Throwback #5

LADIES DAY (2008)

As the lockdown lifts and lowers, starts, stops, re-starts and hesitates our drama productions remain somewhere in the hazy and uncertain future. Which means enjoying the summer where we can and once again taking a look in the other direction – to the past and 2008.

Today we remember one of our favourites – Amanda Whittington’s Ladies Day. This was a play originally commissioned by Hull Truck and followed the exploits of four Hull ladies working in a fish processing factory who are determined to get themselves to the ladies day event in the year that Royal Ascot took place at York – an event where their relationships are tested and their fortunes change.

The original Hull Truck production was directed by Gareth Tudor Price who also took it on a twelve week tour of the UK.

Our own version, just three years later, and suggested to us by Gareth was produced by Richard Bateman and was an opportunity to create a modern minimalist set which quickly moved from a fish plant to various areas of the racecourse.

LADIES DAY by Amanda Whittington, performed in early 2008

The only negative about this wonderful production was that we had issues with getting our traditional dress rehearsal photographs taken. We did manage to grab a few and they are shown in the following slideshow – simply scroll through them to view.

The four ladies, played by Barbara, Jayne, Nic and Janet remained in character and the occasional various male roles were shared between Rob and Steve.

I remember a brief discussion – very brief – with the Producer about whether we should obtain real fish for the production line scene. Whilst the audience would have the convincing sensorial special effect of wet fish aroma drifting to the front rows, it would have been less convincing for the Royal Ascot at York scenes.
And by the last night this would be enhanced. Uncomfortably so.
And the subsequent users of the Village Hall in the following week or two would be asking questions…

The cast L to R; Steve Howland, Barbara Failey, Jayne Hewson, Nic Johnson, Janet Drewery, Rob Newton.

The other challenges that come to my mind certainly, was having to learn the bookies tic-tac sign language and run it without thinking and watching Rob in his jockey silks riding his imaginary horse to an Irish accented monologue.

It was such a refreshing play with so many laughs and poignant moments. We already knew of the sequel – Ladies Down Under – and were eager for it to be licensed for release for a future production.

Clearly Richard, our Producer, was busy when we took the backstage photo.

More throwbacks soon!


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PETUARIA PLAYERS – NEWS

Don’t get excited. The news is that there is no news.

I was recently directed to the latest Covid-19 information on Government Guidelines for Performing Arts (click to link to the guidelines). It describes, at great length and detail all the restrictions that would need to be in place, what you cannot yet do and a roadmap towards a restricted world of what you cannot do later either, albeit a bit more than now. To read it all, however, would have taken so long that the guidelines will have been updated and out of date – so I abandoned the exercise and concluded from my brief scanning of the document that we won’t be performing anytime soon. No surprise there then.

As a group we are using Zoom a lot to stay socially connected and we recently used it to have an Extraordinary Committee Meeting. This was basically to discuss what we didn’t know and we formally decided that we could not make any decisions. Apart from that one.

The new guidelines for performing arts and the general guidelines show that performances are a long way off. Bearing in mind that to plan a production we need to obtain a licence and have three months of rehearsals in close (sometimes very close) proximity – and unless we run some monologues, like a run of Alan Bennet’s excellent Talking Heads, then social distancing is not possible. Then, of course, we would need to consider what form of audience set up we would need. The situation remains fluid and the goalposts keep changing and so we find ourselves unable to make any decisions about our future and potential play seasons.

Of course, we are constantly reviewing the situation and as soon as we can foresee a safe, meaningful and worthwhile means of resuming performances we will do so. Everyone in the group is hoping that we can get back to doing what we love as soon as possible.

At the moment we would normally be resting between seasons anyway, and enjoying our summer break.

Play readings have gone online thanks to Zoom

The Petuaria Players may not be able to meet up in person but, like everyone else, Zoom has come to our rescue. Regular group and subgroup social events are taking place online, with the added benefit of enjoying a drink or two since there is no driving involved!

Recently we have also resumed our play readings using Zoom. And it is working remarkably well. It means we can read various scripts together and review them afterwards without having to meet at the Forum.

So it is inevitable that our first play of the season, traditionally in October, will not take place. As far as the rest of the season is concerned, no decisions will be made for a while yet – but we will keep you informed.

Stay well folks.


Throwback #4

PLAZA SUITE (2007)

We are well overdue for this fourth look back to some plays from the past. This time we are still in the year 2007. Gordon Brown had recently replaced Tony Blair as PM, it was the Northern Rock crisis and a foreshadow of the financial turmoil to come, and the ‘worst ever’ floods to hit our area – before the words ‘worst ever’ became the norm.

Yes, it is thirteen years since we performed Plaza Suite and what fun we had.

About ‘Plaza Suite’

Produced by Rob Newton this was our first play of the new 2007/8 season, performed in October.

Plaza Suite by Neil Simon – a comedy in three acts, performed in October 2007

Plaza Suite first appeared on Broadway in 1968 before being made into a movie in 1971 with that stalwart of many Neil Simon plays, Walter Matthau, as the star. It is a play in three acts but feels like three one act plays because it is about three different sets of guests staying in Suite 719 of the famous Plaza Hotel in New York. Whilst Walther Mathau played the three different males in the movie it was an ideal opportunity for us to cast more of our members across the production.

