The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
December 16, 17, 18 & 19 1959
by Elizabeth Penney
Patrick Johnson – 1st Angel
Anthea Penney – 2nd Angel
Betty Elliott – Mary
Brian Moulton – Joseph
Helen Suter – Hulda
Pat Holloway – 1st Neighbour
Elizabeth Courtney King – 2nd Neighbour
Ann Skemer – 3rd Neighbour
Lynett Maechler – 4th Neighbour
Angela Gouch – 5th Neighbour
Mary Gedge – Little Maid
Betty Dawes – Madam
Pat Menheneott – Kitchen Maid
Barrie Bowen – 1st Shepherd
Ross Workman – 2nd Shepherd
George Porter – 3rd Shepherd
Charles Randall – Hulda’s husband
Nicholas Sweet – Melchior
Ralph Dawes – Caspar
Adrian Hedges – Balshazar
Mary Castle – 1st Servant
Jean Findlater – 2nd Servant
Heather Henderson – 3rd Servant
Lesley Robinson – 4th Servant
Clodagh O’Farrell – Neighbour
Lilian Wass – Neighbour
Rita Perry – Neighbour
Susanna Porter – Neighbour
Elizabeth Wallis – Neighbour
Stage Manager – David Dawson
Stage Manager – Ray Hopper
Lighting – Frank Hurrell
Wardrobe – Bess Blagden
Stage Staff – Frances Davy
Stage Staff – Mary Chinchen
Stage Staff – Vicki Wallis
Stage Staff – Belinda Penney
Stage Staff – Margaret Perrett
Stage Staff – John Chatfield
Publicity #1: Christmas Story
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: November 20 1959 issue – page 10 FANFARE Section
Text Header: “To be seen again”
IN December, 1955, the Young Wick Players staged the first performance of Mrs Elizabeth Penny’s Nativity play, Christmas Story. The Rev. Hugh Etherington, then Rector of Southwick, produced it and it won popular acclaim.
Young Wick Players have received several requests to give a new presentation this Christmas and Mrs Penney has re-written some scenes and improved the play generally after experience of the initial production. A cast of 27 has been by Mr Reginald Guy, of Southwick Players, who will produce the play. In addition one actor from Southwick Players and one from Green Circle Players are to take important parts. It is the express wish of Mrs Penney that this year’s play should be a joint venture, as it was four years ago.
As in the first production there will be four changes of scene and much depends on simple movable settings with a wide variety of lighting effects.
Young Wick Players recently bade farewell to their clever scenery designer, John Perrett. He has been called up for National Service and is to be commissioned in the RAF. He is a civil engineer and his National service was deferred for four years so that he might complete his examinations at Brighton Technical College for an engineering diploma and get in some post-graduate training. He will be missed. Playgoers will remember his outstanding scenery in Captain Carvallo and The Heiress.
In the Nativity play David Dawson and Raymond Hopper are to be responsible for decor and stage management.
Publicity #2: Christmas Story
Publication: Brighton & Hove Gazette
Publication Data: December 5 1959 issue – page 16 LOCAL LIMELIGHT by Thespis
Text Header: “Nativity play”
FOUR years ago the Young Wick Players presented The Christmas Story, a Nativity play by Elizabeth Penney. It was well received, and over the intervening years many people have asked for it to be repeated. The play will therefore, be presented again this year on December 17, 18 and 19, at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, with production by Reginald Guy of the Southwick Players.
Several scenes have been re-written and the cast of 27 includes members of other societies who are co-operating in this presentation. Decor and stage management will be in the hands of Davis Dawson and Ray Hopper.
John Perrett, who will be remembered for some excellent scenic work for Captain Carvallo and The Heiress, has been called up for national service, and will take a commission in the Royal Air Force. It is a loss, indeed, to the Young Wick Players.
Review #1: Christmas Story
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: December 18 issue – page 5
Text Header: “‘CHRISTMAS STORY’ BEAUTIFULLY TOLD”
MRS ELIZABETH PENNEY, president of the Young Wick Players, aided by a talented cast of actors from her own company, Southwick Players, Green Circle Players, and members of the Kingston WI, scored a personal triumph on Wednesday night when her play, Christmas Story, opened at the Barn Hall Theatre, Southwick Community Centre, for a four-night run. It is a Nativity play with a difference. It attains a high, finely balanced prose effect which, with the simplicity of the settings of the opening scenes, captures vividly the age-old story.
Mary, played by Betty Elliott, was a calm, dedicated vessel of God’s will and this young actress played with deep feeling that at times created emotion.
