The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
March 30, 31 – April 1 & 2, 2016
The Birthday Party
by Harold Pinter
2016 NODA South East Region – District 1 – Accolade of Play Excellence
Dave Peaty – Petey
Pam Luxton – Meg
Phil Brown – Stanley
Emily Hale – Lulu
Dan Dryer – Goldberg
David Creedon – McCann
Stage Manager – Bernadette Ward
Deputy Stage Manager – Julian Batstone
Technical Manager – John Garland
Lighting – Kieran Pollard
Lighting – Mike Phillips
Lighting – Martin Oakley
Sound Design – Bob Ryder
Wardrobe – Maggi Pierce
Wardrobe – Cherry Fraser
Wardrobe – Caroline Woodley
Properties & Set Dressing – Caroline Woodley
Set Construction & Painting – Nigel Goldfinch
Set Construction & Painting – Carl Gray
Set Construction & Painting – David Comber
Set Construction & Painting – Dave Collis
Set Construction & Painting – Sue Chaplin
Set Construction & Painting – Sheila Neesham
Set Construction & Painting – Margaret Davy
Set Construction & Painting – Gary Walker
Rehearsal Prompt – Caroline Woodley
Publicity – Peter Joyce
Publicity – Maggie Pierce
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Judith Berrill
Poster Design – Richard Joyce
Front of House – Betty Dawes
Programme Note #1: The Birthday Party
GT wrote: ” It’s always a good challenge to take on one of the great classics of the English theatre and I am very grateful to Wick Theatre Company for the opportunity to direct one of the earliest and best-loved plays by Harold Pinter, perhaps the greatest English playwright of the last century.
For me he’s great because he creates wonderful characters unlike anyone else’s. They are creatures of unpredictable mood, unreliable veracity, and total unfitness for pigeonholes. Pinter hears and reproduces everyday dialogue like nobody else too: ordinary utterances ping back and forth with added rhythm and musicality and references and layers of meaning that turn them into something close to poetry – and at times to wisecracking comedy.
First and foremost though he writes rattling good plays that are great fun to perform and – as I hope you will find in the case of The Birthday Party – a great experience to watch. You might want to look for the clues and figure out who these people are, what are their motives, what is the sinister authority in the background .. or you might want to just sit back and enjoy the play. Either way I promise you will be amused, intrigued, titillated, scared, baffled, misled, confused, shocked, tickled, and I hope in the end royally entertained. ”
Publicity #1: The Birthday Party
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: March 17 2016 issue – page 29
Correspondent: Elaine Hammond
Text Header: “Comedy of menace at The Barn in Southwick”
Prepare to laugh, possibly to cry, definitely to be intrigued, titillated, scared, baffled, misled, confused, shocked, tickled – and in the end royally entertained.
All this from Wick Theatre Company’s production of Harold Pinter’s masterpiece of drama and comedy thriller, The Birthday Party.
Performances run from Wednesday, March 3o, to Saturday, April 2, at The Barn Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick at 7.45pm. Tickets are £11, available from the box office on 01273 597094 or via www.wicktheatre.co.uk.
The company has assembled a superb cast to portray the odd but strangely familiar characters – a woman who thinks she is running a B&B, a live-in piano player who has lost his piano and his nerve, a ‘tart with a heart’ and a guilty conscience, and a pair of sinister interviewers. It is the world of saucy seadie postcards but the comedy ha a way of turning into menace.
Director Graham Till said: “The play has its darker side, of course. Harold Pinter didn’t know it at the time but when h created his characters and plot for The Birthday party in the late 1950s, he was conjuring up Julian Assange and Guantanamo Bay, and GCHQ whistleblowers and Edward Snowden and more. Well, Morecambe and Wise, and Frank Spencer and Betty come to mind – because the comedy keeps bursting through.
“In his early days, when Pinter wrote this amazing play, the variety and TV bill toppers he was aware of on the contemporary scene might have been the likes of Jewel and Warriss, and George Burns and Gracie Allen. I see echoes anyway.”
In honour of Pinter’s wonderfully musical dialogue, there will be a built in mini-overture to get the evening off to a rousing start. Pinter who lived in Worthing for a time, is thought to have based his seaside landlady, her timid husband and the solitary lodger on digs in Eastbourne where he stayed while working as a jobbing actor. Dora Bryan, whose work in the theatre was recently commemorated with a blue plaque in Brighton, won the Laurence Olivier award for her rôle as Meg in the 1994 National Theatre production.
