Christie on Campus #2

Meet the suspects/meet the victims

Part 1

Your guide to the mysterious house guests on Soldier Island in Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE – at NST Campus Southampton from 23-26 January 2019

In order of appearance – you’ll have to see the play for the order of disappearance

Mr Rogers – Jonathan Shepherd

An upright and dignified Devon man, Rogers the butler is a “proper servant” in every sense. But do he and his wife harbour a dark secret from a previous employer? It’s strange they only arrived on Soldier Island a few days before the rest of the house guests assembled…

Mrs RogersAnna Hussey

Capable housekeeper and loyal wife, Mrs Rogers is also unafraid to take the odd swipe at her husband and is quick to complain about the gaggle of incoming guests she has to cook and clean for, and with her mistress nowhere to be seen. Is she as frail as she appears?

Captain Philip Lombard Paul Cresser

Confident and resourceful, Lombard’s mysterious past includes time spent as a soldier. Do his boldness, cunning and easy charm mask something altogether more sinister? Lombard is instantly and vocally attracted to Vera, before events take a turn for the worst…

Vera Claythorne Jess Capes

A former governess employed as Secretary to the mistress of Soldier Island, Vera is trying to escape a dark event from her past… Intelligent, alert and emotional, she quickly embarks on a sparky and flirtatious relationship with Captain Lombard.

Anthony Marston – Alex Mawers

This young, dashing, amoral playboy likes fast cars and flirting with the ladies. Once he arrives – having driven at break-neck speed from London and nearly running over Dr Armstrong in the process – he sets his sights on Vera and quickly pokes fun at Captain Lombard…


Please follow our  progress in future blogs. Remember to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the show – and don’t forget to book early to get the seats you want.


SUP proudly presents Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at NST Campus theatre from Wed 23-Sat 26 January 2019 – tickets from just £10. Concessions and group bookings available.

You can book your tickets here

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Christie on Campus #1

Welcome to suspicion, fear, paranoia and ‘get to know you’ games

Kicking off our latest series of production blogs, Paul Green is our first victim: a director and actor with a long and impressive theatrical CV, he also has some distinctly sinister plans to bump off cast members

This being my first show for SUP, I wanted to get to know the cast, and to help cast who were members new to the company to get to know the more established SUP players. The cast for AND THEN THERE WERE NONE includes performers who joined SUP in the last few months working alongside more longstanding members – it’s a 50/50 split, really, between “old” and “new”. And of course, I’m a relatively new member of the team myself. 

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Paul Green is directing Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE for SUP Theatre Company

To me, simply starting rehearsals “cold” can throw everybody slightly, so we started the entire process with a four-hour session of exercises, on a Sunday, to get to know each other. This was, in part, about developing trust and team-working among the company members.

The first exercise, the “Name Game” – which we still play at the start of every rehearsal session – has a number of purposes. It’s for everyone to learn everybody else’s real name as well as their character name, to get them used to establishing eye contact, and getting them used to doing and thinking three things at once (which is, as I keep telling them, the basis of acting). If you can imagine mentally patting your head and rubbing your stomach and reciting the alphabet all at the same time, you get the idea. The cast has embraced this after persevering and the determination shown has been impressive. Much hilarity is also derived from identifying who is establishing eye contact and where you should walk and to whom (it takes too long to explain, but you should play it some time).

I also introduced the cast to “Flying”, which is pretty much as it sounds. Only one intrepid cast member did it to begin with, but after seeing what it entails, everyone took part, with one or two people still having to be convinced. You’ll see some pictures here.

We then played a game known as “Killer” or “Wink Murder” to introduce the cast to the feelings of paranoia and suspicion that I’ll be foregrounding in our production. In this game, one person is secretly chosen as the murderer and winks at their victims when no-one is looking. The victim then “dies” as spectacularly as possible in a way that also misdirects. So, as you can imagine if you know any members of this cast, the “spectacular death” aspect was really underplayed (the longest death scene was timed at more than two minutes). The more you play it, the more extreme the deaths are, and the more paranoid everyone becomes… precisely what I was aiming for.

Of course, we got through far more than just these games on the day, with everyone throwing themselves into the activities wholeheartedly – and we had a lot of fun while working hard to build a strong basis for teamwork and the underlying themes of the production.

Please follow our continued progress in future blogs from various people and different directions and of course, please remember to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the show – and don’t forget to book early yourself.


SUP proudly presents Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at NST Campus theatre from Wed 23-Sat 26 January 2019 – tickets from just £10. Concessions and group bookings available.

