Friday 3 March 2023

Still Life & Red Peppers

Alec and Laura are the epitome of middle-class respectability; they find themselves falling into a passionate liaison that is quite beyond their experience or control. Husband and wife George and Lily Pepper have been making a living of sorts ‘on the halls’ for fifteen years, performing the act that was originated by George’s parents and grandparents – and the cracks are beginning to show.

We are delighted to present two of Noel Coward’s cycle of nine short plays, Tonight at 8.30, which first entranced audiences in the 1930s. (Still Life is best known through its adaptation as the 1945 film Brief Encounter). Their sharply observed characters and situations still resonate nearly ninety years later; the challenges of life in the professional theatre, and the timeless pain of an unsought, potentially destructive amour fou, remain as relevant as ever.

Photography: Barry Parsons

"...[Still Life] Jonathan and Kiera give a touching, warm and very credible account of the affair and its brutal conclusion, while the other eight cast members give a gently humorous context to their dialogue. Jan Farrar’s Myrtle is the key figure in this. We see her as first a battle-axe and apparent misanthrope but she settles into a rather charming routine walking out with Albert... [Red Peppers] Portraying actors being a bit rubbish is a hard thing to do deliberately, as opposed to just being a bit rubbish as an actor. I am pleased to say that Andy and Dawn get it right, giving us a laughably grumpy pair of monsters who are getting fed up with their routine and with each other... Overall a well balanced and nicely presented pair of short dramas that remind us why Noël Coward was, and still is, one of the most popular writers for the English stage." Julian Swainson - Norwich Eye (click here for full review)

"A wonderful performance tonight. Nostalgia and times gone by, so good to watch." Andrew

"I continue to be so impressed with the talent in our midst! I doff my hat to the actors playing George and Lily in particular - the comedy, verve, pace and timing were great, and whilst Red Peppers might be a comedy, it gave me a rather wistful insight into a now almost forgotten age, when the musical and theatre halls were our shared entertainment space - before cinema, tv and the internet left us strangely separated." Pip

"Two very different plays, different emotions, different settings and you did them both on the same night! Courageous! We much enjoyed the evening ... Sitting more central would have been more immersive but what a cast and full team you corralled! You must be very pleased.  Around 12 people from the village here attended last night and are now talking about the next one! The station cafe set was brilliant and much admiration for the SMs who managed all those set changes at the Music Hall. Another tour de force! Proud indeed!" Shelagh & Alan

"Congratulations to the cast and crew of "Still Life/Red Peppers" for a superb opening night! Delightful performances from everyone involved! Camp, musical, and at times just plain SAUCY!!! Best of luck for the rest of the run! Your upcoming audiences are in for a treat!" Lola

"Our tribe [of four teenage grandchildren] enjoyed their first live theatre play.  They were entirely engaged and Abi (14) particularly was totally enthralled. A successful intro to live theatre, thank you." Jill

"Both pieces are well performed but for me Red Peppers is the one that has best survived the nearly 90 years since being written, with its music hall humour and theme of faded glamour just as relatable today." James Goffin, Cultivated (click here for full review)

"Well done Cassie and team for producing such a heartwarming show (despite having to battle against the lack of heat during rehearsals). We saw some wonderful characters in both plays recreating a bygone era of repressed love, railway stations and the struggles of life on the stage. A super ensemble coming together to grace the stage of the Sewell Barn Theatre!" Clare Williamson [Joint Artistic Director, Sewell Barn]

"Really enjoyed The Master's double bill last night. Such a joy to see Red Peppers performed live after having read it so many times! There is a very cheesy Joan Collins version I've seen, and I have to say, Dawn trumped her!" Steve

"Andy Lofthouse and Dawn Brindle as George and Lily were clearly having a whale of a time with the rich material, which allowed them to show off their skills as comic performers. They had the audience in the palms of their hands throughout, whether bickering with each other, the pompous theatre manager, or the apparently sozzled conductor. It was a much more joyous, effervescent play, and the perfect way to conclude this slightly divergent double-bill." Ray Tempesta, East Anglian Theatre Podcast [click here for full review]