Saturday, 18 February 2017

Timon of Athens

It's not unusual for a Shakespeare to be included in the season at the Sewell Barn. However, Timon of Athens is an unusual show and seldom seen in performance - so here's your chance! It plays 16-18 and then 22-25 February.

The cast works superbly as an ensemble in this modern setting, using mostly women and a great deal of multi-casting. It's challenging, absorbing and wholly relevant to a twenty-first century audience, as the reviews are telling us.

"Saw the opening night of Timon of Athens at the Sewell Barn yesterday - brilliant production of a play which should be performed much more often. Debt, bankcruptcy and being abandoned by your friends - a story for our times." Fiona D

"Just seen Timon of Athens @sewellbarn. Great show, well done, all!" Rosamund W

"Really enjoyed your performance last night of Timon of Athens. Excellent throughout. Don't know why this play doesn't get put on more." Dan F

"Thank you @sewellbarn for bringing so much joy and hard work to us all! You are all truly incredible! Looking forward to next show!" Chris H

"Timon of Athens, so much local talent... very impressed." Kayte R

"Once again, another excellent production from the Sewell Barn. A very striking and thoughtful production. A parable for our times, relevant and fresh. Thank you." Barnaby M

"I do love Shakespeare and usually read and study a bit before watching a performance. With this play I was busy and distracted so time rushed by. But it was so good to be surprised by Shakespeare, and this play draws you in and then the tale twists, sometimes even creating bursts of shocked laughter.

Timon just seems too nice, distributing his 'huge' wealth amongst his 'friends' with banquets and presents, without any thought for the costs, indeed ignoring the evidence. I wonder at his history that made him feel he has to buy these friendships. But of course if he ever was in trouble these same friends would certainly look after him, wouldn't they? Who would remain to offer help if he ever lost everything? And how would his outlook on life change if this ever happened?

Shakespeare's use of language is legendary for his insight into the human condition and also its sometime unintelligibility, but understanding was never a problem in this performance. With a brilliant, bland, simple but very effective set as the backdrop the characters are highlighted as they should be. The scenes, settings and physicality of the action told the tale, with the dialogue forcing home the message. This cast bring the play to life with engaging energy, creating very interesting and sometimes intense characters that we can believe in and feel for. Watch this play and wonder how you would behave if you had lost everything, or had the power to provide help and save someone from falling. Enjoy." Mark M

"So you take a play that’s over 400 years old that nobody ever does. You update it into a completely contemporary time-frame and play it on a bare stage dominated by a hostile grey abstract structure that transforms in your mind into a multitude of settings – interiors, city walls, a rocky wilderness. You cross-cast many of the characters so that you have 10 women and 2 men, most of them playing a whole range of small parts. In this body of actors some of them are vastly experienced, some are very new to theatre and one joined the team only a week before opening night. It’s either total madness or a total miracle. But this is the Sewell Barn Theatre, chaps – so what you get is the miracle….

Huge congratulations to director Rob Tiffen and his entire team after the launch of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens last night. And perhaps the most miraculous thing is that a play which is also totally dominated by its main character (an astonishing tour de force from Greg Lindsay-Smith as Timon) turns into a real ensemble piece, and through the commitment of the complex network of major and minor characters the unfamiliar story-line comes across with total clarity. One minute bitter, stark and harsh – the next, unexpected flashes of dry humour – and the whole? Well, according to most of the audience afterwards, tremendously satisfying and – much to their surprise, apparently – really enjoyable. No spoilers here, though – you’ll have to come and see it. And I mean, you *have* to come and see this. It’s not an easy night out but my God it’s rewarding. Thank you, guys!" Selwyn T

Saturday, 14 January 2017

There Came a Gypsy Riding

Photography: Sean Owen of
This beautiful play is quirky, challenging, full of light and shade, Irish superstition and humour, tears and reflection and hilarity. It was referred to by the cast and crew as 'the Irish play' as we'd hit so many challenges along the way: by the time the show went up, we were on our second directing team, our second Simon and our FOURTH Louise - all for very understandable reasons. Our set designer was taken ill with the final painting and set-dressing still to do. And the East Anglian snow set in on opening night. Yet this fabulous tale withstood those challenges, and continued to delight.

