The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
March 2, 3, 4 & 5, 2005.
by Terry Johnson
Judith Berrill – Eleanor
Kevin Isaac – Richard
Bob Ryder – Brian
John Garland – Nick
Zoë Edden – Lisa
Katie Brownings – Video Voice
Simon Druce – Video Voice
Assistant Director – Simon Druce
Lighting – Mike Medway
Sound – Simon Snelling
Stage Manager – David Comber
Stage Manager – Robert Mitchell
Technical Stage Manager – David Bickers
Properties – Margaret Davy
Properties – Sue Whittaker
Workshop Team – David Comber
Workshop Team – Robert Mitchell
Workshop Team – Sheila Neesham
Front of House – Betty Dawes
Box Office – Margaret Murrell
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Rosemary Brown
Publicity – Simon Druce
Programme Note #1: Dead Funny
The play is a wonderfully warm-hearted adaptation, by H E bates himself, of the novel that started the whole series of Darling Buds stories. It is charming, enjoyable stuff, which should leave audiences with a warm glow.
Publicity #1: Dead Funny
Publication: The Advertiser
Publication Data: April 27 2005 issue – page 32
Text Header: Date with the Larkins
IT’S delightful, it’s delicious …it’s The Darling Buds of May. The heart-warming story of the loveable Larkin family is Wick Theatre Company’s offering for early summer, in H.E.Bate’s own stage version of his classic tale from the 1950’s.
The Larkins and their wide circle of friends and neighbours were also featured in a highly-popular TV series.
Summer is bursting out all over as we meet the family in their somewhat chaotic farm set in beautiful woodland countryside. There’s the happy-go-lucky wheeler dealer Pop with the imperturbable Ma Larkin, their gorgeous daughter Mariette [mad on horses, and men] and a gaggle of smaller children.
Into the cosy domestic scene steps the nervous and impressionable Mr Charlton, in search of Pop’s Income Tax return. He soon gets seduced in more ways than one.
Everyone is looking forward to the gymkhana; then comes the shocking news that there may not be a field to hold it in. However, Pop saves the situation by not only offering the use of the Larkin meadow, but to throw a party afterwards as well. All the friends and neighbours turn up, and the whole thing goes off with a bang. Pop and Mrs Larkin are played by John Garland and Sharon Watts, and daughter Mariette by Lauren Gould, Adrian Kenward is Mrr Charlton. The play is produced by Bob Ryder.
Performances are at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre, Southwick Street, Southwick, from Wednesday, May 25 to Saturday May 28, at 7.45pm. Tickets £7 from the box office on 01273 597094.
Review #1: Dead Funny
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Jeremy Malies
Text Header: Unknown
When Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd died within 48 hours of each other in the Spring of 1992 their passing prompted Terry Johnson to write Dead Funny. The piece was the latest offering from the Wick Theatre Company at the Barn, Southwick, last week.
On a superficial level the play is a vehicle for crude slapstick and toilet humour together with sexual explicitness. Its grim plot-line revolves around impotence, infertility and the break-up of two marriages. But in the right hands Dead Funny is a sophisticated and technically accomplished farce shot through with tongue-in-cheek leering innuendo lifted with much affection from the Carry On films. The action surrounds five characters, four of whom are members of the Dead Funny Society, a club dedicated to the memory of great British comedians from the music hall tradition. The members like nothing better than to inject gags into their regular conversation and exchange patter. The setting is the North London home of the current head of the Society, Richard [Kevin Isaac].
Richard is a gynaecologist who finds the anatomy of his own wife abhorrent but will take any opportunity to have sex with his best friend’s spouse, Lisa, played by Zoë Edden. As the one outsider, Judith Berrill is the equivalent of a perplexed football widow as she watches the others go through routines including Morecambe and Wise’s ‘Boom, ooh, ya-ta-ta-ta’ and the Jimmy James box sketch. Suffering from laryngitis, Berrill performed so valiantly with a throat mike that within minutes few people were aware of it. She had a slick, waspish touch when belittling the crushing bores around her and debunking their heroes. “Tommy Cooper, a man holding a plastic chicken and having a coronary in front of 1,500 people. It was a hell of a trick!” A highlight of the evening was John Garland’s entry as a Chinaman and his mangled consonants. Bob Ryder also demonstrated exceptional powers of observation when conjuring up Hills’ Fred Scuttle character.
