the Dolman Theatre from 17 – 20 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.  New members are always welcome to become involved both onstage and behind the scenes.


Did Hollywood legend Basil Rathbone act with Newport Playgoers?

September 27, 2012

When ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ opens at the Dolman Theatre on 17th October it will revive memories of Newport Playgoers’ links with the man who, for many, was the definitive Sherlock Holmes – the legendary Hollywood star Basil Rathbone.

Basil Rathbone

The photo of Basil Rathbone that was donated to Newport Playgoers by his first wife Marion who was a leading light in the drama group for many years.

A photograph of the late, great actor adorns the walls of the Dolman Theatre and was a gift to Playgoers from Rathbone’s first wife, Marion, who was for many years one of the leading lights of the drama society. Well-known as an actress, director and teacher, she filled the walls of her home with photos of Rathbone in various roles.

“The connection between Basil Rathbone and Newport Playgoers is a real mystery and we had to think like Sherlock Holmes himself to try to crack it,” says Alex Wilson from Cardiff who is directing ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

Alex and his team of sleuths discovered that Marion met Rathbone when he was touring the UK with his cousin Frank Benson’s Shakespeare Company and appeared with him in productions of ‘As You Like It’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’. They married in 1914 and the following year had a son, Rodion. With the First World War raging, Rathbone joined the army in 1915 and served with distinction, his exploits earning him the Military Cross for outstanding bravery.

The couple divorced in 1926, two years after Playgoers was founded – so the puzzle remains of whether Basil Rathbone ever appeared in a Playgoers production before going off to Hollywood where, as well as making several films as Sherlock Holmes, he appeared in costume dramas such as ‘David Copperfield’, ‘The Mark of Zorro’, and ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ with Errol Flynn.

Chris Bissex-Williams, who plays Dr Watson in Playgoer’s production, shed some light on the subject. “Marion kept the name Rathbone all her life. She would always sweep into the theatre, black cloak flying behind her, billowing scarf and big feathered hat – a real grande dame.

Veteran Playgoer Babs Richards recalled, “I knew Marion very well. She always dressed in black and one felt she was always giving a performance, even when she just speaking to you. She directed many plays, mainly outdoor productions of Shakespeare. I remember their son, Rodion, appeared in a few Playgoers’ productions in the 1930s. He looked very much like his father, very dark, with a little moustache.”

Newport Playgoers present 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'

Newport Playgoers’ atmospheric production features James Symonds as Sir Henry Baskerville, Chris Bissex-Williams as Dr Watson and Steve Drowley as Sherlock Holmes. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Basil Rathbone appeared in a famous film version of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and director Alex Wilson is determined to make Playgoers’ presentation just as thrilling.  “Our production will be very atmospheric and evocative of a dank, foggy Dartmoor where the hound roams. We’re sure it will send chills down the spines of the audience.”

‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ is at the Dolman Theatre from 17 – 20 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.  New members are always welcome to become involved both onstage and behind the scenes.