Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Kitchen Sink

With a functioning kitchen, a beautiful set and a cracking cast and crew, The Kitchen Sink is a gentle, reflective, poignant and very funny observation of the challenges of real life. Here are some comments from our audiences.

"Theatre is a lovely thing. I went along to the Sewell Barn tonight with absolutely no expectations.  I didn't know the play, didn't know the playwright, didn't know who was in it or who directed it, and I was treated to a little gem of a play, warm, witty, true to life, and so believably played by the cast. If I say it was small, this in no way derogatory, it was heartwarming and lovely. Well done everyone! Go and see it, you'll love it." David W

"You [Ruth, playing Kath] were amazing!!! I loved the play so much and you were the cornerstone of an amazing cast!!" Wendy A

"That was a very warm and intimate play, full of very sympathetic characters. A very reflective piece, enjoyed it very much." Barnaby M

"Go along and see The Kitchen Sink at the Sewell Barn! It's a well written gem of a play, with some lovely performances from the cast. Funny, poignant and sweet. Well done everyone! xx" Mandy K

"How do people really get what they want? And when what people want, and how they get it, also changes over time, what effect will this have on the companies that provide a particular service. What is the true nature of failure? What history and immediate provocation will cause one person to lash out causing floods of blood, and another person, of water? So many questions!

Yes there is a lot going on in this not dysfunctional family, and it has a real family feel to it because the cast inhabit the characters so well. We believe in the mum, keeping cheerful and trying to keep her husband and children the same, but even she may be pushed too far by some problem plumbing. Her husband, the milkman, supporting his family but not sure how to show his support in other ways. Perhaps he is the one who needs help? The son, daughter and her boy-friend have their plans but they will have to be changed to. Success, or failure, both demand a lot of work.

We expect the 'slightly' older members of the cast to be good and of course they are wonderful, but the 'youngsters' too were captivating, creating characters we could enjoy and emphasize with in their moments of embarrassment, simmering anger and confusion. They bring this family to life so well, giving us something to laugh, and think, about. With a realistic 'Kitchen Sink' set in a 'real' kitchen, and some very special FX, this show must be seen and experienced.

Yes there are many other 'pleasures' to be had on an April evening in Norwich but live theatre is special and should be relished as such. Enjoy." Mark M

"The Kitchen Sink is a demonstration of unique and individual strengths and weaknesses, and comments on how we approach challenges and change. Peter [Wood] has put together a solid cast for this production, who clearly establish the development of their respective characters with great realism. Reuben’s portrayal of the stoic and committed Martin complements Ruth’s range of emotions as the selfless, encouraging and sometimes impulsive Kath. Charlotte conveys the troubled Sophie as a ticking time bomb, as someone itching to articulate herself; whereas Will frustrates us as Billy, who the audience urge to stop overanalysing and follow his dreams. Nathan Mills is to be praised for expertly articulating meaning without words. His actualisation of Pete’s growing strengths through numerous hardships are heart-warming to witness.

The set has been exactingly designed with a clear duality, simultaneously drawing you in while also reminding you of the character’s conflicts of being little fish in a big pond. Complemented by naturalistic lighting, sensitive choice of music and precise incidental sounds, you feel right in the heart of their (almost) fully functioning kitchen.

I encourage you step into the home of this small family from Withernsea, and experience Peter Wood’s humorous, charming and touching portrayal of their hopes and dreams." Jessica H

"A splendid kitchen was presented to us on entry to the Barn theatre last week - yet another example of the high standard of set design enjoyed by patrons of the theatre. Thank you, Myles and team.

The play told the story of a working class family living near Hull, who are "just about managing"! The author, Tom Wells, grew up in the north east and made his debut as a playwright at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. He writes about the people of the country he knows well. He sympathetically articulates the hopes and dreams of the decent down to earth residents with both humour and poignancy.

As the stereotypical Yorkshire man,  Martin (Reuban Mackness) nicely pitched the phlegmatic father who is having a tough time with his milk round, especially with a decrepit milk float. His wife (Ruth Bennett) found both humour and pathos as she tried to motivate her family towards a less pedestrian life. Her efforts to widen and brighten her family’s horizons by introducing them to exotic cookery recipes did not succeed, but brought out our sympathy along with the laughter. The three young people were nicely played. They worked so well as an ensemble both physically and in their repartee. Sophie (Charlotte Ware) - typical of  a disillusioned teenager - delivered some subtly judged dialogue. Her brother (Will Sellgren) was a convincing young man with dreams of going to Art School, who made us feel for his agonies of indecision. Their friend Pete (Nathan Mills) made a realistic transformation from shy awkwardness to a young man who realises his ambition.

The actors really made us identify with this family in their trials and tribulations, and brought us some fine humorous moments. With a great sound track of music linking the scenes, we enjoyed a very entertaining evening. Congratulations  go to Peter Wood for his first production at the Barn, and all the backstage people who gave us such a good evening." June G

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 reflectivearts.co.uk
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