Monday, 29 June 2009

Peggy Ramsay Blue Plaque

On 29th June 2009 a plaque to Peggy Ramsay was unveiled at her Brighton home at 34 Kensington Place in North Laine. Peggy Ramsay was probably the best known play agent in the United Kingdom during the second half of the Twentieth Century.

During her lifetime she dedicated her principal activity to British theatre and acted for (sometimes found and always nurtured) the majority of the best known writers for the stage in this country; Alan Ayckbourn, Robert Bolt, David Hare and Alan Plater to Eugene Ionesco, Joe Orton, Stephen Poliakoff and J B Priestley to name but a few.

Her estate was left for charitable purposes to help writers and writing for the stage with especial reference to her friends and clients and The Peggy Ramsay Foundation was established in pursuance of this object. The Foundation has financed this plaque and was represented at the unveiling by trustee and long-time friend of Peggy, Simon Callow CBE, and trustee John Tydeman OBE. Simon Callow performed the unveiling

Also present were the Lady Mayor, members of the City's Commemorative Plaque Panel and members of the North Laine Residents Association. The unveiling was followed by an informal reception at the Theatre Royal.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Hay Fever

I seem to have been aware of this title for as long as I can remember but, as we sat back to enjoy the Brighton Little Theatre's production I wondered why, for it quickly became clear that I had not seen Hay Fever, either staged or as either of the 2 televised versions. It seems to be one of those plays that has somehow entered the nation's subconcious as a paradigm for a particular theatrical era. The BLT's 1830's building has recently been lovingly redecorated in Art Deco style and this play, "moderne" throughout, seemed perfectly at home there.

The plot of Hay Fever (by Noel Coward) concerns the arty Bliss family living in Cookham. The Bliss family consists of: father David, an author; mother Judith, a retired actress; son Simon and daughter Sorel. Unbeknown to each other they have each invited an acquaintance down for the weekend.

The script was great, really funny, and apart from one little blip, the timing was perfect.  Patti Griffiths, who played Judith Bliss, was as delightfully theatrical as the part required and I couldn’t wait for her next speech. The whole cast worked well together as an ensemble but I was particularly struck by the stage craft shown by Emma Sayers playing Simon's invitee Myra.

The comic highspot comes in Act II, Saturday evening, when the assembled Bliss family and guests play a form of charades. Daughter Sorell attempts to guess an adverb by asking each of the others in turn to perform as action in the manner of the adverb. Hilarious. Apart from Judith of course they all fail miserably. The family rows over the breakfast table reminded my companion of some of the more farcical episodes of Will and Grace! It was also fun distinguishing the bits where the family were just being themselves, and the bits where they slipped into re-enacting one of Judith’s theatrical performances.  We enjoyed looking at what they were wearing, especially the evening wear in Act II.  It is unusual these days for actors to smoke on stage though it obviously fitted the time and milieu. Some of cast did appear ill-at-ease in handling their cigarettes. Sign of the times I suppose. Perhaps they should have used cigarette holders.
The play concludes with the guests surreptiously escaping on Sunday morning leaving the household in uproar. A device that Coward resorted to in different forms in later plays.

Next BLT production: "As You Like It". 4th - 8th August at the Little Theatre: 19th - 22nd August at Lewes Castle.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Hove Hyperbole


So declares the announcement mounted high on the scaffolding at the corner of Vallance Gardens & Kingsway. And the name of this development? - "The Mirage". How pretentious can you get?

However it does look as if it is going to be an elegant, sympathetically designed building.
It replaces the detached villa shown below:-

Watch this blog for a photo of the finished development.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Alert Call for Brighton Atheists.

The Dawkins Letters by David Robertson

7:00 pm, Tue 30th June 2009

Calvary Evangelical Church in association with Borders Bookstore, Brighton will be hosting a debate at the Jubilee Library, Brighton led by David Robertson, columnist, author, debater and pastor of St. Peter’s Free Church of Scotland in Dundee. Robertson first came to prominence in 2007 when his book ‘The Dawkins Letters’ was first published as a Christian response to renowned Oxford scientist and atheist, Richard Dawkins, following his controversial polemic ‘The God Delusion’. ‘The Dawkins Letters’comprises a series of letters that explain a credible basis for faith counteracting the ‘atheist myths’ that so much popular discussion is based upon. Christians, and non-Christians, need to know where Dawkins is weak – and also how to explain things better – and David Robertson’s book does just that. David Robertson will tackle the question of whether it is really delusional to believe in God or more delusional to think that we can get along without him. You are invited to come and listen, debate and be prepared to have your thinking changed!

Friday, 12 June 2009

A Strange Occurrence

It is a summer’s day on Brighton beach. One of those days that Brighton seems to do so well. A slightly hazy sun, warm pebbles, high tide and a sleek, flat sea which still manages to send in the occasional swell to suck at the steeply shelving pebbles.

A few yards away to one side of where I am sitting a young family is encamped. Father, mother and a toddler. With the arrogance of my teenage years I mentally classify them  as day-trippers. The mother, wearing a sun dress, has been paddling with her daughter and is now sitting on a rug, legs outstretched to the sun. The father looks much less comfortable even though he is seated in a low beach chair. He has removed his suit jacket, tie & collar, rolled up his shirt sleeves, pushed his braces off his shoulders but kept on his highly-polished black shoes. He still looks too hot. Their child plays a few yards away at the waters edge with a small bucket.

All seems right with the world. I sink back on my elbows and squint into the shimmering distance. Suddenly there is a shriek and from the corner of my eye I see the mother's arms fling out and the father jump to his feet. I look down the beach and see nothing but the retreating, sucking surf. The toddler has disappeared. The father is crashing down the pebbles, braces flying, and I simultaneously notice the child floating, face down, a yard or two from the beach making feeble movements with her arms.
                                      * * *
This was over 60 years ago but what happened next cast a lasting impression in my mind. First let me relieve you - the child did not drown. Indeed the father did not even get his shoes and socks wet. He came to a pebble-ploughing halt at the water's edge and shouted and gesticulated to a bather who was standing waist-deep nearby. The bather with two or three strides reached the child, lifted her easily out of the water and conveyed her to her father's arms.

After a few tears, a towelling and dry clothes the child seemed little worse for her experience. Between the parents very few words were spoken and those that were, too quiet to distinguish, but my side-long glimpses of their body-language suggested that relations were very strained. How could it have been otherwise? What demon can have possessed his priorities in those critical seconds such that he put his new shoes and personal comfort before the life-threatening need of his child; or any child?

Soon afterwards the mother gathered up her daughter and pushchair and set off alone up the beach. He hurriedly collected up the remaining possessions and followed. To this day I can see their retreating backs. I know nothing more about them and never will. A small incident and the world kept turning but a day by the seaside had been ruined. . . . Did their life as a family survive?

First published in Issue 11 of 'Regency' magazine June 2009.