It is always with eager anticipation that a DPT audience awaits the start of a production from Creative Cow – for they always live up to their name.  This time is was with a clever adaptation by our Patron, the multi-talented Clive Francis, of the Graham Greene novel Our Man in Havana.  Again, it was a good sized audience that awaited the start of the play on its opening night and they were not to be disappointed as the cast of four took on the twenty-something roles plus narrator in this amusing and often tense drama.  Confusing?  Not at all – and certainly no repeat of last year’s production of Travels with my Aunt.

This time, the clever use of narration brought the audience – if there was any doubt – back into line and the actors have to be hugely commended on their performances.  At this stage, perhaps an apology to the cast might be in order.  On an unseasonably hot evening, the efficient new heating system in the theatre was working at its best – replicating the near-tropical climatic conditions of Cuba lending a certain unwelcome authenticity to the proceedings.  Particularly affected was poor Charles Davies (last seen at the DPT in our in-house production of Ayckbourn’s Round and Round the Garden in 2015) who was on stage for much of the play in his role as the vacuum cleaner salesman cum would-be spy, Wormold.

From Left: Charles Davies, James Dinsmore, Michael Onslow & Isla Carter

It is always such a pleasure to welcome Director, Amanda Knott, and her cast and members of the company to a bar reception and this was no exception.  It was a joy to meet and chat to them all and we send our best wishes as they continue their tour with this excellent play and hope to see them back at the DPT sometime soon.

 

Winner of the Oliver Award for best new comedy in 2015 and still going strong, what a phenomenon The Play that Goes Wrong has become not only in the West End and on Broadway, but with tours across the UK and Europe – and indeed the world, for we learnt that at least one member of the crew was about to leave for Japan and New Zealand with the show.

Slapstick it is, entertaining it remains but what a clever production from a talented cast of young actors. Many booking for the run in Eastbourne had seen the show before, but that clearly did not spoil their enjoyment of this fast-moving and hilariously funny play.  It was a packed house – even up in the Gods – for their opening night at the DPT a situation that was to be repeated until the end of their run.  Rarely – outside of panto – does the DPT ring with so much laughter.

What a pleasure it was to welcome this hard working cast for a really well earned drink after their on-stage exploits.  The Friends wish them every success with the remainder of their tour.  We hope they keep safe!

Judging by the laughter that started the moment the curtain rose and continued until the end, many in the audience for Waiting for God’s first night in Eastbourne  were fondly recalling the antics at the Bayview Retirement Home they had enjoyed in front of their TVs during several BBC TV series in the 1990s. The sitcom has been adapted for the stage by its creator, Michael Aitkens, and brought bang up to date for 2017.   All the favourite characters are still there – the main protagonists, Diana and Tom – played by two brilliant comedy actors, Nichola McAuliffe and Jeffrey Holland  –  and the cringingly awful, Harvey Baines with love-struck Jane fawning over him, head a really talented cast in this fast-paced comedy.

It was an evening packed full of laughter and humour: one of pure entertainment and enjoyment.  What was there not to like?

clockwise from top left:
Emily Pithon, Joanna Bending, David Benson, Jeffrey Holland, Peter Cadden,
Samuel Collins, Corinna Marlowe

It was with real pleasure that the Friends welcomed the cast, the writer/creator and some of the company to the bar for drink after the show.  Sadly, Nichola was unable to join us as she had to return home that evening but it was so lovely to see so many old friends and make some new.

 

It was especially good to see our good friends Jeffrey Holland and his wife Judy Buxton.  Judy had just started rehearsals for Trespass, the Emlyn Hughes ghost story – which comes to the DPT in mid-June and we also learned that Jeffrey will be back in Brassed Off with Talking Scarlet in September.  We can’t wait!

Join Linda Regan and her actor husband, Brian Murphy, for lunch on Saturday 13 May to hear how she combines her successful acting career with writing hard-hitting crime novels.

Both Linda and Brian have a special affection for Eastbourne and they have very generously donated their time to enable the Friends to raise funds to support the lovely Devonshire Park Theatre.

This event, a new venture for the FDPT,  is open to the public as well as members of the FDPT.

Tickets:  £25 per person (£2 off for members of FDPT)
Venue: 
International Tennis Centre, Devonshire Park, Eastbourne
Time: 
12 noon for 12.30pm

For full details on how to obtain tickets for the lunch, please view and download the order form here.

Born into a theatrical family, Linda Regan has been a professional actress all her working life with a career that has included television, film and live theatre.  She is perhaps best known for her performance as the love-struck Yellow Coat, April, in the BBC hit sitcom “Hi-de-Hi”.   Her husband, Brian Murphy – who is also a Patron of the Friends of the Devonshire Park Theatre – is still remembered best for his role as the henpecked husband George Roper in Man About the House and spin-off George and Mildred, with co-star the late Yootha Joyce.  He also had a seven-year stint as Alvin Smedley in BBC’s Last of the Summer Wine.

