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SIMON SAYS

Stephen Fenerty takes a look at the author of SUP’s upcoming LONDON SUITE: a bona fide comedy legend

Neil Simon – acclaimed author of LONDON SUITE – wrote more than 30 plays and almost the same number of movie screenplays in his lifetime. He received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer.

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Neil Simon in 1974

In one theatrical season alone, Simon had four successful plays running on Broadway at the same time. In 1983, he became the only living playwright to have a New York theatre named in his honour.

Revered as a comedy legend, his other hits included BAREFOOT IN THE PARK (1964), THE ODD COUPLE (1965) which became a hugely successful film starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, THE SUNSHINE BOYS (1972), BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS (1983) and many more. His autobiographical play LOST IN YONKERS (1991) won a Pulitzer Prize.

Growing up in the Bronx in New York City during the Great Depression of the 1930s times were hard for the young and extremely shy Marvin (his real first name).

He took refuge in movie theatres, where he particularly enjoyed screen comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. An excellent grounding in comic timing and pathos for his later career.

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Poster for the movie version of Simon’s breakthrough hit

After graduating from high school, and a few years spent in the US Army Air Force Reserve, Simon quit his job working in the mailroom at Warner Bros. to write writing comedy scripts for radio and early TV shows with his brother, Danny.

A big deal in the USA, you may not have heard of these classic shows from the early years of television: Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows (with Simon working alongside other young writers including Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner) and The Phil Silvers Show, more commonly known as Sergeant Bilko in the UK.

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Simon in 1966

He began writing his own plays in 1961 and, by 1965, his Tony Award For THE ODD COUPLE had made him a national celebrity and “the hottest new playwright on Broadway”.

Writing stage plays and original screenplays until 2003, Simon’s “style” ranged from romantic comedy to farce and more serious dramatic comedy. All three styles and more are covered in SUP Theatre Company’s production of LONDON SUITE.

Written in 1995, LONDON SUITE is a standalone play but also a sequel of sorts – in terms of its hotel setting, structure and, indeed, a few characters – to Simon’s previous plays PLAZA SUITE (1968) and CALIFORNIA SUITE (1976). In the movie version of the latter, the characters of Diana and Sidney were played onscreen by Maggie Smith and Michael Caine. In LONDON SUITE, we have the brilliant Marilyn Dunbar and Jez Minns in these memorable roles.

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Michael Caine as Sidney and Maggie Smith as Diana in the film version of Simon’s CALIFORNIA SUITE (1978)

Able to blend comedy with drama, Simon’s characters have been described as “imperfect, unheroic figures who are at heart decent human beings.” As you’ll see for yourself in SUP’s LONDON SUITE. His plays are  quirky and extremely funny.

Marvin Neil Simon died in New York City on 26th August 2018 aged 91.

Come and enjoy this master of comedy at the Rose Theatre, Eastleigh, 18-19 October 2019 – book tickets here.


Stephen Fenerty is co-chair of SUP Theatre Compoany, and is directing the first section of LONDON SUITE – “Settling Accounts”


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LONDON SUITE: ‘GOING HOME’

Director Alison Wells reports from rehearsals…

Rehearsals are well underway for this female two-Alisonhander, Going Home.

An hilarious but also poignant account of a middle aged woman’s ‘date night’ with Dennis (or is it Kenneth!!?) Cummings and his numerous ‘habits’!

We have two fantastic actresses.

Lisa Dunbar is Laurie, the daughter – on the trip to London with her mother and setting her up on the date from hell.

Lisa is new to SUP but not to community theatre – having trod the boards regularly with The Chameleon Theatre Company of Chandlers Ford. Welcome Lisa!

Sarah Fergusson is Mother, in London to visit old haunts and shop till she drops. An established member of SUP, Sarah has appeared in a number of our shows as well as being an active committee member and keen SUP supporter. Welcome back Sarah!

With lines already learned, we are working on making our audience laugh out loud and perhaps shed a tear as Mother tells Laurie all about her night out at the theatre.

We’re gathering all our props at the moment – we need lots of shopping bags so I’m taking one for the team and volunteering to do a massive shopping spree – just for the bags, honest! The American accents are proving a little tricky; however, a few You Tube tutorials and we’ll get there!

At the first production meeting last week, the four directors – LONDON SUITE is four one-act plays that all take place in the same location – decided on the final set design and furniture.

We’re excited to bring a full-on 90’ ‘luxury’ hotel suite to the Rose Theatre in Eastleigh. Construction starts this week and we are currently sourcing furniture – creating that ‘luxury look’ from charity shops and Gumtree can be challenging but we love a challenge!

We also expect to see the contents of SUP members’ houses on the stage as we generously suggest our own furniture and then realise we’re sitting on the floor at home for the week of the show….

Anyway, back at our rehearsals, we’ve been focusing on the second scene of Going Home – Mother returns from her date  – and Laurie makes her tell the story of her evening in great detail.

The story is already very funny and I’m keen to bring as much physical comedy into the scene as we can. The actress, Sarah, has to get rid of all her inhibitions and really ‘inhabit’ the character of Mother. We, the audience, needs to feel like we are on the date with her – and then we want to enjoy all the ‘juicy’ details…

When I find myself laughing out loud at rehearsals, I know we’ve got it! I hope you can join us in October for a great night of theatre.


Alison Wells is co-chair of SUP Theatre Company


CLICK HERE TO BOOK FOR LONDON SUITE

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CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS