The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
October 11, 12 & 13, 1956.
by George Bernard Shaw
Pat Holloway – Miss Eynsford-Hill
Judy Wilkey – Mrs. Eynsford-Hill
Ross Workman – Bystander
Derek Wass – Freddie Eynsford-Hill
Jean Porter – Eliza Doolittle
Seamus McGurk – Colonel Pickering
Patrick Johnson – Henry Higgins
Elwyn Wass – Sarcastic Bystander
Kenneth Wilson – Taximan
Betty Gedge – Mrs. Pearce
Ralph Dawes – Alfred Doolttle
Betty Carpenter – Mrs. Higgins
Rosemary Pockett – Parlourmaid
Stage Manager – Clive Townsend
Electrician – Frank Hurrell
Lighting – Frank Hurrell
Properties – Mary Gedge
Properties – Susan Aris
Wardrobe – Susan Dawson
Wardrobe – Belinda Penney
Scenery Designer – Ralph Dawes
Scenery Executed – Ralph Dawes
Decor – Belinda Penney
Publicity #1: Pygmalion
Publication: Brighton & Hove Gazette
Publication Data: September 29 1956 issue – Thalia
Text Header: “Actor recovers”
I WAS glad to hear that Adrian Hedges, who is in hospital with a fractured skull as a result of a motor-cycle accident, is making good progress.
Adrian had been chosen to play the part of Alfred Doolittle in the Young Wick Players’ next production, Bernard Shaw’s well known Pygmalion. He was settling down well in the part when the accident occurred, and apart from being a personal shock to his friends in the Players it was a big blow to the production itself.
Fortunately for the Young Wicks Ralph Dawes was able to step into the part, his original rôle of Freddie Eynsford-Hill being taken over by Derek Wass. Such was the headache with which the producer, one of the newer members, Mrs. Jean Porter, was presented. But the show goes on.
The play was specially chosen as the Young Wick Players’ own contribution to Shaw’s centenary year, and will form the opening production of the coming season. It will be presented between October 11 and 13 in the Barn Theatre, Southwick.
Review #1: Pygmalion
Publication: Brighton and Hove Herald
Publication Data: October 13 1956 issue
Text Header: “AN EVENING WITH SHAW” – Young Wick Players Open New Season
IN honour of Shaw’s centenary year, the Young Wick Players began their dramatic season at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, this week by presenting Pygmalion. This is an ambitious choice for a young company, and most of the credit for a successful performance is due to Jean Porter who also plays the leading rôle of Eliza Doolittle.
On the stage, she sets a standard of acting which few of the other members pf the cast can equal; and though she took over the part at short notice only two weeks ago, when the original Eliza [Frances Moulton] had to drop out, she needs no indulgence on the score.
The production, however, would have gained considerably if firmer attempts had been made to dress the players in the style of the period and more care had been taken over the setting. George Bernard Shaw gave a detailed description of Professor Higgin’s phonetics laboratory, in which two of the scenes are played, but the décor here is somewhat perfunctory, to say the least. A much better job has been made of Mrs Higgin’s drawing room.
As Professor Higgins, Patrick Johnson has an excellent manner but needs to take his lines a little more slowly. Betty Gedge gives a delightful character study of the disapproving housekeeper, and Ralph Dawes provides plenty of Cockney humour as Alfred Doolittle, the dustman
Others taking part are Seamus McGurk [Colonel Pickering], Pat Holloway, Judy Wilkey, Ross Workman, Derek Wass, Elwyn Wass, Kenneth Gedge [sic], Betty Carpenter and Rosemary Pockett.
The final performance will be given to-night.
Review #2: Pygmalion
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: October 19 1956 issue – page 10
Text Header: “Wick Players overcame ‘Pygmalion’ problems”
In a situation fraught with difficulties, the Young Wick Players won through and succeeded in presenting a lively production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion in the Barn Theatre last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Players themselves must have wondered if their play would ever reach first-night stage. As a production Pygmalion was an ambitious choice, further complicated by the illness of the leading lady, Frances Moulton. Two weeks before the play was due to go on producer Jean Porter took over the role of Eliza Doolittle. On the night before the play was presented the Players found that they had to tailor much of their sets to fit an altered stage. But they surmounted these difficulties and won the acclaim of the audiences.
Their strength lay in fine acting by all the main characters. Jean Porter, fortunately has played the part before and her performance was up to professional standards. We in the audience forgot her as a person and saw only the bedraggled flower-girl who, like her own products, blossomed into a fine flower. She got inside her part with ease, exploited the comedy to the full and made the best of the more poignant scenes: a fine actress. Patrick Johnson, as Professor Higgins, was with the exception of one small scene well at home in his character of the mannerless, at times boorish, but naively well meaning cause of the whole story. The exception was in the penultimate act, during which Eliza threw the slippers at him; he was inclined to resort to the melodramatic gestures more suited to the Victorian stage. Seamus McGurk, as Higgin’s ‘partner-in-crime’ Colonel Pickering, provided just the right touch of sympathy and understanding lacking in the Professor’s make-up. He, too, was at ease in the part and deceptively able.
Betty Gedge showed once more just how effectively an amateur can create a part. As the professor’s housekeeper she was ideal. Her authentic Scots accent was maintained without labour, there was just enough of it, and she was completely in character. Betty Carpenter, as the professor’s mother, was another member whose part was apt to be over looked because of the ease with which she settled into it, while Ralph Dawes showed ability in the difficult character, Alfred Doolilttle, Eliza’s father. Other parts were tackled by Pat Holloway [Miss Eynsford-Hill], Judy Wilkey [Mrs. Eynsford-Hill], Ross Workman [Bystander], Derek Wass [Freddie]. Elwyn Wass [Sarcastic bystander] and Rosemary Pickett [maid].
As I have said, a feature of the production was the fine acting. But the Players do not deserve to be dismissed with praise only: criticism will, I hope, urge them on towards ultimate perfection. For just as a feature of this play was its good acting, another was its poor stage craft – excluding the difficulties which arose from the altered sets. I fear that Jean Porter’s sudden take-over resulted in a neglect of this side of the play, and there was an evident lack of co-ordination backstage. Also, an attempt to bring the play up to date jarred, particularly with the introduction of the word ‘tape-recorder’ and the appearance of a bystander in RAF battledress. It was also apparent that no great thought was given to the interval music, which could neither be heard easily nor dismissed from the background – a persistent fault with this company.
The play was, however, exceptionally well dressed for an amateur show, and the enthusiasm behind the production prodigious. They deserved to be – and were – strongly supported. Their ambition is shown by their next production which they hope will be Sailor Beware, a West End hit that began its life in Worthing and of which the Young Wick Players will be among the first to give it an amateurs’ presentation.
Review #3: Pygmalion
Publication Data: Unknown
Text Header: Southwick – “Pygmalion”
To take on the leading part in a Shaw play at a fortnight’s notice, and to make a complete success of it, is an achievement. This is what Jean Porter did at the Young Wick Players’ production of Pygmalion on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Barn Theatre. What is more she produced the play. She took over the part from Frances Moulton whose health obliged her to give it up.
Taking it altogether, the production was a very satisfying one, and the difficulties of a small stage were neatly overcome. Apart from the Eliza Doolittle of Miss Porter, word of praise should also be given to Ralph Dawes as her father Alfred who put over his points most convincingly. Patrick Johnson was a good Henry Higgins and Seamus McGurk a pleasant Col. Pickering. Betty Gedge was effective as Mrs. Pearce and Betty Carpenter as Mrs. Higgins. The remainder of the cast fitted well into the picture. They were Pat Holloway, Judy Wilkey, Derek Wass, Ross Workman, Elwyn Wass, Kenneth Wilson and Rosemary Pockett.
Review #4: Pygmalion
Publication Data: Unknown
Text Header: “Overcame snags”
THE Young Wick Players had to surmount a series of last-minute obstacles to put on Pygmalion at Southwick Barn Theatre last week. Despite casualties in the cast and last-minute structural alterations, the Players gave very creditable performances.
The approach to production and individual portrayals was with due regard to the Shavian tradition. This now classic comedy about the metamorphosis of flower-girl into lady opened well, and was sustained for three acts. But thereafter this good attack weakened and some unevenness resulted.
Characterisation generally was good. Patrick Johnson had apparently really studied his rôle of the turbulent Professor Higgins, for his scenes with producer Jean Porter – equally effective a Eliza, the part she had taken over at short notice – held one’s attention.
From Betty Gedge came the portrayal of the pawky Scottish housekeeper: a very complete performance this, with the Scots accent maintained throughout. The difficult part of Doolittle was well put over by Ralph Dawes, though his dustman’s clothing wasn’t nearly dusty enough!
Smaller rôles were adequately played by Betty Carpenter, Seamus McGurk, Pat Holloway, Judy Wilkey, Derek Wass, Elwyn Wass and Rosemary Pockett.