No 10

Issue No 10 – Spring 2001

At the beginning of another year, it is time to look forward to a New Season for the
Suffolk Summer Theatres. Various events are being planned for the Friends.
We shall hope to see as many of you as possible on Thursday, April 26th in
Walberswick Village Hall at 7.30 p.m. when Charles Collingwood, from the BBC
programme The Archers, will join us to give us a talk about his experiences. So
please put this date in your diary now.
The next date will be 1st July, when we hope all Friends will come along to Westons,
through the kind invitation of Jill Freud, to join us for a buffet lunch. (There is a snag
perhaps in as much as we do ask you to bring a plate as you have so kindly done for
the previous evening events?) Do please plan on staying for the afternoon
programme which is being planned. There is a brief note about this fete on page 5
but Jill will explain all when we meet at Walberswick on 26 April.
Friends in Aldeburgh are planning a coffee morning on 13th July and further details
will be found elsewhere in this newsletter.
The Management Committee, chaired by Sir Nicholas Barrington KCMG CVO,
recently set up a Fund Raising Sub-committee. The members, led by Terry Oakes,
have already met and it is anticipated that events will be planned for this and future
years. Please do look out for further announcements. Your help and support are
Our Treasurer, John Veitch, tells me that the membership is 533 and that all our
2001 subscriptions will become due on 1st April. A subscription form is enclosed
with this newsletter and John will be grateful if you will complete it and send to him
with your donations and subscriptions.
We shall all look forward to July, August and September when the Theatre Company
will provide us with their usual excellent and rewarding entertainments and theatre
performances. You will find details of the programme in this mailing.
Rather belatedly, as winter is nearly over, all good wishes to our Friends and thank
you again for your continued support.
Margaret Chadd.

Dear Friends, It is eighteen years since our first season and already our seventh year in Aldeburgh is on its way, how time flies. However, we are definitely not running out of steam; the first innovation for 2001 is that all early bookings for Southwold will be handled from our London office. The telephoning hours are restricted to afternoons so that Carol and I can get some work done as well . . . . Please note that if you call 'out of hours' and record your number on the answer phone, we will get back to you within 24 hours. Then in May, Merwyn Cunliffe will take on the Aldeburgh bookings using the same system. I look forward to chatting with you all between lst March and 28th May on our special
booking number (020 7723 0303) and then seeing you in person at our get-together
in Walberswick on 26th April. That evening sees the launch of the Friends’ Theatre
Vouchers Scheme (see page 6 for more information). We shall also be telling you
about the Fete in Walberswick on Sunday lst July which is preceded by lunch for
(and by) members.
There is just time to recover from that before our very first Aldeburgh Coffee morning
on Friday 13 July. This is at 'Aldehurst' by kind permission of Friends, Barbara and
Terry Collins. More details in April (and elsewhere in this newsletter), until then,
Best wishes

In October Jill will be awarded with an Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law by the
University of East Anglia in recognition of all that she has done for the Arts in the
It is certain that Jill and her family are all thrilled at this award. It is equally certain
that all her friends – including readers of this newsletter - are delighted that her
dedication to the theatre and sustained efforts over the years to satisfy our drama
needs have been recognised in this way. Well done, Doctor Jill!

