Southwick & Fishersgate Community Association – Tenth Festival of Arts & Crafts
The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
April 26 & 27, 1963
Adjudicator: Miss V. McKechnie
Winning Group: Wick Theatre Company
One-Act Drama Festival
Competitors – in order of appearance:
1. Southwick Players
by Falkland L. Cary
Produced by Edward Hood
2. Brighton Arts Theatre
Produced by G. Thomas Denney
3. Thespis Workshop *
Time Shall Strike a Death
by Walter Hix & Peggy McKerchar
Produced by Peggy McKerchar
4. The Wick Theatre Company
The Fearless Heart [scenes from]
by Georges Bernanos
Produced by George Porter & Elizabeth Courtney-King
Maureen Payne – Blanche
Jacky Chappell – Constance
Sheelagh O’Farrell – Mother Marie
Jackie Mase – Prioress
Malcolm Guy – The Chevalier
Susan Hayter – Sister St. Charles
Roger Nichols – Commissary
Colin Guy – Commissary
Neil Pockett – Commissary
Trevor Burchell – Commissary
Terry Mase – dwarf
Valerie Collard – Sister Gertrude
Fay Sturt – Sister Valentine
Diane Skegg – Sister Anne
Kathleen Mugeridge – Mother Jeanne
Chris Mitchell – Chaplain
Stage Manager – John Perrett
5. The Eskay Theatre Groupp
by Frederick Witney
Produced by Joan Lawrence
6. Horsham Dramatic Society
by Noël Coward
Produced by L. A. D. Spellar
* Thespis Workshop is directed by Peggy McKerchar, Fabian E. de P. Worsfield and Walter Hix and has the object of presenting new and unusual plays. The Group differs from other Societies in that it has no set programme of productions, and maintains only a small nucleus of experienced players, inviting ‘guest artists’ to meet the casting needs of particular productions. This production has three characters; parts played by the three above.
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: May 3 1963 issue – page 9
Text Header: WICK COMPANY WINS DRAMA HONOUR
WITH their production of The Fearless Heart, Wick Theatre Company, Southwick, beat five other drama groups to win the two-day drama festival organised by Southwick and Fishersgate Community Association in Barn Theatre on Friday and Saturday.
The play was staged on Saturday. The adjudicator, Miss V. McKechnie, was full of praise for it.
The story revolves round the faith, fear and frustration of the brown-robed Sister in a Carmelite convent during the French Revolution.
Miss McKechnie, currently presenting Picture Book for BBC television on Watch with Mother, said that she had read the play and had felt that it was rather an ambitious one for the company to attempt. “I wondered how they would go about presenting it and I was very surprised indeed,” she said. “Technically, this pay was extremely well done and imaginatively produced.”
The cast, who she understood were all under 21, were very good and there was great team spirit. Miss McKechnie said that she was particularly pleased with Sheelagh O’Farrell, who played the part of Mother Marie. “She gave a really lovely performance,” she said. Maureen Payne, who played Blanche, a novice, whose faith needed strengthening, was also congratulated by the adjudicator. Miss McKechnie had a criticism however. The off-set noises could have been better.
The play, which was produced by Mr George Porter and Miss Elizabeth Courtney-King, had one scene which really held the audience. Against a blood-red sky, the Carmelites passed the ranks of revolutionaries. As each stepped behind the curtain, there was a sudden swish as the blade fell and then a horrible thud as each was be-headed.
The cast was: Blanch [Maureen Payne], Constance [Jacky Chappell], Mother Marie [Sheelagh O’Farrell], Prioress [Jack Mase [sic]], The Chevalier [Malcolm Guy], Sister St. Charles [Susan Hayter], commissaries [Roger Nichols, Colin Guy, Neil Pockett, Trevor Burchell], dwarf [Terry Mase], Sister Gertrude [Valerie Collard], Sister Valentine [Fay Sturt], Sister Anne [Diane Skegg], Mother Jeanne [Kathleen Muggeridge] and the Chaplain [Chris Mitchell].
The other two plays presented on Saturday were Weekend Cottage by the Eskay Theatre Group, of Brighton, and Still Life, by Horsham Dramatic Society.
Colonel W. H. Blagden, president of the Community Association, presented the cup to Mr Porter and Miss Courtney-King.
