Cider with Rosie

by Laurie Lee | Adapted by James Roose-Evans

23rd-25th July 2009 Drill Hall, Lincoln

For our summer 2009 production we opted for another ambitious and innovative staging with a cast of thousands – James Roose-Evans’ adaptation of the first part of Laurie Lee’s autobiographical trilogy, Cider With Rosie.

Once again Common Ground Theatre Company proved itself to be a group which can absorb new members and take on complex and at times daunting productions: of the 21 actors in the cast 11 were newcomers to the company, and between them they tackled some of the trickiest bits of stage business Common Ground has attempted to date!

Tim Bradford held the show together with a star turn as Laurie Lee narrating the action, and he was ably supported by Teana Hutchinson (Mother Lee) and the rest of the family.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the cast – apart from recreating rural Gloucestershire between the wars with only a few props, costumes and 18 wooden chairs – was the fact that all the children were played by adult actors, including some as young as three or four.

The Market Rasen Mail described the production as ‘a worthy introduction to Laurie Lee’s trilogy, which will have made many in the audience want to read or re-read the book’.

Narrator, Laurie Lee Tim Bradford
Mother Teana Hutchinson
Loll, the young Laurie Lee Jez Ashberry
Phyll, Loll’s half-sister Lisa Smith
Marge, Loll’s half-sister Alex Thornton
Doth, Loll’s half-sister Becky Fawcett
Jack, Loll’s older brother Tony Smith
Tony, Loll’s younger brother John Leighton
First teacher Emma Atkin
Miss Crabby B, Mrs Davies Kate Townsend
Spadge Hopkins Dave Hewitt
Miss Wardley, First Spinster, Mrs Pimbury Chrissie
Hughes Walt Kerry Chris Matthews
Granny Wallon Carolyn Jones
Granny Trill Su Toogood
Vicar, Mr Davies Christopher Adams
Vincent Jason Hippisley
Uncle Sid, Squire Ian Smith
Second Spinster, Baroness von Hodenburg Eileen Finningley
Jo Melissa Monks
Rosie Dani Isaacs
Director David Lintin
Producer and Assistant Director Su Toogood
Original music composed by Mark Scales
Stage Manager Helen Fleshbourne
Crew Helen Fleshbourne, Bill Bartlett
Properties Bill Bartlett
Wardrobe Carolyn Jones, Su Toogood
Sound effects Mark Scales
Technicians Ed Purle, David Lintin
Set David Lintin, Bill Bartlett
Poster design Chris Van Zwoll, Mark Scales
Programme & publicity Jez Ashberry

The Turn of the Screw

Mr Wonderful

by James Robsons

6th-8th November 2008 Broadbent Theatre, Wickenby

‘The Turn of the Screw’ is a spine-tingling tale which Vicky Ashberry has long wanted to bring to the stage; a dark and windswept Broadbent Theatre just after Hallowe’en proved to be the perfect venue for such an atmospheric ghost story.

Henry James’ novella has been adapted and reworked many times: it became ‘The Innocents’ starring Deborah Kerr on the silver screen in 1961 and was also the inspiration for ‘The Others’ starring Nicole Kidman.

In the play a young governess is appointed to educate two orphans alone in a rambling country house which, it appears, is haunted by the ghosts of two former employees who met untimely deaths.

At the heart of James’ tale is an ambiguity which provides the kernel of the story: are the ghosts real, and do they mean to harm the children? Is the governess mad, and the ghosts a symptom of her hysteria? Or are the children playing a diabolical trick on poor Miss Grey?

The play provided an opportunity for two Common Ground members – Sarah Holt as the governess Miss Grey and Chrissie Hughes as the kindly housekeeper Mrs Grose – to tackle meaty roles which are all too rare for female actors.

It also gave youngsters Fern Rodgers and Jamie Bendy the opportunity to make their Common Ground debuts with mature performances which belied their tender years.

The Lincolnshire Echo described the play as “tense and chilling” while the Market Rasen Mail saluted “a great success” and “an excellent choice of play for this time of year”.

