BLOG: Ghosts & Queens 3

Breathing new life into a Ravenhill play

Our latest guest blogger is Troy Chessman: a brand new SUP member and director of the upcoming GHOST STORY

Although I’ve trained as an actor, I’m no stranger to directing. I have directed a number of one act plays for drama festivals in Surrey.

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Actor/Director Troy Chessman

I made my debut in 2015 with an abridged version of ‘Macbeth’ which went on to compete at the next round of the All-England Theatre Festival in Oxsted. Since then, I have directed ‘Brighton Beach Scumbags’ by Stephen Berkoff and co-directed ‘Almost Nothing’ by Marcos Barbosa, which I also won ‘Best Actor’ for.

Beyond the festivals, I have also directed a new modern contextualised version of Titus Andronicus, ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ by Adam Peck at NST City, and my own original brand new play ‘Won’t Fade Away’ about Alzheimer’s disease and memory.

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Macbeth (2015)

When I heard that SUP was looking for a second play to enter into the Totton Drama Festival, my ears pricked up. ‘Ghost Story’ had been on my radar for a while. I then heard they were ideally looking for an all-female play and I knew I had to put it forward.

When choosing a play to direct, I always like to pick something that stirs something within me (and that can mean an array of things).

I ask myself, does this play make me think? Does it provide me with an opportunity to challenge myself as an artist? Are the themes relevant to me? Will it provide opportunities for my cast to create interesting characters? Is the message of the play something I advocate? Or is it something that bothers me, that I can address?

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Troy in ‘Almost Nothing’

‘Ghost Story’ by Mark Ravenhill is, in its essence, a dark play with moments of comedy and embers of light.

Although the play is centred around the subject of cancer, it is NOT ‘a play about cancer’.

Rather , it’s a play that explores three women’s responses to having/dealing with/loving someone with cancer.

The play also goes against the conventional ‘Mark Ravenhill’ content that one might expect. There is no swearing, no profanity, no sex, just a stark insight into the characters’ responses to cancer.

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Troy’s ‘Titus 2017’

The play questions the lies and truths that we tell ourselves and others in times of adversity. It offers three fascinating characters, each with their own motives and objectives.

Meryl is now a healer and a strong woman who had once overcome cancer but it is back  (is she a con women?).

Lisa is suffering from cancer and is looking to Meryl to coach and heal her to wellbeing (did her success in pushing Meryl to ‘cross the line’ impact Meryl’s fate?).

And there is Hannah, Meryl’s younger, naive and doting girlfriend, caught up in the impact of Meryl’s cancer (is her need to lie masking other issues?)

The play is not straightforward, the narrative leaves a lot to be deciphered, which is what makes the play so interesting.

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Rehearsals for SUP’s ‘Ghost Story’ – 2019

As a director, I am free to unpick, explore and interpret the text as I see it. The text raises a lot of questions, which was exciting to discuss in rehearsals.

Who is the ‘villain’ of the play? Why does Meryl do what she does? Why is this character lying? Why is this character telling the truth? IS this character telling the truth? Who is dead? Is anyone dead?

The more you delve into the writing the more questions appear, more opportunities to make the performance interesting and dynamic.

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Rehearsals for SUP’s ‘Ghost Story’ – 2019

In my rehearsal process I like to play with and explore new ideas.

I draw a lot of inspiration from the work of practitioners like Berkoff who choose to utilise the use of body and physicality, lifting the language of the text. I have tried to incorporate the use of breath and pace into the world of the characters.

The dialogue in this play is very important. I have stripped the set back to a minimum, giving us a suggestion of Meryl’s home in order to allow the performances, the dimensions, the chemistry of the actresses to be the focus of the piece.

I am incredibly lucky to have been able to cast three brilliant actresses who have taken on everything I have thrown at them and created three wonderfully compelling characters.

I can’t wait to share this piece with you and I hope you enjoy it.


SUP is proud to present GHOST STORY on a double-bill with Tennessee Williams’ AND TELL SAD STORIES OF THE DEATHS OF QUEENS for one night only.


SUP presents STORIES OF GHOSTS AND QUEENS at Totton Drama Festivaland FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY at the Rose Theatre, Eastleigh on Sat 6th April – 7.30pm

Tickets from just £9.50 – no booking fee payable

Click here to book tickets

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BLOG: Ghosts & Queens

I Want Candy

And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens

Director Paul Cresser explains his choice of play for this year’s Totton Festival of Drama – and reports on rehearsals

When choosing the play for my directorial debut at last year’s Totton Festival of Drama, I looked for a play that would suit the dynamics of our group.

