The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
June 7, 8, 9, 10 2023
Woman in Mind
by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Mike Wells
YouTube trailer link
Dr Bill Windsor – David Peaty
Rev. Gerald Gannet – Dan Dryer
Muriel – Rosy Armitage
Andy – Barry Syder
Lucy – Gala Orsborn
Tony – Giles Newlyn-Bowmer
Rick – Sam Masters
Stage Manager – Peter Joyce
Deputy Stage Manager – John Garland
Lighting Design – Martin Oakley
Lighting Design – Susanne Crosby
Lighting Operation Martin Oakley
Lighting Operation – Susanne Crosby
Sound Design – Bob Ryder
Sound Operation – Jeff Woodford [member of Southwick Players]
Wardrobe and Costume – Maggi Pierce
Wardrobe and Costume – Lindsay Midali
Properties – Di Tidzer
Properties – Lindsay Midali
Properties – Doffey Reid
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Sue Chaplin
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Margaret Davy
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Dave Comber
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Nigel Goldfinch
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Mike King
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Sue Netley
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Gary Walker
Promotional Photography – Phil Nair-Brown
Dress Rehearsal Photography – Sam Taylor
Programme Cover, Flyer and Poster Artwork – Judith Berrill
Publicity and Programme – Suse Crosby
Films – Trailer – Phil Nair-Brown
Programme Note #1: Woman in Mind
MW writes: “Wick Theatre Company have a fine record of productions of the plays of Sir Alan Ayckbourn whose 89 plays have been deservedly popular since his first big success Relatively Speaking in 1965. He has continued to be loyal to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough where most of his plays have been premiered, in 1985.
This intriguing and unusual play was performed in the West End with Julia McKenzie in the leading role in 1986. Stockard Channing played Susan in New York in 1989.
Like much of his work. this is a mixture of comedy and a darker view of the human condition. The entire action takes place in the mind of the leading chracter: Susan The audience experiences what she sees and hears. When she hits her head doing some gardening, her real life becomes entangled with the life of her imagination. The results are sometimes comic and sometimes more disturbing.
The play is a particular favourite of mine: I directed it in 1987 and I amd delighted to revisit it to find that its insights and themes remain relevant and that juxtaposition of humour and pathos is just as original and entertaining.
Wick’s cast is a mixture of seasoned Barn performers and talented newcomers, and rehearsals have been a real pleasure.
I would like to thank the very dedicated and skilled backstage team for their great support and hope once again the work of one of Britains great playwrights will both delight and move audiences.
Publication: Brighton Source
Publication Data: June 12 2023 – on-line
Reviewer: Mike Aiken
Text Header: Women In Mind: Ayckbourn and imaginary friends
Did you ever have an imaginary friend when you were young? Maybe it was someone with whom you could talk, play and invent games? Perhaps, you shared confidences together in parallel with – or perhaps in denial of – the more boring reality around you?
Even as a child, you might have tried hard to keep that imaginary person a secret. As an adult lacking company, the imaginary might – over time – have become more interesting than the affluent but dull rural or suburban reality.
That is only one of many different interpretations that can be drawn from Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Woman In Mind’, a play first performed in Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1985.
So, what are we to make of Susan (Emily Dennett) in the lead role? Her ‘imaginary friends’ begin to protrude more and more into ordinary ‘real’ domestic and social life.
Her actual partner Gerald (Dan Dryer) is a dull, vicar-like, collator of 600 years of local village history. Gerald’s live-in sister, Muriel (Rosy Armitage), comes across as self-centred and – to make matters worse – she’s a terrible cook. Dr Bill Windsor (David Peaty) seems rather overkeen on his medical visits, especially if he can get close-up to Susan.
The fairly comfortable low-level professional classes stand in stark contrast to Susan’s real but absent son, Rick (San Masters). He has just quit a cult down south. But he’s already heading off with a new wife to seek his future as an odd-job man in, er, Thailand. Let’s see how long that lasts!
However, in Susan’s imaginary world, there is Andy (Barry Syder) – the kind and thoughtful man who is an excellent chef and represents everything that Gerald, her real husband, is not. Then, we have Susan’s imaginary young brother, Tony (Giles Newlyn-Bowmer) who is devoted and mischievous. The cast is completed by Lucy (Gala Orbson), Susan’s beautiful but unreal daughter.
