BLOG: Making Tracks #1

Welcome to The Three Chimneys

SUP Theatre Company is taking audiences back to the Golden Age of Steam: SUP co-chair Stephen Fenerty introduces our January 2020 show and its author.

E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children is an acknowledged classic. Originally serialised in The London Magazine in 1905, it made its debut as a book the following year.

The story, in case you didn’t know, is about an Edwardian family forced to relocate from London to a house near the railway line in Yorkshire – the house is called The Three Chimneys – after the father, a high ranking civil servant at the Foreign Office, is imprisoned after being accused of spying.

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A classic image from the 1970 film version of THE RAILWAY CHILDREN

The narrative follows the central trio of children – Bobbie (Roberta), Peter and Phil (Phyllis) – in their various adventures and with the colourful characters they meet in and around the railway.

The book mentions the then-current Russo-Japanese war, which dates the events to spring, summer and autumn of 1905.

The railway setting is believed to have been inspired by the author’s walks to Chesfield railway station in the London Borough of Bromley, near where she lived, and her observing construction of the railway cutting and tunnel.

Described by her biographer as “the first modern writer for children”, Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) wrote or collaborated on more than 60 books. Incidentally, even though her name was Edith, she was always known as Daisy.

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Edith Nesbit – ‘Daisy’

A follower of the Marxist designer, poet and novelist William Morris, she was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organisation that was later affiliated to the Labour Party.

The Railway Children is perhaps her most famous work, closely followed by The Story of the Treasure Seekers and Five Children and It.

Noël Coward was an admirer of her work, writing that she had “an economy of phrase, and an unparalleled talent for evoking hot summer days in the English countryside.”

The Railway Children has been adapted for the screen six times, including three serialisations on the BBC in the 1950s and 1960s, and a TV movie in 2000. The most famous version is Lionel Jeffries’ 1970 film. Jenny Agutter played Bobbie in both the BBC’s 1968 and the 1970 film version—and was re-cast as Mother for the TV movie in 2000.

The Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation being presented by SUP at NST Campus in January 2020 was first staged in 2008 and 2009 at the National Railway Museum in York, and later enjoyed highly successful runs at London’s Waterloo and Kings Cross rail stations.

Almost one hundred years after her death, E. Nesbit’s work is still with us, and continues to delight successive generations of children. As her biographer Noel Streatfeild wrote:

“When an author dies, as E. Nesbit did in 1924, too often their books are forgotten. This did not happen in her case, for the books have gone on, loved by generation after generation of children. Not all her books were great, but enough were for her name to belong forever to children’s literature.”


SUP presents THE RAILWAY CHILDREN at NST Campus, 22-25 January 2020

Book now: call 023 8067 1771 or click here

Tickets from just £10

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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

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