Saturday 25 November 2017

Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Dario Fo's manic political farce has long been considered a classic of twentieth-century theatre, and for good reason. As Director Karl Harland says: “Are you worried that the world has descended into corruption, incompetence, and bad language? If so then the Sewell Barn’s next show, Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, will reassure you that you’re not wrong and it’s nothing new.

It’s 1969 or thereabouts and after gaining access to a Milan police station, the scene of the death of a suspect in a previous terrorist incident, our hero the Maniac sets to work digging up the truth that was buried by a nest of corrupt coppers. Add journalist Maria Feletti to the mix and it can only end one way. Or can it?"

Photography: Sean Owen of Reflective Arts

The positive reviews started arriving as soon as the first night was over, and we're very proud of the magnificent cast and crew who have brought their energy and skills to this show.

"Very impressed with the actors and performance. Icing on the cake was a set prop: a portrait of Mussolini with Donald Trump hair ... great to see such an amazing performance and the Italian songs were just awesome! Congratulations!!" Kiran G

"This show is a blast and I honestly thought I was going to explode with laughter. A madcap frantic evening which will entertain and delight! My face is still aching from all the laughs, and the cast were clearly loving every moment! Bravo!" Barnaby M

"Directors Karl Hartland and Clare Williamson preside over a successful farce, powered throughout by a hyperactively brilliant, rapidly paced central performance from Hattie Scopes as the Maniac, whose machine-gun delivery of Fo’s punishing lines comes with shattering speed and clarity..." Charlotte Valori [click here to read the full review]

"There’s nothing accidental about the laughs; this is a rude and spunky production of a modern classic." James Goffin, Eastern Daily Press [click here to read the full review]

"Well done Accidental Death of an Anarchist! Though I am utterly bias, I think Jessica Hutchings singing at the end was the most beautiful moment of the whole thing! Was a great show, you should all be very proud!" Megan R

"Really enjoyed it. Fantastic show." Frank S

"[I] was very impressed with the cast and direction. It was my first visit but you can be assured it won't be my last.{also an added mention to the voluntary staff who made my wife and I very welcome as did the wonderful cast afterwards.}" Eddie K

"Saw Accidental Death of an Anarchist yesterday eve. Loved the high energy & little touches like putting up a picture of Mussolini to show that the police rooms were different, even though the same set!" Jack S

"Well done to all involved in Accidental Death of an Anarchist... Fast paced and so funny... had a really great evening." Ruth H

"'Anarchist' was fantastic last night – I sometimes think I have (peaceful) anarchist tendencies!" Roy T

This characteristically inventive posting from Mark Mobbs deserves quoting in full:

The pace, energy and volume!
(Yes at times it is a bit shouty)
Of this production is breathtaking!
Characters don't form slowly,
They are there, and grab your
Attention instantly.
Real reactions to a crazy situation,
We are drawn into this Python-esk world,
The main mad 'man' is amazing and
has perfect Support from, an unwilling,
Crazy gang. Many funny and hysterical
Moments, the audience convulsed,
In agonised laughter.
The cast seemed to relish this punishing,
Rush of words, from profanity to songs,
All gathering to a big final..............!
No spoilers, watch and enjoy this
Energising, provocative production.

And our audience have congratulated the cast through the medium of the blackboard in the foyer:

Monday 16 October 2017

Lark Rise to Candleford

Flora Thompson's well-loved trilogy (Lark Rise, Over to Candleford and Candleford Green) were written during the years of WW2, reflecting largely autobiographically on Thompson's own life in late 19th century rural Oxfordshire. In the 1970s, Keith Dewhurst adapted the three books into two plays: charming, humorous, observant, poignant, and using traditional music to link wonderful vignettes of village life. They were originally staged in the National Theatre's Cottesloe space, using a promenade style. Finally, the books were adapted again for television in 2008.

It's a rare treat to have the chance to see both Lark Rise and Candleford performed together (each is a full-length play, standing on its own), not least because of the large cast required for each show (two dozen actors across the two plays), as well as four first-rate musicians. Robert Little and his cast have done a wonderful job, using our unique and intimate space with simple staging, a marvellous band and a tremendous family feel.

