Well my first play premiered this last weekend and it was a great success. A few bewildered faces at the complexity of the material have shown where my revisions lie, but it was still very well received by the audiences.
A huge thank you goes out to the cast, the crew and everyone who has helped out, but especially to Tim Churchill for his great directing and to Phil Kempson of C M Productions for producing the piece.
Below is the review for you to peruse through at leisure, unfortunately it is not online so i have had to write it here instead of posting the link, luckily it is in the local paper.
"Potteries writer and actor Steven Beattie has created a remarkable piece of theatre inspired by the life and work of American author Edgar Allan Poe. The 19th Century author was famous in his lifetime, and his life and work have remained prominent from that time throughout popular culture in literature, music, films and television.
Poe was a poet, journalist, editor and literary critic, but he is best known for his tales of mystery and horror. Invisible Tears cleverly weaves together all these aspects of Poe’s life and work by using the writer at his desk as a framework for some spell-binding story-telling.
The curtain opens to reveal a set which perfectly complements the largely dark and serious subject matter: subdued lighting on sparse and sombre furnishings, dark walls and the distant view of an empty attic space. Music and sound effects are well chosen throughout.
Poe is a soul tormented by illness in mind and body, by separating from his sick wife, then grief at her death, neglect by an uncaring public and money troubles. He medicates himself with alcohol, and is driven always to write.
James Freeman gives a fine performance, effectively expressing Poe’s despair and pain, sometimes quietly and sometimes with passion, and he displays intense listening skills and superb interaction with the characters in his stories.
The first story is the most difficult: a lecture by the Devil on consuming bodies and souls of philosophers, ancient classical writers and historical figures, interspersed by the sneezes and hiccups of French chef Pierre Bon-Bon proved somewhat challenging. After that, the stories of mysterious death, murder and of the fear of being buried alive are balanced by an unexpected change of tone as Rob Lawton gives a delightfully camp telling of the story of the Dutch borough of Vondervottimittis, where the inhabitants are sealed off from the world in a valley where the only objects they know are clocks and cabbages.
The eleven actors are uniformly excellent, drawing the spectator into the lives of Poe’s characters, who have an urgent need to tell their stories and to be understood. There were two occasions when the level of emotion displayed undermined the clarity and power of the story, namely during the latter part of The Tell-Tale Heart and in the delivery of Poe’s most famous poem, The Raven.
Those moments apart, Tim Churchill’s direction is pitch-perfect, achieving a skilful balance between stillness and movement, calm and powerful emotion, contemplation and sudden activity. This production deserves to be seen more widely, and I hope very much that it is.
Hi all, well 'The Herbal Bed' had a great review in the local paper, but the review was slightly shortened.
The reviewer - Leo Capernaros - kindly sent his Sentinel review of 'The Herbal Bed' to the Director who in turn has forwarded it on to myself.
So here is the review in full.....
"The Herbal Bed is based on a true story that took place in Stratford-upon-Avon during the summer of 1613, it focusses on the lives of Dr John Hall and his wife Susanna, who also happened to be the beloved daughter of William Shakespeare. The plot revolves around the public accusation of adultery, an accusation which ignites a powerful drama and shines a harsh light on 17th Century British society.
The central themes of the play are serious; love, morality, monogamy, religion and justice are all confronted as the plot unfolds and whilst this play is exceptionally well written, Stoke Repertory Players deserve huge credit for providing a performance that would put many professional
productions to shame. The highly talented cast of eight immediately launched in to the dialogue at excellent pace, each finding humour and tragedy with confidence and ease throughout.
The set was well considered, full of texture and depth it allowed for free-flowing action and fully supported the absorbing performance of the actors. None more so than Susanna played with skill by Catherine O’Reilly, who on more than one occasion gave us the sense that the daughter of the world’s greatest poet was indeed a chip off the old block. James Freeman played her husband the doctor intelligently, allowing himself an understated first act to give his character room to flourish in the second. Amy Keen-Wicks played the Hall’s six year old daughter Elizabeth beautifully, it was a real treat to see such an engaging performance from such a young actor.
As the play continues it becomes increasingly difficult to work out who exactly is the ‘villain’, but Jack Lane the doctor’s apprentice is the most obvious candidate. Intent on accusing Susanna of adultery, James King played the part with all the wit and swagger it required but kept just enough back to ensure we never lost sight of Lane’s vulnerability. The co-accused came in the form of the local haberdasher Rafe Smith, played well by Philip Milward. Smith himself trapped in a loveless marriage seeks solace in the company of Susanna, but he too has to wrestle with his moral conscience.
Also caught up in the tangled web is servant Hester Fletcher, played wonderfully by Angela Dale who gave this character depth, heart and when required inspired intelligence.
In the second act we are transported to Worcester Cathedral as Jack Lane’s accusation of adultery finds itself being disputed in a religious court. Here we are reintroduced to the Bishop Parry and Vicar Barnabus Goche. The two actors did an excellent job of portraying different sides to the church of the time. Brian Rawlins softly ensured the older Bishop embodied the warm, nurturing aspects, whilst Steven Beattie played the paranoid and judgmental vicar with intensity and power. From start to finish this was a fully engaging piece of theatre and the production is a credit to directors James Freeman and Sarah Stockdale."
Productions this year will run differently from previous years. All shows will open on a Friday. A Saturday evening performance will follow. Evening Performances from Tuesday to Saturday the following week including a matinee performance on the final Saturday. There will be no performances on Mondays
If you wish to book tickets please visit the online ticket reservation service or contact the Rep Box Office on 01782 209784.