Publicity #2: The Birthday Party
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: March 24 2016 issue – page 56
Correspondent: Phil Hewitt
Text Header: “Harold Pinter ready for reappraisal, says Graham”
As director Graham Till says, there are plenty of Harold Pinter productions being mounted overseas, either in English or in translation. But in the UK there is not an awful lot of Pinter going on – something he is hoping to change with his production of The Birthday Party for Wick Theatre Company at The Barn, Southwick from March 30 to April 2.
“On the Pinter revival front, there have been a couple of recent productions in London, neither of which I saw: Old Times and The Homecoming. Maybe they [or at least the second] signal the beginning of a reappraisal? The Birthday Party is my choice, and I am certainly a fan.” Graham says – though he admits it might be a little bit of a risk.
“But with Wick Theatre Company we try to offer a balance throughout the year, and the next show is No Sex Please, We’re British which perhaps will more obviously put bums on seats! But I do et a little bit irritated with people that say ‘Oh, I don’t like Pinter’. They are obviously people we all like and don’t like, but I do think sometimes people say that out of ignorance. They think that because he is revered and celebrated, he is literary and deep and impenetrable, and lots of people have been turned off him at school. Because of those kinds of experiences, they think he is the kind of author you need to steer clear of. But I think absolutely the opposite.
“I think he is the most amazingly-gifted playwright. A lot of people would say his plots are very clever and intriguing, and they are, but for me it is not so much about the plots. When he was writing early on, he was a jobbing actor in rep, eking out his living and staying in weird boarding houses, and his plots were based around the pot-boilers he was in, an there was nothing really new about that. But what was new was the way he formed his characters and the way he formed his dialogue. Pre-that time, pre-the Theatre of the Absurd, leaving the more obscure people aside, basically you knew where you stood with characters. You had goodies and baddies. The baddies might lie, but generally with characters, they meant what they said and they said what they meant. Their speech defines them, but suddenly with Pinter you have got characters who are quite ordinary and they say something quite extraordinary. They have got something that Pinter observed in people.
“His characters might wax lyrical about their past, and they might believe what they are saying but it might not be true. You never know where you stand with them, and that’s what I find really interesting. With this play, you have got a fairly simple woman who thinks she is running a boarding house, and she has a husband who is perhaps the only relatively straightforward character in the play. They have a live-in piano-player who has lost his piano and his nerve with it, and they are visited by a friend who is a tart-with-a-heart character. The star turn, though, is a pair of interviewers who turn up. ”
Review #1: The Birthday Party
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: April 7 2016 issue – page 7
Reviewer: Elaine Hammond
Text Header: “Brave decision pays off for Wick Theatre”
It turns out it is entirely possible to have no idea what a play is about, while at the same time being absolutely certain the performances are spot on. As it happens, this apparent contradiction in terms sits well with a Harold Pinter play, as confusions and changing stories are all part of the script.
Wick Theatre Company proved right in its brave decision to perform The Birthday Party at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, last week as the seats were virtually sold out. Director Graham Till made it clear in advance that it was a bit of a risk, as many people find Pinter impenetrable.
But those who did fill the seats had nothing but good to say about the excellent performances, so his choice of play proved a good one.
I have to say I was a little distracted by the fact Phil Brown, as Stanley, had been made up to look so like Pinter himself, and indeed his character was not in some ways dissimilar to the cantankerous playwright – a man I did actually meet. Perhaps it is a sign that the whole work tells of Pinter’s feeling of oppression in his own life?
Certainly, it seems reasonable to suggest that although David Peaty had the smallest and most straightforward part as Petey, he also had one of the most important lines – ‘don’t let them tell you what to do!’.
Pam Luxton was simply marvellous as the landlady Meg. She had the timing of her stilted lines just perfect – something quite difficult to do as they are not said or paced in the way people would normally speak.
Equally well timed were the dramatic interrogations of Stanley by the two sinister visitors, Goldberg, played by Dan Dryer, and, McCann, played by David Creedon. It is said that in a Pinter play, the way the words are spoken are as important as the words themselves, and with these two characters there were a couple of times where their lines bounced around beautifully, rather like music. Creedon even gave us a taste of his beautiful voice, singing the Irish song Come Back Paddy Reilly.