We were delighted by so many positive comments from our audiences, via email, social media and our audience survey.


"Very thought provoking and moving... Mrs Timms and the barrow boy deserve particular credit.  Well done!"

"Excellent.  Looking forward to tomorrow night's Candleford.  Enjoying the music."

"I have been coming to Sewell Barn for years but this is the most brilliant production I have ever seen there - and elsewhere.  Congratulations to ALL concerned" Elizabeth N

"Excellent, as always!"

"I came to Lark Rise and Candleford because I saw both at the National Theatre in London many years ago.  Your production does them credit." Carolyn A

"I loved it."

"A seamless string of vignettes, gently and accurately observed, and presented with sincerity and sympathy, humour and pathos." Cassie T [Joint Artistic Director]

" wonderful to see the theatre alive with music, drama and dance! Congratulations to Robert Little and his team for a marvellous evening's entertainment. Looking forward to Candleford next week!" Clare W [Joint Artistic Director]

"Last night was my first visit to Sewell Barn and I was very impressed both with the theatre itself and the production of Lark Rise which was excellent. My wife and I also have tickets for “Candleford” next Wednesday the 18th - very much looking forward to it." Mike H

Saturday 15 July 2017

A Chorus of Disapproval

Alan Ayckbourn's wonderful comedy rang true for anyone who's been a member of a club, society or group. As one of our reviewers said, "The performances are all honest and real" - every one of the fourteen actors presents a very recognisable personality...

Photography: Sean Owen of Reflective Arts
Here's what audiences said.

"Haven't laughed so much in ages, what a fantastic show, beautiful singing too, well done to everyone involved." Ruth H

"Had a great evening watching A Chorus of Disapproval at the Sewell Barn last night - lots of laughs, high production values and beautiful characterisation. Well done and thank you." Clare H

"Enjoyed it immensely. The cast seemed effortlessly (or should that be seamlessly?) meshed into a well tuned ensemble - the mark of good direction and casting coming together." Jack S

"There is an excellent production of Ayckbourn's A Chorus of Disapproval showing at the Sewell Barn at the moment. We saw it at last night's packed performance,and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a cracking, crackling show, intelligently directed by Cassie Tillett. Minimal settings that keep the action flowing seamlessly, and a staging that enables all characters to be seen and heard (something that has been sadly remiss at recent productions in another local theatre!).

The performances are all honest and real, and very funny. Mark Kitto drives the play with his energetic, slightly manic portrayal of Dafydd ap Llewellyn, with a nice touch of pathos at the end, and Nick Meir is very good as the hapless Guy Jones. They were all excellent, but I hope the director will forgive me for singling out Mandy Kiley as Enid. She was so real and warm, in what I suppose is a small part, if you use those terms, that I had to be restrained from leaping on stage and hugging her!

I confess to having an aversion to Alan Ayckbourn, which I think has developed from seeing so many bad amateur productions. I am so relieved to say that Cassie Tillett, and her excellent company have restored my faith. Well done, everyone." David W

"3 more days and 4 more chances to see 'A Chorus of Disapproval" at The Sewell Barn in Norwich. Make it a priority if you haven't been yet. Highly recommended!" Steve A

"Funny play. Lots of laugh out loud moments... Definitely worth a look if you have an evening free. A total bargain night out too." Marie C

"This is a great production of one of Sir Alan's finest comedies - characters are so well formed that much laughter and contrasting emotions sit well together - don't miss it!!! Well done everyone." John G

"Superb show! So much passion, energy and talent. And what surprising singing voices! And a round of applause for Jonathan Redding and the stage crew - such swift and precise settings! Well done Cassie and all! Do see it Sat! Last chance!" Robin S


And finally, a wonderfully detailed and appreciative review from our good friend Rob Fradley-Wilde:

"Last night was a real treat: one of Ayckbourn's most successful comedies given by fifteen most excellent performers. I say 'performers' because they sang and played as well as acted. Even those new to singing did a fine job, and should continue and develop their skill. The director Cassie Tillet certainly had an envious cast, but that in no way detracts from her accomplishment here: no dull spots, with clarity as well as good pace – the play's more-than-average length presented no difficulty for us.

