Sunday, 14 July 2019

Waiting in the Wings

‘The Wings’ is a charity home for retired actresses. Into the jealousies, point-scoring and memories of many decades comes Lotta, new resident and former leading lady. Her arrival revives a long-dormant personal feud which eventually involves the whole community and is only resolved when another resident has to leave in tragic circumstances.

Photography: Sean Owen of Reflective Arts
A mammoth cast of 18 people, with a combined age of well in excess of 1,000 years and centuries of theatrical experience, delighted our audiences.

"This show is as perfect as live performance gets. I am so glad I got there!" Clare H

"We went to see Waiting in the Wings last week, and enjoyed a fantastic evening's entertainment - hilarious, poignant, sad - it was a great show. A difficult one to pull off, with a huge cast, and not a lot of action apart from Deidre's dramatic demise, but the company managed it superbly under Cassie's direction. Sewell Barn scores again!" Frances M

"Great characters, making a fabulous team... This was a triumph. It’s hard to pick out performers, they were all excellent including the cameos. Doreen was a delight. Perhaps it helps being a certain age to fully enjoy Coward; we certainly did. We simply loved the production. You and everyone involved may feel very pleased."  Michael & Margaret D

"Many congratulations to cast and whole company of “Waiting in the Wings”. Excellent production. Funny, touching, poignant and moving." Robin W

"I'm not sure that any theatre other than the Barn could have put this play on with the same result: there was an intimacy about the performances that was enhanced so much by the ambience of the theatre itself. Almost three hours in length but the time simply rolled on by; the audience was almost a part of the production. This was an absolutely wonderful production. Lovely to see." Terry C

"Delighted this show has had an awesome run! Saw it Thurs eve. I giggled, outright laughed and cried! Brilliantly, beautifully done." Tracie N

"Thank you Cassie, Cast and Crew for a wonderfully entertaining and memorable evening. I doubt I'll ever see so much acting experience in one place at one time again. Memories are made of this." Zanna F-D

"Waiting in the Wings was fantastic! Beautifully scripted by Noel Coward and brought to life by the ladies with wit, humour and compassion. The chaps weren’t bad either!" Paula M

"Just wanted to say how much [we] enjoyed the play last night. Thoroughly absorbing and characterisations seemed spot-on... Thanks to you all." Richard S

"Old age awaits us all and the spectre of losing one’s independence and ending up in a home looms large on many a horizon. But in Waiting in the Wings, the audience is offered a somewhat brighter outlook on the future in a home. This is a touching story that lifts a lid on the fears of the new residents leaving behind their old lives, the spectre of dementia, old rivalries laid bare and friendships forged, celebrated and held dear with a whole host of charming, likeable characters that make up the residents and staff and assorted others at the Wings. It really is an ensemble piece with all the cast fully inhabiting their parts so that wherever you look on the (at times very busy!) stage there is something happening. They all work together as a collective whole to immerse you in this absorbing play and together with the help of the backstage team (another fab set and flawless scene changes) have produced a most enjoyable evening of theatre. I would happily pay another visit to the ladies in The Wings and if this is what awaits us in the retirement homes of our future then we could do a whole lot worse!" Matt S

"Impeccable timing of dialogue, humour and witticisms.  Good characterisation of the time period, being well thought out and researched to make a truly wonderful production of a time tested play.
There were some very gifted actors and actresses amongst the cast, with great potential.  All fitted together admirably. Always amazing how so many lines and changes of costume can be managed. The production depicted so acutely life’s realities. Impressive to see how the use of one set, with one or two changes, could be used so effectively throughout. Felt better for the experience - a production full of fun, laughter and tears. Congratulations to all.” Sue L

"What a lovely, warm, truly ensemble performance, where the 18-strong cast fully inhabit an array of wonderful, eccentric, and yet wholly relatable characters. I was entirely drawn into their world,  laughing and crying along with them, relishing in the gossip and scandals, the rivalries and reconciliations...and most of all praying for that solarium! Congratulations all on a touching and thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre!" Sarah J

"Just back from watching Waiting in the Wings, what a fab show, a great show for all ages - our 14 year old daughter loved it. The characters were great and after spending some time visiting an old peoples home we could identify with the characters. Well worth a watch." Sarah R

"This show has a delightful warmth about it and truly honest performances which was a joy to behold, and by the end I was quite emotional which is highly unusual for a Noel Coward! It was wonderful spending an evening with these characters and I didn't want it to end!" Barnaby M

"Excellent cast and production. Felt like old friends by the end of the play!" From comments board

"This is a bittersweet play, with plenty of laughs and a good deal of pathos... a surprisingly powerful piece and a great chance to see some experienced talent back on stage." James Goffin for Norwich Evening News. For full article, click here.