You can book your tickets here

ATTWN

Two Murderous Comedies

It’s a wrap

This week’s guest blogger is Stephen Fenerty, SUP co-chair. He reflects on the performance nights for our October one-act plays – and on a great audience reaction

First and foremost, a huge thank you to our wonderful audiences. 70-plus people enjoyed the Friday night double-bill, with that number swelling to more than 90 on the Saturday – which meant we were almost at capacity in the Rose Theatre and, more importantly, ensuring a great audience response for our casts.

And what a group of performers! 13 actors and actresses across the two plays, with more than half appearing in their first productions for SUP. And everybody did us proud, so a big thank you to our wonderful casts. Here’s a slide show, from rehearsals to get-in, show nights and after-show party…

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In the four-handed 1920’s murder mystery spoof A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE, the daft gags, double entendre and fast pace had the audience laughing and groaning in equal measure. The cast – experienced SUP hands Kerrie Brady and Naomi Scott alongside new members Martin ‘Timber’ Kelly and Michele Zadra – delivered Elliot Strange’s script with aplomb.

With the Rose Theatre at Barton Peveril College providing a bar for the first time, our audiences refreshed themselves at the interval before returning to their seats for THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND by Tom Stoppard.

The longer of the two plays – 65 minutes compared to 35 minutes for the first half – this had the audience in stitches with its smart blend of satire, word play and slapstick, with excellent surreal performances and comic turns from an ensemble cast: Nick Hayward and Tim Ellwood, Paul Jones, Sarah Fergusson, Lee Barden, Jake Williams, Meg Britton, Carolina Scott, and not forgetting Andrew Clarke as the most convincing corpse on an SUP stage since Sophia in Dirk Gently.

Special thanks, of course, go to our brilliant behind-the-scenes team and tech crew, who make it all happen, including directors David Green and Kevin Bowers, along with Duncan Lang, Clayton Peters, Steve Town, Olly Trojak, John Peters and others. Thanks for all your help and continued support: we couldn’t do it without you!

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Lady Stoppard, Sabrina Guinness, with the SUP secretary and co-chairs

We were also delighted on the Friday night to welcome Lady Stoppard, Sabrina Guinness. While she’d read THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND she had never seen it performed – and said she enjoyed the show hugely. Sir Tom, who couldn’t attend because he’s currently immersed in writing a new play, sent a handwritten ‘good luck’ message to cast and crew.

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A sneak preview of our next production: the Ten Little Soldiers themselves. Click here to book for Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

When we plan and perform these one-acts, in addition to our ‘usual’ annual cycle of Totton Festival and January production at NST Campus, our objective is to provide more opportunities for SUP members to get involved, especially our new members, and to give audiences more opportunities to see our work.

There are obviously costs associated with putting on a show: licensing for the scripts (per night) plus set, costumes, props, van hire, and of course venue hire – the latter tending to be the main budget item. While we always try to “beg and borrow” wherever possible, using items for low or no cost, some of these costs are fixed. And there’s always a risk we may lose money on a production: you can never really tell if you’re going to attract an audience, despite your best marketing efforts and word-of-mouth.

Our objective is to at least break even, because it means we’re not eating into our reserves – but making a little profit is always great news, as it means we can carry on what we’re doing and provide even more opportunities.

I’m happy to report that while the final “profit and loss” accounts are still being finalised, it appears we have made a small profit on our Two Murderous Comedies. So thank you, once again, to all cast, crew and others at SUP who make it all possible – and, of course, to our audiences.

We hope to see you all at NST Campus 23-26 January 2019 for what promises to a rip-roaring production: Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE – with tickets from just £10

CLICK HERE TO BOOK

ATTWN

It’s Murder – Take Two!

A Jolly Sinister Jape: a director’s journey part 2

This week’s guest blogger is director Kevin Bowers, currently rehearsing A Jolly Sinister Jape for SUP. He was previously seen for SUP, bless him, sporting a rather fetching wet-suit in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Kevin writes…

Dear reader, we last spoke on 3rd September, so it’s high time for an update.

Rehearsals are progressing at quite a pace. The cast know their lines, their moves and – importantly – are having fun. There is a real sense of teamwork and genuine collaboration in the rehearsal room. and the characters in the script are coming to life; lovely. The humour on the page is filling the room and making me laugh out loud. And of course, it’s not always been plain sailing. Choreographing some of the scenes has been a challenge, for sure. A flying glass in particular has taken a huge amount of practice and I’m sure we’ll need to keep using the plastic stunt double for a while yet.

