Saturday, 22 January 2022

Woman in Mind

Ayckbourn’s tragic-comic play is a dark, incisive examination of the plight of a trapped, unappreciated and unfulfilled woman. Susan has invested time and emotional energy in her marriage and family but self-sacrifice has not brought her happiness. Her husband is insensitive and indifferent, her sister-in-law interferes and she is estranged from her son. As a coping mechanism, she has created in her mind the perfect fantasy family who adore and cherish her. However, an eventual blurring of the worlds of fantasy and reality has devastating consequences for her.

Photography: Barry Parsons

Our production opened on Thursday 20 January, and we have been delighted with responses of audiences.

"I would just like to say I went to the play last Thursday with three friends, and we all thought the production was fantastic. The acting was so good I was totally absorbed the whole time, I did laugh out loud but never lost sight of the disintegration of the lead character. Could you please pass on our appreciation to all those who took part." Margaret L

"The intimate Sewell Barn stage leaves few places to hide and [Mandy] Kiley rises to the occasion. Hers is a masterful performance, both physically and vocally... " James Goffin - Cultivated [click here for full review]

"The Sewell Barn cast do great justice to this finely written script, and give us a play that may be difficult but is also a joy to watch... Director Peter Wood has marshalled his cast into giving a faultless and moving performance."   Julian Swainson, Norwich Eye [click here for full review]

"Brilliant play and performances by all especially Mandy Kiley, fantastic as always, and John Griffin excellent having stepped in so late. Don't miss this great show!" Ruth H

"Absolutely brilliant! Great play, well done!!" Vicky F

***

The show plays 20-22 and 26-29 January, with a matinee on 29 January. Tickets £11/£10 from 0333 666 3366 or online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/sewellbarn. We are limiting audience numbers (to 60 out of our usual 100 seats) for your safety and comfort, so advance booking is highly recommended.

Friday, 26 November 2021

Three Russian Encounters

What happens to fictional characters when the stories they are in come to an end? Might those from one play mix with those from another, resuming their lives through a different author? Themes of illusion and theatrical conceit abound in Three Russian Encounters, providing a novel combination of three one-act plays ‒ by Russia’s most famous playwright, Anton Chekhov, and the much-acclaimed modern Irish dramatist, Brian Friel.

In The Yalta Game, adapted by Friel from Chekhov’s story, The Lady with the Lapdog, a couple meet, begin an affair and, as they play the game of imagining the lives of those around them, they invent their own story.

Afterplay brings together two of the characters from Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters. Twenty years on, they share their stories, their ‘fictions’ and seek the ‘fortitude’ to keep going.

Swansong finds an ageing actor alone on the stage of a country theatre. His cries wake the Prompter with whom he reflects on past triumphs and his doubtful future.

Photography: Sean Owen

"This is theatre at its most powerful. The performances are finely drawn and very involving, and the atmosphere, and the lighting, I could go on! I found it haunting, moving and beautifully staged. And the final piece gave me goosebumps.   All in all, a haunting dream of a production which lingers in the mind long afterwards, and with good reason. Bravo!" Barnaby M

"These three short plays are triumphs of writing and are showcased by some seriously strong acting talent. It is an inspired selection of pieces by director Tony Fullwood, and a gem of an evening." James Goffin [click here to read full review

"That was utterly compelling…. I am moved to silence having been so deeply affected… every performance was totally captivating… please convey to all involved, from two very appreciative audience members… just wow! ... Often folk feel they have to be ‘nice’, commend the effort….but that was truly something of another order." Charlotte C

"Thank you for a wonderful evening of theatre yesterday. Great performances and excellent choice of play. Probably most thought provoking art in Norwich in November. Excellent work." James F

"Went to see Three Russian Encounters at the Sewell Barn. Brilliant evening. Well done everyone!" Etta G

"I guarantee that it will send you home satisfied yet thoughtful, inspired by three well written pieces. "Julian Swainson, Norwich Eye [click here to read full review]

"Bravo!!" Cherry C

"Yet another great performance at the Barn!" Shelagh S

"A fascinating evening at the theatre, with an artfully chosen trilogy of plays which chimed off each other in the most interesting of ways. Beautifully handled, of course, with very strong performers."  Jonathan