Eastern Daily Press letters page




Saturday, 8 June 2019

Yerma

Photography: Barry Parsons
In rural Spain of the 1930’s, a childless woman in a cold marriage becomes so obsessed with the idea of motherhood that her frustration leads her to commit a terrible crime that ultimately kills her own dreams.

Lorca’s play sees the collision of female sexuality and toxic masculinity, Catholicism and paganism, tradition and change dressed in evocative poetry, song, imagery and ritual. It results in an adult parable of dark beauty and visceral humanity.

Phillip Rowe's directorial debut at the theatre uses puppetry, masks, dance, music and a strong cast to portray this tragic story.

"Just seen Yerma at the Sewell Barn. Stunning performances, gorgeous design and atmospheric music. Congratulations to all involved in producing some gripping theatre. Go see it!!!" Jessica H

"'Yerma' at @sewellbarn. An intense #drama full of potent #symbolism, set in a stunning piece of #design. The cast delivered the visceral yet poetic language in some heart-rending performances. Congratulations to all involved!" David W

"Top show, Sewell Barn." Dylan B

"It was amazing!" Dylan B's 12-year-old daughter

"Sewell Barn really impressed me with its simple layout and profound decor. Yerma's production and delivery was absolutely intense, passionate and connected. I felt part of the play.. well done all." Roy A

"Well, that was yet another wonderful evening of local theatre at the Sewell Barn Theatre. A brilliant and enthralling interpretation of Lorca’s intense play Yerma by director Phillip Rowe. Clever use of masks and elements of folk music and dance powerfully evoke the claustrophobic atmosphere of 1930s rural Spain in the Barn’s intimate space. The difficult themes all come threateningly alive at the hands of an exciting and thoroughly committed cast. Can I break all the reviewer's rules? all right, then I have to single out Zachary Burbridge as the stolid farmer Juan, and above all the magnificent Sarah Jenkins in the title role as his suppressed and frustrated wife – this is a spine-tingling performance worthy of huge respect, congratulations and wide recognition. If you’re anywhere within several hundred miles of Norwich you just have to come and see it today or next week. And I mean, you *have* to come and see this. It’s not an easy watch but my God it’s worth it." Selwyn Tillett [Secretary to Sewell Barn Committee]


Thursday, 9 May 2019

The Children

Lucy Kirkwood's dark, reflective but often very funny play has been described most frequently as "thought-provoking" and "unsettling". Hazel and Robin, two retired nuclear scientists, eke out a spartan existence in an isolated cottage not far from the power station where they once worked. In the wake of a catastrophic accident at the power plant, the couple strive to maintain a semblance of normality but this is shattered with the arrival of an old friend with a daunting request.

Photography: Andrew Evans
"“I thought the play itself was a cleverly written piece that slowly unfolded in front of the audience, revealing itself to be more complex and in some ways simpler too. I thought it was an interesting message given the current climate as well – the older generation atoning for their mistakes. It made us laugh and it made us think. The characters were such an interesting mix. I loved the set and the staging of the play. I am always surprised how a play in one location is able to hold the attention so well, especially with such a small cast but this certainly did.