"What a wonderful way to kick off a new year - select a top-notch play by a master of the craft, equip it with a superb cast in sparkling form, give them a simple but beautifully imaginative and evocative setting, complete with sound effects - then sit back and enjoy! I know this simple recipe involves an enormous amount of hard work beforehand but the end result was a fitting addition to the SB canon and deserves to take its place amongst the top ten productions during my theatre-going at the Barn [c. 30+ years.] Please convey my congratulations to the whole team - let's hope the weather improves swiftly, along with the attendance figures." Stephen S

"That was worth the wait. A fine and very moving drama, wonderfully performed. I also really appreciated the lyrical nature of the piece and the beautiful set. Well done to all, I look forward to the next show x" Barnaby M

"We both enjoyed Gypsy very much. The second half in particular was very moving, especially the scenes between Mel and Reuben, but everyone gave engaging and sympathetic performances. The direction was unfussy which let the script and the performances breathe. You should both be very pleased with the results." John H

"Some stunningly beautiful performances from Rachel Godfrey-Bennett and Abbe Swain as well as Bridget, Simon and Dad (sorry I don't know your names). Incredibly moving and at the same time funny. Well done Sewell Barn, you've done it again!!!! X x x" Wendy A

"Just to say how impressed [we] were with your play last night, very enjoyable, Bridget & Louise superb, the accents were accurate... I have met women like Bridget long ago, the turn of phrase, humour and sorrow portrayed fabulous. Congratulations to everyone. All doing it for the love of their art. I am so pleased I went to see it." Kathy S

"What a wonderful evening at the theatre. A beautifully written play full of conflicted characters, and acted to perfection. I haven't seen a play in a long while that has me laughing out loud and then nearly in tears within seconds, before back to laughing! This was an emotional journey for both the characters and the audience but it's one well worth going on. Five more chances to see this and I'd strongly encourage anyone to go if they can. Well done to all involved." Emma K

"Went to see the incredible There Came a Gypsy Riding at the Sewell Barn Theatre tonight. Both of us were very moved. Great acting, beautiful set, fab script. 😊 Well done all." Moira H

"Saw it last night. ....fabulous. Heartbreaking and hilarious." Joanie G

"There are many difficult questions we face in this strange state we call living. Some are very long and complicated but have very short, not always easy, answers. Then there are those questions that strike to the heart and soul and have answers that could fill a lifetime, WHY!, is one of them.

"Here in Ireland a family gather in their seaside holiday home for a difficult anniversary. Even the most celebratory of family gatherings can have their problems can't they, and this isn't one of them. Tension builds as the characters struggle to deal with a troubled past. There are places that can't provide answers, perhaps sometimes it's better not to know?

"The cast carry a taste of Ireland to Norwich with 'colourful' language and accents, essential when producing a play based in a country famous for its use of language. Characters appear fully formed on stage, solid and ready to engage both the audience and each other. We are taken through all the range of emotions as the drama plays out its course. But we are given chances to laugh as well. With the usual wonderful, very effective set, to work with and good costume, the cast have a perfect place to create and they do brilliantly, but also they are making us think about the big questions. Appreciate this production, I certainly did. ;-)" Mark M

"Your production was truly splendid - funny, moving and poignant in equal measure. First-rate performances too." Peter W

"I experienced a fantastic range of emotions during the performance .. I was amused by Bridget, the dotty cousin, while feeling a degree of pity for her loneliness; I felt empathy for the family, having lost Eugene in tragic circumstances; I also was impatient with them as they were reluctant to let him go. The young ones really wanted to get on with their lives and I felt sorry for their plight. A simple set offered a lovely background, with cleverly interspersed sea and seagull sounds to add to the atmosphere. It was a well put together production and all the cast did it proud. Well done to all concerned. It is definitely one to see, so book up quickly. It runs tonight and Wednesday through to Saturday next week." Jill F

"Congratulations to the There Came a Gypsy Riding team - lovely performances and direction - all the best with the rest of the run!" Luke O

"...see a poignant, charming and engaging production of "There Came a Gypsy Riding". Beautiful performances from all the cast including Abbe Swain and Rachel Godfrey-Bennett. You'll be glad you did!" Steve A

"Funny, sad, thought-provoking, and beautifully acted. Can't recommend this play enough." Sandra B

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Lord Arthur Savile's Crime

This hilarious show, based on a short story by Oscar Wilde and bearing all the hallmarks of his wit and characterisations, proved a great success.