The crime novels Linda writes are police procedural and feature a murder division based in South London – where crime is fairly tough.  She says she writes it how it is, although all her work is fiction.  Her latest novel Sisterhoods has just been published and is out in paperback and as an e-book. Her theatrical roots and south-London background bring a real sense of authenticity to her work and, with her actor’s eye for detail and characterisation, many believe it is only a matter of time before her books are made into film or TV.

Despite writing from a young age, her first novel Behind You was very nearly not published.  She was so embarrassed by it that she threw it away – but husband, Brian, rescued it and sent it into Crème de la Crime worldwide search for new crime writers and she won it!

Join her on 13 May to hear the rest of her story ……..

Linda will also be selling and signing her books at the lunch.

If you have any queries relating to this event, please email enquiries@fodpt.org.uk

It is amazing how even the best part of seventy-five years on, the thought of the Nazi-occupied Channel Islands in 1943 can bring a chill.  German-occupied Guernsey was the setting for this wonderful play written by Moira Buffini in 1997 and for which she drew her inspiration from actual accounts of life on the island at that time. She focuses on the sensitive relationships between the local women and the occupying German officers.  It was a time of pure terror, hardship and food shortages and it is a good feeling to think that the desperate – yet feisty –  women in this play were typical of those living what must have been totally terrifying ordeal with a future (if they had one) full of uncertainty.

It was a capacity audience that waited in anticipation of the house lights going down in front of an amazing raised set of a somewhat austere Guernsey farmhouse – which, we were to learn afterwards from the producer, had all manner of significance and symbolism.  Perhaps – as we were also to hear – not so good for those sitting in the front rows of the stalls, though!

This well cast and superbly acted play was full of drama, suspense with some brilliantly timed humour thrown into the mix.  The two hours went amazingly quickly and it was unsurprising that the bar was packed with Friends waiting eagerly to welcome this wonderful cast and members of the company.

The Cast. (clockwise from top left): Paul McGann, Sarah Schoenbeck,
Venice van Someren, Belinda Lang, Jules Melvin, Robin Morrisey

For the majority, it was their first visit to the Eastbourne stage – and for Paul McGann the first time he had taken a play on tour.  It was a joy to welcome them all and we are grateful for their willingness to chat, share their thoughts and allow more than the usual number of selfies!  The party went on for some time – as the pictures below bear witness.

 

 

So, who was was Gabriel?  An RAF pilot, an SS interrogator, a local boy with amnesia or perhaps a saviour sent from heaven?  No spoilers here, but perhaps we will never know!

We have been very lucky this year with some (if not most) of the productions on offer at the DPT and we must all give Chris Jordan a huge vote of thanks for bringing yet another top quality play for us to enjoy.  More of the same, please, Chris!

Following the success of the tours held recently, we are pleased to offer another chance to hear about the history of our theatre, go on stage and be guided through the technical aspects of staging a show and then see the backstage facilities for the actors.  Each tour will be guided by Edward Thomas, whose knowledge of the history of the DPT is unsurpassed.

The Friends are also holding a Spring Coffee Morning at the theatre that day so you will be able to buy coffee (or tea or soft drink) and cake in the bar as well as perhaps bagging yourself a cake from the cake stall.  Books, jewellery, tombola, raffles and lottery game will also be on offer.

There will be an opportunity for buying a memento of your theatre tour in the form of Edward’s informative book The Playhouse in the Park, which will be specially discounted on the day for those doing a tour, or some lovely notecards with photographs depicting the unique safety curtain or some of the beautiful aspects of our theatre you will see during the tour.

Do hurry to get your tickets for the tours – priced at £5 per person – as numbers are limited and those held in February sold out very quickly.  Tours start at 9.45am, 10.45am and 11.45am.

Book in advance to avoid disappointment by calling Maria from the Friends of the Devonshire Park Theatre’s marketing team on 07955 432619 or by emailing enquiries@fodpt.org.uk.

Please join us on 20 May.

Remember if you are coming to the Box Office,
why not stop for a coffee?

For many in the packed house at the DPT for the first night of Abigail’s Party, it was frightening to think that it is indeed forty years since Mike Leigh’s iconic play was first performed.  The set before them was perhaps so reminiscent of the homes they knew all those years ago.  The room divider – complete with drinks cabinet –  the shag pile carpet, the vinyl records, the cheese and pineapple on sticks stuck into a foil covered orange, not to mention the plentiful supply of alcohol!

It is a period piece now – but so beautifully performed by the five-strong cast led by Amanda Abbington as the appalling hostess, Beverley!  The audience were enthralled and appalled in equal measure as the drinks party from hell degenerates into total chaos, the drama intensifies and the comedy becomes tragedy – ending on a note of total farce!  A heady mixture which, despite those oh so cringing moments, stands the test of time.  So convincing had the performance been, it led one Friend to ask a cast member if there had been much improvisation, “definitely not” came the reply with some mutterings about how unhappy that would have made Mike Leigh!  Not to mention the technical difficulties the stage management would have encountered in synchronising Demis Roussos!