On the next evening I had a reminder of just how good the Wick are when I travelled the breadth of the county and saw a version of the same play by another amateur company. A treatment at the Stables Theatre in Hastings was well paced, thoroughly intelligent and technically accomplished. But in quality of mimicry, sheer nerdiness of character and deftness of production the Wick version beat it into a cocked hat or Benny Hill beret.
Director Tony Brownings demonstrated a gossamer touch with the smuttiness throughout. This was good [if not so clean] fun. Frankie Howerd’s advice might have been “Titter ye not!” but there was enough tittering and ribald cackling at the Barn last Friday to chalk this up as yet another success for one of the strongest am dram groups in Sussex.
Review #2: Dead Funny
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
Text Header: Potent humour
PLAYWRIGHT Terry Johnson has an extraordinary knack of successfully blending together the most unlikely characters. Marilyn Monroe meets up with Albert Einstein in Insignificance while Hysteria brings together Salvador Dali and Sigmund Freud. Similarly, in this current production by the Wick Theatre Company, he has blended two disparate subjects and created a curious hybrid.
This adult play depicts a marriage which has its problems, as the husband, Richard, is going through a period of impotence and seems reluctant to go along with his wife’s attempts to rectify the situation. Despite receiving counselling, he just accepts the situation – much to the despair and frustration of his wife, Ellie, who in addition to having unfilled urges is conscious of her biological clock running down and desperate to have a child. Amid all this angst and bickering, Johnson works in the lunatic world of the Dead Funny Society of which Richard is the president.
This society exists for its members to keep alive the memory of the great comics whose roots lay in the days of the music hall and to enact some of their routines. Ellie is not part of the society and is very much the outsider looking on, making mocking and caustic comments, referring to the members as Anoraks. Chief amongst these Anoraks is Brian, who arrives during Ellie’s latest attempt at arousing her husband, to announce that Benny Hill has just died. A series of hilarious scenes then follow as they are joined by two other members, Nick and Lisa. Mayhem breaks out as skeletons start to come out of the closet.
Judith Berrill is touching in her desperation for motherhood and captures well Ellie’s moods of sexual frustration and anger. Her feistiness is counter-balanced by Kevin Isaac’s frigid Richard, who only comes to life when acting out his comic heroes with his pal, Nick, played by John Garland. This pair bring to life classic routines from the likes of Eric and Ernie, Jimmy James and Benny Hill himself. As Brian, Bob Ryder gives a delicate touch to his character’s campness. His comic portrayal never loses sight of the man’s pathetic nature. Great comedic talent is also shown by Zoë Edden. Her droll performance of Lisa is a highlight of the evening.
It is a bold choice of play and one which may shock with its frankness.
Review #3: Dead Funny
Publication: Words & Music
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Gordon Bull
It is difficult to give fair appraisal of DF when its lead Judith Berrill as Eleanor was struck by a serious throat infection despite which she bravely carried on. Even the voice gadget she wore was not able to conceal the difficulty which must have affected all five of the cast. Fortunately her semi-clothed figure with sexy underwear did not require imagination to focus one’s interest as she attempted to vamp her amazingly disinterested husband Richard [Kevin Isaac]. Reflecting the real-life sad scenario of man’s wandering desire for conquest his attention is perked up by his friend Nick’s wife Lisa [Zoë Edden] as he fondly catches her in an apparently unguarded moment. Not that she doesn’t bend over to catch his interest. Clearly Nick [John Garland] is not so satisfying, their baby’s demands having dulled all desire on his part, whereas it fulfilled Lisa’s. Unfortunately that is the big sticking point n Richard’s relationship with Eleanor who desperately wants similar cradle fulfilment, but to no avail. Never mind, the arguments continue to the dénouement when friend Brian [Bob Ryder] who gives a nice take-off of Benny Hill, closes his eyes to all the intrigues, having announced earlier to friends that he is ‘coming out’, then manages to fall for the frustrated Eleanor as the final curtain comes down, and everything else one is left to suppose.
The opening scene I found stilted and much of the acting self-conscious which given the content was maybe understandable. This was slapstick writing in order to highlight society’s burgeoning sexual waywardness behind closed curtains, but I found it disjointed although the cartoon characters made the point well enough with dropped pants, raised skirts and untimely callers. It got the laughs, as did Brian Rix in more innocent exposures, at what is after all a serious topic for contemplation and which brought down several civilisations throughout history. Totus peccavimus!