"Here we see the iconic characters of intelligent butler and nice but dim Lord, brought to life, and in unusual close up for me as I was in the first row for a change... Using the ease of well known characters the audience are quick to engage with the action, in the comfort of thinking they know what to expect, amusement soon rippling around the theatre. But brilliant and very amusing surprises are waiting. The cast instantly produce really vivacious, strong characters that were so easy to warm to, you could feel the pleasure of the audience in every burst of laughter. With the cast working so well together creating realistic relationships both loving, and not. With a stunning set, and some excellent props and FX this is one to sit back and relish. So if you like classic comedy that is full of solid characters and explosive energy don’t miss this." Mark M

"Once again a great show at the Sewell Barn! An explosive and finely executed comedy which kept us highly entertained. It was full of energy and enthusiasm and the cast were clearly enjoying themselves. Excellent." Barnaby M

"Just back from the last night of this fabulous production! Well done Rob and all the cast! You milked all the humour and then some!!" Robin S

"Well done to Matt Scantlebury tonight - sterling performance chap, always a class act to watch. Also Nic Myers, brilliantly played, best comedic tears ever, finally Chloe Norris great little cameo role." Martin R

"Really enjoyed the show last night, well done. People: go and see Matt Scantlebury in his play - very fine comedy acting." Chris T

"Well, that was fantastic fun, well set, brilliantly acted and engaging to the end. I kept expecting to know what the next faux pas would be but the twists kept me guessing, and laughing! Well done all involved with Lord Arthur!" Emma K

"A most enjoyable evening . Haven't laughed so much in ages. Well done to all the cast!" Karen S

"Took a friend last night. Lord Arthur Savile's Crime turned out to be a wonderful piece of whimsy, deftly handled by the cast. We were tickled pink and came away grinning broadly. Not bad from two hard bitten theatre goers :)"Annette B

"Went tonight and was great - funny! Happy to go again... It was hilarious - highly recommend this show - some great comedy performances. " Jo M

"Really enjoyed myself this evening, well done to all the cast and crew especially Rob Morris [director]." Ruth H

"This was such fun to watch. Well done to all involved." Ruth E

Friday, 21 October 2016

Accolade: reviews

Accolade, by Emlyn Williams, has been the first show of the 2016/17 season, and we've been delighted to receive wonderful feedback. The comments below come from Facebook and Twitter, and you can also click on the photo at the end of this post to see messages on our foyer chalkboard from our audiences.

"Congratulations to Clare Williamson and her team for their production of Accolade at the Sewell Barn Theatre. It was a truly gripping play and beautifully interpreted in all aspects . I am glad I was able to get see it and thank you to the Sewell Barn for the opportunity." Clare H

"Well done to the cast and crew of Accolade at The Sewell Barn Theatre. An emotive and crackling performance dealing with issues as relevant today as when first written. A great opener to the new season - well done all." Angela R

"Great night at Accolade - fantastic show... Lots to talk about all the way home (is Will a bad man?!). Actors, set, lighting, costumes...all top notch. Well done Clare Williamson on brilliant direction - looking forward to our next visit to the barn already!" Becky A

"Fantastic show 'Accolade' at the Sewell Barn today. Wonderful performances and I am proud to say that I know so many of them. Well done to all the cast, director and stage management team." Wendy A

"The performance tonight was honed to perfection... thoroughly rehearsed, highly charged and very emotional... I loved the "off text" action and reaction, the pace was cracking, direction assured... and I could hear every word... good start to your joint debut season...." Malcolm R

"Accolade; deserves nothing but accolades." Solveig E

"Just come out of @sewellbarn's production of Emlyn Williams' "Accolade". So powerful, so intense in exploring personal vice and its effect." David W

"Absolutely loved Accolade. Totally gripped by the plot throughout and loved the complexity of the characters. My daughter and I were discussing it all the way home - trying to decide whether we blamed Will or not for his actions. This is a play that will stay with me - thank you Clare Williamson and cast. Particular congrats to Will Sellgren for a mesmerising Ian - up there with the West End version! Your old drama teacher is very proud! So lucky to see such quality theatre at an affordable price." Sian D