Biffy, played by Martin ‘Timber’ Kelly, is fortunately quick to recover from being hit with a poker, and then being stepped over and dropped by the “caring” and rather dashing Italian Lord Stubbs, played by real-life Italian Michele Zadra. And, of course, famous actress Ophelia LeBobo played by Naomi Scott is the third side of this triangle. The chemistry between these three characters as they unwittingly vie for affection is palpable and electric. Their comic disdain is clear and the comedic bitterness oozes out.

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19 & 20 October 7.30pm, Rose Theatre, Eastleigh – http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/sup

When this trio are joined by a mysterious stranger, the dynamic of the group has to change and sides are chosen. The newcomer, played by Kerrie Brady, regales them with stories of foreign travels and loves lost, but who exactly is she? Come and find out at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre in October – you can book here

It’s been a fulfilling experience for me to work with such an engaged and enthusiastic cast. They’ve really bonded and supported each other. This was very apparent as the scripts were, begrudgingly, put down, and some lines were difficult to recall. They treated each other patiently and were reassuring throughout. Nobody has been backwards in coming forward with suggestions and ideas for what their character could do, or how to say something, and all have been willing to try things suggested by the director others in the cast.

With less than three weeks to go, I’m confident we’ll be giving our audiences a very, very funny show. Don’t forget to book!


A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE is on a double bill with THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre, 19th-20th October 2018. Tickets are only £11 standard and £9.50 concessions – with no booking fees payable

You can book tickets here

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It’s Murder – Take Two

It’s Murder – Take Two

The Meg

This week’s blog is courtesy of The Real Inspector Hound cast member Megan Britton – another brand new SUP member.

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Not that Meg

Hello, I’m Megan – Meg – and I recently moved to Southampton from London, where I worked as a paediatric nurse for the past four years.

Drama wasn’t something I had always enjoyed in the past, and when I was younger the idea of standing up in front of a crowd use to terrify me, as I was incredibly shy. But my parents managed to convince me to join the Lace Market Youth Theatre back in my hometown – Nottingham – and it was the best thing I ever did.

Drama gave me that confidence boost I needed and now it has become a favourite hobby of mine. Hence why I was so happy to join SUP, after having to leave my previous group ‘The Hampstead Players’ in London. Some of my favourite roles I have played are Nancy in Oliver Twist and Cordelia in King Lear.

When I’m not nursing or acting another great passion of mine is music! I have a very eclectic taste in music and some of my favourite artists include Prince, Otis Redding, The Clash, The Cure, LCD Soundsystem, David Bowie and Queens of the Stone Age.

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This is our Meg

I collect vinyl records, new and old, and I am currently on the hunt for Diamonds and Pearls by Prince. I enjoy going to see a lot of live music and my best gig so far this year has to be Thee Oh Sees in London: they were mindblowing!

My holidays consist of me trying to attend as many music festivals as possible, and a particular highlight from one this year, was when I was pulled on stage by a favourite punk band of mine, IDLES. Jumping around on stage with them was one of the best moments of my life.

 


You can see Meg in person in THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND on a double bill with A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre, 19th-20th October 2019. Tickets are only £11 standard and £9.50 concessions – with no booking fees payable

Click here to book tickets

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It’s Murder – Take Two

It’s Murder – Take Two

A Jolly Sinister Jape: a director’s journey

This week’s blog is by Kevin Bowers, director of SUP’s upcoming A Jolly Sinister Jape by Elliot Strange. A longstanding member of SUP, he’s appeared in productions including THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, MONSTROUS REGIMENT and DIRK GENTLY. This is the first time Kevin has directed for SUP.

My first task was to find a play, based on the following criteria:

1. One-act play only.
2.
It should be funny.
3.
It should connect to the other play on the double-bill, and SUP’s January 2019 show.
4. And h
ave a relatively small cast.

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19-20 October at 7.30pm, Rose Theatre, Eastleigh – book at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/sup

A frantic online search later and I’d found it! A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE is set in the 1920s and takes place in a large empty house… which may not be as empty as it first appears. The play has four protagonists: businessman Biffy and his actress wife Ophelia, on their way to a film set, plus Lord Stubbs – on his way to a party – and ‘Fatty’, an old school chum of Ophelia.

As always when selecting a play, it’s important that you love it: you have to be able to see it, feel it and know it inside out and back to front. If the play is a comedy it needs to make you laugh, hopefully out loud. You then move to a reading so you get to see if others are laughing as much as you do, and then… Auditions!

I was away for the first round of auditions so handed duties to a friend, an experienced writer and director, who’s assisting me in the staging of the show. Peter gave me notes on the auditionees and following a mop-up session that I could attend, we got our heads together and came up with the four actors that will bring our story to life.