One of the many charms of the Barn is the wide range of plays that make up each season. There’s comedy, romance, tragedy and more. Then there are those that are made up by a bit of all the above. The Children is one of these plays. A thought provoking, perhaps prescient story that is at the same time beautiful, tragic and funny told engagingly by the three actors who were relatable and believable and you really feel for them as you discover more about each of them and their loves and losses. Well done all!" Matt S

"Watched The Children last night. A thoroughly thought provoking and moving production with a dose of humour thrown in. Brilliant acting on a very professional set. I cannot recommend it enough." Jill F [Chair - Sewell Barn Committee]

"Fantastic play and performances, congratulations to all involved." Ruth H

"The Children was an excellent show presented with gusto by three highly experienced performers. Funny, provoking and haunting in many ways with some real surprises. Once again the barn has demonstrated their ability to select a fabulous variety of plays." Barnaby M

"Those present were totally involved at all times and also clearly got the humour of the play. One impressive feature of the production was the pace and also the pauses which worked very well. Your cast gave strong performances. Sewell Barn should be very pleased with the quality of the production." John S



Friday, 29 March 2019

Faustus

"Can we have it all? Dr John Faustus thought so, and the terrible price he pays for gorging his appetites is explored in this timeless morality play.

Faustus makes the original pact with the devil. He sells his soul for eternity in return for 24 years of his every desire being satisfied. He has great knowledge but cannot satisfy his thirst for more and once given access, the devil seduces him by degree with baser and baser temptations."

Photography: Barry Parsons

Chris Bealey's powerful, pared-back, relevant production was a great success, receiving some marvellous reviews.

"This play has long been a favorite of mine and I have seen it staged a number of times over the years. This production/direction/design was the best, the most creative and sizzling! I loved the use of masks, especially with Helen - superb. Adam Edwards was quite brilliant and John Dane. Also Nina Taylor as Good and Bad Angel - what a great idea with the mask and the way she switched from one to the other. Unfair in a way to single out when it was altogether so exceptional. Thank you all so much." Jill C

"Yesterday’s matinee of Dr Faustus, what an unexpected gem to discover in Norwich on a wet Saturday afternoon! I’ve not been here for 30 years and now wish I’d not waited so long. Such a small space requires good performance and it was. Very good indeed. It seems unfair to single out any of the excellent cast but Adam Edwards and John Dane were engaging and intense throughout and Giles Conneeely a delight in all his guises. Particularly enjoyed the Nod to Norfolk in the comic characters! A delight!" Alison U

"This production is a masterpiece, which is not a phrase I use very often! The play is presented with great clarity and inventiveness by a first rate cast, who left us in a stunned silence. Masterful and electrifying." Barnaby M

"Do go and see Faustus at the Sewell Barn. It is the most accessible and persuasive production of this piece, professional or amateur, that I have seen (including RSC). It has been heavily cut, it is 21st century, and it is powerfully acted throughout. Director Chris Bealey and his cast and creatives have taken the essentials of Marlowe's poetic and dramatic masterpiece and made them work for a modern audience. Thanks to a great team and to the genius of Christopher Marlowe." David N

"The text was delivered with admirable clarity by everyone and the whole play was played with great pace. There was never a dull moment! Congratulations to everyone involved." Tim S

"We came en masse on Friday including 3 teenagers - start them young! Great production!!!" Mia P

"Saw the show on Saturday eve. Thoroughly enjoyed. Highly creative production, good story-telling and great performances. Congratulations to all involved. Hope lots of people get to see it later this week!" Pip S

"In the title role Adam Edwards has great tone and presence, descending into a despairing mess as his dreadful destiny becomes all too discernible. John Dane’s Mephistophilis wields an intense and cruel power; tightly wound and viciously bitter.

Giles Conneely has (literal) comedy chops, his expressive face gurning through multiple roles as (a surprisingly tuneful) Lucifer, Robin, and a much-abused Pope. Nina Taylor leads the assorted spirits and supporting characters, switching between a solemn Good Angel and an animalistic, prowling Bad Angel.

Jane Kidan, David White, Diane Webb, and Alex Gale cover a range of characters, including the seven deadly sins." James Goffin - Eastern Daily Press [for full review click here]

"I was seriously impressed by the inventiveness, accessibility and sheer brilliance of this production.  To me, the originality and creativity of Chris Bealey's interpretation makes this the definitive version of Faustus." Phillip Williamson [Marketing Manager]