New to me were David Vayne and Diane Webb, with small but well-realised parts. Selwyn Tillet brought his pianistic skill [only one and a half fluffed notes out of thirty-seven thousand, five hundred and forty-nine – not bad] – and behind the scenes I dare say his coaching methods will have made invaluable contribution to this show's success. Lovely flute playing by Jessica Hutchings took us nearer to the time of the 'play-within-a-play', as a delightful addition to her great and in this case vigorously-applied acting talent.

Then there were the four couples. Gill Tichborne, undeterred by breaking an arm in rehearsal, swanned around in her great style, an unlikely though perfectly feasible wife to the block of a stereotypical Yorkshireman pushed at us by Peter Wood, cleverly alternately boring then waking-up the audience as well as his co-characters. Mandy Kiley and Kevin Oelrichs just had us in stitches with their double-acts, but we felt deeply for their sufferings. Their daughter was seductively played by Fiona MacPherson, whose feisty war with Jessica Hutchings's character delighted us as much as her clear soprano. Quite different colours were applied by James Thomson, sinister and dangerous, and his sexually-manipulative wife so joyfully and ruthlessly [no pun intended] played by Ruth Bennett. And as though all this were not enough, Emma Kirkham and Mark Kitto showcased their deep theatrical skills [and capacity for sheer work!] in the complex characters of the director blinded to the state of his marriage by the stress of his obsessive need to create, and his repressed wife tormented by her own different needs for recognition and understanding.

And into this heady mix comes the self-effacing, unsure but honest Guy Jones, played with confidence, courage, and a very impressive empathy, by Nick Meir.

Lastly, Jonathan Redding left his stage-management desk for what must be his smallest-ever role – small maybe, but beautifully formed!

In short, a very talented ensemble who drew their characters and the complicated relationships between them with skill and charm and energy, moving from brisk and physical through humour to tenderness and poignancy. They made the drama easy to follow, thoroughly enjoyable, and kept our interest unflagging throughout.

Noting to fault – one would have to nit-pick about a slightly- mistimed start from one of the set changes, or, in the music, the odd note slightly awry, or breathing a little unskilful [though of course they were playing amateur singers!]; anyway, nothing of substance. The singers' [and accompanists'] sense of time and rhythm, and togetherness, was good. Indeed, the delivery of the memorable and lovely solos, duets, trios and choruses, from the original Beggar's Opera, ranged from more than adequate to, often, very fine. We were charmed by the musical element as much as by the drama.

So - love, spite, pathos, fights, sex, music, jealousy, sharp practice, and actors acting actors – what more could you want for a hugely enjoyable evening's entertainment? If you've not been, well, only Saturday's performances to go now, but this play, one of the Sewell Barn's best, will make rearranging your weekend very worth while."

Saturday 10 June 2017

Talking Heads

Alan Bennett is well known for his observant, hilarious, often painful creations. His Talking Heads monologues - two series, each of six characters, one male and five female - are widely acknowledged as being some of the finest solo works in the theatre.

While we were sad at the Sewell Barn to have had to cancel our planned June production due to casting difficulties and illness, we couldn't be more pleased with its replacement. Two of the Passion Play cast join director Judi Daykin to portray three very different women telling their stories.

Photography: Michael Stanislaw

In A Lady of Letters, lonely spinster Irene watches the world from behind net curtains, writing to complain about anything she sees. But when a couple across the road seem to be abusing their child, should she intervene?

Recently widowed Muriel faces a series of challenges and revelations after the sudden death of husband Ralph, not least from her two children. As the truth about the family is uncovered, will she manage to keep Soldiering On?

Lesley is a young aspiring actress, so she is not about to miss Her Big Chance when it comes along. But is the film she becomes involved in as good an opportunity as she thinks? Can she learn to water ski and play chess in time, or fit into the dress and bikini they need her to wear?

