The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
December 7, 8, 9, 10 &, 11, 1982.
Goodnight Mrs. Puffin
by Arthur Lovegrove
Jean Porter – Ethel Fordyce
Emily Reed – Jacqueline Fordyce
Sally Pumford – Pamela Fordyce
Antony Muzzall – Nicholas Fordyce
Sally Bacon – Annie
Daphne Thornton – Amelia Puffin
Ronald Cheesman – Henry Fordyce
Frank Semus – Stephen Parker
Mark Skipper – Victor Parker
Clive Trott – Roger Vincent
Stage Manager – Frances Thorne
A.S.M – Jill Redman
Lighting & Effects – Frank Hurrell
Lighting & Effects – Frank Child
Lighting & Effects – David Child
Lighting & Effects – Jonathon Dawes
Wardrobe – Pat Moss
Properties – Margaret Davy
Properties – Sue Whittaker
Front of House – George Porter
Set Construction – Ralph Dawes
Set Construction – Dave Collis
Set Construction – Brian Box
Programme Cover – Antony Muzzall
Foyer Photographs – George Porter
Foyer Decoration – Rosemary Biggs
Box Office – Nicholas Thorne
Programme Note #1: Goodnight Mrs. Puffin
DT wrote: “Dear Audience
This production introduces a number of new faces to our audience and I am particularly happy that it involves younger actors and actresses. The Amateur Societies in this area suffer, it seems, from a scarcity of members in the 20/25 age group, so we are very fortunate to have Clive Trott, Mark Skipper and Emilie Reed ‘guesting’ for us.
Without them, this play could not have been staged. Originally, I thought I could cast from existing members but for various reasons they were unavailable to take part. Antony Muzzall and Sally Pumford are of course Wick members and complete the ‘younger’ element. Thus we have a good blend of younger and, dare I say, ‘older’ members of the company.
Jean Porter makes a welcome return, after a fairly long absence. It is great to see her with us. Frank Semus has recently joined the company and I am sure we shall see more of him in the future.
I am grateful to the cast and all involved back stage for the hard work and co-operation they have given me during the relatively short rehearsal period since our last play.
It now remains to put our efforts to the test and if we succeed in amusing you and for a brief hour or two make you forget the ‘world outside’ then I, for one, will have achieved my purpose. I believe, very strongly, that one of the main roles of the Theatre is to entertain. All too often these days play writers seem to want to make us think about some social problem of our time and put over to us their own philosophical outlook on a chosen theme. This is, of course, very laudable and if the play truly entertains then it is no doubt acceptable. Nevertheless I still prefer entertainment without a specific message. Though undoubtedly not a classic I think this play fulfils that role and that is why I chose it. I hope you enjoy it.”
Publicity #1: Goodnight Mrs. Puffin
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: December 3 1982 issue – page 19
Reporter: Frank Horsley
Text Header: “Mrs Puffin at the Barn”
WICK Theatre Company offer strictly seasonal fare at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, next week – for their latest production is a comedy set during the week before Christmas.
Goodnight Mrs. Puffin, by Arthur Lovegrove, is their choice of ply and provides a second directing assignment for Douglas Tucker, whose first production for Wick was the drama, A Man About the House, last season. Under him is a cast blending youth with experience.
Stepping onto the Barn Theatre boards for the first time will be Mark Skipper and Clive Trott, while Emily Reed makes her debut for the ‘seniors’ after serving her apprenticeship with Young Wick Theatre Company. The play also provide a first major rôle for Sally Pumford and a welcome return to the stage for Jean Porter after several years absence.
Also appearing is new member Frank Semus and the more established Tony Mussell [sic], Sally Bacon, Daphne Thornton and Ronald Cheesman.
Goodnight Mrs. Puffin, opens at the Barn theatre on Tuesday and runs until Saturday [December 11].
Review #1: Goodnight Mrs. Puffin
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: December 17 1982 issue – page 15
Reviewer: Murray Morse
Text Header: “Dream of a comedy”
COR blimey Mrs Puffin, you and your dreams are a bloomin’ caution. Gordon Bennett, talk about deja-flamin’-vue!
The latest production from Wick Theatre Company, Goodnight Mrs. Puffin, could not have been a better way to mark the end of the year. Directed by Douglas Tucker this simple comedy was very funny and a delight to watch. If there was an award for the best character portrayal of the year then Daphne Thornton would get my vote for the way she played Amelia Puffin, the lovable cockney from Clapham, who causes havoc a week before a wedding with one of her dreams ‘what’s never wrong’.
