The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
October 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5, 1974
by Arnold Wesker
Valerie Bingham – Jenny Beales
Bill Mack – Jimmy Beales
Suzanne Brocken – Beatie Bryant
George Porter – Stan Mann
Audrey Laye – Mrs. Bryant
Neil Shepherd – Mr.Bryant
Andrew Theaker – Mr. Healey
Neil McKellar – Frankie Bryant
Monica Joyce – Pearl Bryant
Stage Manager – George Laye
Assistant Stage Manager – Paul Vrettos
Assistant Stage Manager – Sally Browne
Assistant Stage Manager – Ethel Barrs
Set Design – George Laye
Set Construction – Bill Mack
Costumes – Frances Thorne
Lighting – Frank Hurrell
Sound – Roger Stott
Properties – Margaret Davy
Properties – Elizabeth Wrighton
Programme Note #1: Roots
GP wrote “Roots is the only play I know which is written in a Norfolk idiom and attempts to give a true picture of life in an East Anglia Village. The buses to Diss and Norwich set up the rhythm of the day and the extraordinary events are the passing of the ambulance or the greengrocer’s van.
I suppose you could say I have a vested interest in the play as a Norfolk man! And I’m not ashamed to say that I admire it as good drama and for its genuine flavour.
The Bryants are real people and although one can criticise them for their nervousness one must admire their capacity for stoical survival and making do. But although so little happens physically, the blossoming of Beatie Bryant as a thinking person is full of colour and drama.
This is a play about communication between people and awareness of life and purpose I hope my clever cast will communicate with you in telling fashion – especially our lovely Beatie whose first leading rôle this will be.”
Programme Note #2: Roots
“Last season ended with our production of White Liars winning the Henley Festival outright. Among the fourteen contenders was the all England winner of the 1973/4 season.
Our next production with be The Lark directed by Anna Welch on December 7 and 10 -14. This Christmas production was to have been Cabaret produced by Richard Porter but now that Richard has gained a place at the Bristol Old Vic on the Trainee Producers’ course we have postponed Cabaret indefinitely.
The Lark is an exciting and interesting play, telling the story of Joan of Arc in a most original and ingenious way. It is an ideal production for the Christmas season and we would advice you to book early.
In the New Year our first production will be The Secretary Bird directed by Betty Dawes. Finally Nikki le Roy will direct Othello – our first venture into Shakespeare in 26 seasons.
We have produced a pamphlet which gives an outline of our season. If you do not already have a copy, please ask for one.”
Review #1: Roots
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: October 4 1974 issue – page 2
Reviewer: Harry Patterson
Text Header: “Suzanne lifts Wick’s roots”
SUZANNE BROCKEN played her first leading rôle for Wick Theatre Company at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, on Tuesday, as Beattie Bryant in Arnold Wesker’s Roots. Providing she stays wiht the Wick it will not be her last. She demonstrated, in a demanding rôle, that she has the qualities to take on virtually any part and make a success of it. She has a sense of the dramatic, of humour and the sort of singing voice dramatic groups pray for when they put on a pantomime. She also dances, has a way with accents and dialects and no red blooded male in the place could deny she is good to look at.
The play, as directed by George Porter points out in his programme notes, is about communication between people and awareness of life and purpose. Beattie returns to her native Norfolk village after spending several years in London with her intellectual boy friend. She attempts to indoctrinate her family with his ideas and ideals. It’s ‘Ronnie says this and Ronnie says that’, and the simple country folk do not understand what she is blathering about. Then really neither does Beattie. All she is doing is aping Ronnie and paving the way for his visit. The family’s idea of life is the local bus going through and how many pigs are in the new litter.
Not being familiar with Norfolk it is difficult to say if the dialect was genuine, but as all the players sounded alike and George Porter is a Norfolk man it is safe to assume it was.
Audrey Laye, as Beattie’s mother, and Neil Shephard, as her father, were particularly convincing, as was Valerie Bingham as Jenny Beales, Beattie’s sister. But there was not a jarring note in the entire cast. The play moves slowly, setting the scene and portraying life in the country with the vivacious Beattie providing the spark and in the final act, it all opens out and suddenly the audience is aware of what has been happening to Beattie on the day Ronnie is due from London. The audience is aware of it bit it is doubtful if the Bryant clan, which has gathered for the occasion, will ever quite understand what Beattie eventually found.
The last two performances of Roots are tonight [Friday] and tomorrow at 7.45 p.m.
Review #2: Roots
Publication: Brighton & Hove Gazette
Publication Data: October 5 1974 issue
Reviewer: Belinda Beckett
Text Header: “Bouncing Beatty puts new life into Roots”
A flat, unexciting opening to Arnold Wesker’s Roots, performed by the Wick Theatre Company, was suddenly brought to life almost magically when Suzanne Brocken stepped on to the stage. It was as though the play, which closes at the Southwick Barn tonight, had been hit by a whirlwind. As Beatty Bryant, a girl who returns to her family in Norfolk full of London ideas, she dominated every scene, brimming over with vitality and talent. Her rôle was not easy to play – she had to leap on and off chairs, shout, cry, sing, dance. But she lived Beatty, and carried the play along.
The other characters seemed dull, but they are deliberately flat. They are shallow-minded natives of a quiet Norfolk village with limited lives. The only source of excitement is the passing of a bus or the greengrocer’s van. They form a pallid backdrop for the colourful Beatty. Yet they had their own idiosyncrasies – like Mrs Bryant constantly remarking on the passing of the buses. The play could have developed these characteristics more successfully. Casting, too, was not always believable. Mr Bryant, far from looking the man of mature years the play meant him to be, appeared more like a handsome middle-ager.
The Norfolk accent is difficult to imitate, and not being from Norfolk myself Ii was impressed, although Mrs Bryant tended to lapse into an American drawl. The setting – for two kitchen scenes and a living-room scene – was ideal. Cramped and cosily untidy, it gave exactly the impression of a small house in the country.
Neil Shephard, who as Frankie Bryant did not appear until the final scene, gave an accomplished performance in his small rôle, and successfully brought out Frankie’s little mannerisms where other characters remained too flat. There was a homely atmosphere about the production which made it very attractive. Little scenes such as eating at table, and washing the dishes came very naturally. However, without the bubbling Beatty to help it along, the play would have lost much of its effect.