What our audiences said...

"Had a hugely enjoyable afternoon yesterday at Sewell Barn Theatre's, production of Alan Bennetts "Talking Heads." Wonderful tragi-comic performances, very innovative direction, loved the way the audience got to "dip in and out" of the three central characters stories before their final revelations!" Janice C

"Very enjoyable indeed, the 3 actors were very convincing as their characters ... brilliant thought provoking perfomances ... 10 out of 10 from me." Kathy S

"Saw this last week. Can't recommend it highly enough. It was brilliant." Morgan

"Thank you to the three excellent actresses who held our attention so well this evening, and thanks to the crew too." @NchCathVerger

"Great evening @sewellbarn , delightful dark undercurrents to Alan Bennett's Talking Heads, absorbing performance by engaging performers." Daren L

"An excellent evening... three very accomplished actresses... roars of laughter as well as gasps of surprise throughout." Barnaby M

"I am impressed by @sewellbarn #AlanBennett #TalkingHeads" Daniele F

"I pity the fool who doesn't go and see Talking Heads @sewellbarn before the run ends on Saturday." Karl H

"Went last night, with a friend, to see 'Talking Heads', and so glad that we gave up a beautiful evening to see a brilliant acted and staged set of monologues. It far exceeded my expectations, especially when I’d been to the Theatre Royal the previous evening... I enjoyed a master-class in finely delivered roles that relied so much on the words rather than plot per se." Jack S

"Saw this tonight at Sewell Barn. As [other have said] this is a real masterclass in acting. Superb! Please get a ticket and see this brilliant show. Well done Judi Daykin, we loved it," Laura M-J

"Saw a lovely production at the Sewell Barn last night. Alan Bennett's Talking Heads superbly and inventively directed by Judi Daykin was a delight. Splitting the action between the 3 monologues was inspired, and increased the anticipation of the outcome of the fate of the three very different women.
The acting was confident and extremely enjoyable to watch. Dawn Brindle, Hattie Scopes and Judi Daykin were all excellent. A very enjoyable, amusing and thought provoking evening. Thank you all." David W

"... we are privileged to witness three masterclasses in performance skill. The stagecraft is first-rate, the focus on character complete, and the integrity absolute. One might not like these people - they would in all three cases be dubious social company - but, my goodness, we believe in them, and feel for them and with them. And that, perhaps, is one of the greatest achievements - of Bennett's writing, Daykin's direction and of all three performances - to ensure that we care very much about what happens to people that we wouldn't necessarily want to share a room with." Cassie T [Joint Artistic Director]

"Wonderful set, costumes, sound, lighting and acting. Splitting the monologues up and interspersing them with each other worked brilliantly, I think better than having them as stand alone monologues if I'm honest! Three superb actors showcasing their talent :)" Emma K

"Congratulations to the cast and crew of Talking Heads for a wonderful show. Cross cutting between the monos was a brave directorial decision but it works absolutely, creating a thought provoking and cohesive piece of theatre. The audience were absorbed throughout as the three stories unfolded, beautifully conveyed by three actors who inhabited their characters with great control, precision and artistry. Go and enjoy for yourself!" Clare W [Joint Artistic Director]

NB: please excuse the (implied) strong language below, but anyone attending the play will understand why it was both relevant and funny!

Saturday 6 May 2017

Kissing Sid James

A disastrous follow-up to a disastrous first date: a weekend in rainy Blackpool. As director Angela Rowe put it, "If you have ever been single, if you have ever wanted everything to turn out alright, if you have wanted something better or you just want to see great theatre then come and see Kissing Sid James." This fabulous two-hander has been delighting audiences during the first week of performances; don't miss your chance during the second half of the run (Wed 10 to Sat 13 May).

