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]

Sunday 14 October 2018


The opening show of our 2018/19 season brings back the work of the splendid Moira Buffini (Dinner, played in April 2018), and the first half of the run has played to great acclaim.

This witty and intelligent Olivier-winning play imagines what may have happened in the weekly meetings between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher from 1979 to 1990. There were rumours that they did not see eye to eye, and this titanic struggle between two women of different backgrounds but of similar ages – both shaped by fathers they adored – is fascinating and moving. Major events of the period are explored, with two queens and two Thatchers disputing what occurred whilst two male actors multi-role a range of key players as varied as Ronald Reagan and Arthur Scargill to create a sharp satirical comedy.

Photography: Sean Owen of Reflective Arts

"Really enjoyed the matinee performance this afternoon. Huge well done to the cast for a fantastic play. The accents were brilliant!" Laura B

"Best play I've seen in a long time. Funny with a serious look at events of the past. Very clever use of the actors." via TripAdvisor

"...while the playwright’s inventiveness of structure and dialogue was very interesting and gave us much fun, and was greatly appreciated, I think most of them would agree that our main pleasure came from the excellence of the players. None should be singled out, because in each of them abide uncanny skills that tingled our spines with sudden recognitions and understandings. But to all of them, a very big ‘thank you’!" Rob F-W

"I’m so pleased I got tickets and started off my half term seeing this! Brilliant directing Clare! Poignant, nostalgic, sad and funny, great play performed fabulously. Well done all. x" Nadia A

"Congratulations on another very fine production which I enjoyed immensely last night. You have set the bar high again and the show will be a hard act to follow! The standard of acting was exemplary too. The play itself worked beautifully in the Barn's space. Good luck for the remainder of the run." Peter W

"Excellent play! Well worth seeking out a ticket for the remaining performances." Roger D

"Just got back from seeing it tonight. Fabulous, well done everyone. But worried I'll have nightmares after having to listen to that voice again..." Stewart T

"A very strong and entertaining show, some great vocal and characterization work. Great start to the new season!" Richard H

"I was born in 1981 so was quite unfamiliar with the play's events. However, an excellent cast galloped their way through Thatchers regime with humour and ease. A very interesting and slightly uncomfortable evening, but also very funny in places, well worth seeing." Barnaby M

"‘Handbagged’ is a brilliant show that deftly balances humour, satire, history and politics. Strong direction of a splendid cast brings conversations and narration to dramatic life that is by turns hilarious, absurd and sobering. Tinkety tonk, old fruit, and down with the Tories!" Vincent G

"Saw this show last night. Excellent performances all round. Thank you for a very entertaining evening." Tabi P

"Brilliant." Alan C

Saturday 14 July 2018


Our final production of the 2017/18 season was a scurrilous, hilarious, joyful delight.

Photography: Barry Parsons

Here are some of the audience reactions.

"I had the most fabulous evening last night at Tomfoolery, Sewell Barn Theatre. It has to be one of the most slick amateur productions I've ever seen - every line milked and polished to the utmost. I didn't stop grinning all night. Thanks Malcolm Robinson for making sure I got there and to Cassie, Selwyn, Angela and everyone else for ultimate sublimity." Clare H

"What a hugely enjoyable evening - Tomfoolery! Well done to everyone for such a slick, energetic and totally excellent presentation of Tom Lehrer's wildly funny work! Is there some way you can put it on again, perhaps at Christmas, as a one-off? It should be given another airing!" Frances M

"Just been to see Tomfoolery at Sewell Barn Theatre... two words... Bloody Brilliant!! Cassie, could you please say thank you & well done to ALL cast & crew from me please!" Adrian W

"This was fabulous. What a wonderful production and a fabulous cast. We all loved it." Jan H

"It really was a great show with a very talented cast. I enjoyed every minute!" Henry H

"‘Twas a fabulous show that all did love
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
‘Twas a fabulous show that all did love,
With a fine satirical shove!" Vincent G

"Had a wonderful evening at the theatre watching the fantastic Tomfoolery cast and crew in action! Congratulations all on a fantastic show." Emma K

"What a great show we saw last night. Your actors were full of energy and joy, the music and harmonies extremely good and it was FUN. The pianist wasn’t bad either!!! We loved it." Jane K

"Tomfoolery starts up again at the Barn tomorrow and I cannot recommend it enough. Saw it last week and was blown away by the comedy, musicality and story telling. Special shout out to the Dope Peddler song which was so well conceived it was hilarious! Not for the faint of heart, but certainly for those who find joy in satire and comedy in pushing the envelope! What joyous smut it was. Well done all!!!"  Megan R