"Excellent show tonight - congratulations to all involved!" Trevor B

"I thought the production had an admirable clarity and a deceptive simplicity. I like Afterplay very much (I’m currently ploughing through essays on Three Sisters!). The actors were all thinking and listening to each other and there was a lot of good, but not fussy or cluttered, detailed work onstage. So well done all!" Tony (UEA Drama lecturer)

"We really enjoyed it! Well done to all involved." Tasha P

"We really enjoyed the plays the other evening. To the extent that Mike is now rediscovering a rather old copy of Chekhov from our bookshelf! Such a good production, and the actors were impressive. Thank you."  Helen

"A most enjoyable Sat matinee of Three Encounters! Well cast with some beautiful introspective moments and good projection!" Robin S

"Absolutely brilliant performances by Steven Scase, Poppy Hiscox, Jen Alexander, Dawn Brindle, David White and Kevin Oelrichs. Only two performances left so I urge you to go and show them your support." Laura L

"My friend and I, as part of our weekend in Norwich, saw [Three Russian Encounters] at the Sewell Barn on Saturday 4th December, and were delighted with the quality of the acting." Roy T

"[We] attended the performance of ‘Russian Encounters’ yesterday evening and we wanted to thank you and everyone at the theatre for an immensely enjoyable evening.  All three plays were extremely well performed and thought provoking. It never fails to amaze us at the quality of the performances at the theatre. I know it’s a small theatre in the scheme of things but delivers Big performances every time, without fail. It just proves the calibre of actors and backroom staff. Please extend our grateful thanks to all involved. The talented cast members of all three plays delivered an exceedingly entertaining evening which we both appreciated enormously. Bravo." Linda & James 


Friday, 15 October 2021

Love, Love, Love

Lost idealism and parental responsibility are the themes of Mike Bartlett's sparkling satirical play. Kenneth and Sandra meet, get married, have children, divorce and settle into retirement. We follow their trajectory in three acts, that take place in 1967, 1990 and 2011 – each capturing a specific moment in family life and British politics.

Written ten years ago, Bartlett’s play eviscerates the still-mostly-with-us ‘60s generation with a painfully funny savagery. The pertinence of his ferociously sharp, and sometimes simply ferocious, observations about the baby boomers and their disaffected Generation X children has not changed in the intervening decade.

Photography: Barry Parsons

"Fabulous energy, excellent performances, powerful subject, thought provoking AND funny - great show, thank you!" Harriet W

 "I enjoyed the play, interesting and relevant... I thought that the Gen X woman [Emma Kirkham as Rose] was exceptionally good... Phil's sets also always amaze me with their inventiveness." Chris B

"All four of us thought ‘Love, Love, Love’ was absolutely brilliant last night – it filled the conversation all the way back to North Walsham and beyond! PS: Also meant to say how brilliant the Staging was – the extra applause was well deserved. We are wondering whether have interchangeable wall panels for our lounge so we can change it each week!" Roy & Eva T

"If you get a chance to see this play I unhesitatingly recommend that you do. Well written, brilliantly acted and staged and proof that the Sewell Barn Theatre company are back with a winner." Julian Swainson, Norwich Eye [click here for full review]

"Congratulations Clare Williamson and cast/crew of LOVE, LOVE, LOVE (Sewell Barn Theatre). Provocative, funny, infuriating...expert portrayal of so much that needs addressing in society... left me wanting to see what these characters would be doing in 2021! Looking forward to seeing it again next week - get a ticket if you can!" Jen A

"Brilliant play, so well done... really good, thoroughly enjoyed it." Vicky F

"...plenty of funny dialogue and entertaining action, and the Sewell Barn cast make the most of it..." James Goffin, Cultivated [click here for full review]

"Just wanted to say how much Nick and I enjoyed (if that's the right word ...) last night's performance. Entertaining, witty stuff - whilst also absolutely brutal. Jonathan, I found your character both truly compelling and utterly despicable ... well done! It's a 20 minute walk home for us - and we talked about it all the way." Shelagh M [Secretary to the Sewell Barn Trustees]

"...just wanted to say how much we enjoyed the performance Thursday evening. Please extend our congratulations to all involved." Linda O

"A very entertaining evening with some uncomfortable truths! Well worth a watch." Barnaby M

"[Message to Emma, who played Rose]: I just wanted to say that I thought your performance last night was outstanding!!! You crossed the age barriers effortlessly and the passion in the final act was amazing!!! Well done you!!! My friend and I enjoyed the show immensely and we thought your brother was excellent too!! Well done to the entire cast, it is a great show!!" Wendy A

"We loved the production of this show even if we did go home somewhat emotionally bruised. Well done everyone, very well acted, brilliantly staged - great sets as always. A pleasure to be back at the Barn." Shelagh & Alan S



Saturday, 17 July 2021

Private Lives

Amanda & Elyot are divorced, and each has married again (to Victor and Sibyl respectively). They find themselves, on their respective honeymoons, in adjacent rooms at the same hotel. The reasons for their original attraction and for their parting rapidly become very clear, and equally clearly haven’t changed.