"You MUST see this rather wonderful comedy/drama.
I know, I KNOW, you get so many people saying, YOU MUST SEE THIS! These are usually posted by friends or advertisers hidden behind the cloud of social medias masses, not me, er well...not this time anyway.
Two characters, just 2, away for a 'dirty weekend' grab our attention from the first few moments, then the laughter begins. These are people we know, perhaps even us sometimes, coping with life while searching for 'love' and fun. These characters are full of life and 'talk' much sometimes, as show hilariously in the brilliant bed sex scene. There are also moments of pure fun, and caring, anger, and incredible drunken stupidity.
This two actors are really amazing creating characters that zing with life and humanity, they use the dialogue, all those words, to brilliant effect making us laugh and love and sigh, but mostly laugh.
And with a superb single set that represents all the scenes so well, this play is a joy as soon as you walk into the theatre.
Take a break from the tedium of a Saturday afternoon, Or have a dose of delicious comedy on a Saturday evening, before you dive into the nocturnal night life of Norwich.
All live performance has something special to offer, and the best plays capture some of the magic that there should be in life. 
I think this one has a touch of that. 
Really don't miss." Mark M

"Last night I actually managed to get to see Kissing Sid James at Sewell Barn Theatre. Wow, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Great script, interesting characters, laughs and moments of poignancy. If you have this afternoon or evening free I urge you to go..." Rebecca W

"What a great play - laughed out loud lots! Stellar performances from Matt and Chloe ... Highly recommended ..." Jo M

"It was brilliant last night... haven't laughed so much for ages!!!" Jill F [Chair - Sewell Barn Committee]

"Another excellent evening at the Barn. A very funny and entertaining show which was led by two very accomplished and likeable performers. The pace never dropped. Bravo!" Barnaby M

"...that's one of the funniest, and most painful, portrayals of human relationships I have ever seen. On a beautifully created and painted set, the two actors moved us from belly-laughs to understanding and emotion as we came to comprehend their back-story and their lives. Two massive roles - especially Eddie - with almost no time off stage nor place to hide, handled with sheer professionalism and deep integrity, creating a scenario that was utterly believable." Cassie T [Joint Artistic Director]

"Kissing Sid James... excellent production. First class professional acting: incredibly believable characters. Well done to all." Reg W

"Matt Scantlebury is terrific as the outwardly effusive but inwardly crumpled Eddie, who somehow manages to persuade the differently broken Crystal (played with a heart-breaking, fading spark by Chloe Norris) to check in with him for the dirty weekend... This is a chillingly real and entertaining tale of the search for love, butting up against the reality of vices amongst the ices. Go see." James Goffin - Eastern Daily Press [click here for full review]

Wednesday 5 April 2017

The Kitchen Sink

With a functioning kitchen, a beautiful set and a cracking cast and crew, The Kitchen Sink is a gentle, reflective, poignant and very funny observation of the challenges of real life. Here are some comments from our audiences.

"Theatre is a lovely thing. I went along to the Sewell Barn tonight with absolutely no expectations.  I didn't know the play, didn't know the playwright, didn't know who was in it or who directed it, and I was treated to a little gem of a play, warm, witty, true to life, and so believably played by the cast. If I say it was small, this in no way derogatory, it was heartwarming and lovely. Well done everyone! Go and see it, you'll love it." David W

"You [Ruth, playing Kath] were amazing!!! I loved the play so much and you were the cornerstone of an amazing cast!!" Wendy A

"That was a very warm and intimate play, full of very sympathetic characters. A very reflective piece, enjoyed it very much." Barnaby M

"Go along and see The Kitchen Sink at the Sewell Barn! It's a well written gem of a play, with some lovely performances from the cast. Funny, poignant and sweet. Well done everyone! xx" Mandy K

"How do people really get what they want? And when what people want, and how they get it, also changes over time, what effect will this have on the companies that provide a particular service. What is the true nature of failure? What history and immediate provocation will cause one person to lash out causing floods of blood, and another person, of water? So many questions!