"A witty, vibrant and hilarious show! Great performances from all the cast, superb direction and a brilliant entertainment all round!" Vincent G

"Songs were amazingly relevant to today’s issues! Many true laugh out loud moments! Cast were talented - amazing voices and comedic timing! A really great evening out in a wonderful setting!" Jemma L

"Glad we [booked], as my friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. She said it was so professional, and I chided: But they are a troupe of amateurs. You'd never know as was staged brilliantly with the timing of the old master himself, Tom Lehrer. Am sure he would have given it the thumbs up too!" Jack S

"Great evening @sewellbarn - #Tomfoolery is a great show with some great performances - if you’re looking for a fun night out this week do check out this show about #TomLehrer and try not to singalong - we failed on that bit!!" Sarah Y

[From our photographer after he'd seen two dress rehearsals]: " will truly love this musical presentation of "Tomfoolery" at the Sewell Barn this week and next. I highly recommend you see this. I've already seen it twice. Get your tickets now. Here's a few dress rehearsal photos wot I took. Get your bum on a seat, NOW!" Barry P

"I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of this celebration of the songs of the great Tom Lehrer on Monday evening, and can confirm that there's a treat in store for fans of his work. Many splendid renditions, including another show-stealing display from Gill Tichborne…" Trevor B

"If you want to laugh and have fun, if you want to see a [show] about a good American guy, go and see Tomfoolery at the Barn. It's full of Tom Lehrer's satirical songs which are just as relevant today. He's 90 now, I wonder what he thinks of this POTUS!" Etta G

"Brilliant show! Everyone was sooo good. Still chuckling now."  Becky K

"You could rightly say I'm biased when it comes to Sewell Barn Theatre shows, being one of two Artistic Directors there. You could also say I was blown away by our latest show, Tomfoolery, tonight and you would be right both times. The songs are marvellous, uncomfortable and, unfortunately, still prescient. Cassie Tillett's direction is slick and beautifully reinforces and enhances the meaning. And, of course, the musicianship and performance skills of the cast are second to none. What a wonderful way to end our second season! If you haven't booked your ticket yet, do so now! Congratulations to all!" Clare W [Joint Artistic Director]

"....fantastic first night audience enjoying a fantastic and highly professional performance... you can trust me, I was one of them..." Malcolm R


And from our good friend Rob Fradley-Wilde, who as always takes the trouble to treat us to a detailed, thoughtful appraisal of the performance:

"Satire nowadays seems largely to have had its teeth drawn: politician targets have learned to join in the laughter at the ‘joke’, and the subtle force-feeding of overwhelming distractions precludes any follow-up of serious thought, let alone remedial action. And it’s arguable that for most of its history it has been equally ineffective, until power structures began to be undermined by the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, and, like a tree’s roots, it found its way in to swell open the tiny first cracks. But its peak surely came in the nineteen fifties, sixties and seventies, and a taste of its power and sharpness in those times is currently on offer at the Sewell Barn.

This itself is a source of pleasure to those old enough to have been part of that general cultural revolution, but some of the young generation will be aware that many of the controversial issues on which Lehrer cast his wicked eye remain topical: pornography, racism, ecology, pollution, education, drugs, religion; and above all one is reminded very forcibly that the so-called most 'civilized’ nations still hold enough nuclear weaponry to destroy all life many times over.

But then - whatever one’s interest in that serious stuff - there’s the fun - the sheer fun! The strength (and paradoxically the weakness) of this type of critique is its humour, and there’s no shortage of that in these songs, and especially in the way they are presented to us here by the director, Cassie Tillett. The humour is usually dark, sometimes black - but always bang on the nail. Lehrer was a very intelligent man, and nothing if not articulate, and the lyrics are precise and of clever, often brilliant construction. (I want to mention so many favourites, but we’d be here all night!) His music also is tuneful and memorable and fitting dramatically to the theme, even when he parodies (to great effect with Gilbert and Sullivan, for instance).

Seven talented, skilful, and admirably sure people sing and act all this to bring the audience a thoroughly happy and perhaps thought-provoking evening. In no order of preference, the often very decorative Jessica Hutchings, Sarah Jenkins, Gillian Tichborne, and Angela Rowe, show off above the lower but strongly and enthusiastically-pitched David Whittle, Peter Wood, and Matt Scantlebury. I just wish I had what they have! And the hard-worked pianist and musical director Selwyn Tillet (- only one dropped note the whole evening, a C sharp, but it fell onto a D flat so it hardly mattered) must also be praised, not least for leaving the piano to Ms Hutchings and taking the stage for a most Coward-like demonstration of his own wide talent.