We are tremendously excited to present Coward's classic, brittle comedy as our first full-length show since February 2020.

Photography: Sean Owen of Reflective Arts

“Congratulations to Cassie, cast and crew for a wonderful, joyous and laughter-filled evening! Inspired casting and the actors’ palpable chemistry brought Coward’s sparkling wit to life, whilst the set and costumes reflected the period perfectly. All together a marvellous tonic for theatre deprived audiences. Thank you so much.” Jan F (review written after seeing a dress rehearsal)

"What a great show you put on last night! The acting was first class, set was brilliant and costumes were perfect ... Piano too of course was first rate! You must have been so pleased. It was remarkable and left a big impression. An amazing tour de force in such a brief and unpredictable time!" Shelagh S

"It’s a marvellous party to watch. You should try getting on the guest list." James Goffin, Norwich Evening News (click here for full review)

"Well acted and incredibly funny. Well done to cast, crew and all volunteers at Sewell Barn." Kat J

"It was indeed a marvellous party ... if you haven’t booked tickets already, you should! It’s just so marvellous seeing live theatre again! Well done all!" Emma S

"Great performance tonight, excellent pace and lots of laughs. Congratulations to everyone!" Tim S

"Fantastic evening of laughs with Private Lives last night! Thank you cast (and crew - great scene changing) for a slick and excellent version of Coward's play." Frances M

"What a lovely evening actually AT THE THEATRE! First time since March 2020. Wonderfully fun evening watching Private Lives. On until Saturday so grab your tickets you lovely Norwich lot!" Emma K

"Thoroughly enjoyable. So well done. I just loved Elyot!!" Vicky F

"A highly enjoyable evening of wit and charm! Fabulous performances and much hilarity! Just what we need at the moment!" Barnaby M

"Saw Coward’s Private Lives at the Sewell Barn last night and I think we can safely say what a sparkling comedy it was, and we enjoyed it immensely.  I am always surprised how well Coward survives into the 21st century,  although the casual violence does jar, I must admit.

The cast were all excellent.  Charming, sophisticated and funny. Harriet Waterhouse was naturally lovely and feisty, and I thought at one point was going to subject Nick Meir to fifty lashes of her commodious and luscious tresses! Nick Meir was very believable as the rather cold and arrogant Eliot and thankfully avoided any mannered Cowardisms. Verity Thomson coped very well with the rather straitlaced, buttoned-up Sybyl and I was very impressed with Lee Johnson,  a fine slightly preposterous comic performance as Victor. It was a shame we had to wait a couple of acts for Christina Fernandes’.s very funny, very French Louise, but she was worth waiting for.

Excellent direction from Cassie Tillett, pacey and frothy,  and altogether a lovely enjoyable evening of fine entertainment.  Well done everyone." David W



Thursday, 10 June 2021

Put Your Shorts On!

 

Photography: Sean Owen

During the summer of 2020, the Artistic Directors of the Sewell Barn Theatre were contacted by members of a Norfolk creative writing course, and asked to provide a team of performers to bring their scripts to life on Zoom calls. This was such a success that we decided to run three more sessions, calling for the support of local writers and performers.  We selected ten of those pieces, intending to present them in late 2020. Another lockdown intervened… and finally, in June 2021, we are able to perform them LIVE on the Sewell Barn stage between 9-12 June, under the title Put Your Shorts On!

To ensure the safety of our audience, the capacity of the theatre (normally 100) has been reduced to 25; each half, consisting of five short items, will be performed by a team of four actors plus director and stage manager, using separate dressing rooms; and all other necessary measures will be taken to ensure the safety of audiences and cast. 