Yes there is a lot going on in this not dysfunctional family, and it has a real family feel to it because the cast inhabit the characters so well. We believe in the mum, keeping cheerful and trying to keep her husband and children the same, but even she may be pushed too far by some problem plumbing. Her husband, the milkman, supporting his family but not sure how to show his support in other ways. Perhaps he is the one who needs help? The son, daughter and her boy-friend have their plans but they will have to be changed to. Success, or failure, both demand a lot of work.

We expect the 'slightly' older members of the cast to be good and of course they are wonderful, but the 'youngsters' too were captivating, creating characters we could enjoy and emphasize with in their moments of embarrassment, simmering anger and confusion. They bring this family to life so well, giving us something to laugh, and think, about. With a realistic 'Kitchen Sink' set in a 'real' kitchen, and some very special FX, this show must be seen and experienced.

Yes there are many other 'pleasures' to be had on an April evening in Norwich but live theatre is special and should be relished as such. Enjoy." Mark M

"The Kitchen Sink is a demonstration of unique and individual strengths and weaknesses, and comments on how we approach challenges and change. Peter [Wood] has put together a solid cast for this production, who clearly establish the development of their respective characters with great realism. Reuben’s portrayal of the stoic and committed Martin complements Ruth’s range of emotions as the selfless, encouraging and sometimes impulsive Kath. Charlotte conveys the troubled Sophie as a ticking time bomb, as someone itching to articulate herself; whereas Will frustrates us as Billy, who the audience urge to stop overanalysing and follow his dreams. Nathan Mills is to be praised for expertly articulating meaning without words. His actualisation of Pete’s growing strengths through numerous hardships are heart-warming to witness.

The set has been exactingly designed with a clear duality, simultaneously drawing you in while also reminding you of the character’s conflicts of being little fish in a big pond. Complemented by naturalistic lighting, sensitive choice of music and precise incidental sounds, you feel right in the heart of their (almost) fully functioning kitchen.

I encourage you step into the home of this small family from Withernsea, and experience Peter Wood’s humorous, charming and touching portrayal of their hopes and dreams." Jessica H

"A splendid kitchen was presented to us on entry to the Barn theatre last week - yet another example of the high standard of set design enjoyed by patrons of the theatre. Thank you, Myles and team.

The play told the story of a working class family living near Hull, who are "just about managing"! The author, Tom Wells, grew up in the north east and made his debut as a playwright at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. He writes about the people of the country he knows well. He sympathetically articulates the hopes and dreams of the decent down to earth residents with both humour and poignancy.

As the stereotypical Yorkshire man,  Martin (Reuban Mackness) nicely pitched the phlegmatic father who is having a tough time with his milk round, especially with a decrepit milk float. His wife (Ruth Bennett) found both humour and pathos as she tried to motivate her family towards a less pedestrian life. Her efforts to widen and brighten her family’s horizons by introducing them to exotic cookery recipes did not succeed, but brought out our sympathy along with the laughter. The three young people were nicely played. They worked so well as an ensemble both physically and in their repartee. Sophie (Charlotte Ware) - typical of  a disillusioned teenager - delivered some subtly judged dialogue. Her brother (Will Sellgren) was a convincing young man with dreams of going to Art School, who made us feel for his agonies of indecision. Their friend Pete (Nathan Mills) made a realistic transformation from shy awkwardness to a young man who realises his ambition.

The actors really made us identify with this family in their trials and tribulations, and brought us some fine humorous moments. With a great sound track of music linking the scenes, we enjoyed a very entertaining evening. Congratulations  go to Peter Wood for his first production at the Barn, and all the backstage people who gave us such a good evening." June G

Saturday 18 February 2017

Timon of Athens

It's not unusual for a Shakespeare to be included in the season at the Sewell Barn. However, Timon of Athens is an unusual show and seldom seen in performance - so here's your chance! It plays 16-18 and then 22-25 February.

The cast works superbly as an ensemble in this modern setting, using mostly women and a great deal of multi-casting. It's challenging, absorbing and wholly relevant to a twenty-first century audience, as the reviews are telling us.