I settled on ‘Darlings, You Were Wonderful!’ – an all-woman piece to complement the all-male ‘Bully Beef and Whizzbangs’ that we were also entering.

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Paul Cresser: SUP Secretary and director of AND TELL SAD STORIES OF THE DEATHS OF QUEENS

Having found that, for the most part, I’d enjoyed the directing process, I started looking for another play to propose for the 2019 Festival.

This time I looked for a play that interested me rather than one that would suit others, and the proposal I came up with was rather different to our previous entries!

One of the things I decided early on was that I wanted to direct a play with an LGBT+ theme that wasn’t another (as I call them) ‘angsty coming out story’.

I wanted to direct a play that had a strong LBGT+ character that wasn’t about that character being gay. That’s when I found Candy: an out gay man and transvestite, perfectly comfortable with who he is in that respect.

The story of the play explores Candy’s character flaws that, although coloured by his sexuality, are simply ‘human’ flaws: the need for love and the fantasies that he constructs in order to find it.

In ‘And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens’, I have set myself some challenges: a lead character who must be a convincing transvestite, as well as recreating late 1950s/early 1960s New Orleans and the Japanese-style home of an interior designer – all on a very limited budget.

I have found myself having to research wigs and sailor’s underwear as well as seeking out make-up tips and helping my lead actor try on various dresses. I’ve also had to pull together a co-ordinated set, worthy of the home of a talented interior designer.

These challenges aside, I’ve really enjoyed getting inside this little-known Tennessee Williams’ gem.

The play was never performed in his lifetime due to its subject matter, and it’s a play that is decades ahead of its time. It was written in 1950s/60s pre-civil rights America, yet many of the issues addressed are still as relevant today and it has been interesting to explore and discuss those issues.

I’m also delighted to have pulled together a fantastic cast – all of whom are playing parts outside of their normal experience.

They are working together extremely well and I’m enjoying seeing the characters from the pages of the play coming to life before me. Jonathan Shepherd has bravely stepped into Candy’s high heels and is gradually revealing more and more of his inner diva. Paul Jones is exploring what it means to be a bisexual hustler, whilst Stephen Fenerty and Chris Aland’s gay couple is a match made in heaven (not the nightclub!).

I have certainly found directing this play more stressful than my first experience with SUP, but that is because I feel so much closer to it and that in some way what I am producing here is an extension of my own personality.

It’s my baby, I love it and I’m just really hoping that everyone else will love it too.


SUP presents STORIES OF GHOSTS AND QUEENS at Totton Drama Festival in March 2019 – and FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY at the Rose Theatre, Eastleigh on Sat 6th April at 7.30pm

Tickets from just £9.50 – no booking fee payable

Click here to book tickets

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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

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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

Great Scott!

This week’s blog is from a real diva… famed actress Ophelia La Bobo (aka real-life SUP performer Naomi Scott) who finds herself tangled up in A Jolly Sinister Jape

My public want to hear from me? Well, I suppose that that’s no surprise. After all, I am the famous Ophelia La Bobo. You’ve probably seen me in films such as ‘The Attack of the Killer Jelly’. And of course I have another one just around the corner. I can’t wait to start work on ‘The Curse of the Human Dung Beetle’.

Working in film is so thrilling. The lights… the people… the fame! And my characters get to have such marvellous adventures.

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I’m an adventurer at heart – so long as I don’t get muddy or break a nail.

Can you believe that some people actually go to far-off lands where they traipse through forests and mountains, sleeping outside and drinking from rivers? How ghastly! Some even jump out of aeroplanes! How silly.

But it’s true that I yearn for more excitement. It’s not my husband Biffy’s fault that he’s such a bore. But of all the men that I could have married, I really would have imagined someone more interesting – perhaps with an exotic accent?

Oh, the show? Well, it’s a bit of a step backwards appearing in theatre rather than on the silver screen, of course, but it’s good for one to remember one’s roots. And of course I know that my public will appreciate being able to see me in the flesh. The Rose Theatre, you say? Where’s that? Eastleigh? Never heard of it. No matter. I’m sure that it will be positively ripping!


You can see Naomi in person as Ophelia in A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE –  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. Click here to book tickets

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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