The sound and light and on-screen projection, costumes (it’s worth going just to see the seven gorgeous stoles (that Selwyn stole?)), stage management, properties, etc, all well done. The Barn’s acoustic is good, but can be a bit sharp for high notes when there’s a less than full audience (as when we went), but that’s incidental and any words we missed were because of that, no fault of the cast.

Do come and see this show. If you can’t go yourself, send your friends and neighbours. There are still seats for two performances tomorrow. It really is a splendid two hours’ entertainment."

Sunday 17 June 2018

A Month of Sundays

On the first Sunday of every month, John Cooper’s daughter and son-in-law come to see him. The visits are seldom a success. Cooper’s conversation tends towards jokes about ageing and senility, their talk revolves around their challenging journey. The grandson has stopped visiting.

Photography: Barry Parsons

This gentle, observant, hilarious, poignant play, from the pen of Bob Larbey (The Good Life, A Fine Romance) has been delighting audiences during the first few performances. Here are some very good reasons to come along and see for yourself.

Tickets are available from St George's Music Shop, in person or by phone, or online from Ticketsource. Click here for full details.

"One of the best plays I’ve ever seen. The writing, direction, storyline and acting terrific. I cried." James T

"Fantastic play!! Every element was stunning...acting, set, light and sound, the writing... flawless. Would heartily recommend!" Verity R

"Just been to see a Month of Sundays at Sewell Barn theatre. A brilliant show. A tour de force. Fantastic. Don’t miss it." Jane K

"It’s getting a bit boring, all this excellence from the Sewell Barn. Never anything to be cleverly critical about. Last night the same - a very good play worked by six top-class actors, who seemingly effortlessly kept us enthralled, laughing and sometimes crying, in a gentle but so-effective study of the poignancy of twentieth-century humanity’s handling of the inevitable, but never-prepared-for, descent from vigour and loss of riches, physical and mental. Human triumphs here are real and far more glorious than those of the 'newsworthy’ material world, and yet less appreciated than ever by most ages in today’s more youth-centred culture. This play can only help to keep us sensitive and generous in our fuller understanding of the true dimensions of life.

Mandy Kiley’s uncertainly-loved daughter, Chritopher Whitley’s well-meaning struggling son-in-law, and the two members of staff, played by Ruby Barrett and Janet Clay, gave us a full play’s-worth of properly-paced fascinating human emotion; yet, as well as this we were swept along from the beginning in the absolutely sure and talented hands of David White, as the bright-minded trenchant Cooper, courageous in the face of his own fears, memories, and resignations, and startled into pathos by Ralph Yarrow’s keenly-felt developing self-awarenesses. Some wonderful relationships throughout, and portrayals of kindliness and helping human spirit at its best.

I used the word “effortlessly” - of course it’s not. High praise, not so much for the undoubted talent, but for for the work, and the skill, of actors and director, developing these splendid onstage empathies in whose warmth we basked; and thanks as always to the multitude of unseen workers making it all possible." Rob F-W

"Just wow. That was beautiful and heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. Well done all involved in A Month of Sundays." Megan R

"Saw 'A Month of Sundays' on the first night. It was humorous, poignant, sad, and like many Sewell Barn productions, keeps you in discussion for several days later. Great direction from Mel Sessions, and all of the cast were equally brilliant. A great evening's entertainment." MC

"A Month of Sundays was full of humanity and beautifully executed by a stunning cast. Totally believable, wonderful relationships between the characters, very funny and moving. I’m sure the large group I attended with will echo this as well. Well done to all!" Barnaby M

"Absolutely loved it, every single character and direction." Paula M

"I went to the opening night of A Month of Sundays and highly recommend that you do the same! As a commentary on the human condition, Bob Larbey's insights into the experience of growing old are beautifully conveyed by a very strong cast. The dialogue is witty and the audience laughs in recognition and then, in a sharp twist of mood is left silent, also in recognition. Mel Sessions has directed the piece with brilliant attention to detail and the set reflects perfectly the arid nature of a care home. The play consists of a series of scenes whereby John Cooper, a long term resident, encounters his regular visitors: a nurse, a cleaner, his best friend and his daughter and her husband. In each scene, small talk is the order of the day but through this emerges truth and love and sadness. Cooper's wit is, as he says himself, "mordant", he is irascible and stubborn but David White, in a wonderfully impressive performance (he is on stage throughout) shows us the vulnerability and determination of the man. Ruby Barrett as Nurse Wilson plays the role with a sweetness and lightness of touch and this contrasts very effectively with Janet Clay's Mrs Baker, the rough and ready cleaner - it is clear, in their very different ways, that both women have a soft spot for Cooper. Mandy Kiley and Christopher Whitley make a marvellous daughter and son in law and there is great humour in both their scenes as they bemoan the traffic jams of the A5. At the same time, it is clear to see the underlying pain and awkwardness in the relationship between father and daughter. Finally, we have Ralph Yarrow as Aylott, Cooper's fellow member of the "escape committee". The sense of the two of them battling against the system and their own physical and mental deterioration is communicated with great humour and warmth. Congratulations to all the cast and crew for another addition to a fantastic Sewell Barn season!" Clare W [Joint Artistic Director]