Tony Falkingham, Associate Director, writes about the coming season’s plays.
If this is February it must be time to tell you about our exciting new season, and what
a cracking start with Arnold Ridley's perennial comedy thriller The Ghost Train.
Filmed in 1927 and 1931 it was also the inspiration for Will Hay's Oh Mr Porter.
Ridley, best known for his role as the bumbling Mr Godfrey from Dad's Army, was
invalided out of the army in 1917. After working for a couple of years as a small part
actor at the Birmingham Rep, he found himself in charge of his father's boot and
shoe business in Bath. In his spare time he wrote plays, mostly rather highbrow.
The Ghost Train was written in a fit of pique after one of these serious dramas had
been turned down by a London management. Its try-out in Brighton was a fiasco and
in Ridley's own words it “fluked” into the St Martin's Theatre where its reception was
not overwhelming. It was then sold to the Manager of the Garrick Theatre, where it
settled down to become one of the West End's biggest successes.
The Old Ladies by Rodney Ackland was adapted from a novel by Hugh Walpole and
produced at the New Theatre in 1935 by Sir John Geilgud with Edith Evans, Jean
Cadell and Mary Jerrold in the cast. Ackland, a popular playwright in the 30s and
40's, if ahead of his time, was rediscovered in the 80's and his work revived by Sam
Walters at his Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. Ackland's Absolute Hell, retitled
from an earlier play was filmed for television starring Dame Judy Dench who
recreated her role in a well-received new production at the National. It is the play I've
chosen to direct this season and there could well be some surprises in the casting!
In August you will be able to witness, a rare event, the premiere of a sparkling new
comedy, Kissing Cousins by Ian Masters. Jill and I read many new plays over the
year and it is unusual for us to find a play we know without doubt that you will enjoy.
The author has long experience of working in comedy including playing the lead in
No Sex Please We're British during its long run at the Strand. ln the safe hands of
Richard Frost, who has produced some of the funniest moments on our stages in the
last five years, you're in for a mid-season treat.
The Winslow Boy was produced 1946 at the Lyric, ran for 476 performances,
winning the Ellen Terry Award and the New York Critics Award. The key role of the
barrister was played by Emlyn Williams. It was made into a film in 1948 and again in
1999 with Nigel Hawthorn & Jeremy Northam. It was based on the true story of an
Osborne Naval Cadet accused of stealing. The boy's family, the Archer-Shees, sued
the Admiralty aided by the renowned barrister Sir Edward Carson. With its lush
Edwardian setting and costumes it will make a memorable night in the theatre.
Finally a spine-chilling mixture of suspense and shocks with just the right amount of
comic relief, I'll be Back be Before Midnight by Peter Colley, blends Agatha
Christie with Alfred Hitchcock. It has many of the surprises that made Deathtrap
such a popular choice three years ago. It was described in its reviews has "a
nightmare of frightening occurrences resulting in a heartstopping ending which left
the audience gasping”.
All five plays are playing in both Southwold and Aldeburgh so if you've not been to
one of the theatres why not give it a try. I hope you will enjoy the season.
Anthony Falkingham

Every season Jill Freud and Company put on Sunday Gala performances in aid of
TACT – The Actors Charitable Trust – and have raised about £15,000 so far. TACT
has three main roles: assisting the children of theatre people during crises, helping to
support the families of actors who are studying further education in the arts; and
providing residential and nursing care for members of the theatrical profession at
Denville Hall.
An appeal was launched last year to renovate and extend Denville Hall and £4.5M is
needed. So the two Gala Evenings this year will benefit this TACT initiative.
Additionally, if any reader would like to make a special donation to this good cause,
Jill would be delighted to pass it on.

Instead of an evening meeting at Walberswick this coming summer, we will hold a
special event at Westons on Sunday 1 July. Friends will meet to socialise and to
enjoy lunch before the volunteer helpers welcome the general public to the fete.
There will be more information about this event at the April meeting but Friends (and
we hope there will be lots of you) who would like to help might like to begin now to
devise stalls and other fund-raising operations. Caro Prescott will be co-ordinating
this event. So if you want to help – running a stall, selling teas or marshalling cars,
etc – then please get in touch with her on 01394 384615.
We hope that decent weather on the day will ensure a happy day for all Friends and
result in the raising of a considerable sum to support the Company. So make a note
in your diary and put on your thinking caps!
The Editor

We Friends numbered 533 in February 2001 after we had excluded a small number
of members who, after a careful reminder, had not paid their last year’s subscription.
Naturally most live within the catchment areas of the theatres at Southwold and
Aldeburgh, but we have members in USA, Belgium and Ireland. We also have 26
with London addresses, 30 in Essex and 18 in Herts.
Our “local” Friends - based in Suffolk and Norfolk - number 393, about 75% of the
total. Analysis by post code can be misleading, because some Suffolk residents
have NR (Norwich) post codes and some Norfolk ones have IP (Ipswich) codes.
However, the leading numbers are all associated with towns and surrounding areas,
so we can see a general picture.
Major Town
Does the table surprise you? I didn’t expect the Woodbridge figures to be so high, but the postal area also includes Framlingham and Wickham Market. Leiston membership is lower than I would have guessed. Clearly there is plenty of scope for a recruiting campaign in the IP16 area! Jack Clayton
When (cheekily) I invited Paul Heiney to pen a few words about the Suffolk Summer
Theatres for our newsletter, I had no idea that he would share with us this captivating
personal view. I am delighted to introduce him – in Paul’s own words - as ' writer and
broadcaster who lives in Suffolk and for whom the theatre season is the height of his
summer ‘. The Editor.