That said, it also meant that we had to double up and Rob despite his directorial role had to be on stage for a couple of short appearances along with Tina who appeared as a bride but was mostly busy backstage.

Following on from Bedroom Farce with its three bedrooms and three beds crammed onto the stage it was a comparative joy to have just the one bed and the spacious sumptuous suite we needed.

The cast L to R; Rachel Miller, Phil Johnson, Gill Collins, Rob Newton, Tina Addington, Richard Bateman, Janet Drewery, Steve Howland, Jayne Hewson

The first act, Visitor From Mamaroneck, introduces us to not-so-blissfully wedded couple Sam and Karen, who are revisiting their honeymoon suite in an attempt by Karen to bring the love back into their marriage. The arrival of his secretary creates issues…

Scroll through the following three short slideshows….

In Act Two, Visitor from Hollywood, is a meeting between movie producer Jesse Kiplinger and his old flame, suburban housewife Muriel Tate. Muriel – aware of his reputation as a smooth-talking ladies’ man – has come for nothing more than a chat between old friends, promising herself she will not stay too long. Jesse, however, has other plans in mind and repeatedly attempts to seduce her..

Neil Simon always includes one act that is more farcical and the bigger laughs are saved for  Visitor from Forest Hills. This revolves around married couple Roy and Norma Hubley on their daughter Mimsey’s wedding day. In a rush of nervousness, Mimsey has locked herself in the suite’s bathroom and refuses to leave.

Backstage crew: Back row from left; Rob Newton (Producer), Tina Addlington Nic Johnson. Front row from left; Diane Turner, Barbara Failey.
IT SEEMS UNFAIR THAT WHILST ROB SHOULD BE REMEMBERED AS THE PRODUCER OF THIS MEMORABLE PLAY THIS VISION OF HIM AS THE BELL-BOY IS FOREVER IN OUR MINDS…. AND POSTING THIS PHOTO WILL ENSURE THAT IT IS NEVER FORGOTTEN (SORRY ROB…. )

More throwbacks soon!


Throwback #3

BEDROOM FARCE (2007)

Is time flying by? In a period when you might expect it to be dragging it seems that the days are rushing past and the one week gap I planned between this post and the previous has become, apparently, an 18 day week.

Another case of time flying by is the thirteen years that have passed since we performed Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce.

About ‘Bedroom Farce’

Produced by Janet Drewery this was our last play of the 2007 season, performed in early May.

Trevor and Susannah, whose marriage is on the rocks, inflict their miseries on their nearest and dearest: three couples whose own relationships are tenuous at best.

Typically, Ayckbourn’s titles are misleading – Bedrooms are certainly featured but it’s not really a farce, but a comedy that takes place sequentially in the three beleaguered couples’ bedrooms during one endless Saturday night of co-dependence and dysfunction; beds, tempers, and domestic order are ruffled, leading all the players to a hilariously touching epiphany.

Our sets are always challenging but creating three bedrooms with beds, at different levels, on that stage was a special demand, not just for building it but for sourcing three beds (and disposing / returning them afterwards) and for the actors having to move throughout the play between the bedrooms. Even at dress rehearsal actors were heard to be shouting “Excuse me, just which bedroom am I supposed to be in at the moment please?” Although perhaps the true quotation was somewhat more blunt and explicit at the time.

The cast; ; Back row L to R, Rob Newton, Dianne Turner, Richard Bateman, Wendy Elliot
In bed: L to R Phil Johnson, Jayne Hewson, Gill Collins, Steve Howland.

Our dress rehearsal photos were not as well served in those days for some reason only a few non-digital prints were taken – but here they are – please scroll through the gallery.

As with most plays, not everything went to plan, although the audience is (usually) unaware. This play remains in our memory for the broken finger incident. On the first night Jayne tripped and fell over a stage prop on the very condensed stage. The result, not immediately obvious other than the blinding pain, was a broken finger. This misfortune made it somewhat difficult for her to do the quick costume change backstage and even harder to carry out a comedy scene where she was undressed in bed and was supposed to put on a dress whilst under the covers. Working with one hand she managed to put the dress on – back to front – a longer than expected scene as she agonisingly corrected the problem while the Producer wondered what was happening as, to the audience, the bed took on the appearance of a sack of ferrets having a fight.

Most of the cast were very concerned about her while I, in my usual state of self-absorbed oblivion back stage between scenes, somehow remained ignorant of the situation, even to the extent that when she stepped briefly into the wings, pale faced and in anguish, lifted her hand with her little finger twisted in an unnatural position and mouthed (so she told me later) “it’s definitely broken” I simply grinned and gave her a thumbs up and mouthed ‘Great!”

My apparent lack of empathy and social awareness on that day remains a talking point, and my intuitive lip reading ability is still non-existent.

With her fingers bound after an A&E visit, she was able to perform the following nights, albeit with difficulty in those awkward on stage scenes. Well, as they say – “the show must…..” – you know the rest.

Backstage crew: Rachel Miller, Janet Drewery (Producer), Barbara Failey, Tina Addington, Dave Ralph and Bernard Reuben (in front)

More reminiscences and a dive into the archives in our next post!


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