Daphne was funny in Plaza Suite earlier this year, but in last week’s production at the Barn Theatre she had me ‘Swep orf’ me feet’ – as Mrs Puffin would say. She was brash but a most lovable nuisance, with a delightful accent and the lines such as ‘Prawns in the hands of fate’ and ‘Uncanny init’. But then, all the characters were well played and made the comedy that much stronger.
I was particularly impressed with Antony Muzzall as Nicholas Fordyce, who came out with some snappy one-line quips. Jean Porter and Ronald Cheesman had the audience in stitches with their larger than life portrayals of the harassed parents and Sally Bacon made the most of her walk-on part as sloppy home help Annie. She plodded on and off stage with all the grace of the average elephant and reminded me of Olive from On the Buses, [web ed: TV sit-com] complete with glasses and baggy tights.
Review #2: Goodnight Mrs. Puffin
Publication: Brighton & Hove Gazette
Publication Data: Unknow
Reviewer: Walter Hix
Text Header: “Amelia knows, you know”
THE light comedy Goodnight Mrs. Puffin, presented last week by the Wick Theatre Company, is a rarity in that it not only has a richly comic situation, but well defined and eminently actable characterisations. The company, with one or two guest players, were able to cast it almost to perfection.
Mrs. Amelia Puffin has a habit of dreaming the future and considers it her duty to warn the Fordyce family that the impending marriage of their daughter will not take place. Everything she predicts comes true. Emilie Reed played Jacqueline Fordyce with great charm and authority. As her highly sceptical and distracted mother, Jean Porter made a welcome return and the father was Ronald Cheesman, mildly seeking to pour oil on the troubled waters.
Mark Skipper, as the fiancé, played the mild and unromantic man who seemed quite wrong for the vivacious Jacqueline. His father, a dominating business tycoon, was played by Frank Semus, a newcomer with a delightfully mellow voice and boardroom manner. Clive Trott played the American who sweeps the girl off her feet. Sally Pumford was her charming younger sister and Antony Muzzall somewhat overplayed the ‘silly ass’ part of the son.
Mrs. Puffin was splendidly played by Daphne Thornton. She was completely the kind-hearted old dear from Clapham Common.
Douglas Tucker’s direction could have been better observed, especially the too frequent grouping of the Fordyce family around the sofa, like an Edwardian family portrait. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Review #2: Goodnight Mrs. Puffin
Publication: Wick Newsletter
Publication Data: December 20 1982
In-house reviewer – Ralph Dawes
The Play A comedy. The producer says it has no specific message so how does the play entertain us? I think the comedy is at two levels.
1. Is immediate the laughs coming from the situation as it occurs. [acceptances from the people you don’t want to come and apologies from those you do.] [the picture falling off the wall]
2. Anticipation, you are told something will happen and then you must wait, sometimes for quite a long period before it happens. The idea is planted and the laugh comes when it happens. [Mr Fordyce:- we are told about his remarks when he comes in for coffee [“ah coffee” – rubbing hands]] and we wait an act before it happens.
Mrs Puffin’s predictions are in this category.
I think the play worked well at both levels and the audiences were thoroughly entertained.
Setting adequate: Perhaps there should have been more decoration, it seemed to me that there was not enough indication of Christmas. Equally Christmas was not an important factor in the plot, but if it’s going to be Christmas lets have something more.
Furniture: The three piece suite was too large. It was right for the house but too big on the small stage with a large cast. Was it too low?
Lighting: Most of the play was set in late afternoon or evening with only interior lighting. At times actors using the front of the stage were partially in shadow. Whilst I recognise the importance of directional lighting and trying to indicate the window or wall lamps as sources I feel that actors should always be lit enough for their faces to be seen. How else can we appreciate what they are saying, thinking, feeling.
Stage Management: Congratulations on the prompt start and smooth running.
Props: This department is always neglected in an appreciation of a play. We notice when things are wrong or don’t happen. We don’t give them their due when they are right. Coffee & Tea were hot & obviously genuine – the parcels looked right. I always kept my fingers crossed that the betting slip would be inside the envelope inside the briefcase. It’s important; the play fails if that prop goes wrong. Well done Margaret and Sue.
