BLOG: Ghosts & Queens

Stellar! Stellar!

Meet one of the star writers of 20th century American theatre: Tennessee Williams

Thomas Lanier Williams III – better known by his pen name Tennessee Williams – is considered to be one of the greatest American playwrights of the last century.

Born in 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi, the Southern United States would inform his most famous works, including SUP’s upcoming AND TELL SAD STORIES OF THE DEATHS OF QUEENS.

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“I’ve had a wonderful and terrible life and I wouldn’t cry for myself, would you?”

Williams’ father, a travelling shoe salesman, was an alcoholic and generally not around the house.

He grew up with his mother in the parsonage home of his grandfather, an Episcopal priest. An early case of diptheria had left him a weak child, and he was confined to the house for a year.

His father, a violent man, had little time for the delicate son that he considered too effeminate. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, Williams’ mother focused her attentions on her frail son. Williams would draw on his turbulent family experiences in his later writing.

Aged eight, the family moved to St Louis when his father got a new job, and they moved around various homes.

https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/sup

Book here for Tennessee Williams’ AND TELL SAD STORIES OF THE DEATHS OF QUEENS – http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/sup

Studying journalism at the University of Missouri, Williams feel in love with a girl and began writing to earn extra cash, but had little success.

He joined a University fraternity but it wasn’t exactly his scene, and he also failed a military training course in his junior year.

His father pulled him out of college and got him a job in the International Shoe Company factory.

Williams hated the nine-to-five monotony and starting writing prolifically in his spare time, often until late into the night. Overworked and unhappy, he suffered a nervous breakdown. He was still only 24.

In 1936, Williams enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis and his writing continued. In 1937 he transferred to the University of Iowa, graduating with a BA in English in 1938. In 1939 he adopted the pen name Tennessee Williams.

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Brooding Brando in the movie version of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)

After another five years of writing toil and working in menial jobs, he became famous ‘overnight’ with The Glass Menagerie (1944), a play that reflected his unhappy family background.

This was the first in a run of huge hits that included A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) – both of which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama – and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959).

Both Streetcar and Cat were made into highly successful films, which brought his work to a much wider audience. Both stories included references to various aspects of Williams’ life including his depression, alcoholism and homosexuality.

The playwright has began exploring his homosexuality in the late 1930s and had various relationships before settling into a long-term relationship with Frank Merlo in the late 1940s.

By this time, and following his sister’s severe ill health and institutionalisation, Williams was already a seriously heavy drinker, suffering from depression, and a user of amphetamines and barbiturates.

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Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958)

Merlo became his personal secretary and a source of stability for some years until drug use and infidelities on both sides ended the 14-year relationship.

Shortly after, Merlo was diagnosed with lung cancer and Williams cared for him until he died in 1963.

In the years following, the writer descended into depression and increasingly heavy use of prescription drugs. A convert to Roman Catholicism (later said to be against his will) he was committed to mental health facilities a number of times. He never again scaled the heights of his earlier successes.

On 25th February 1983, he was found dead – aged 71 – in his suite at New York’s Hotel Elysée. The Chief Medical Examiner said Williams had choked to death after inhaling the plastic cap of a bottle, although there has been some debate about his actual cause of death. Despite his wishes to be buried at sea, he was buried in St. Louis, Missouri.

On his death, Marlon Brando said of Williams, “He always told the truth as best he perceived it, and never turned away from things that beset or frightened him. We are all diminished by his death.”

During his career, Williams also wrote screenplays, poetry, short stories and one-act plays – including And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens. This was originally written in 1957, with Williams apparently continuing to work on the text as late as 1962. It was first performed in in 2004 in Washington DC, and published in its present form in 2005.

SUP is proud to be presenting this groundbreaking piece of LGBTQ+ writing on a double-bill with GHOST STORY by acclaimed British writer Mark Ravenhill – for one night only.


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 – 7.30pm

Tickets from just £9.50 – with 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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Christie on Campus #7

Christie on Campus #7

The New Year brings new blood to the Nuffeld stage

The cast of SUP’s upcoming AND THEN THERE WERE NONE includes new faces

When we auditioned and cast the show, we were pleased to welcome some exciting new talent to SUP Theatre Company.

In fact, the 10-strong cast is an almost 50/50 split, comprising five new or new-ish members alongside five longstanding players. This has made for a genuinely interesting dynamic within the cast, as old friends have come to blows in character – and new alliances are forged.

So, it’s in with the new…

Anna Hussey plays Mrs Rogers

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Anna Hussey

Anna has mainly been working backstage for the last decade, specialising in costume since leaving university.

She returned to the stage in 2016 and is making her debut performing with SUP in this thrilling production, with a marvellous turn as the hectoring and put-upon housekeeper on Soldier Island.

Along with performing, Anna enjoys board games, sci-fi and fantasy TV/film and attending rock gigs. She also hopes to return to another of her university pastimes in the near future... skydiving!

Gavin Costigan is Justice Lawrence Wargrave

Gavin’s first public performance in 1972 received mixed reviews from the critics.

Some thought that a loud solo rendition of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” may not have been entirely appropriate for a Nativity play – and perhaps even less so since he was in the audience.

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Gavin Costigan

His acting skills have progressed since then, although sadly his singing is much the same. He has appeared in a variety of shows for different groups, and before the current production his favourite part was Charles Condomine in BLITHE SPIRIT.

Gavin is returning to the stage after a break from acting due a combination of work and children – but both of these are now somewhat more under control. His Wargrave is watchful and controlling. When not acting or trying to earn a living, he writes poetry, drinks whisky and walks up Scottish mountains, though not all at once.

Hannah Harrison plays Dr Elizabeth Armstrong

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Hannah Harrison

Hannah likes to think that her revolutionary gender swap makes her the TRUE first female Doctor!

She trained as a professional actress at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts alongside fellow cast member Jess Capes. After following her friend of six years to Southampton, Hannah decided that she had to go one step further and join SUP – to further annoy Jess with her constant company.

Hannah is also an avid snow globe collector and has a thing for pineapple shaped objects. Her Dr. Armstrong is a joy to behold.

Alex Mawers is Anthony Marston

Alex is a qualified accountant working at Southampton General Hospital. As his amoral playboy character in the show says – repeatedly and annoyingly – he’s a “triffic!” addition to the team.

He’s only just returned to acting and this will be his first stage performance since his GCSE performance of Alice in Wonderland in 2010!

Although not seen on stage with SUP yet, Alex did appear as the Inspector’s assistant at two SUP Murder Mystery Dinners in 2018.

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Alex Mawers

Jess Capes plays Vera Claythorne

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Jess Capes

Jess trained at drama school with fellow cast mate Hannah.

She is very excited to be tackling this role alongside an amazing cast: if rehearsals are anything to go by, her performance in the climax of the play will have audiences on the edges of their seats.

Jess used to compete in ice skating, loves her brass music and once owned 13 gerbils!

Please remember to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the show – and don’t forget to book


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 also 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

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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