"Went to see Accolade at the Sewell Barn. A brilliant production of this play by Emlyn Williams. Although written in the 1950s it is still so relevant today. The direction and acting brought out the subtle nuances of each character. Funny, tragic sometimes uncomfortable viewing but so very watchable. Well done all involved! PS - They used real books on stage. I'm told the titles were relevant to the play! It is on tonight, Friday and Saturday - get to see it if you can." Etta G

"Well done, Clare Williamson. Really enjoyed the performance of  'Accolade' at the Sewell Barn Theatre." Richard E

"Had a great night seeing Emlyn Williams' ACCOLADE at the Sewell Barn Theatre! Perfect performance as Phyllis, Ruth! Everyone was amazing - my friend and I were in awe, and felt very privileged to have this high standard of production happening on our doorstep. Congratulations all xx" Jen A

"What a cracking start to the new season! I was in the audience on the first night of Accolade and it is definitely one not to be missed! Clare, the director, has captured the era perfectly and the production is a controlled and measured one. There is a very talented cast, I will not single anyone out ... all the characters are totally believable. We agonise with Will for his mistakes whilst feeling irritated with him at the same time! We feel for his poor long suffering wife and hope that his agent will knock some sense into him! Will's son is a typical gauche teenager who is too naive for his own good! The almost sinister arrival of a visitor all adds to the suspense. light relief is added by the 'fun' loving couple from the pub Will frequents and I will say no more ... go and see for yourselves! You will not regret it." Jill F

"Huge congrats to Clare Williamson and all your wonderful cast on a superb first night of Accolade at Sewell Barn! Particularly liked the comment from the Italian guy in the row next to me who's staying with some local friends and said it was not only a brilliantly written play but a fantastic cast and the best evening at the theatre he'd ever had in England. Well done guys, keep it going for the rest of the run!" Selwyn T

"What a superb and challenging production. I have never seen Accolade before, so did not know what to expect. Great performances all round. As an audience we were very engrossed. Well done." Barnaby M

"...a really enjoyable play with our friend Joanie Gray in it. Well done Joanie - you and the whole ensemble were fantastic! A great evening. :-) xxx" Maxine S

We have also received a splendid and insightful review from Mark Mobbs:

"We all have many personalities that we use or choose to reveal at certain times and occasion’s. How these personalities affect our behaviour can also be very revealing. We do assume people have ‘codes’ that they live by constantly, whatever the situation they would not deviate unless extremely provoked. But what about someone with a dark side a real Jekyll and Hyde character?

Take an acclaimed writer; he must have a very fertile imagination to write the ‘artistic’ works he is famed for, they couldn’t be his actual experiences, or could they? We are drawn into the ‘lives’ of this writer, we feel sympathy for him as a character as his ‘problems’ become apparent, after all who hasn’t been ‘naughty’ sometimes, he wouldn’t ever do anything really bad would he?

His character is reflected in the ‘friends’ he chooses, at times they seem to be like aspects of his personality separated off and solidified. The agent, solid, sensible and controlled, trying to serve, protect and manage her friend but also knowing some of his secrets. And the ‘secretary’ a glimpse of his past, a working class wide boy who has fallen into good times.

The ‘darker’ side characters show the fun he has away from his normal life in the physicality of a very ‘alive’ naughty couple of characters, lively and vivacious, drinking, giggling with childish amusement, or showing macho energy and front, both characters promiscuous and amoral, but getting so much fun from it, there are no barriers to enjoyment here.

Then the, at first, very weak and dubious ‘wronged’ character (yes spoiler alert) confronts and makes demands that seem a bit vague, but later become more threatening as he reveals his real strength of character.

Another positive character is his wonderful wife, full of care, energy and passion, supporting , and possibly creating, the acclaimed side of him.

There have been plays at this special Theatre that slap you in the face with their action and physicality, the audience having to mind the blood on the floor when they came in. This one is different. Here you gradually become deeply engaged and feeling for the characters as the tale unravels, a slow burner but with some wonderful reveals, but the slap is still there waiting.

