The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
February 11, 12, 13, 14 & 15 1975
The Secretary Bird
by William Douglas Home
Barrie Bowen – Hugh Walford
Miranda Bowen – Liz Walford
Sheila Wright – Mrs. Gray
Jane Durance – Molly Forsyth
Roger Stott – John Brownlow
Producer – Ann Baker
Set Design – Vincent Joyce
Stage Manager – Paul Vrettos
Assistant Stage Manager – Ann Baker
Assistant Stage Manager – Ethel Barrs
Set Construction – Paul Vrettos
Costumes – Miranda Bowen
Lighting Plot – Frank Hurrell
Sound – Andrew Theaker
Properties – Margaret Davy
Properties – Frances Thorne
Programme Note #1: The Secretary Bird
BD wrote: “The Secretary Bird had an enormous success in the West End and is one of the best examples of modern British comedy. Hugh’s battle to keep his wife, fought out in a deceptively urbane and good humoured atmosphere, is in fact a skilful and ruthless campaign planned to the last detail. He is the ‘puppet-master’ and all the other characters dance at his bidding”
Programme Note #2: The Secretary Bird
We are still a little breathless after our multiple success in the Brighton and District Drama Festival. Anna Welch’s production won all the major awards: Best Play, Best Actress [Monica Joyce] and Best Actor [Douglas Tucker].
We must be forgiven for blowing our own trumpet just a little – look at those cups in the foyer [Henley & Southwick Drama Festivals as well.]
Tonight we offer you something very different – the polish and comic unpredictability of William Douglas Home’s The Secretary Bird.
Have a good time and bear in mind that we still have two plays in hand: Nikki le Roy’s Othello and Monica Joyce’s Festival production of Antigone.
Programme Note #3: The Secretary Bird
Settings note – Vincent Joyce
The library includes Vincent’s plans for the settings so admired by the critic. Vincent wrote to Paul Vrettos and the workshop crew.
“First look at the sketches, then read on: Apart from the garden there are 2 units to build and one plain black backdrop.
Unit 1 is the chimney breast with oak beam mantel piece, recessed fire place, hearth, hearth seat [like in my brother’s house!] and some wooden plain shelves. It should all look like brick with rough plaster finish painted white. [i.e. country style but modern decor.]
Unit 2 is bay window recess, with French doors, raised floor [41/2″ or 6″] oak beam.
Since there is nothing else except blacks I want the finish to be good. [It will be all there is to look at and must stand scrutiny. Attention to detail is a MUST. I haven’t converted these sketches to working plans, but how about starting on the Unit 1 which is not a precision job in terms of fitting tight into a space. [See back of break-down elevation sketch for details.] ”
Review #1: The Secretary Bird
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: February 14 1975 issue – page 2
Text Header: “Playgoer got the laughs”
AUDIENCE reaction is a good yardstick to decide whether a play is good, bad or indifferent. On that basis it can be said Wick Theatre Company’s production of William Douglas Home’s The Secretary Bird is amusing and, judging by one reaction at the Barn Theatre on Tuesday, captivating.
Near the end of what is undoubtedly a brilliantly written and witty comedy a lady in the front row of the audience turned to her companion, after Miranda Bowen as Liz Walford had confirmed her theory, and in a loud voice said, ‘ There you are, I told you so.’ Miranda giggled, the audience collapsed and the Secretary Bird was there and then confirmed as a success.
The story, briefly, is of a writer [Hugh Walford] played by Barry Bowen who fights, in a rather unorthodox way, to save his marriage. It appears Hugh is doing more than throw his wife into her lover’s arms by continually pushing them together. Pleasant and charming, he follows his plan, but only Miranda can write the final chapter. Barry Bowen, after starting off like an out-of-control machine gun, settles down and finds Hugh Walford’s pulse. It’s a part most actors would give their right arms for and Barry makes the most of it apart from the start and a moment of panic near the end when he lost his lines. That was, however, on Tuesday, and he has time to correct what are minor problems.
Miranda Bowen, also Barry’s real life wife, plays her part beautifully. She knows what her husband is up to, but has moments of doubt when he ends up in bed with the secretary [Jane Durrance]. A difficult part this, but Jane resisted the temptation to react too strongly to situations and comments. Roger Stott as John Brownlow, the lover, had a terrible task. Invited to the Walford home he was obviously embarrassed and showed it well. He also became rattled at Walford’s extraordinary behaviour, but then who wouldn’t.
The only other member of the cast, Sheila Wright as the housekeeper, kept the standard of acting at a high level.
Review #2: The Secretary Bird
Publication Data: Unknown
Text Header: “An Object Lesson in Light Comedy”
The Wick Theatre Company production of William Douglas Home’s The Secretary Bird is an object lesson to any group that essays light comedy. The play itself is fun. Hugh Walford faced with the decision of his wife, Liz, to leave him for a stockbroker called John Brownlow, does everything he can to be reasonable and helpful, and succeeds in reversing the decision and retaining his wife. The plot is bright, amusing, witty and ingenious.
So the company starts out with a play well worth the performing, but way beyond this is the skill of director Betty Dawes, and the cast in bringing the play to delightful life. First congratulations must go to Barry Bowen as Hugh Walford. His performance is technically brilliant. He does not miss a trick, he has complete mastery of the throwaway line and his timing is excellent. Running a very close second is his wife, Miranda, as his stage wife Liz, who shows great sill in nuances of vocal expression. Roger Stott is the embarrassed John Brownlow, completely at a loss to understand Hugh’s attitude, is a prefect foil. Fourth in the team is Jane Durance as High’s secretary Molly Forsyth brought in to further his plot to retain his wife.
I could quarrel slightly with Sheila Wright’s interpretation of the housekeeper Mrs Gray. She has a tendency to be funny rather than allow the character and situations take over. Vincent Joyce had designed a pleasingly uncluttered setting which looked, as someone remarked to me, as if it were lived in.