Hulda, the gossip, played by Helen Suter with such a clacking tongue, neighbours, [Pat Holloway, Elizabeth Courtney-King and Anne Skemer], who could hardly believe that Mary had been chosen, touched the beautifully solemn moments of the angel’s revelation to Mary, with the earthiness of human frailty and jealousy.
Throughout there was a human warmth in the story intermingling with the revelation of a miracle of Christ’s birth, and it was all wrapped in excellent prose that at times held the lilt of pure poetry. This poetic content in the lines became particularly evident when spoken by Pat Menheneott, Barrie Bowen, Charles Randall, Brian Moulton and Betty Dawes.
The shining star in the East which led the three kings to the stable, the splendour of the rich Oriental settings, the fine, majestic phrases the Kings were given to speak, made this scene one of the best.
The closing tableau was striking and for many moments after the curtain fell there was a deep, reverent silence, a far better tribute of this kind than any storm of applause.
To the authoress goes compliment for some wonderful lines and a close-knit story, to the producer, Reginald Guy, a special accolade for staging the whole thing in a way that was really reverent. The whole production quite obviously had been treated with great care and every of the cast knew his or her lines and spoke them well.
There is one small complaint. The occasion of Christ’s birth was joyous one. The happiest hymns are sung at this time, yet the very reverence attained by the producer dived too deeply into a solemnity that was rather depressing. The slow pace of certain of the scenes belied the glad message a Nativity play purports to give. Only the kitchen maid, played by Pat Menheneott, captured that joy and gladness of the event that Jews of Christ’s day knew would come by the prophecies of Isaiah. It was not completely unexpected, and when it did occur there was great rejoicing as is so evident in the story as told in the New Testament.
Mary Gedge, mistress of the inn in which Joseph and Mary could fine shelter only in a stable, was first a domineering, selfish business woman and then, so cleverly, a converted and kindly soul who looked on the Babe and believed. The part of Joseph, in any play of this sort, is a secondary rôle overshadowed by Mary and the three Kings, but Brian Moulton touched his acting with a tenderness that was convincing. Patrick Johnson, a wonderful sight as the angel announcing the coming of Christ, spoke splendidly and his impact, the first the audience got, was tremendous.
All in all it was a remarkable experience and one I would not have missed.
Review #2: Christmas Story
Publication: Brighton & Hove Gazette
Publication Data: December 19 1959 issue – page 5
Text Header: “Christmas Story”
At the Barn Theatre, Southwick, the Young Wick Players are presenting Christmas Story, a Nativity play written by their President, Mrs. Elizabeth Penney. The final performance will be given tonight.
For this production, the players enjoyed the co-operation of the Southwick Players, the Green Circle Players and Kingston Women’s Institute. The direction of the play, by Reginald Guy of the Southwick Players, was outstandingly good, especially in the lighting and effects which he achieved. Taken with the extremely artistic grouping of characters there was at times almost poetic quality to the scenes. With the play itself, I was not entirely happy, feeling that a story of this magnitude requires a nobler treatment and that the facts can speak well for themselves without need for larding the fantasy. Sentiment we all feel, but let it not descend to sentimentality.
Review #3: Christmas Story
Publication: Brighton and Hove Herald
Publication Data: December 19 1959 issue
Text Header: “Moving Story of The Nativity” – Impressive production by Young Wick Players
IN response to many requests the Young Wick Players are this week giving repeat performances at the Barn Theatre, Southwick of The Christmas Story, written by their President Elizabeth Penney. They first presented the play four years ago, and several of the original cast are again featured together with some talented newcomers. The fourth and final performance takes place tonight.
The authoress has made additions to her original script, and under the production of Reginald Guy, of the Southwick Players, this version of the immortal Nativity story provides a memorable experience and underlines the essential meaning of the Christmas festival.
Scenery is of the simplest, but music and carols recorded locally, and the lighting add appreciably to the overall effect. The costumes are exceptionally fine.
There is sheer poetic beauty in much of the dialogue, and it is voiced with a sensitive appreciation. Complete naturalness enhances the acting, which fully succeeds in revealing that human nature has changed little down through the centuries and that only through the lowly birth of the infant Christ can it be lifted from the stable mire.
Betty Elliott is a fitting Mary conveying with delicacy and conviction the wonder of the simple girl chosen as the instrument of God, and Brian Moulton is well cast as Joseph.
There are notable studies, too, by Betty Dawes as the sharp tongued innkeeper; by Barrie Bowen, Ross Workman and George Porter as the shepherds; and by Nicholas Sweet, Ralph Dawes and Adrian Hedges as the three Kings. Patrick Johnson and Anthea Penney appear as Angels and there were well drawn studies by …. [web ed: and then a litany of the cast members follows]
The company have received help of various kinds from the Southwick Players, the Green Circle Players and from Kingston Women’s Institute.