Spend an evening with this energised cast of characters, you will, of course, enjoy the production, but it will also make you think, and surely that is what great ‘Art’ is supposed to do?"

Friday, 15 July 2016

The History Boys: reviews

The History Boys was a resounding success - both artistic and financial. The show was an almost total sell-out, and the feedback from our audiences on social media was wonderful.

Here are some reactions from Facebook:

"Outstanding performance last night by all the cast. A wonderful evening of entertainment, thank you." Kathryn W

"Top marks all round! Wonderful play about the quality of humanity and its transforming role in education. So many good things it's unfair to pick one name, but I have to say that David White as Hector, the teacher who all teenagers deserve, brings perfectly-judged sympathy, humour and understated wisdom to this key role. And the boys? They are a class of all the talents. Thank you Michelle Montague (director) for an evening to remember." David N

"Well done Michelle and all, a great production." Kirsten R

"I had very high hopes for the production of The History Boys at Sewell Barn this evening with Charlie Skinner and David Nicholas Green and I was not disappointed. All those who know me, know how critical I am when it comes to the theatre and how high my standards are, so when I say that it was like watching a professional company I mean it. Congratulations to the director as the brilliant yet demanding script and the space available must have made the task challenging but I can say ,with ease, that the direction appeared faultless and creative. The whole cast played their characters with excellent timing, depth and subtlety. I especially admired the seamless and creative scene changes. A thoughtful, funny and heartfelt performance of a brilliant play and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Congratulations to all involved xxx" Laura W

"Absolutely brilliant production of The History Boys last night. Really believed the boys were in class together for many years! Excellent." Barnaby M

"What an amazing show... everything about it... lost for words... so much to take in that I may have to go back again next week. Massive congratulations to everyone involved." Ruth H

"Congratulations to all of you in the cast. A fantastic performance which captured the poignancy, power and humour of Alan Bennett's great play. You brought 80s Yorkshire (and beyond) to life superbly. Loved it." John B

"Incredible professional performances all round, well done to everyone." Matthew D

"Great opening night! Congratulations to the whole company, you have a brilliant show xxx" Rachel L

"Went to see a wonderful, thought provoking production of The History Boys at Sewell Barn tonight. Huge congratulations to Miche Montague and her team. This was a marvellous, creative and absorbing interpretation. I loved the songs too! Pass it on, pass it on and go see it while you can!" Clare W

"The History Boys at the Sewell Barn was bloody brilliant! Well done to David Nicholas Green, Charlie Skinner, and everyone else involved!" Victoria P

"Congratulations to the cast and crew of History Boys. Went to see the show last night and it is both a credit and testament to the work of Miche Montague. Not just on this production, not just her work at Sewell Barn, but her work in the wider Norwich drama community. The sheer strength and ability of the boys in this production (all of whom have come through the ranks at the Theatre Royal under Miche's teaching and mentorship) is a delight. I'm sure they would have given the boys in the original professional production a run for their money. This isn't intended as a review but I feel I have to call out two exceptional performances: Luke McCulloch (Posner) and Joe Darbyshire (Dakin) pulled out performances way beyond their years. I'm sure both have a very bright future in the profession. Luke's natural ability and timing is a rare, innate, talent (possibly a future stand up comedian?) and Joe's brooding stage presence clearly demonstrates that he has "it". This is not to denigrate any of the other performances. this was a show that relied on the ability of a strong ensemble performance. And they all delivered in spades... An absolute credit to Sewell Barn. Well done." Nick M

Elsewhere online, we've had a lovely review from Deborah at Outline; you can read the whole article here. "A well produced and very enjoyable version of this play."

and Twitter:

" 'History is just one thing after another' but History Boys is one great scene after another. Catch it @sewellbarn a must-see" @jbultitude

"Saw @LukeMcCulloch as Posner in #TheHistoryBoys @sewellbarn lst night. What a fantastic performance! So very proud." @theactorsclass

Friday, 10 June 2016

Brimstone & Treacle: reviews

Photography: Sean Owen of Reflective Arts
From the very first performance, we have been delighted with the positive feedback on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

"Sometimes the Sewell Barn offers up a production or a performance that is outstanding, even stellar. Personally, for me it has happened on two occasions: the chilling production of Festen, a couple of years ago, and Joe Wills Derbyshire as Caligula, last season, will always stand out in my memory, and last night I saw a production and performances that rank with those two.