I wonder where your gaze is fixed when the curtain goes up and the show begins?
On the actors, probably. You’re waiting for that finely-judged pause to end; the one
which lasts only a beat but ensures the actor has the audience’s total attention. But
my eyes are elsewhere, which is no reflection on the charisma of the actors or their
ability to engage my attention by their mere presence on stage. It is simply that old
habits die hard.
You see I am always waiting for something to go wrong. It seems a long time ago
now, but I was once a stage technician in the professional theatre, and I remember
the knots in my stomach every time the curtain went up; knots as tight as a sailor
could tie. I would stand in the darkened wings and watch the scenery slowly be
illuminated as the curtain went up. This was the most frightening moment.
The dread was not that the scenery would fall down, which was unlikely, but that
more subtle disasters might strike. Like doorknobs, which you were supposed to
have fixed, come away in the actor’s hand, doors swing open of their own accord,
chairs collapse, taps run dry, bells don’t ring.
The worst of these accidents to which I was party involved a well-respected actress
who was required to cook bacon and eggs, live, on a Baby Belling as part of the
show. For several nights the cooker had performed flawlessly, but on this occasion
someone had kicked the plug as they rushed on stage. The only person who knew
the cooker was stone cold was the poor actress who nevertheless had to perform the
cooking of the eggs. Even worse, she had to eat them. That night, both eggs and
bacon went down raw. She became, in my eyes, an even more respected actress
after that.
She was not the only poor thespian whose career I almost brought to a premature
end. One Christmas, at the old Birmingham Rep (where the names Olivier and
Richardson could be found scrawled amongst the graffiti in the fly tower) the show
required a set of stairs to be built so that a fairy princess (Anna Calder Marshall,
actually) could emerge from beneath the stage to gasps of astonishment from the
Given that I’d only been in the workshop a couple of weeks and my knowledge of
carpentry was at the nailing-things-together level, I was proud to be given the task of
building these treads. To be honest, the stage manager had little choice, for the chief
carpenter was an old Irishman who needed to be surgically removed from his pint of
Guinness before he’d lift so much as a chisel. So I built the steps and on the first
night watched the leading lady safely climb them.
So far, so good. The problem arose when she had to turn and go down them. As
anyone whohas climbed a ladder will know, going up is easier than coming down,
and in rehearsal the poor girl didn’t have a crinoline dress to contend with. I fear she
made a far speedier descent that she intended and may have uttered unprincess-like
words on the way down. She was saved only by the open arms of an actor below, a
young Mike Gambon, I think.

These disasters happen all the time in the theatre, so why do I never see them on the
Southwold stage? Especially when, season after season, set designers and builders
perform such acts of theatrical heroism, like staging Noises Off. I remember
watching that play and marvelling not only at the performances but at how so much
had been created on so little a stage, and how the illusion was flawless. It was a
mountainous theatrical achievement built on a molehill of a stage and ran like
What I learnt in my brief theatrical days and what we should perhaps remember in
the coming season, is that creating the illusion is not only a job for the actors.
Scenery and setting are as vital as words on the page, and any flaw in them destroys
the experience just as much as an actor forgetting their words. The scope for
disaster is huge, yet year after year we witness that little hall transformed totally into
whatever place the play requires it to be. No one falls down a hole in the stage; no
one is reduced to eating a raw breakfast.
It can’t be good luck, because in the theatre, as I soon learnt, it quickly runs out. In
Southwold, I can only assume it is because genius is at work.
Paul Heiney

What happens to members of the company after the season finishes? Carol Carey,
the Production Co-ordinator, presents this vivid picture of an overseas trip.