"Saw the opening night of Timon of Athens at the Sewell Barn yesterday - brilliant production of a play which should be performed much more often. Debt, bankcruptcy and being abandoned by your friends - a story for our times." Fiona D

"Just seen Timon of Athens @sewellbarn. Great show, well done, all!" Rosamund W

"Really enjoyed your performance last night of Timon of Athens. Excellent throughout. Don't know why this play doesn't get put on more." Dan F

"Thank you @sewellbarn for bringing so much joy and hard work to us all! You are all truly incredible! Looking forward to next show!" Chris H

"Timon of Athens, so much local talent... very impressed." Kayte R

"Once again, another excellent production from the Sewell Barn. A very striking and thoughtful production. A parable for our times, relevant and fresh. Thank you." Barnaby M

"I do love Shakespeare and usually read and study a bit before watching a performance. With this play I was busy and distracted so time rushed by. But it was so good to be surprised by Shakespeare, and this play draws you in and then the tale twists, sometimes even creating bursts of shocked laughter.

Timon just seems too nice, distributing his 'huge' wealth amongst his 'friends' with banquets and presents, without any thought for the costs, indeed ignoring the evidence. I wonder at his history that made him feel he has to buy these friendships. But of course if he ever was in trouble these same friends would certainly look after him, wouldn't they? Who would remain to offer help if he ever lost everything? And how would his outlook on life change if this ever happened?

Shakespeare's use of language is legendary for his insight into the human condition and also its sometime unintelligibility, but understanding was never a problem in this performance. With a brilliant, bland, simple but very effective set as the backdrop the characters are highlighted as they should be. The scenes, settings and physicality of the action told the tale, with the dialogue forcing home the message. This cast bring the play to life with engaging energy, creating very interesting and sometimes intense characters that we can believe in and feel for. Watch this play and wonder how you would behave if you had lost everything, or had the power to provide help and save someone from falling. Enjoy." Mark M

"So you take a play that’s over 400 years old that nobody ever does. You update it into a completely contemporary time-frame and play it on a bare stage dominated by a hostile grey abstract structure that transforms in your mind into a multitude of settings – interiors, city walls, a rocky wilderness. You cross-cast many of the characters so that you have 10 women and 2 men, most of them playing a whole range of small parts. In this body of actors some of them are vastly experienced, some are very new to theatre and one joined the team only a week before opening night. It’s either total madness or a total miracle. But this is the Sewell Barn Theatre, chaps – so what you get is the miracle….

Huge congratulations to director Rob Tiffen and his entire team after the launch of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens last night. And perhaps the most miraculous thing is that a play which is also totally dominated by its main character (an astonishing tour de force from Greg Lindsay-Smith as Timon) turns into a real ensemble piece, and through the commitment of the complex network of major and minor characters the unfamiliar story-line comes across with total clarity. One minute bitter, stark and harsh – the next, unexpected flashes of dry humour – and the whole? Well, according to most of the audience afterwards, tremendously satisfying and – much to their surprise, apparently – really enjoyable. No spoilers here, though – you’ll have to come and see it. And I mean, you *have* to come and see this. It’s not an easy night out but my God it’s rewarding. Thank you, guys!" Selwyn T [Secretary to Sewell Barn Committee]

Saturday 14 January 2017

There Came a Gypsy Riding

Photography: Sean Owen of
This beautiful play is quirky, challenging, full of light and shade, Irish superstition and humour, tears and reflection and hilarity. It was referred to by the cast and crew as 'the Irish play' as we'd hit so many challenges along the way: by the time the show went up, we were on our second directing team, our second Simon and our FOURTH Louise - all for very understandable reasons. Our set designer was taken ill with the final painting and set-dressing still to do. And the East Anglian snow set in on opening night. Yet this fabulous tale withstood those challenges, and continued to delight.