Completing the cast was Emily Hale, making her debut with the Wick as Lulu. She played it with passion and we were left feeling sympathy for Lulu, despite her flirtatious behaviour and not quite knowing what had happened to her in the darkness at the end of Act Two.
Final applause to the team that designed the striking set.
Review #2: The Birthday Party
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: April 1 2016
Reviewer: Louise Schweitzer
This is a play that asks questions but never provides the answer. Proof of its value lies in the fact that we want to know: who are Goldberg and McCann, is Meg mad and what is wrong with Stanley?
Weirdly, although domestic mores and external analogies from 1958 don’t fit, the play seems to adapt and tension persists. Harold Pinter’s sinister story, set in a seaside boarding house, is accompanied by organs both Bach and cinema – Stanley’s abandoned musical career?
The unsettling mixture of reality and confusion requires a cast who must act like an onion, peeling off layers of doublespeak and deceit under a skin of bored apathy. The Wick Theatre Company succeeded magnificently with a drama that is much more about how the words are spoken as opposed to how they look on the page.
Dave Peaty as Petey, gamely humouring his witless wife, illustrated in a truly stunning performance by Pam Luxton. Phil Brown demonstrated a Stanley, damaged but infinitely touching whilst Emily Hale prettily flounced around Dan Dryer’s Jewish Goldberg. David Creedon’s considerable stage presence made McCann powerfully peculiar – other gifts include singing and turning the Pinter pause into an art form.
Review #3: The Birthday Party
Publication: The Latest.co.uk
Publication Data: April 1 2016
Reviewer: Tim Ridgway
Text Header: “The Birthday Party”
Influential dramatist Harold Pinter has set the bar when it comes to English Theatre. And one of his more oft-performed pieces is The Birthday Party, a deep complex study of people set in shabby boarding house on the English coast.
For those wanting a bit of light relief or even a play with a recognisable plot line this is not for you. But The Wick Theatre Company did an excellent job of bringing the unlikeable characters to life in a well-paced performance that kept you gripped till the end.
Pam Luxton excelled as the English housewife who clearly had lost her marbles while Dan Dryer and David Creedon performed with great wit and flair as the Goldberg and McCann double act who are the cause for disrupting the calm day.
But sadly no amount of great amateur acting could completely overhaul Pinter’s play which left some leaving the beautiful Barn Theatre wondering quite what the point of the whole work was.
Publication: N.O.D.A – National Operatic and Dramatic Association
Reviewer: Lance Milton – Regional representative for South East Region District 1 – Mid Sussex
Harold Pinter is, for some, somewhat of a Marmite writer as his work is frequently ambiguous, regularly darkly full of menace and nearly always challenging. This is why it garners such extreme reactions from theatre goers and I believe always will.
Thankfully I am a lover not a hater and indeed I used to read his plays with a friend as a somewhat unusual pastime in my younger years before career and children. The Birthday Party has always been a favourite and it has been many years since my first reading and I have been excited and not without trepidation to see my first production of it. What the mind sees and what is delivered in a production will rarely be equal but I was delighted that in this instance there was very little margin between the two.
Graham Till’s production was as tense and confusing as I believe Pinter intended it and the breadth and depth of character achieved by his incredibly talented cast was integral to the success of communicating this so effectively to us the unsuspecting audience. Dave Peaty, Pam Luxton, Phil Brown, Emily Hale, Dan Dryer and David Creedon were all perfectly cast to type and each brought an exquisite performance to the piece.
It would not be reasonable for me to single out any of them for particular praise and from the veracity and collective nature of the performance I am pretty sure that they would not want me to. Never have I seen a cast working in such close concert to achieve a theatrical synergy that was simply joyous to behold.
The technical production values were equally as high with a fabulous set making clever use of gauze, wonderfully lit by Keiran Pollard, Mike Phillips and Martin Oakley set the scene brilliantly and the menacing use of sound deftly piloted by Bob Ryder completed the sinister and surreal yet immersive experience.
This was the first time in my years as a reviewer for NODA that, had I been free, I would have booked to return and see the play again the following night. I don’t think I can give it any higher praise than that. Incredibly well done Wick Theatre.