INDIA 2000

"We're being posted to Mumbai" a good friend announced. "Where?" I asked, showing my ignorance. "India! BOMBAY." "Ah-h! . . . . For a girl with absolutely no qualms about inviting herself to stay with friends, this was music to my ears. So eighteen months later, clutching a visa stamped passport (and that's a story in itself), a healthy supply of Imodium and half the contents of Sainsbury's, bubble wrapped to within an inch of its shelf-life, I found myself bound for the sub-continent on a cold, dull November morning. To say "I've been to India" is not strictly true. I stayed in Mumbai for three weeks and briefly visited Mahrbaleshwar, a small hill station 6 hours south of the city, in the stunning Western Ghats. I actually saw very little of India; a bit like saying, "I've been to America" when all one has done is to visit New York, but what I did see left a lasting impression. India certainly does not let you down and India makes you feel very small. Before going, I wondered what my first impressions would be. I spoke to people who had been, heard their stories, got lots of advice but nothing can truly prepare you. From the moment you step off the plane at 2 am and plunge into the chaos that is Mumbai airport, you hit the Indian floor running. That is, of course, after you've queued for over an hour at immigration, fought for your luggage with three plane loads of people around the single, faltering carousel and remembered - too late - the advice about spraying on insect repellent before getting off the plane. My initial impression? Overwhelmed! For me, the word "India" conjured up certain images - curry . . . dodgy tummies . . .
ancient buildings . . . faded Colonialism . . . amazing bazaars bathed in marigold
sunsets . . . old photographs of Grandparents on horseback . . . children playing by
sun drenched verandas. Many film and TV classics of a long lost era also
contributed to my romantic if slightly sentimental, Indian picture.
I was in a country where I was a minority. I had never experienced that before. I had
never seen mediaeval villages except in museums and I had hardly experienced the
kind of "Upstairs, Downstairs" culture that still exists over there. From the cushioned
comfort of an air-conditioned Range-Rover, I would look out daily at monsoon
ravaged buildings that seemed to merge into desperate, rat-infested slums, dust and
pollution blending everything into the same greyish-khaki. How would any of it
survive next year's torrential downpours?
Amongst overcrowded streets (17 million people in Mumbai alone, not to mention
cattle), I saw a solitary baby crying at the side of the road, children playing by
stagnant water, beggars risking their lives amongst the traffic madness and
exhausted families living under the motorways that they were building by hand.
I wondered at the unexpected beauty - children emerging out of the squalor in clean,
pressed school uniforms, the people, the saris, bright, colourful washing hanging
everywhere, the flowers, the sunshine, the trees, peeling Victorian houses with
splendid balconies and fabulous stained glass windows, the amazing markets and
the beautiful temples.
I experienced the frustrations of living day to day in a third world country: the noise,
the smell, the heat, the damp, the ignorance and an Aids epidemic about to explode,
the postal service and the drainage system (or lack of).
Cashing travellers cheques - taking on average 20 minutes - and of trying to buy
anything (you see, you barter, you buy, you wait . . . as six people write, stamp, work
out change, give change to third person who hands goods to second . . . you get the
picture); the service industry is alive and well and living in India.
When I got back, friends asked me if I'd felt guilty at what I'd seen and how I'd lived
out there. Guilt was one emotion I didn't feel. It doesn't help anyone and you do feel
you have to do something, however small. Mumbai alone has huge problems and I
met some extraordinary people working hard to try and overcome some of them.
I had an amazing time and I am very grateful at having had the opportunity to go -
and thanks to a very careful diet consisting mainly of chippatis, paneer and bottled
water, I hardly needed the Imodium.
Carol Carey

The Plays:

