The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
October 23, 24, 25, 26 & 27, 1979.
Arsenic & Old Lace
by Joseph Kesselring
Sheila Wright – Abby Brewster
Frances Moulton – Martha Brewster
Michael Donkin – Mortimer Brewster
Douglas Tucker – Teddy Brewster
Keith Denyer – Jonathon Brewster
Alan Upton – Dr. Einstein
John King – Rev. Dr. Harper
Miranda Bowen – Elaine Harper
Paul Lynn – Officer Brophy
Barrie Bowen – Officer Klein
Bill Mack – Officer O’Hara
Peter Gullen – Lieut. Rooney
George Porter – Mr. Gibbs
Ralph Dawes – Mr. Witherspoon
Stage Manager – Anthony Muzzall
Assistant – Margaret Davy
Assistant – Frances Thorne
Assistant – Susan Whittaker
Assistant – Margaret Ockenden
Lighting – Andrew Theaker
Set Design – Brian Moulton
Set Construction – The Workshop
Box Office – Betty Dawes
Wardrobe Mistress – Pat Moss
Programme Note #1: Arsenic and Old Lace
BM wrote: “Arsenic and Old Lace is advertised as a black comedy, – we hope you enjoy the comedy and if, forever after you are a little afraid of sweet old ladies who offer you elderberry wine, we will have succeeded.”
This brief note was augmented with the following: “Familiar names and a sprinkling of new ones fill our cast list for this our opening play. [web ed: each Wick’s season start in the Autumn] Many of you will remember Frances Moulton in Hobson’s Choice and our opener last year, Butterflies Are Free and Douglas Tucker, Keith Denyer and Bill Mack in the award winning, When We Are Married. Alan Upton’s comedy rôles in our Ayckbourn productions give happy memories.
Sheila Wright has been seen at the Barn Theatre with the Southwick Operatic but as Abby Brewster, Sheila has her first straight drama rôle with Wick. Michael Donkin, a busy leading chiropodist, has been absent from Wick for many years; welcome back. Peter Gullen and Paul Lynn appear with the co-operation of their respective companies. Wick are very appreciative of this welcome sign of inter-company assistance which typifies the strong drama following in this area.”
Review #1: Arsenic and Old Lace
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: October 26 1979 issue – page 2
Reviewer: Frank Horsley
Text Header: “A LOT TO BE THANKFUL FOR”
BLACK comedies like Arsenic and Old Lace have given us a lot to be thankful for. We can now sit back, relax and guffaw without the slightest guilt at one of the great taboo subjects of all time – death.
Twittering sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster, make it sound all so innocuous, the way they bump off lonely gentlemen lodgers with poisoned elderberry wine. You are almost charmed over by their sweet, amoral ways but not by their gruesome nephew Jonathon whose gangland activities have left a trail of 12 bodies – exactly the same number as killed off by his aunts.
Wick Theatre Company’s version of the play, currently being staged at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, always makes sure our sympathies lie in the right place. Sheila Wright playing her first straight drama rôle with Wick, and Frances Moulton act in such perfect unison that they make the sisters seem like Siamese twins. They really do come across as two ‘sweet, old ladies’ while an expert job by the make-up department makes Keith Denyer look every bit a silent film villain in the part of Jonathon. His rolling eyes add the alienating effect and he is brilliantly supported by Alan Upton, who is hilarious as his German sidekick Dr. Einstein. With such strongly defined characters, the play never drifts far off course apart from a few forgotten lines on the first night.
Another particularly distinctive performance comes from Douglas Tucker as the aunts’ mad nephew Teddy Brewster who is certain he is President Roosevelt. Romantic interest is convincingly injected by Michael Donkin [Mortimer Brewster] and Miranda Bowen [Elaine Harper]. Completing a strong cast are John King, Paul Lynn, Barrie Bowen, Bill Mack, Peter Gullen, George Porter and Ralph Dawes.
Directed by Brian Moulton, Arsenic and Old Lace continues at the Barn Theatre tonight and tomorrow.