"Chris Bealey's remarkable production is pared-down, minimalist, relevant, powerful and thought-provoking. His team - actors, technical, backstage, design and crew - have worked together beautifully and produced a first-rate evening of theatre, with imaginative effects and superb stagecraft. The powerful partnership of John Dane as Mephistopheles and Adam Edwards as Faustus is utterly mesmerising and absorbing, and the archaic language is delivered with fluency and conviction. The supporting cast are all magnificent, with multiple character delights from every single one." Cassie Tillett [Joint Artistic Director]



Sunday, 24 February 2019

Confusions

This year Alan Ayckbourn celebrates his 80th birthday, his authorship of 70 plays and 60 years in the theatre. The Sewell Barn Theatre is pleased to recognise the darkly-comic genius of Britain’s favourite playwright by staging its 12th Ayckbourn production in its own 40 year history: Confusions, comprising five interconnected one-act plays.

Photographs: Andrew Evans
There have been huge amounts of laughter at this wonderful set of plays and at the antics of our performers - interspersed with moments of pin-drop silence as we catch glimpses of dark sadness underpinning the characters' lives. Here are some of the lovely comments.

"What an excellent show... a huge well done to all involved ... I laughed so much." Ruth H

"Fantastic work Cassie Tillett and Clare Williamson, we were chuckling throughout! Congratulations on a brilliant production!" Jess H

"Confusions was side splittingly funny at times... awkward and sad too. Well done all involved." Kathy S

"We saw a brilliant production yesterday by the "amateurs" at the Sewell Barn Theatre. No professionals could have done better." Philip M

"Well done on Confusions - great cast and design all round - I must say John Griffin did some great work as Harry in the second play - quite an arc, true tragicomedy!" Richard H

"A fierce, frantic, furiously funny farce of manners, secrets, regrets and mores! A ducking delight!" Vincent G

"Saw it Saturday night - excellent acting." David P

"A quacking evening of comedy and anarchy, presented by an accomplished cast who skillfully create a flock of absurd characters who entertain and provoke throughout. And the set was very coot [sic] too!" Barnaby M

"Funny, poignant and a great night out with talented people! Fabulous." Paula M

"As good as I saw in the West End years ago. Cast were great and stage crew did a great job."

And we are always delighted to receive considered, intelligent reviews from our good friend Rob Fradley-Wilde; we value his opinions and are especially pleased when he enjoys our shows this much:

"One of the most enjoyable evenings I've spent for a very long time. In these five short plays Ayckbourn's writing is, as always, deceptively simple, skimming us along from one farcical mishap to another, but so often revealing the heart's grief underneath, almost incidentally, but always with a compassion that is the richer for being objective – no one is left out. Ordinary people, in ordinary situations; but they quickly take a special place in everyone's memory.

Five top-class actors here made it seem easy – but what work must have gone into it all! Very skillful performances [23 performances in total!] from Gill Tichborne, Kevin Oelrichs, John Griffin, Dominic Sands, and Harriet Waterhouse. Some of my favourite Norfolk actors here, delivering their dependable high quality, from irrepressible ebullience to deep pathos and ingenuous sensitivity; but I have to refrain from individual evaluation, partly because they were such a team, all pulling so magnificently together, but mainly because l'd be up all night, finding so many happy remembrances of this evening.

Even the scene changers worked with smashing aplomb – the happiness of the whole production spilled out to us in many ways. And the five sets, designed by Phil Williamson, were made similar enough to be workable, yet were individually distinctive, and more than adequate to set these sparkling performances.

A less than full house made up for numbers with enthusiasm. Everyone had a super time. But why oh why don't more folk come? Obviously, they don't know what they're missing. Rack your brains, people! This theatre hardly ever deserves to have less than full houses. Any suggestions? This is the real original 3-D – and warm and sweaty and living and more real than anything that the subtlest electronics can do. Why don't they understand this!

Mesdames Tillett and Williamson should be very very pleased. I don't know how they did it – this must be a hell of a thing to produce, in its range and complexity and pacing – but their sureness and instinct is proven right, in this latest success from the Sewell Barn."



Sunday, 13 January 2019

These Shining Lives

Set in 1920s Illinois, Catherine Donohue is excited to get a job at Radium Dial. The task is simple enough - she and her colleagues are to paint watch dials using a radium compound which glows in the dark. When their hands begin to glow too and their health deteriorates, they articulate their concerns but are subsequently ignored, shamed and eventually dismissed. Taking the company to court, Catherine’s empowering and heart-breaking fight for her rights offers us a potent reminder of the need to protect workers from exploitation.