The Ghost Train by Arnold Ridley is a classic mixture of laughs and thrills. 10
passengers, marooned in a station waiting room are caught up in darkly mysterious
and frightening happenings - good entertainment for the audience if not for the
bemused travellers.
The Old Ladies by Rodney Ackland is a suspense drama. In a seemingly friendly
old house, Mary, Lucy and Agatha each rent a room. But there are undercurrents
between the three which may - or may not - be resolved. Doreen Mantle (Mrs
in 'One Foot In The Grave') who played so brilliantly in A Passionate
heads the cast. They will keep you guessing to the very end.
Kissing Cousins is a brand new comedy by Ian Masters. Alan and Margaret Bestle
really must sell their delightful country cottage - and soon. But all does not go
according to plan when buyers and relatives coincide. As the play progresses from
one hilarious misunderstanding to the next, Alan finally loses the plot. Don’t miss.
We are delighted to be presenting the premiere of this very funny play.
The Winslow Boy has its origins in one of the most famous lawsuits of the 20th
century. From this beginning Terence Rattigan brilliantly creates the impact on
Arthur Winslow's family and friends as he valiantly struggles to clear his son’s name.
I'll be Back Before Midnight by Peter Colley is a very exciting thriller with an eerily
sinister plot and some wonderful theatrical effects. You may think you have seen a
frightened wife at the mercy of inexplicable happenings before - but not like this.
Who is the stalker, who the victim? Greg, Jan, George and Laura reveal all -
eventually. We guarantee to keep you glued to your seat
The Sunday Evenings

Old friends “Hiss and Boo” Music Hall will appear at Southwold on Sunday 29 July.
Our Gala Night in Southwold is on Sunday 26th August when we will be entertained
by two leading "Archers” stars - 'Brian’ and 'Shula', also known as Charles
and Judy Bennett. These two accomplished raconteurs provide a
delightfully entertaining evening based on their lives together - on stage and off. With
a Champagne Raffle and autographs, the evening is in aid of T.A.C.T and the
Children’s Society.
For our Gala Evening in Aldeburgh, on Sunday 19th August, we are proud to host
John Mortimer and Friends. One of our most famous writers (remember 'Rumpole'
and 'Voyage Round My Father'?) brings well known theatrical friends to entertain you
with literary gems - comic or serious - woven together with music. The evening is in
aid of T.A.C.T and is sponsored by Thompson’s Gallery of Aldeburgh. Champagne
Shortage of space in last November’s Newsletter meant that I was unable to report
comprehensively on the information, comments and ideas received from the sample
of Friends who completed and returned a questionnaire sent to them last September.
As an experiment, I had written to 25 Friends at random from our 500+ membership
inviting their views and comments. The results were very satisfactory. 14 replied and
provided many useful comments and suggestions. These were passed to Jill who
read them carefully and enthusiastically. She particularly welcomed ideas for plays
as she and her associates were about to begin devising the 2001 programme.
Many of the respondents had put a lot of time and effort into their answers, and one
suggested her labour had merited a free ice cream next season! Others requested
more events for Friends – especially at Aldeburgh – and readers of this newsletter
will note that this plea has been taken to heart.

Now for a few items of interest from the answers.
Four Friends attended both theatres. All made the journey from Aldeburgh to see Mr

Eight reported that they most liked Jane Eyre of the plays they saw. Another liked it
None of the 14 made any adverse remarks about the choice of play, the productions
or performances. One complained of the hardness of the seats at Southwold,
another wanted a longer season (don’t we all?), and another suggested earlier starts
to the evening performances. Universally their remarks were appreciative and
indicated that the Company understands its customers thoroughly and routinely gives
them complete satisfaction.
Comments about the Friends organisation were generally favourable. Apart from the
wish for more social events, three respondents requested more involvement in fund-
raising and publicity. There will be plenty of opportunities to help in 2001 and in
future years!
If any reader has ideas or comments to make about our organisation or the
Newsletter (favourable or otherwise) – not necessarily for publication – please send
them to me. My address and telephone number are:
Jack Clayton, 5 Old Brewery Yard, Market Place, Halesworth IP19 8AW.
Telephone: 01986 872425 E-mail:
The Editor

Every season Jill Freud and Company put on two Sunday Galas in aid of TACT –
The Actors Charitable Trust – and these have raised about £15,000 so far. TACT
has three main roles: it assists the children of theatre people during crises; helps to
support the families of injured actors; and provides residential and nursing care for
members of the theatrical profession at Denville Hall.
An appeal for £5M was launched last year to renovate and extend Denville Hall and
the two Gala Evenings this year will benefit this TACT initiative.


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