"So very happy to have seen the splendid A Month of Sundays last night. Bob Larbey's writing is gentle, observant, poignant and often hilarious; the setting is beautifully and accurately created; the direction sensitive, intelligent and effective. The six actors present creations full of integrity and truth. Every single actor inhabits their role completely and with affection; the result is that we truly care about each one of them, whether we meet them for a few minutes or the entire play. The whole ensemble is deserving of enormous praise; but David White's performance as Cooper (a mammoth role of Lear proportions) is a masterclass in timing, stagecraft and beautiful character work. This is high-class theatre on every level. Thank you to Mel Sessions and her team for bringing Cooper's little world to life, and for making us laugh and cry in equal measure." Cassie T [Joint Artistic Director]

Sunday 13 May 2018

New season 2018-19

Full details will be posted on our website very soon, together with audition notes, but in the meantime, here is a brief precis of the 2018-19 season at the Sewell Barn.

11-20 October 2018
Handbagged by Moira Buffini
Dir: Clare Williamson

22 November-01 December 2018
Not About Heroes by Stephen MacDonald
Dir: Rob Tiffen

10-19 January 2019
These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich
Dir: Jess Hutchings

21 February-02 March 2019
Confusions by Alan Ayckbourn
Dir: Angela Rowe

28 March 2019-06 April 2019
Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
Dir: Chris Bealey

02-11 May 2019
The Children by Lucy Kirkwood
Dir: Peter Wood

06-15 June 2019
Yerma by Federico Garcia Lorca
Dir: Phillip Rowe

11-20 July 2019
Waiting in the Wings by Noel Coward
Dir: Cassie Tillett

In addition, we are delighted to host two special evenings 'for one night only':

25 October 2018
Broad Horizons Theatre Company presents
Rebellious Sisterhood - Votes for Women

9 March 2019
Paddle Fast presents
Music at the Barn

We hope you agree that it's an exciting and varied season, encompassing the familiar and the unknown, the merry and the tragic, the classical and the contemporary, casts large and small, and with performing opportunities for a very wide age range.

If you would like to volunteer to support the theatre in any way - backstage, front of house, stage design and construction, technical, costumes, rehearsal prompts or administration - please do contact us on admin@sewellbarnorg.

#supportlocaltheatre #norwich #theatre

Friday 11 May 2018

Romeo and Juliet

As the director of this show, Carole Lovett, has said in our programme: "It has been estimated that at any moment of any day somewhere on our planet a performance of will be taking place. This popularity and the seeming familiarity that everyone has with the characters and the plot is a two-edged sword. On the one hand it evokes a very positive response from the general public, but on the other hand, how does any new interpretation keep the story fresh and new?"

Photography: Barry Parsons
Our production sets the iconic tragedy in the present day. Lord Capulet and Lady Montague are rival political candidates. The weapons are not swords but fists and knives. And (as Carole goes on to say), "The tragedy of the human existence is not dependant on historical context and we all have a lot to learn from Shakespeare's study of how precious and fragile are the younger members of our society and of how they should never be ignored or taken for granted. We should always listen and we should always care."

We are particularly proud of this show, with sixteen actors of a wide variety of age and experience, including several very young and highly talented performers. From the very first night we have received some wonderful reviews - do come and see for yourself.


"Last night I made a late decision to go and see Romeo and Juliet at the Sewell Barn Theatre and I am mighty glad I did. It is such a well known story with so many versions of it around that it was an absolute pleasure to watch a production that felt so fresh and had such energy in it. I certainly don't remember laughing so much during a performance of this piece before but the cast have clearly worked hard on getting to know and understand the script and have found real humour in places. That isn't to say the show is played for laughs, far from it, it is well balanced and still packs a hefty punch. The stage was used to full effect including a twist on the classic balcony scene. A strong ensemble cast with particularly memorable performances from Mercutio, the Nurse and the Sister, but the stars of the night were young Juliet and Romeo with such well portrayed characters that you really believed in, cared for and were heart broken for. Well done to all involved! Go see this show, people..." Matt S

"It was totally amazing... I now know the story of Romeo and Juliet as I didn't til I went to the Sewell Barn... A brilliant performance all round but especially from Juliet... I've never seen so much passion go into a performance." Elaine P