The pieces in Put Your Shorts On! are written for one, two or three performers. Their style varies from the domestic to the surreal, and from comedy to sadness; the settings include parks, cafes, supermarkets and living rooms; the subject matter covers relationships, dogs, shopping and estrangement; and the characters’ ages range from 20s to 70s. The authors are local, many of whom are seeing their work performed for the very first time, and we are hugely grateful that all have agreed to waive royalties, to help make live performances possible at the Sewell Barn in such difficult times.

We limited the audiences to 25 per show, keeping it cautious for COVID safety, and were delighted that - including a few additional tickets that we were able to release due to the sizes of some parties - we entertained 125 people in the course of the run.

"Really enjoyed this last night. Well done everyone, and so lovely to be back in the Sewell Barn." Ruth H

"We did enjoy it and good to see some new acting talent as well as the excellent stalwarts. Also liked your music interludes tying the production together. We liked the way you did the photo projection, nice and simple but effective." Shelagh S

"Congratulations to the Sewell Barn and their determination to bring live theatre back to Norwich. At their current performance of Put Your Shorts On, great attention was paid to Covid regulations and carried out with care and attention to detail, but the welcome was so friendly and warm. Congratulations also to the actors and backstage support, for giving us an entertainment, very much based on our local literary talent and so professionally delivered. A thoroughly satisfying evening for all who attended. May it be a signal for the return of amateur drama to Norwich." June G

"A big ‘Thank You’ to everyone for the brilliant performances last night. It is so good to see you all again, and to be part of a ‘real’ audience." Roy & Eva T

"Very many thanks for providing a safe and stimulating theatre experience with the short plays. As a playwright myself I am greatly encouraged that a local theatre is prepared to give a platform to new writing. Please pass on our thanks to all involved." Tony V

We were especially pleased to welcome most of the authors to the show during the run, and to receive some lovely feedback:

"I just want to thank everyone concerned with Put Your Shorts On yesterday for such a wonderful theatrical experience. We received an incredibly warm welcome from everyone on our arrival, you’re such a friendly group of people! The show itself was absolutely stunning, the acting was incredible. Each piece was so powerful and by the end of the afternoon I had used all my emotions, I was drained. As the writer of Don’t Forget The Freddos Dad, I’d like to thank Cassie and Kevin for bringing my words to life. It could not have been performed any better. I have to say that it was one of the proudest moments of my life!" Tim Strugnell: Don't forget the Freddos, Grandad

"Terrific performances from everyone tonight. Huge congratulations to the entire Sewell Barn team for making this happen. This is always a fantastic venue to visit and we enjoyed a splendidly entertaining evening under your roof." Chris Sadler: I cried the first time I saw you

"It was such a thrill to see it performed. The actors played the parts so well, with the emotion and strength that I had intended in the dialogue. It was a play about domestic abuse, the kind that is played out so much behind closed doors without anyone realising. I think the actors really brought the message home. It was quite overwhelming to see it come to life." Julia Morris: Out of the blue

Monday, 16 November 2020

Stella Jay

Stella was, as many have said, the 'face of the Sewell Barn' right from our earliest days. Robert Little, Chair of Trustees and previous Artistic Director, shares his memories.

***

"I have just heard the news that Stella Jay has passed away. Our thoughts go out her family during these difficult times.

It seems that Stella was part of the foundations of the Sewell Barn. So how did it all start? Well, her son Peter was a student at the Blyth Jex School (as it was then). The headmistress at that time, Valerie Glauert, was mustering local support to help fundraise for a community Theatre. The Sewell Barn was born.

Stella, whose son was interested in drama, went along to offer her support. Peter would perform in the early days of the company; Stella came to help and loved being involved with all those friendly people starting a new, exciting chapter in the Norwich theatre scene. Quite simply, she never really left. She was neither an actor nor a stage manager; but she was involved in more productions than anyone else. Although never officially a member of the acting company, she certainly belonged to it, by default.  Stella was to head the Front of House Team for over 25 years before handing the title to her friend, Jane Page. She retired twice, although she kept coming back. She would restock the bar from the cash-and-carry, sort out the cleaning rotas, and sometimes take the rubbish home to her own bin. 

She was a great persuader, managing to bring on board people to fulfil various roles within the Barn family. She served on the management committee for over twenty years, and then went on to become a Trustee. In her front of house capacity she would include most of her family - husband, children and grandchildren - although I suspect that was the best place to be able to see and speak to her. She also, with her husband Wilf, managed the distribution of our newsletter for many years. Her service to the company and the Sewell Barn in general was never a task or a problem: she loved to be part of it all. She was always willing to help where needed. 

