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

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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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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

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #10

SUP: The Next Generation – and meet the show’s strange policeman, Perkins


Dirk Gently’s Production Manager Kevin Bowers writes…

2018 had barely started and five intrepid explorers made their way to deepest darkest Botley. Their mission: to see if excellence could be improved.

The three youngest performers appearing in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Lou, Darcy and Beth – joined director Lorraine Biddlecombe and myself, a heavily over-burdened production manager and cast member, to rehearse the Don’s dinner scene: away from  distractions and with the luxury of a couple of concentrated hours to focus on their performances.

Chairs stood in for other cast members, and our youthful cast took turns to read-in as Reg and Richard – without the accents – with myself reading for everybody else. By the end of the session, each of the young actresses had run the scene three times. Great stuff. They listened to direction, the bruises on my leg showed clear improvements in their kicking skills, and their abilities with a yo-yo came on in leaps and bounds. It’s going to be a great scene. Three actresses giving three unique interpretations of the same role, all telling the same story. SUP Theatre Company clearly has a talented future.


The very handsome Chris Aland is playing Dirk Gently’s ‘ugly’ copper

The last time I was involved with a police uniform was during the pleasurable experience of directing It’s A Bobby’s Job for SUP at the Totton Drama Festival two years ago, with a cast that included SUP’s current co-chairs Stephen and Alison. 

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Ready to inspect: Chris Aland as Perkins

Two years on, and I find myself donning the very same costume (Stephen’s not Ali’s) to play Perkins: an ugly (as described in the text), daft and slightly disturbing copper who spends his time being clipped around the ear and getting very excited at the prospect of taking a chainsaw to a sofa jammed in a stairwell, but largely fiddling with a dead body.

I have enjoyed taking part in a smaller role for this production especially as the part has few words to learn but still gives me the opportunity for comedic interactions with fellow cast member Sophia (she is the body under the blanket), while I am also doubling up as a Groom at a wedding, a university Don, and taking part in a ‘delightful’ song and dance routine – which for pleasure I can say is only seconded by intrusive dental surgery.

The rehearsal process has been interesting with a variety of new faces joining SUP, which always makes it more fun. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together – and I’m sure it’s going to be a fun final month.

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #8

Countdown to showtime

Dirk Gently Production Manager and cast member Kevin Bowers provides a quick end-of-year update…

We’ve had the SUP Christmas party, we’re now in the Christmas break, and this is the final Dirk production blog of the year. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and I’d like to wish you all the best for 2018. mww-e1514465663747.jpg

So, where are we up to, with the show? And what can we expect in the New Year?

Well, December saw the director and myself have a highly productive technical meeting with NST Campus to discuss the productions needs of the show in detail. This is quite a complex production with lots of moving parts: the cast, obviously, as well as many props,  costumes – including the aliens – along with pre-filmed inserts, magic tricks and some brand-new computer animations, and that’s without mentioning the technical aspects of the lighting and projection, and a pretty detailed list of sound effects. Another SUP team, meanwhile, had a meeting with the NST Box Office around marketing; helping to spread the word about the show to previous SUP and Nuffield audiences.

It’s good to report that, for instance, the animations are now almost complete, we’ve got 99% of the props that we need, including some of the trickier ones, the cast know virtually all of their lines – as you’d expect of this experienced team, five weeks to curtain up – and the director still has a full head of hair! So I guess that means we’re on the right track.

As I say, we only have five weeks left, meaning we’re going into the most intense period of rehearsals, requiring concentration and commitment in the final push, as well as the key period in our efforts to market the show, reaching out audiences and selling as many tickets as possible for what promises to be a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

One thought is front of mind, across cast and crew, and despite the busy weeks that undoubtedly lie ahead: and that is, remembering to have fun – so we can dazzle our audiences, sharing this wonderful tale and delivering a great night out.