"What a fantastic production of Romeo and Juliet this evening - both Jo and I thoroughly enjoyed the play, it was absolutely brilliant and had so much unexpected humour, I hope you heard my laughter. Please tell all of the cast how much I enjoyed the production and I thought the standard of acting was ‘first class’ - well done to everyone." Sonya B-M

"It was FANTASTIC!!! And I’m honestly not just saying, but I think that’s the best production of Romeo and Juliet I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen it with the RSC twice." Hana H

"Fantastic! Absolutely enthralling from start to finish with an exceptional cast!" Rachel M

"I had the loveliest evening. ‘Romeo & Juliet’ at the Sewell Barn was a lively, thrilling, ingenious and superb production..." Vincent G

"Just wanted to say how much we enjoyed the performance last night! Everyone was brilliant -- how you can all memorise that much Shakespeare I never know! I struggle learning my lines for an Ayckbourn, and there is no room for paraphrasing in Shakespeare! The students were all captivated. It is no mean feat to keep 50 Year 9s and 10s quiet, even a relatively civilised bunch like ours! Everyone I've spoken to today loved it. We will keep our eyes on your programme for future events." Melissa C - Cromer Academy

"Saw Romeo and Juliet last night and is by far my favourite production I’ve seen. Fantastic actors and great atmosphere. Brilliant evening!" Alexandra C

"Romeo and Juliet were amazing... and Mercutio. They stood out for me, Rebecca was delightful and gorgeous as Juliet as were the two young men. They really understood what they were saying which helped the audience. Loved the nurse too. Well done to all the cast and crew." Ruth H

"Congratulations to the cast and crew of Romeo and Juliet at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Well worth catching one of the final three performances if you can! A totally engrossing production, great teamwork and outstanding individual performances." Clare H

"Massive massive congrats to the team of Romeo and Juliet at Sewell Barn. Laughing one minute and crying the next.... Greg 's particular scene left me in complete tears clutching Megan-Alice' s hand hoping what we knew would happen wouldn't happen! And Romeo and Juliet, Charlie and Rebekah, the two of you were cute and so perfectly cast, again crying at the fate of your characters because you just want it to work out so much. Wonderfully judged performances, perfect understanding of the language and the characters making them entirely relatable and lovable in a modern setting. It was lovely to see a production that embraces the different nuances of the writing, bringing out the comedy and the tragedy of a beautiful piece of work giving it new life. Go and see it whilst you can!" Sabrina P

"Went to see Romeo and Juluet at the Sewell Barn tonight. Now I know I'm somewhat biased being Artistic director, and my fellow AD is in the show, but I've also seen a good few R &Js in my time and I can say in all honesty that this modern interpretation was one of the most believable and absorbing productions of this iconic play that I've ever seen.

Rebecca Oelrichs as Juliet set the tone perfectly, conveying the capriciousness and impetuosity of a 14 year old through totally truthful vocal and movement work and the balcony scene with Romeo above and Juliet below is a joy to behold.

Comedy is not always a word associated with R & J but it was beautifully conveyed by the ensemble in the first half, again through body language, tone and facial expression - showing evidence of great attention to detail throughout the rehearsal process. The fight scenes were powerful and painful, evoking the stark reality of death by knifings that is so common on the streets of London right now. Mercutio (played by Greg Arundell) was another highlight as we mourned his death after witnessing the energy and dynamism of his life.

But what made this production for me was the quality of the whole ensemble - from the actors to the backstage team, set designer and wardrobe all coming together to create an absorbing and powerful drama even though we all know the outcome. There are still seven performances so go and see this marvellous show!" Clare W [Joint Artistic Director]

"Romeo and Juliet last night was really rather wonderful. I don’t normally enjoy modern interpretations as I think they can get bogged down in trying to make the work fit the setting. But well done to all involved as this production certainly didn’t fall into that trap, the modern political themes, the condensing of roles and the modern costumes and really worked marvellously well. All performances were solid, with some people warming up into their roles (it was opening night after all!) but the 3 stand outs of the night truly were Rebekah Oelrichs, Greg Arundell and Charlie Skinner. Their vibrance, youthful dramatics and well thought through characterisation was really quite something to watch. Greg’s death scene really moved me, and in such a well known and over done monologue, that is no small thing!! The inclusion of knife crime elements really made this scene so much more harrowing and really pinned together the over arching theme of the folly of youth. The balcony scene. I mean. Beautifully directed and the PERFORMANCES it was such a rare treat to see subtle performances of such a delicate scene. They both really nailed this scene and it was magical having them on either side of the theatre with all that space between them. Such a wonderful tableaux." Megan R