A friend of mine once said of Stella. “She is the face of the Sewell Barn, the first face to greet you when you arrive to see a show; always with a big smile, you know that you are in place that cares.”

Stella will be greatly missed by so many, but she will always be with us in spirit."


The photograph above was taken by Andrew Evans as part of a set of images of all Trustees and Committee in 2004. We brought Stella on stage – not in reality, but virtually – in my July 2019 production of Noel Coward’s Waiting in the Wings.  One character, Martha, was spoken of but never appeared. I needed, however, an image of ‘Martha’ as part of the display board of all the residents in their days on stage, and Stella’s family were happy to oblige with the lovely photograph below. We were delighted when they brought Stella to see her friends, and to see her own image as part of our front-of-house display, between the matinee and the evening performance of the show. She was a kind, gentle, hardworking and loyal member of our theatre family. RIP, dear Stella.

Cassie Tillett

Since publishing the above tribute in our newsletter, we have received many lovely comments.

"I've been attending Sewell Barn for 35 years... she was always  there.. lovely lady. RIP" Ruth M

"I was saddened to read of the death of Stella Jay. She was one of my generation of Sewell Barn people! Though she did a lot more than I did; she was always there! We shared the highs, and occasional lows, but most of all the fun and laughs of many shows together. I echo Robert - RIP Stella and thank you." Frances M

"So sorry to see Stella Jay has passed away. She truly was the Face of Sewell Barn." Cherry C

"Really sad to hear Stella passed away. My love and thoughts go with her." James B

"A lovely tribute to Stella, a character the like of which we won't see again!" June G


... and many, many tributes on the posting on our Facebook page can be seen by clicking here (you will be able to see it whether or not you have a Facebook account).

Monday, 17 February 2020

The Female of the Species

Acclaimed author Margot Mason has writer’s block and is struggling to meet a deadline. She is interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected guest, followed by several more uninvited visitors.

This wickedly satirical comedy, verging on farce, was inspired by a true-life incident involving Germaine Greer and a student. It is full of drama, bad language, bad behaviour and some rather deliciously ridiculous people.

Photography: Andrew Evans
Full of characters that are as colourful as the language and the set, this fabulous comedy is a great way to celebrate our 300th production at the Sewell Barn Theatre (during our 40th season).

"The Female of the Species - absolutely superb! Firstly, I'd like the chaise lounge please...  Beautiful, bright bold set, fantastic strong cast, a serious yet hilarious play - a must see! Thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish." Gwen H-C

"‘The Female of the Species’ is a brilliantly incisive piece of comedy theatre, penetratingly exposing the bulls**t of self-righteous glorification." Vincent G

"Brilliant production! Well done all!!" Robin W

"I enjoyed the play, well written and acted, great set too." Chris B

"We travelled 230 miles to see ‘The Female of the Species' at ‘Sewell Barn Theatre’ last weekend. We were certainly not disappointed! We were immediately impressed and also entertained by the colourful, interesting and clever set. The cast were all excellent with some extremely witty and convincing performances and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Well done to everyone who took part. If you haven’t seen it ..... get your tickets.... you won’t be disappointed!" Jan H

"Another brilliant show with excellent performances all round! Funny too! Well done." Shelagh S

"An entertaining 90 minutes of action... Michelle Moore steals the show with a fine performance as the writer's unloved offspring - now a tired mother-of-three and at the end of her tether. Her tantrum at the insanity of parenting is brilliant, falling to the floor something like a defeated toddler herself. The design team of Pete Sessions, Jo Parker-Sessions, and Phil Williamson have had fun with the set and props, with great fake book covers and well-executed gun shot effects that build up a visually delightful production." James Goffin, EDP [click here for full review]

"I'm just home from the Sewell Barn theatre where I've been extremely well entertained by the fabulous cast of The Female of the Species! Having had nothing to do with this production, apart from reading it a year ago when Mel Sessions (the director) first suggested it, it's been a joy to discover what a great show it's turned out to be. Clever, serious, witty and with a bit of silliness thrown in, it makes you think and laugh in equal measures - the best sort of drama in my opinion. It's been beautifully directed, the cast are fantastic and the set showcases interior design at its showbizzy best - I want that chaise longue now!" Clare Williamson [Joint Artistic Director, Sewell Barn]