Photographs: Sean Owen of Reflective Arts
Our audiences were spellbound by this powerful and troubling story. Here are some of their comments.

"Rarely do I see a play which is intense, gentle, frightening and moving in equal measure! Rarely do I leave the theatre wanting to share that experience with the world. But such was my experience tonight at The Sewell Barn Theatre in Norwich. These are real people - these were real happenings! This was These Shining Lives - a superb production with a talented young cast playing out this tragic story of the cynicism and ruthlessness of big business and the common man. Only 3 productions to go! Here is theatre at its very best! I urge you to see it!" Robin S

"I found space on the whiteboard to add just one word: SUPERB. The indictment of a pernicious, profit-driven corporation at the expense of young women's lives. Evil becomes transparent when it is shown in the personal rather than statistical or academic. Marvellous story-telling in an engrossing play. Glad I caught the penultimate performance. Lots to take away." Jack S

"'These Shining Lives' is a testament to the power of theatre. An extraordinary story about ordinary people and the far too everyday injustice that they suffered, brought to life with sensitivity and aplomb by a universally excellent cast. Director Jessica Hutchings creates an exquisitely detailed and nuanced production, with set, music, costume and lighting further expressing the themes of the play with care and flair. I laughed, I cried, I cheered. An utterly incandescent production that shines as a legacy to the Radium Girls." Vincent G

"Thoroughly enjoyed the production today, a well paced and beautifully designed piece." Richard H

"There was some great chemistry between the four radium girls as well as some moving moments. The play also highlights the issue of worker exploitation, which is still happening today, and this certainly got us talking during the interval. Well done to all! I also loved the set, the music and the very appropriate lighting. Really excellent effects, especially the green and reds towards the end. And the chaps created some great characters too with some nimble changes." Barnaby M

"A great setting, atmosphere and professional performance. ‘These Shining Lives’ was the best performance I have ever been to. Well done cast & crew. I look forward to my next visit to Sewell Barn Theatre." Dearbhla Q

"That show was unbelievable, you were all great! I sat in the car and cried for five minutes before I could even drive home!!"

"It’s well worth the trip. A beautifully staged play performed by a believable group of actors who tell the tragic, almost unbelievable story of the radium ladies. An absorbing and moving evening with some excellent performances and complimentary but striking technical effects. Congratulations to Jess on her directorial debut and to the cast and crew on a great evening of theatre!" Matt S

"What an amazing play. Shell Moore, you and your fellow cast members put on a stunning and emotional performance. If anyone is looking for something to do please go and and see this." Kate G

"A really stunning play. A brilliant story performed by a truly convincing and talented cast. I was totally absorbed in the story. Strong performances from the amazing cast. Well done everyone." Henry H

"Your show last night was splendid. Captivating and engaging. Very well done. It was a splendid presentation. Tremendous! " Jonathan R

"Congratulations to the cast and crew of These Shining Lives at the Sewell Barn Theatre for doing such a brilliant job in telling the true stories of the women who worked and died at the Radium Dial Company in Chicago in the 1920s. Jess Hutchings, in her directorial debut at the Barn, has created a tender, powerful production which conveys the humanity of the individuals who struggle against the corporate behemoth and society at large. The irony is clear - for the women employed by Radium Dial, it is their first taste of freedom and they love the support and friendship it brings. Tragically, the effects of their employment go way beyond a sense of female empowerment. The production moves seamlessly between naturalistic scenes - there's a real chemistry between Michelle Moore as Catherine Donahue and Ben Turner as her adoring husband - and the stylised scenes - the courtroom scenes swiftly condense important information for the audience and effectively move the plot forward. The camaraderie between the four women is a joy to watch and the two men are extremely effective in moving between roles with excellent attention to detail. Lighting, sound, projection and set enhance the universality of the production beautifully as does the fantastic painted floor with its watch, constellations and compass. Those women lived life fully, died far too young but their lives continue to shine for us, nearly 100 years on. Go and be amazed." Clare W [Joint Artistic Director]

"I was there last night with my theatre group - loved it!" Elliot K

"FANTASTIC 5* performance. Well done, Sewell Barn Theatre. Congratulations to all the cast and team for bringing this story to the stage with dramatic effect." Su H

"As the audience left the theatre, we overheard many comments like these: "Compulsive viewing", "Brilliant", and our favourite: "They deserved a standing ovation, and the only reason I didn't stand up was because the seats are steeply raked and I didn't want to risk falling onto the stage!".