"It happens to us all, if we are lucky, something about that face in the crowd grabs our attention and for a few moments the world stops. Dare we ‘risk all’ for a chance to get next to this vision?
For most of us all we really risk is the embarrassment and dejection of rejection, but that is enough to halt our amorous intentions. But when you are young and primed with passion and desire, even dare I say it ‘Love’, nothing is going to stop you, even the threat of Death.
But Fate plays dirty with this teenage couple, prompting from a friend brings them together, others support, encourage, this union hoping that it could even start to heal the tribal warfare between these families, like that’s going to happen!
But as we know this play so well, we don’t need the tragic denouement from the chorus, and the continuing portents of doom from the characters, Death stalks this play, and we know it too well.
Well! So why do we watch it?
Obviously, it’s in hope for a little bit of magic, a spark of chemistry between this iconic pair, and we are, very wonderfully, not disappointed. The couple together really do crackle.
Even separately these young actors show a grasp and familiarity with this sometimes archaic dialogue that is breath-taking. Showing such nuances of gesture and tone of voice that it seems the dialogue emerges from spontaneous thoughts, so we can understand the action in both the physicality and the language. This shows with the young men, Romeo bantering, and playful struggling with his friends, and, less playfully, enemies. They all make it look so easy, the language flows and action matching.
Juliet too shines, whether it’s in exasperated conversation with her nurse, or when no longer confined to her balcony she charges about the stage, swept up in the power of sudden love, William’s wonderful words are given even more power by her mastery of them. Romeo watches, appreciating this vision, no longer smitten by another, promising everything.
All the cast rises to the challenge of Shakespeare’s language making all the characters a delight to watch. Supporting and challenging the characters, the cast work wonderfully together, a super team effort, the ease belying the amount of effort involved to produce such a super production. 
There’s lots of love and romance, some fun and laughter, tragedy and tears, as well as vicious fighting and slaughter. What more could you want from a special evening at the theatre?

Enjoy."Mark M

Friday 6 April 2018


Dinner parties can delight and entertain; they can also cruelly humiliate and end in tears. Moira Buffini’s deliciously bad-taste comedy Dinner does both, mixing familiar and unfamiliar ingredients to create startlingly original drama - exploring the frustrated lives of the rich and apparently successful, whilst creating recipes that are “definitely not the kind of thing you find in Delia Smith”. On a night of thick fog, the fabulously elegant Paige is throwing a celebratory dinner in honour of her husband, Lars, and his best-selling pop psychology book ‘Beyond Belief’. She has been preparing the menu for months: ‘Primordial Soup’, ‘Apocalypse of Lobster’ and for dessert ‘Frozen Waste’. She’s even employed a professional waiter especially for the occasion…

Photographs: Sean Owen of Reflective Arts
The reviews of this cracking black comedy started to arrive as soon as the bows had been taken after the first performance. This show contains strong language and adult themes, and is not for the faint-hearted; but if you like your theatre to be thought-provoking, hilarious, shocking and surprising, this was clearly an evening not to be missed. We would add that there was one gentleman in the audience on the final night who was making his FIFTH visit to the show, he enjoyed it so much...

"I've just been to see the production of Dinner at Sewell Barn. An excellent evening of theatre. The cast were superb playing the roles in a very understated manner and it genuinely felt like you were attending a dinner party with them. The tension simmered throughout without it ever feeling over done and the peaks of anger and venom were excellently judged, again without being too much. The comedy landed where it needed to and it never detracted from the drama. As someone who is involved in a small community run theatre, please keep supporting the fine artistic work going on at Sewell. I'm looking forward to my next visit!" Colin B

"Thought provoking and blackly comic. The whole cast were superb." Becky B

"Seeing 'Dinner' was an absolute treat! The expert acting and high tension of the script were incredibly absorbing, which made the ending even more impactful. I loved it!" Elle G

"A whole string of fine performances from a stellar cast in this one. Well done, all!" Trevor B

"Stupendous performance -- and I do not say that lightly. Congratulations to all concerned." Janet H

"Best production I've seen at Sewell Barn, and I saw it on opening night. Sat with the proud parents of the play's director, and told them that they had every reason to celebrate the achievement made by their daughter, and all the cast & crew that went to make this play so successful & enjoyable! A pitch-perfect dark comedy with a great ending to boot!" Jack S

"I have just got home exhausted after the opening night of Dinner. Horror and hilarity combined to give us a gruesome feast of an evening, which made us laugh and wince, sometimes simultaneously. First rate performances all round, razor sharp direction and a great script made a fantastic evening. I would like to come back for a second helping..." Barnaby M