Tickets for all plays: £9.50 ( £7.50 opening night and Matinee) £5.50 Students
84 CHARING CROSS ROAD by Helene Hanff
(Adapted by James Roose-Evans)
Directed by Alan Clarke
8th, 9th, 12th-16th March 2013
7:30pm (inc 2:30 on 16th March)
In 1949, struggling American writer Helene Hanff, hoping to indulge her love of beautiful books, started a correspondence with the staff of a company of British antiquarian booksellers that was to last for twenty years.
Based on Hanff’s own book(84 Charing Cross Road),James Roose-Evans’ stage adaptation once again brings to life a literary love affair, suffused with warmth, enchantment and charm.
THE HERBAL BED by Peter Whelan
Directed by James Freeman
26th, 27th, 30th April-4th May 2013
... 7:30pm (inc 2:30 on 4th May)
This classic costume drama is based on actual events which occurred in Stratford-upon-Avon in the summer of 1613 when Shakespeare’s married daughter, Susanna, was publicly accused of having an adulterous relationship having been seen late one moonlit night in the herb garden with her neighbor, Rafe Smith.
Despite a recanting by her accuser, Susanne, desperate to clear her name and protect her husband’s reputation within the town, bravely decides to sue for slander at the bishop’s court at Worcester Cathedral. It is a risky gamble and private lives are held up to public scrutiny in this emotional thriller in which
the outcome is far from certain and poses the question: ‘Is the real adultery that which we commit with our hearts?’
Friends United & Stoke Rep present -
MOVIE MOMENTS - A CHARITY EVENT
Directed by John Collier
9th-10th May 2013 - 7:30pm
Tickets: £10 every penny raised will go to Cancer Research UK
(More details to follow soon)
by John Godber
Directed by John Collier
14th, 15th, 18th-22nd June 2013
7:30pm (inc 2:30 on 22nd June)
(More details to follow soon)
The Young Rep present:
THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN by Peter shaffer
An epic tale of honour, respect, loyalty and allegiance set against the Spanish invasion of Peru.
Directed and designed by Brian Hadley
17TH-20TH JULY 2013
Tickets: £6.00 (£5.00 for students)
(More details to follow)
‘Not I’ is a twenty-minute dramatic monologue written in 1972 by
Samuel Beckett and premiered at the “Samuel Beckett Festival” by the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Centre, New York in Oct 1972 and was directed by Alan Schneider, with Jessica Tandy as ‘The Mouth’ and Henderson Forsythe as ‘The Auditor’.
‘Not I’ is set in a pitch-black space illuminated only by a single beam of light. This spotlight
fixes on an actress's mouth on the stage and everything else being blacked outand, in early performances, illuminates the shadowy figure of the Auditor who makes four movements of “helpless compassion” during brief intervals in the monologue where Mouth appears to be listening to some inner voice but is unheard
by the audience.
The mouth utters at a ferocious pace a ‘logorrhoea’ of fragmented, jumbled sentences which obliquely tells the story of a woman of about seventy who having been abandoned by her parents after a premature birth has lived a loveless, mechanical existence and who appears to have suffered an unspecified traumatic experience. The woman has been virtually mute since childhood apart from occasional outbursts, one of which comprises the text we hear. From the text it could be inferred that the woman had been raped but this is something Beckett was very clear about when asked:
“How could you think of such a thing!?
“No, no, not at all –it wasn’t that at all”.
It seems more likely that she has suffered some kind of collapse, possibly even her death, while “wandering in a field … looking aimlessly for cowslips.”
Her initial reaction to the paralyzing event is to assume she is being punished by God but finds she is not suffering; she feels no pain, as in life she felt no pleasure. She cannot think why she might be being punished but accepts that God does not need a “particular reason” for what He does. She thinks she has something to tell though doesn’t know what but believes if she goes over the events of her life for long enough she will stumble upon that thing for which she needs to seek forgiveness. In addition to the continued buzzing in her skull there is now a light of varying intensity tormenting her; the two seem related.
As in many of Beckett’s works there is a cyclical nature fading in and out to similar expressions suggesting this is a snapshot of a much larger event.
Beckett had always intended that Billie Whitelaw, whom he had worked with on Play, give the definitive premiere performance of ‘Not I’, but in the end, more out of friendship than because of any delays in London, he allowed Alan Schneider the opportunity to present it first in America featuring Jessica Tandy.
However, Whitelaw’s subsequent performances benefited from extensive coaching from Beckett.
That said, Beckett did not demand that the part be spoken with an accent, his one concession to Whitelaw when tutoring her. Schneider put ten questions to Beckett, indicative of his bafflement. Beckett responded
“I no more know where she is or why thus than she does. All I know is in the text. ‘She’ is purely a stage entity, part of a stage image and purveyor of a stage text. The rest is Ibsen.”
The visual image of the mouth was, according to Beckett in a letter from 1974, suggested by The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (Caravaggio) in Valletta Cathedral.
The published stage directions also call for a character of indeterminate sex referred to as 'the Auditor' (generally played by a male) who wears a black robe and can be dimly seen stage left. When Beckett came to be involved in staging the play, he found that he was unable to place the Auditor in a stage
position that pleased him, and consequently allowed the character to be omitted from those productions. However, he chose not to cut the character from the published script, and whether or not the character is used in production seems to be at the discretion of individual producers
When Schneider questioned him as to whether the Auditor was Death or a guardian angel, Beckett shrugged his shoulders, lifted his arms and let them fall to his sides, leaving the ambiguity wholly intact.
Below I have posted a video of Billie Whitelaw portraying 'The Mouth'.
Steven K Beattie's blogs. Ranging from news regarding his latest projects to general topics of discussion.