Brimstone and Treacle, superbly directed by Jen Dewsbury, and featuring riveting performances by the cast, will long remain in my memory. Jonathan Massey was diabolically intense as Martin, and was admirably matched by the gentle, trusting, hopeful persona portrayed by Abbe Swain as Mrs Bates. These two commanded one's attention throughout the play. Sabrina Diane Poole performed the difficult role of the catatonic daughter with sympathy and intensity, and Stewart Thompson .showed us the dark politically loathsome side of Tom Bates well. A fantastic, uncomfortable , and perversely enjoyable event. Congratulations to you all."

"Go and see Brimstone & Treacle - strange and unsettling, brilliantly acted!"

"Amazing first night. Well done to all involved."

"Congratulations to @sewellbarn for a great opening night of Brimstone and Treacle. Powerful performances and excellent direction. Well done!"

"Really powerful production of Brimstone and Treacle at @sewellbarn tonight. Strong, committed cast - @JPPMassey and @Sabz_101 outstanding!"

"Brimstone and Treacle...amazing, horrifying, funny, sad. Don't miss it, well done to all the cast and crew you were brilliant."

"WOW - all of the above and more, well done to all!"

"Superb production of "Brimstone and Treacle" tonight. Sabrina Poole was outstanding as Pattie. A great theatre experience."

"Excellent production as always, superb ambiance, superlative acting, great set..."

"Brimstone and Treacle. Sewell Barn. Awesome. You watch a play and you wish you were worthy of the words to describe the depth, the acting, the direction. It was, everything you could watch from such a hideous story."

"F*** me backwards! That was intense. If you haven't seen Brimstone &Treacle yet, get your ass off the sofa and go do it at Sewell Barn Theatre before the last show. Laughed! Cried! Wanted to get out of my seat with the sheer amount of angry. turns out I work with one of the lovely, talented actors doing their amazing thing tonight. Seriously! Go see it before it's gone. Thank you muchly for the invite Wendy. It was awesome but I feel I need a bit of emotional recovery after that xD lol"

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The Burial at Thebes: reviews

The first night is over, and we're thrilled to have received several overwhelmingly positive responses already this morning. The show plays tonight (14 May) and tomorrow, and then resumes Wednesday 18 to Saturday 21. Why not come along and see what all the fuss is about?

"I saw The Burial at Thebes tonight. It was a great production of a great play with a visceral translation by Seamus Heaney. Really good work by David Nicholas Green, his cast and creative team!"

"I want to pass on my praise for the burial at Thebes last night. The audience was scandalously small for such fine performances. Beautiful set and language. Very moving in places. Thanks to you all. I truly hope you get better audiences."

"Many congratulations on a stirring piece of theatre."

"This was one of the most amazing productions I have seen for a long time. It's so rare to get the opportunity to see a script such as this (Greek Tragedy) and then for it to be brought to life in such a capable way by David Green I couldn't have asked for more. The set design and "technique" with the sand (I won't give away spoilers, because you just HAVE to see it) was something I had never seen before. David had gathered together a very capable and strong cast who tackled long passages of script with ease and competently took us on a journey. A big well done to everyone involved, get and see this whilst you can."

"Just back from seeing this tonight ... We thought it was superb from the set, acting and directing. Well done all involved. 'It's a must see'."

And a very lovely review here:

"Ok folks, here's a tip for you : 

If you find yourself in need of a dark, thought-provoking, intense, tragic, dramatic, well-acted, imaginatively staged piece of theatre either tonight or tomorrow, I'd suggest you treat yourself and get yourself off to the Sewell Barn. Their current production of 'Burial at Thebes' has only two more days to run and is a quite captivating and entertaining , one-act play. (So it's quite short...)

Huge congratulations all round to the cast, crew and especially whoever designed the stage-set (apologies for the lack of names to drop here - I forgot to grab a programme!) which makes quite the most innovative use of the Barn's space I've seen since their production of 'Bedlam' a couple of years ago. 

Bravo! Outstanding!"