The Play's The Thing
11 - 18 October 2014
Sat 7:45pm, Mon 7:45pm, Tue 7:45pm, Wed 7:45pm, Thu 7:45pm, Fri 7:45pm, Sat 2:45pm, Sat 7:45pm
A celebration of the past 75 years of Lewes Theatre Club.
Cathryn Parker is co-ordinating actors and directors to perform extracts from some plays and musicals which have been performed at our theatre since 1939.
The Play’s The Thing is a celebration of 75 years of Lewes Little Theatre devised and co-ordinated by Cathryn Parker together with Nicholas Betteridge, Stella Stone, Pat Shrimpton and Tim Rowland.
A cast and crew of over sixty combine to tell the story of Lewes Theatre Club through extracts from memorable productions. Nicholas Betteridge, Michael Bloom, John Cole, Joyce Fisher, Jennifer Henley, Miles Jenner, Jenny Lloyd Lyons, Patti Page, Wendy Tidman, Christopher Weber Brown, John Whitley, Keith Willoughby, and a host of others provide a glimpse of the genius of Shakespeare. The varied programme pays tribute not only to the dynamic and visionary founders of the theatre and the major contributors to its development, but to all those, named and un-named, who have toiled invisibly behind the scenes to produce the magic of theatre to delight our audiences time and time again.
I am delighted that this project has brought back together (for the first time in forty years for some) a range of our finest actors, young and vintage and some new faces to the Lewes stage.
There are extracts from the first play ever presented by Lewes Theatre Club directed by our founder, Reverend Kenneth Rawlings, St Simeon Stylites; medleys from memorable musicals - Cabaret, Lock Up Your Daughters, The Beggars’ Opera and Oh! What a Lovely War; with a whole raft of iconic plays from every genre including Alice in Wonderland, Brief Lives, Dear Octopus, Gaslight, Of Mice and Men, Shadowlands, The Way of the World, The Importance of Being Earnest ... and many more.
You’ve seen the exhibition – now see it brought to life in The Play’s The Thing. Book early to avoid disappointment.
75 years ago Lewes Little Theatre was founded by the Reverend Kenneth Rawlings. A passionate and committed man both personally and professionally, he managed, against the odds to secure the premises that still house the company and the theatre today. Over the last 75 years, 700 plays and musicals have been performed at the theatre. The Play’s the Thing, coordinated, meticulously researched and written by Cathryn Parker, celebrated the company’s history as a narrated show featuring excerpts of pieces previously performed at the theatre. A truly repertory style company with actors and actresses of all ages spanning almost the eight decades being celebrated, some who had returned to the LLT after many years absence, worked tirelessly showing an energy and commitment that honoured the occasion with style.
The evening celebrating the history of LLT comprised of a rich tapestry of eclectic styles, genres and periods from writers such as Coward, Ayckbourn, Shaffer, Bolt, Shakespeare, Shaw, Priestley, Congreve - to name but a few. Faultlessly woven together by narrators Stella Stone, Cathryn Parker and Nicholas Betteridge, they lovingly delivered a detailed and very personal talk against a backdrop of fascinating photos featuring past productions and members who have contributed to making the theatre what it is today. We were also treated to some solo voice overs of Shakespeare soliloquys from members past and present who could not, physically, be involved in the evening. Having done radio drama for the BBC myself, I know what a deceptively hard medium it can be and this was impressive work. Highly enjoyable musical pieces with a very hard working Roger Roser at the piano punctuated the drama during the evening. I especially enjoyed the moving, stylishly staged Oh! What a Lovely War.
Speaking to Pat Shrimpton after the show I was informed that there was an ‘A and B night’ with some of the extracts differing depending on the day. The amount of work and preparation that had gone into the two and a half hours of theatre that I saw was clear to see, so to be told that I hadn’t seen the full extent of the work produced for the celebration was impressive indeed. Apparently the permission for a number of excerpts that had been applied for had been denied, some at the last moment, which obviously added to the work load and stress levels. None of this uncertainty and last minute preparation showed in the assured performances and slick presentations directed by Nicholas Betteridge, Cathryn Parker, Tim Rowland, Pat Shrimpton and Stella Stone.
The costume department got a well deserved special mention in the evening’s narrated history. The standard of both stage design and costumes in the productions I have seen over the last two years at LLT is high and executed with ingenuity. Gerry Cortese and Alison Soudain working with 32 actors and actresses in over 20 extracts from diverse periods during one evening showed the costume department truly excelling themselves for this project. The staging, stage management, lighting and sound, designed and executed by approximately 30 members was faultless.
I attended the show with a professional actor friend and as we walked to LLT we bemoaned the fact that, as 'professionals', invariably the love of theatre and the engrossing nature of the fascination with the acting process exits stage left. Due to the difficulties of securing work, making a living and being at the mercy of the many different aspects that comprise a production (should you be lucky enough even to be working) it’s hard to hold onto the passion that once drove you. Additionally we noted that in a celebrity driven world theatre endeavours such as LLT are the antithesis of the being famous and rich for being famous and rich era in which we live.
As well as having the potential to be the most engrossing and joyous experience, theatre can be a therapeutic, life affirming, and empowering medium both for the practitioners and audience alike. The value of ‘amateur’ theatre with the high standards embodied by LLT is something incredibly worthwhile. This was a proud and fitting celebration of the selfless, tireless work and passion for theatre that has enabled LLT to endure for 75 years from its inception and creation by the visionary Reverend Rawlings to today where it forges ahead still in its original home in Lancaster Street.