First play on Friday was The Recco, by Falkland L. Cary, staged by Southwick Players and produced by Edward Hood, with Neville Banfield, as stage manager. The cast comprised Tony Martin, Eileen Banfield, John King, Susan Porteous and Doreen Atkinson. In her adjudication Miss McKechnie said that this mystery play provided good acting material and had very good set, but it was under-rehearsed and unfortunately the ending fell flat.
She gave detailed criticism of the individual performances, praising their good points and constructively drawing attention to their defects.
Next came Sganarelle, a free English version of a rollicking farce by Moliere set in Paris in 1660, staged by Brighton Arts Theatre and produced by G. Thomas Denney. The adjudicator said this stylish comedy achieved a high standard of production, and although it was difficult for English actors to play in the elaborate French style of the period, it was a most enjoyable performance. She congratulated the cast on the great unity of its easy flowing style an said that it was hard to fault the characters. There was a great feeling of confidence in the action, and the ‘Frenchness’ of the play was put over very well. She particularly praised Frank Read, in the title rôle, for a “delightfully full-blooded” interpretation. The rest of the cast comprised Irene Denney, George Parsons, Renee Read, Rita Davey, John Gorham and Brian Lilley.
Time Shall Strike Death was the entry by Thespis Workshop, of Brighton, written by Walter Hix and Peggy McKerchar, who themselves played two of the three rôles. Direction, too, was by Peggy McKerchar.
Miss McKechnie, summing up, said that this was a very difficult play to put over and one with a strange twist. More anger could be built up to make it more exciting and ‘icy’, and one almost missed the point that it was set in England at some future date, not in some Communist fear-ridden country of today. She praised the acting of the trio, but said it takes a genius to appear to full advantage in a play one is also producing.
Publication: Brighton and Hove Gazette
Publication Data: May 3 1963 issue
Text Header: Eating on stage is a ‘bugbear’
EATING and drinking on the stage are the bubears of the professional and even more of a pitfall for the amateur players, commented television commere [sic] and interviewer Miss Vera McKechnie when she adjudicated at the 10th Southwick and Fishersgate Community Association One Act Drama Festival in the Barn Theatre, Southwick last weekend.
She made this point after watching one of the players on the opening night of the festival suddenly become the victim of a fit of coughing. He left his glass of gin and orange unfinished, but the action called for him to order another drink. “This is where he should have ad libbed and asked the barmaid to to-up his drink with orange,” said a sympathetic Miss McKechnie. Other criticisms made by the adjudicator included the failure to take up key lines, inexact characterisation, bad grouping and under-rehearsal.
But she had glowing praise for the under-21’s of Southwick’s Wick Theatre Company, the winners of the festival, who presented scenes from Georges Bernanos’s The Fearless Heart. “An excellent presentation and production and an admirable choice of play. I could not fault them in any way.” she said.
The 14-year-old Wick Theatre Company, who were the first winners of the Southwick Festival Drama Cup with their production of Christopher Fry’s A Phoenix Too Frequent, last year won the Sussex Youth Drama Festival with a production of J. M. Synge’s Rider to the Sea. Miss McKechnie’s bouquet was a consolation to the group and joint producers, George Porter and Elizabeth Courtney-King, whose festival presentation had met with defeat in the Southern Counties final of the British Drama League Festival at Croydon last week. Their triumph at Southwick was made in the face of a strong challenge from a Brighton Arts Theatre.
The Brighton Group had entered the Miles Malleson adaptation of the Moliere comedy, Sganarelle, which they won a one-act play festival sponsored by the Brighton and Hove Drama League in February. Miss McKechnie referred to the team spirit of the group. “Everything about this troupe of actor was so relaxed and flowing.” She described Frank Read’s study of Sganarelle as a “delightfully comic interpretation.”
The four other groups taking part in the festival included the Brighton Thespis Workshop, who presented an Orwellian-styled Time Shall Strike a Death. The play was written and performed by Walter Hix [Thespis of the Gazette] and Peggy McKerchar.
Falkland Cary’s variation on the time theme, The Recco, was the entry of the Southwick Players, and the Horsham Dramatic Society gave a performance of Noël Coward’s Still Life.