"What a wonderful way to kick off a new year - select a top-notch play by a master of the craft, equip it with a superb cast in sparkling form, give them a simple but beautifully imaginative and evocative setting, complete with sound effects - then sit back and enjoy! I know this simple recipe involves an enormous amount of hard work beforehand but the end result was a fitting addition to the SB canon and deserves to take its place amongst the top ten productions during my theatre-going at the Barn [c. 30+ years.] Please convey my congratulations to the whole team - let's hope the weather improves swiftly, along with the attendance figures." Stephen S

"That was worth the wait. A fine and very moving drama, wonderfully performed. I also really appreciated the lyrical nature of the piece and the beautiful set. Well done to all, I look forward to the next show x" Barnaby M

"We both enjoyed Gypsy very much. The second half in particular was very moving, especially the scenes between Mel and Reuben, but everyone gave engaging and sympathetic performances. The direction was unfussy which let the script and the performances breathe. You should both be very pleased with the results." John H

"Some stunningly beautiful performances from Rachel Godfrey-Bennett and Abbe Swain as well as Bridget, Simon and Dad (sorry I don't know your names). Incredibly moving and at the same time funny. Well done Sewell Barn, you've done it again!!!! X x x" Wendy A

"Just to say how impressed [we] were with your play last night, very enjoyable, Bridget & Louise superb, the accents were accurate... I have met women like Bridget long ago, the turn of phrase, humour and sorrow portrayed fabulous. Congratulations to everyone. All doing it for the love of their art. I am so pleased I went to see it." Kathy S

"What a wonderful evening at the theatre. A beautifully written play full of conflicted characters, and acted to perfection. I haven't seen a play in a long while that has me laughing out loud and then nearly in tears within seconds, before back to laughing! This was an emotional journey for both the characters and the audience but it's one well worth going on. Five more chances to see this and I'd strongly encourage anyone to go if they can. Well done to all involved." Emma K

"Went to see the incredible There Came a Gypsy Riding at the Sewell Barn Theatre tonight. Both of us were very moved. Great acting, beautiful set, fab script. 😊 Well done all." Moira H

"Saw it last night. ....fabulous. Heartbreaking and hilarious." Joanie G

"There are many difficult questions we face in this strange state we call living. Some are very long and complicated but have very short, not always easy, answers. Then there are those questions that strike to the heart and soul and have answers that could fill a lifetime, WHY!, is one of them.

"Here in Ireland a family gather in their seaside holiday home for a difficult anniversary. Even the most celebratory of family gatherings can have their problems can't they, and this isn't one of them. Tension builds as the characters struggle to deal with a troubled past. There are places that can't provide answers, perhaps sometimes it's better not to know?

"The cast carry a taste of Ireland to Norwich with 'colourful' language and accents, essential when producing a play based in a country famous for its use of language. Characters appear fully formed on stage, solid and ready to engage both the audience and each other. We are taken through all the range of emotions as the drama plays out its course. But we are given chances to laugh as well. With the usual wonderful, very effective set, to work with and good costume, the cast have a perfect place to create and they do brilliantly, but also they are making us think about the big questions. Appreciate this production, I certainly did. ;-)" Mark M

"Your production was truly splendid - funny, moving and poignant in equal measure. First-rate performances too." Peter W

"I experienced a fantastic range of emotions during the performance .. I was amused by Bridget, the dotty cousin, while feeling a degree of pity for her loneliness; I felt empathy for the family, having lost Eugene in tragic circumstances; I also was impatient with them as they were reluctant to let him go. The young ones really wanted to get on with their lives and I felt sorry for their plight. A simple set offered a lovely background, with cleverly interspersed sea and seagull sounds to add to the atmosphere. It was a well put together production and all the cast did it proud. Well done to all concerned. It is definitely one to see, so book up quickly. It runs tonight and Wednesday through to Saturday next week." Jill F [Chair - Sewell Barn Theatre]

"Congratulations to the There Came a Gypsy Riding team - lovely performances and direction - all the best with the rest of the run!" Luke O

"...see a poignant, charming and engaging production of "There Came a Gypsy Riding". Beautiful performances from all the cast including Abbe Swain and Rachel Godfrey-Bennett. You'll be glad you did!" Steve A

"Funny, sad, thought-provoking, and beautifully acted. Can't recommend this play enough." Sandra B