Plotting the moves the characters will make on the stage – blocking – can take a lot of time but allows you to quickly get the actors in the play and on to the development of their roles. The director has an idea of how they feel the part is played but, until the actor steps into the rehearsal room, you never know where it will end up. The cast I’ve been lucky to acquire have already challenged my original ideas and brought their own perspectives to the characters they are playing, and are already a team in a collaboration. As the director, I get the final decision – but I also want to make the process as fun and as interactive as I can possibly can.


A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE appears on a double bill with THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre, 19th-20th October 2018. Tickets are only £11 standard and £9.50 concessions – with no booking fees payable

You can book tickets here

It’s Murder – Take Two!

It’s Murder – Take Two!

Hounds of Love

This week’s blog is by David Green, director of SUP’s upcoming The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard

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19-20 October at 7.30pm, Rose Theatre, Eastleigh – book at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/sup

This is my first time working with SUP so let me start by telling you a little about myself.

A director, actor and general theatre practitioner, I love to get stuck in with anything theatre-related. In fact, I’ve had a love for drama and theatre since the age of seven when I first got involved with Junior Minstead’s annual pantomime. After 10 years of panto, I started getting involved with the Youth Theatre in Minstead, and actually performed in a production of… you guessed it, The Real Inspector Hound!

Since then I studied drama from GCSE through to BA (Hons) at the University of Winchester. I now have my own theatre company, Out Of Bounds Theatre, and I freelance wherever possible. I even teach Performing Arts at Southampton City College.

But after all that, I still had a deep urge to direct Stoppard’s work again… just one more time, to really squeeze everything out of it, and demonstrate to people not only how great his work is, but also show the quality of our local acting talent. When I saw that SUP was looking for directors earlier this year and was open to suggestions, I knew that I HAD to get involved…

AND SO IT BEGINS…

We’ve had our first few rehearsals and I am VERY excited. The cast are enthusiastic, talented and hold a lot of potential, so I’m sure they will bring the final performances to life with ease.

So far, we’ve covered characterisation, looking into posture and physicality, in-depth back-stories for the characters and even voice and projection… and we have so much more still to cover. Stoppard’s work has so many layers to it, you could read it over and over again and find something new every time. So we have our work cut out for us.

Thankfully, the entire SUP team is brilliant, and I have absolutely no doubt that we’ll get through it, have fun, and produce a play that everyone will enjoy. Because, ultimately, that’s what all this is about: having fun, and ensuring that our audiences have a brilliant theatrical experience.

So please do come along to the Rose Theatre in Eastleigh this October, and enjoy the fruits of all the hard work these guys and the backstage crew are putting into the show. I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time as we explore the weird goings-on at Muldoon Manor, the madman wandering around Essex, theatre critic Moon’s obsession with Higgs, and indeed, THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND!


THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND appears on a double bill with A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre, 19th-20th October 2019. Tickets are only £11 standard and £9.50 concessions – with no booking fees payable

You can book tickets here

Dirk Gently blog archive

It’s the end – but the moment has been prepared for

Kevin puts pen to paper for the last time: it’s the Dirk finale…

Well we’re here, the journey that started in July with auditions and the scripts being doled out is about to come to an end. We’ve done four shows and are in the dressing room getting mentally ready for the big finale.

This has been a great show to be a part of, both in the cast and as the production manager, blogger, delivery man and numerous other tasks that have fallen on my shoulders. I’ve learned a lot and know I’m nowhere near ready to direct on such a large scale, at least not without someone to hold my hand.

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The cast have uniformly been superb: from Paul Cresser as Dirk, wonderfully enigmatic and fully understanding the interconnectedness of everything, Paul Jones as Richard caught up in the whirlwind of the story, and Phillip DG as the forgetful professor Chronotis, in his 50th anniversary on the Nuffield stage – to Lou, Darcy and Beth as the impish Sarah complete with a yo-yo and of course the myriad of supporting players, everyone on the stage has given their all to make this the success it has been.

We were also lucky to have some amazingly talented people back stage and working on props and effects. Without the likes of Ollie, Clayton, Mike, Adam (both), Steve, Dave, and Tom we would look like fools running around in dress up. Their craft makes the unreal real and creates the illusion that we are in the world of Dirk.

All of this of course needs someone to be the puppet master, someone to pull the strings and we had someone colourful and larger than life to corral us and keep us in line. It’s not always been plain sailing, rehearsals with lots of sickness, line learning not where it should be, SFX taking a little, ahem, longer than hoped – but in the end almost 1,000 people will have left the theatre with a smile on their faces and mild feeling of confusion as they work out what they’ve just seen…

Lorraine, it’s time to get the sofa off the stairs and sit down and have a cuppa. Phew!