"Dinner is one of the best plays I have ever seen. And I've seen rather a lot . . . Go and See It if you possibly can." Golda C

"We are well prepared for the tone of tonight's production, as we enter the theatre/stage we are greeted by a dark sombre set, and hanging over the dining table a chandler of knives, very subtle. Then the fun begins, as the wonderful hostess joylessly rips into her special guests. No undercurrents of tension, the emotional turmoil is on the surface. Threats linger in the air, words, even food, which may be alive but is dying to feed them. Perhaps death is waiting here, but for who? Pressure, disbelief, shock and anger plus the wonderful relief of painful humour. Laughter and comments greet stinging events, even profanity, is funny, if targeted correctly. Add rivers of drink, crazy food, fitting costumes, and all is ready for your gourmet evening. Don't miss, relish this very bittersweet comedy. :-)" Mark M

"This is a terrific night out - riveting performances and a script that's hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time. Heartfelt thanks to all involved." Jennifer S

"Congratulations to [Jen Dewsbury] and all the team from both of us!  I think it's the best production that the Barn has done this season, with others previously setting very high standards." Phillip W

"Well done Ginny Porteous, John Holden, James Thomson, Sabrina Poole, Jen Dewsbury and all the rest of the cast and crew. What a great show and a fantastic twist at the end. Don't miss it!!!"Ruth H

"Tastes vary and may it ever be thus but if you’re partial to indulging strange appetites then you could do a lot worse than attending Sewell Barn’s current production of Dinner, written by Moira Buffini and directed by Jen Dewsbury.

Equal portions of dysfunction and artifice will be served at a middle class soiree that’s anything but middle of the road. The hosts and their guests are supposed paragons of intellectual and economic success but all of them exhibit deep inabilities to live up to basic cultural norms despite consciously placing themselves as opinion-formers, zeitgeist surfers, or keepers of state secrets.

Paige, who lacks any form of real purpose, has convened the evening to ‘celebrate’ her husband Lars’s new book, a monstrous misreading of Nietzchean thought wrapped up as advice literature. His undergraduate sweetheart, Wynne, is a conceptual artist who arrives fresh from the failure of her relationship with an MP called Bob and appears to latch onto Lars as her new concept. Hal and Siân are newlyweds for whom the honeymoon is definitely over. Their careers, ages, and outlooks are painfully mismatched and they find themselves trapped between past horrors and future consequences. Bob’s place at the table is taken by Mike, a van driver who was unknown to the party until an accident in the fog outside the house forces him to ask for help. Mike’s presence and ability to slice through the façade has a precipitating effect on the tensions that are simmering around the table. The cast is completed by The Waiter, an unnerving character who serves Paige’s perverted culinary creations as well as the true objective of the evening.

This ensemble cast features some of Norwich’s brightest stage talent. With no slack whatsoever they play with language (often proudly rude), class, and their disgusting food. Strong affect, even olfactory if you sniff hard enough, is at the top of the menu with Dinner. If all this sounds grim then be assured that it is and deliberately so, but the audience on the opening night was rolling with laughter as often as they were gasping with surprise or struck dumb by the evening’s events. Be sure to book your own place at the table before April 14th." Karl H

"...this was a stunning drama, with the most excellent acting.

Ginny Porteous [Paige] can create for us the most damaged of psyches imaginable, yet maintain our sympathy and love. A consummate actress, indeed. Harriet Waterhouse [Wynne] is another who makes perfect acting look easy. Sabrina Poole as Siân had less to do but admirably found extra layers. Trevor Markworth's role was that of arguably the real monster, Lars, and his unfussy approach was perfect for that, almost exuding a chill at times, while James Thomson made Hal into an unhappy and yet effective foil for his unsound philosophy, and a much-needed humaniser in general. Will Haragan confidently brought in common sense and assurance in the person of Mike, and John Holden completed the ensemble with the very effective ominous strangeness of the waiter.

Beautifully paced throughout, and the sharp bits of rapid action slick and natural... So - what a treat: seven experienced players, strong, confident, fluent, and flawless, in a very strong drama [with more laughs than I'd expected], in the middle of an enthralled, sometimes shocked, but always genuinely happy audience. I'm not letting you know any more about it - the excellence of the Sewell Barn should be enough – but there are four more performances, so do go. It's highly recommended!" Rob F-W

Sunday 25 February 2018

The Killing of Sister George

Frank Marcus' iconic 1964 play is a wonderful combination of broad comedy, deep pathos, vicious relationship manipulation and pastiche.

Four highly skilled performers create the world in the flat of June Buckridge, who plays the beloved Sister George in the radio soap Applehurst (a thinly-disguised reflection of The Archers). Ironically, at the time of writing (25th February) the latter show has just dramatically killed off a much-loved character - a case of art imitating art?!