"These Shining Lives opened at the Sewell Barn Theatre to huge praise last night, and rightly so. Director Jessica Hutchings has created the world of the Radium Girls, and their tragic story ("but this is not a tragedy") with a deft touch and beautiful attention to detail. Her excellent cast work together as a superb team, presenting utterly believable and sympathetic characters; the visual effects are stunning. Moreover, the story is one that deeply deserves your attention. Highly recommended." Cassie T [Joint Artistic Director]




Sunday, 25 November 2018

Not About Heroes

“This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.” So wrote Wilfred Owen in the preface of his collected poems.

This beautiful, moving piece of theatre is presented in the month of #Armistice100. Owen and Siegfried Sassoon were two of our most influential WW2 war poets, and Stephen MacDonald's creation is a sincere, powerful and sensitive tribute to them both.

We've seen audiences mesmerised by the fine performances of our two actors, and many a surreptitious handkerchief was produced.

Photography: Barry Parsons

"Just returned from seeing ‘Not About Heroes.’ Most of what I want to say has already been said by others. Such an intense, moving and insightful production. Two incredibly talented actors. Congratulations to all involved in this production, it was an incredible achievement." Ruth E

"Saw Not About Heroes yesterday evening, truly amazing production, congratulations to both superb actors the director and whole production team, thank you!" Chris H

"Awesome performance this afternoon Zachary Green and Matt Scantlebury. Moved me to tears. You know someone has real talent when you no longer see your friend, on stage son and general lovely chap but instead see a young man full of dreams for the future that he has glimpsed senselessly marching toward death. So proud and honoured to have seen this fabulous piece of theatre." Kat T

"Such a fantastic performance from both Zac and Matt - so pleased we got to see this - very very well done." Andrea W

"If you don't have plans this weekend, go and see this. If you do have plans, change them and go and see this. A hauntingly beautiful story about two of my all-time favourite poets, brought to life by two first-class actors. A wholly captivating and deeply moving production. Congrats to the whole cast and crew!" Sarah J

"Not About Heroes is a very fitting tribute to the loss of life in the first world war. Two extremely accomplished performers hold us in awe for two hours as they explore poetry and their relationship as well as war itself. The result is desperately moving. The actors are to be commended for their naturalistic performances, and the intimacy of the Barn captured the mood effectively. There are six more chances to see this beautiful play. PS: I did go and see [another] play last night, and there was no comparison to be made, despite having a professional cast!!" Barnaby M

"Two great poets played by two formidable actors... well done." Audience comment

"I went to see a play tonight about two people who have influenced my life in ways they could not have imagined. One hundred years ago one of them was dead and one of them would live for another 50 years or so, carrying the guilt and the glory of his dead friend. I'm talking about Not about Heroes at the Sewell Barn Theatre, a sensitive, moving and joyous portrayal of the emergence of Wilfred Owen as a poet of enormous stature, championed by another powerful poet of the first world war, Siegfried Sassoon. This is a beautifully nuanced two hander, confidently directed by Rob Tiffen and performed by Zac Green and Matt Scantlebury. The set is simple but clearly conveys movements of time and place and this is enhanced by subtle but atmospheric changes in lighting and sound.

For me, the greatest power of the performance lies in the handling of the poetry - lines that are so well known are delivered with a freshness which creates an intense immediacy made all the more poignant by our foreknowledge of Owen's imminent demise. You had me in tears, guys, and I wept for 'the pity of war' because 'the poetry is in the pity'. Please come and see this play - it is marvellous and more than worthy of your time and, maybe, your tears." Clare W [Joint Artistic Director]


Waiting in the Wings

‘The Wings’ is a charity home for retired actresses. Into the jealousies, point-scoring and memories of many decades comes Lotta, new reside...