The Cast: clockwise from top left: Ben Caplan, Amanda Abbington, Ciaran Owens, Rose Keegan and Charlotte Mills

It was a very enthusiastic group of Friends who gathered in the bar in anticipation of meeting Beverley, Laurence, Angela, Tony and Susan – aka Amanda, Ben, Charlotte, Ciarán and Rose!  It was an absolute joy to chat to such a friendly group of actors who gave very freely of their time.  This particular party went on for some time.

We wish them well for the remainder of their UK tour and hope to see them all back at the DPT soon!

“Just seen Pink Mist. I nearly didn’t book thinking this really wasn’t my thing – so glad I did” were the words of a Friend posted on our Facebook page after the opening night of the play.  How many times was that sentiment shared by others in the audience that night?  This play, written by Welsh novelist, playwright and poet Owen Sheers and originally commissioned by BBC Radio 4, has been received with much critical acclaim since it was first produced on stage by Bristol Old Vic in 2015.

The play, which tells the story of three young men from Bristol who from an early age had wanted to ‘play war’ and who get to do the real thing in Afghanistan, was inspired by the playwright’s interviews with thirty returning servicemen.  It is not a comfortable subject matter – even less so when research shows that the title is army slang used to describe the way the spray of blood hangs in the air when a body is blown up – when “vitality turns to vapour”.

It is powerful stuff and beautifully performed by the talented six-strong cast – all of whom remain on stage throughout.  A true example of how the right words and actions need no complicated and expensive set – in this case a wheelchair and a bench.  Added to this was really clever lighting, projection, sound and amazing choreography – that was so disciplined and synchronised that at times the cast seemed to perform as one – which made watching the play a spellbinding and heart-wrenching experience.  So much so that there was barely a dry eye in the house as the curtain came down!

Front: Zara Ramm, Peter Edwards, Rebecca Hamilton
Behind: Alex Steadman, Dan Krikler, Rebecca Killick

It had been a good sized audience and the bar was crowded with Friends awaiting the cast and company after the show.  For most, if not all, of this young cast it was a first time in Eastbourne and they all chatted happily sharing their experiences of this demanding play. The discussions went on for some time!

The cast with Producer, Nick Williams; Stage Manager, Tom Gamble and ASM Megan Doherty

We wish them every success as their tour of the UK draws to its end.

Posted February 27th, 2017

Waiting in the foyer before the show, theatre-goers were startled by the sound of gunfire and raised voices – fortunately a rehearsal for what was to unfold some two-plus hours later!  Another slick production from the Kenwright stable – now rebadged The Classic Thriller Theatre Company – and a move away from Agatha Christie to this adaptation of what is considered to be one of Ruth Rendall’s best thriller stories involving the slaughter of four members of the same family in Suffolk on Valentine’s Day sometime in the late 1970s.  Not written as a whodunit – in fact the novel opens with the murder sequence – there is nevertheless a crime to solve and to keep the audience engaged and guessing.  Is the culprit that obvious? Surely too much so; but no spoilers here.

After some brilliant on-stage performances from everyone in this talented twelve-strong cast – with special mention to Sophie Ward as the dowdy, apparently unworldly housekeeper and Deborah Grant as her curly-yellow-wig-toting ex-prostitute-cum-postmistress friend (a mismatched friendship if ever there was one!)  – it was wonderful for the Friends to welcome the cast and company to the bar for a well-earned drink

It had been a packed house on this opening night at the DPT: a situation echoed in the bar where there was barely standing room!

As always so good to chat to the cast and company – old friends and new – and get some insight into the production.  We thank them for giving up their time and their willingness to sign autographs.

We, of course, wish them well for the remainder of their stay in Eastbourne and the success of their continuing tour which, we were told, continues until August.

Posted February 14th, 2017

What a treat for the DPT!  A powerful courtroom drama that had the near-full house on Eastbourne’s opening night on the edge of their seats.  A thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking watch, even before the proverbial curtain went up – or certainly before the house lights went down.   With a cast of actors very familiar to television audiences –  led by Clive Mantle as the washed-up, alcoholic Boston lawyer and Jack Shepherd as his seventy-something  fellow lawyer, mentor and father figure, it was an evening of enthralling theatre with a really heart-wrenching storyline.  Even the evocative Irish music – reminiscent of the proponents’ Irish-American background – tore at the emotions!

Despite it fast approaching most people’s bedtime before the final curtain, it was a packed bar that waited eagerly for the fourteen strong cast and members of the company to join them for a really well-earned drink.

First to arrive was Okon Jones who much to everyone’s delight went the length of the bar shaking all the gathered Friends by the hand!  It was excellent to have Middle Ground back again with their co-founder and Director Michael Lunney  – who himself took to the boards playing no less than two characters in this production – although he was barely recognisable behind the moustache and glasses as the defending anaesthetist (or as the Americans would say anaesthesiologist!) Dr Jonathan J. Crowley.  It was wonderful to see so many familiar and friendly faces back in Eastbourne and the bar was buzzing with animated conversation.

We all hope they enjoy their time off next week and wish them every success with the remainder of the tour.  Hope to see you back again in Eastbourne sometime soon.