Photography: Barry Parsons
We have been delighted with audience reactions to the first three performances; do come and see what it's all about as it continues between 28 February and 3 March.

"[We] would just like to say how much we enjoyed the production last night. The performances were exemplary in a play that was beautifully paced and subtly nuanced and I, for one, was left wondering why there hasn't been a professional revival in recent times. It would be difficult to single out one actor for especial praise but I thought Gill's performance was the finest of all the plays I've seen her in. Those audience members who braved the cold last night were clearly delighted by what they saw." Peter W

"I was at last night's performance... and HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! [Five stars]" Eve P

"An excellent production from Clare Williamson, seamless direction, flawlessly paced, very enjoyable, with a tour de force from Gillian Tichborne as the eponymous George. A thoroughly nasty bullying creature, yet Gilly showed us moments of vulnerability and occasional tenderness, a well rounded performance.
I love Mandy Kiley, so this appraisal is biased. She was brilliant. Showing a saccharine sweetness disguising a steely predatory cunning. Excellent!
An accomplished debut performance from Sophie Blythe. She resisted overtly showing us her self interest, but it was there alright.
A very funny and mature performance from Joy Davidson completed a quartet of very polished performances.
Good set too, and I loved the Archers parody of music interspersing scenes and act.
Bravo to you all." David W

"We are sadly now well prepared for abusive relationships the gender, and sexuality, of the protagonists irrelevant to the ongoing need for total control of the victim. And when the abuser loses control of her working life she becomes even more desperate and cruel in her relationships.
BUT Wait! This play isn't hard going and 'heavy' it's crammed with passion and laughter and fierce energy that streams from George, who seems to only just control it at times. This play has a historical feel, but the sensitive cast have made these characters so real, you care for them all, following their ups and downs, even the outrageous George. It is really captivating to watch. The cast as we expect are perfect in their portrayal of these characters, and it is lovely to watch their expertise and experience, especially when the title character, and actress, could easily overwhelm the stage, but instead she, of course, gives space for the others to play, this is what acting is about, re-acting to each other. It really was a pleasure to watch, a master class, as has already been mentioned.

It's not often 'Whoops!' of enjoyment accompany the sustained applause in the Barn, but it happened this night and was well deserved. Really don't miss....." Mark M

Friday 12 January 2018

Blood and Ice

It's 200 years ago this month (January 2018) that Mary Shelley's iconic novel was published, and we're delighted to be celebrating this milestone with Liz Lochhead's dark, powerful play about Mary and her world.

Photography: Sean Owen of Reflective Arts
We were especially pleased to be given a double-page spread of advance publicity in the Eastern Daily Press about the show, and you can read the online version here.

The show has been greeted with great enthusiasm, and here are some of the reviews...

"Went to see Blood & Ice at Sewell Barn last night (17th Jan) and it was fantastic. Such a strong show, actors were excellent, particularly the young lady who played Mary Shelley. She had so many lines and delivered them incredibly well. I thought it a very credible performance. Well done." Dawn T

"... tension is brilliantly maintained throughout, with the whole space of the theatre used for action above, below and around us..." Charlotte Valori (click here to read the whole review)

"I didn’t know what to expect as I didn’t know the play. It was brilliantly performed, the effects were excellent and scary at times. I was on the edge of my seat! A play that combined an element of horror with a moving story line. Not to be missed. Congratulations all round." Jill F [Chair - Sewell Barn Committee]

"Went to see Blood & Ice last night. What a pleasure it was! A fascinating study of Mary Shelley and the creation of Frankenstein. Strong direction, clear communication and a very effective set all enhanced the experience. I'm happy to say that my Norwegian sister in law followed every word! We'll done to all involved for a fantastic evening out. Lots of food for thought and isn't that what the best theatre should be about?" Clare W [Joint Artistic Director]

"Very atmospheric with some great set pieces... visually stunning." Barnaby M

"Very thought provoking play. Some very good performances and wonderful direction. Costumes were excellent too." David W

"A night of dark interest as we went to see Blood and Ice The life and sometimes frightful times of #frankenstein author Mary Shelley Directed by our beautiful and talented friend (gents she's single;)) @sabz_101 this being my first visit to a theatre. It was a real treat and kept me gripped from start to finish." Carl S

"Blood and Ice. Sewell Barn Theatre. Fantastic play, wonderful acting, inspired directing. A thrill to watch!" James T

"Tightly directed, beautifully characterised and well focused." Cassie T [Joint Artistic Director]

Book at St George's Music Shop (by phone or in person), or online; visit our booking page for details.