At times, it’s tricky to follow who’s real and who’s imagined. But there’s a serious note to this strange world where the make-believe figures seem as real – and rather more exciting – than the flesh and blood family.
Wick Theatre company in Southwick certainly don’t put on middle-of-the-road crowd pleasers! So unpacking what is real, what is imaginary and what is a bit of both isn’t always easy.
In putting on this play the director and team poked into the realms of mental illness, head injuries and memory loss, bringing a contemporary angle to the dramatic material Ayckbourn offered us in the 80s. Hence, the confusions and puzzles of the unreliable witnesses sometimes play havoc and sometimes throw light on important insights. At other times, the real players simply chose to ignore or dismiss such behaviour.
This tricky real/unreal play is accomplished by Mike Wells (director) and Peter Joyce (stage manager) with Martin Oakley and Susanne Crosby presenting an excellent stage design and lighting operation in tune with the themes of the play.
Challenging, stimulating and thoughtful.
So what happens when what happens is in doubt?
Publication Data: June 7 2023 on-line
Reviewer: Kay Rowan
Woman in Mind – Alan Ayckbourn’s comic drama first performed in 1985 revolves around the central character, Susan. She is a housewife who, finds it difficult to live with a neglectful husband, Gerald, and his live-in sister, Muriel, and her son is living in a commune. She often revels in an imaginary world where she is happy and surrounded by a perfect family. Everything that appears on stage is seen by Susan and the audience whether real or imagined; consequently Susan is on stage throughout.
The creation of the garden set on two levels gave the actors a good space to work in. The upstage entrance onto the patio was significantly used and gave height and depth to the scene. Whilst the actual garden is tiny during the play there are periods when the set represents an imaginary large estate with lakes and tennis courts. The set was very well dressed and the movement of furniture on and off very smoothly achieved. The lighting and sound in this production were both very important as they needed to indicate not only changes in the time of day but also the transition between the two worlds. In addition, the actual sound effects had to be spot on. This production achieved full marks for all those aspects. They obviously have a great team.
One cannot comment on the wardrobe without referring the fantastic juxtaposition of Muriel from frumpy down at heel sister-in-law to the sexy French maid. Both the fantasy brother, Tony, and the imaginary daughter were dressed as befits those attending house parties The whole costume plot was well thought through and accomplished.
With such a complex plot it would be so easy to emphasise one aspect rather than another however the very experienced director, Mike Wells, did not fall into any traps – the whole evening was a delight both visual and emotional.
Emily Dennett gave a magnificent performance as Susan, flitting from her fantasy world to her real-life one with consummate ease. As the play progressed the tension became even greater. Her diction was superb; every word could be heard even when she was near the back of the stage. She must have been absolutely drained after the last, totally surreal scene.
A fine performance. Susan’s real-life husband Gerald played by Dan Dryer, was a very convincing man of the cloth. His facial expressions and body language were so believable.
David Peaty was the epitome of a bumbling country GP, Dr Bill Windsor, and produced a very sound portrayal.
Susan’s ‘delightful daughter’ Lucy, such a goody two shoes was well played by Gala Orsborn.
In contrast there was the fantasy brother, Tony, who was creatively played by Giles Newlyn-Bowmer. His effusive and slightly over-bearing manner was maintained throughout.
The imaginary father & husband, Andy, with all the traits Susan’s real husband lacked was quietly and effectively played by Barry Syder.
Rosy Armitage played the part of the sister-in -law, Muriel, with no difficulty – she had the asides and mannerisms fine-tuned and went effortlessly from a frump to a French maid with a swift change of costume.
The last cast member to appear was the estranged son, Rick played by Sam Masters. Rick had arrived home after not speaking to his parents for some years Sam played the role convincingly particularly when communicating that he had no intention of letting his mother meet his wife.
The play has a rather strange and often disconcerting concept however there is also humour which was indicated frequently by the very appreciative audience. The production was extremely well cast, and they had all worked exceptionally hard to achieve the extremely high standard of performance that I witnessed.
Congratulations to the whole team on a very smooth rounded performance of this complex play.