Effects: The Bells went on cue, the crockery fell when the cue came. I’m not too sure that telephones sound like that even in Hampstead [there’s a bigger interval after each pair of rings]..bring, bring — bring, bring –.
Wardrobe: fine; everyone looked fine with enough differentiation on the men’s evening suits to indicate character.
Mr F. Mr Parker formal. Poor Victor formal. Nicholas and Roger more adventurous. I liked Mrs Puffin’s change of hat after she had gone home and returned. Do you think that Annie might have had a different dress for evening or perhaps a different apron?
Production: Handling a large cast on a small stage like ours is no easy matter and in general terms groupings and movement was well-organised. Some artificiality was inevitable but although I was aware of people moving without motivation to clear an area for others it did not spoil my enjoyment of the play and from the reaction of the audience their enjoyment was obvious. I found the production a bit too even, there was not enough build to climaxes on the anticipated comedy. Roger’s entrance should be more marked and Jackie’s’ move to him finished before the blackout. The timing of the B/out is important. However the pace of the evening was generally good and paved the way for a very enjoyable evening.
Make-up: was generally good and unobtrusive. There was no character work and so there were no great demands.
Acting In order of appearance
Jean – Ethel Fordyce – a delightful portrayal of a woman aware of her ‘social’ position, concerned for her children and trying to live up to all that was expected of the wife of a businessman in Hampstead. I liked the ‘style’ which was indicated by occasional lapses of speech when under stress and the social veneer slipped for a split second. I liked the continuing collapse as more and more things happened or went wrong. A well sustained comedy character.
Emilie – Jacqueline Fordyce – one of the straight characters who form the foil or background for the comedy. This part is difficult; we have to become aware of the rising conflict of her emotion when she realises that she doesn’t really love Victor. I thought Emilie controlled the part very well – she looked good – and relaxed but, to be critical, I would like to have seen a little more thought and reaction when she was not directly in the conversation. Her forcefulness of character was well controlled when she insisted on seeing Mrs Puffin in Act 3.
Tony Muzzall – Nicholas Fordyce – a careful characterisation, well observed. He was always attentive to other people and timed his comedy lines well. His rapport with Mrs Puffin was particularly good. His ‘attack’ and crispness in cueing was important to the variety and balance in the casting.
Sally B – Annie – here was a part that could so easily have been thrown away. There are few lines but the comedy of this character arose purely from movement and characterisation. The audience loved this sloppy maid who still had spirit [you’re too late I just guess it] and life. A well though out character. A character who added strength to the play.
Sally P – Pamela Fordyce – another straight character without many rewards. Effectively played and showed her awareness of Victor in small ways before his announcement. I always felt she was keen on him.
Daphne Thornton – Amelia Puffin – I’m not sure I knew what to expect of Mrs Puffin before she came in. A member of the audience said to me. “The thing that impresses me about this play and the performances is that everyone is exactly as you would expect them to be!” Mrs Puffin is exactly how you would expected her to be. A complete character who plays her comedy superbly. Her timing and control are apparently effortless. Her attention to detail in thing like costume, listening and reacting to other characters create effective theatre. She was part of a team and gave a depth of performance that deserves congratulations.
Ronald Cheesman – Henry Fordyce – I have come to expect a new and effective characterisation when ever |Ronald appears on stage. Perhaps Henry is not written in any depth but I was a little disappointed not to see a new person. The characterisation was not very deep. However, the timing and playing were effective and contributed to the whole image of the play
Frank Seamus – Stephen Parker – here was another character who was as you would expect him to be. He had attack, assurance and credibility as a herd headed business man. I felt he lost some conviction in the part when he played out front to the audience and involved them directly with himself. I thought at these moments he stood outside the play and I would have preferred his involvement to be with the other characters, in the context of this production.
Mark Skipper – Victor Parker – Victor knew his limitations as a person and yet had those qualities which enables him to turn the plot at the end when he controlled and dominated events. It was well played, gentle, with a feel for comedy which will, I am sure, improve with practice.
Clive Trott – Roger Vincent – He must wait until the end of the act to come in and make an impact. When he does – we know he’s coming – we don’t know when. Clive had an easy assurance in his acting I liked his American accent, he moved well and was a good listener.
To conclude:- I enjoyed the play very much. I saw it three times and found it engaging, funny and enjoyable each time. It seems a pity when we produce plays of this standard that as a company we don’t we don’t go out and sell them more enthusiastically.