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.

 


Playgoer’s Season Finale will be Absolute ‘Nunsense’!

June 2, 2015

Newport Playgoers are set to end their 92nd season of plays with an award-winning musical extravaganza that started life as a series of greetings cards. 

The Little Sisters of Hoboken prepare to entertain audiences with a show to raise funds to bury their fellow nuns who were poisoned by the convent cook. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The Little Sisters of Hoboken prepare to entertain audiences with a show to raise funds to bury their fellow nuns who were poisoned by the convent cook. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The comic nuns proved so popular that their creator, Dan Goggin, turned them into a cabaret and then expanded that into a full length theatre production.

‘Nunsense’ ran for over 3,500 performances and won the Best Off Broadway Musical award.

The musical romp tells of the Little Sisters of Hoboken and their crazy antics after the convent cook serves up some dodgy soup resulting in 52 nuns dying of botulism.

Sister Amnesia (Eloise Rossiter) rehearses her ventriloquist act. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Sister Amnesia (Eloise Rossiter) rehearses her ventriloquist act. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Luckily a few of the nuns were busy playing bingo and were spared this terrible fate. But to their horror they realise the convent hasn’t the funds to pay for the funerals.

The Mother Superior decides she and her fellow nuns will use the left-over set for a production of ‘Grease’ to stage a variety show packed with hilarious show-stopping song and dance numbers to raise the money for the funerals. There follows a hail of fun and frolics as they try to achieve their aim.

The season opened with 'According to Claudia' by local playwright Phil Mansell. The play won Best Theatre Show award presented by entertainment and lifestyle magazine Voice. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The season opened with ‘According to Claudia’ by local playwright Phil Mansell. The play won Best Theatre Show award presented by entertainment and lifestyle magazine Voice. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The season has been another success for Playgoers who own and run the city’s 400-seat Dolman Theatre.

Beginning with ‘According to Claudia’, a play by local writer Phil Mansell, it included the thriller ‘Deathtrap’ and three plays commemorating the First World War including last month’s funny yet thought-provoking ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’.

One of the highlights of the season was the  thriller 'Deathtrap' (PHOTO:PHIL MANSELL)

One of the highlights of the season was the thriller ‘Deathtrap’ (PHOTO:PHIL MANSELL)

Playgoers are already looking forward to next season which begins in September with ‘Up Pompeii’ the stage version of the show that Frankie Howerd made such a hit on TV.

'Blackadder Goes Forth' was one of three plays commemorating the outbreak of World War One. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ was one of three plays commemorating the outbreak of World War One. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

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

 

‘Nunsense is at the Dolman Theatre from 17 – 20 June at 7.15 pm, with a matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. For more information or to book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.