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #13

Here we go: Dirk is about to take to the stage

Cast rehearsals have ended and the theatre and audiences await… production manager and cast member Kevin Bowers reports from the final Dirk Gently rehearsal

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The get-in and technical rehearsal are almost upon us, and we’re gathered at the Annexe – very close to NST Campus – for our last run-through before we enter the Nuffield theatre proper. We are live, onstage, and ready to rock from next Tuesday 30th January! And you only have until Saturday 3rd to catch all the fun, craziness, colour and comedy of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. You can book here.

The Annexe is a great space to work in, with a wonderful lecture theatre giving the cast a real sense of the space they will need to fill once they get onto the NST Campus stage. Voices will be raised, gestures slightly exaggerated and sight lines worked out.

So, as exam time at the University of Southampton draws to a close (and the students head to the bar) the cast and crew of Dirk Gently still face their greatest test: we are about to see just how well the months of preparation have been used.

Do we know all the lines and our moves?
Are we ready for our cues?
Is the stage crew ready to set the scenes?

Our audiences are in for a treat, that’s for sure. Yes of course, it’s a nerve-wracking time for our director Lorraine – but one in which she also sees the fruits of her labours. Everybody involved in the production has put so much into it – and the excitement is really building.

Transporting scenery and props has been planned like a military operation; everyone knows where and when to be. It’s going to be a mammoth logistical task, for sure, but one we’re ready for. We’ve also got a couple of days of promotional walkabouts at the University, with cast and other SUP members – some in full Alien costume – accosting students and staff near the Students’ Union building, handing out leaflets, promoting the Save The Rhino International charity, and trying to tempt students one last time with a special ticket offer.

It’s been great fun getting Douglas Adams’ weird and wonderful characters from the page to the stage, and the whole team now is missing only one element, but it’s the most important one: the audience. When all the elements are mixed together, we can’t wait to experience the reaction…  we’ll see you next week!

 

 

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #12

Lead on, MacDuff: Paul Jones has this week’s SUP blog

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Paul Jones (centre) in rehearsals, flanked by Dirk and Professor Chronotis

Ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the idea of acting on a stage but never plucked up the courage to act myself, due to being dyslexic. I would, however, always overdress for costumed parties – my personal favourite is my Adam Ant costume – or be up singing Karaoke.

It wasn’t until 2014 when the acting bug finally sank its teeth into me.

After a drunken night at Rockaoke (live band but you’re the singer – I sang “Tribute” by Tenacious D), I finally decided that the feeling of being up onstage is as exciting as it is terrifying. So naturally, I rushed out – once the hangover cleared – and found the nearest theatre group to me.

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“Not Paul Jones” – but his favourite dressing up character

I started at the sound desk at the Chameleon Theatre Company of Chandler’s Ford, pressing the all-important buttons during a pantomime version of “The Wizard of Oz”.

Shortly after that show, I was swiftly dragged away, thrown onto the stage, put under lights, given a script and took my place in the cast for “Fawlty Towers”.

Next, I was given the part of Johnathan Harker, in a chilling retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula which was a huge challenge for me, being onstage for the first 15 pages!

My approach to acting is very much a head on approach… But, even after preforming in a few plays and being nominated for a few awards in festival plays, I still get nervous about the first step onto the stage.

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Paul (far right) joins the SUP murder mystery team in 2017

I’ve recently found  joy in the chaotic world of unscripted shows: Murder Mysteries. I was never thrilled with the idea of murder mysteries (it’s normally the butler, after all) but I was given the opportunity to perform in one by SUP and I grasped it firmly – and it surprised me how much fun they actually are!

As a bit of a nerd, I was super excited to hear that SUP was auditioning for Dirk Gently by Douglas Adams.

I originally wanted to go for the title role of Dirk  himself but after the read through and auditions I’m glad that Paul Cresser was given the role – especially after I had seen the amount Dirk that has to say!

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Paul wrestles with his part – and Phil de Grouchy’s – during a tense rehearsal

In this telling of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency I am playing the role of Richard MacDuff.

The character has been a bit of a challenge for me, mainly talking about Schrodinger’s Cat and computer jargon – but I hope I can play the part well and keep everyone entertained!

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: Paul has recently been cast in a leading role in SUP’s new one-act play BULLY BEEF AND WHIZZBANGS, to be performed at this year’s Totton Drama Festival and beyond…
P.S. We know “Lead on, MacDuff” is a misquote of Shakespeare