Miss Grey Sarah Holt
Phoebe Green Mrs Grose
Flora Fern Rodgers
Miles Jamie Bendy
Mr Crimmond Jason Hippisley
Ghost of Miss Jessel Sasha Drennan
Ghost of Peter Quint Jez Ashberry
Director Vicky Ashberry
Assistant Director Luke Niemiec
Producer Jez Ashberry
Set Design Vicky Ashberry
Lighting Patrick Markham
Stage Manager Jez Ashberry
Wardrobe & properties Vicky Ashberry
Front of House Carolyn Jones, Su Toogood
Publicity & programme Jez Ashberry

More Food for Thought

Two short plays and two comic monologues with dinner

2nd-4th May 2008 Croft Street Community Centre, Lincoln

We staged ‘Food for Thought’, our first supper theatre evening, back in 2003 and it was such an enjoyable show that we often considered repeating it. We were pleased to return to Croft Street Community Centre to stage ‘More Food for Thought’ which this time featured two one-act plays and two comic monologues with a two-course supper. Su Toogood and Mark Scales sat in the director’s chair: Mark directed ‘Two Sides of a Square’ by Jack Booth, a clever depiction of a tempestuous relationship played out in two apartments on opposite sides of a town square, while Su staged ‘Meat and Two Veg’ by Paul Beard, which combined sexual tension with competitive vegetable growing. The plays were supported by two classic monologues: Vicky Ashberry gave a hilarious rendition of Joyce Grenfell’s ‘Music and Movement’ (“Don’t do that,George!”) and Jez Ashberry updated Bob Newhart’s monologue about the cheapest of all budget airlines – the Mrs Grace L Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company. Once again Ian Smith took charge in the kitchen and produced another delicious supper: a vegetable pastitio (look it up) followed by fruit salad in a brandysnap basket with ice cream. The Lincolnshire Echo reported that “most performances hit the funny bone and were a credit to the Common Ground Theatre Company.”

‘Two Sides of a Square’ by Jack Booth

Maggie Sasha Drennan
Ernest Luke Niemiec
Mrs Hepplewhite Eileen Finningley
Nadia Sarah Holt

‘Meat and Two Veg’ by Paul Beard

Arthur David Lintin
Margaret Juli Charlton
Al Mark Scales
Directors Mark Scales and Su Toogood
Props and costumes Su Toogood and Carolyn Jones
Lighting Dan Leggett and Emily Norman
Sound Emily Norman
Front of house Vicky Ashberry
Chef Ian Smith
Poster design Jez Ashberry
Publicity Jez Ashberry
Programme Jez Ashberry

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens
adapted by Sir John Mortimer

13th-15th December 2007
Drill Hall, Lincoln

To round off an ambitious and very successul 2007 we staged Sir John Mortimer’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ to warm the cockles of our audience just before the festive season.

In choosing this play we expected to attract big audiences to the Lincoln Drill Hall but at the same time we also knew that a lot of hard work was in order: our production featured a cast of 20, almost all of whom doubled parts and some of whom ended up playing four different characters during the course of the action.

‘A Christmas Carol’ was not without its problems: our original director bailed out halfway through the rehearsal run and our ghost of Jacob Marley unaccountably pulled out 48 hours before curtain went up on the first night. But as is usually the way in the theatre everything turned out all right in the end, thanks to a phenomenal amount of hard work by the new director and assistant director, David Lintin and Su Toogood, and many others.

Most people think they know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge like the back of their hand so it was interesting to perform Mortimer’s faithful adaptation of the original novel, much of which is semi-autobiographical and which sheds light on how Scrooge turned from a lonely little boy into an embittered old skinflint in the first place.

Just like ‘Pygmalion’ before it, ‘A Christmas Carol’ broke audience records for Common Ground Theatre Company – the play was seen by 672 people over three nights and thankfully, in view of our perilous financial position a year earlier, the production made another reasonable profit.

Ebenezer Scrooge Mark Scales
Chorus Su Toogood, Dave Lintin, Samantha Berry
Bob Cratchit Jez Ashberry
Fred, Scrooge’s nephew Luke Niemiec
Portly gentlemen Chris Matthews, Ian Smith
The Ghost of Jacob Marley Jez Ashberry
The Spirit of Christmas Past Bob Shirley
Farm folk John Davy, Jenny Davidson, Chris Matthews, Luke Niemiec
Young Scrooge Jamie Lloyd
Headmaster Gary Burdeau
Fan, Scrooge’s sister Jennifer Wallhead
Singer Karen Ryan
Mr Fezziwig Ian Smith
Dick Wilkins Luke Niemiec
Mrs Fezziwig Eileen Finningley
Belle Jenny Davidson
The Spirit of Christmas Present Ian Smith
Peter Cratchit Jamie Lloyd
Mrs Cratchit Vicky Ashberry
Martha Cratchit Jenny Davidson
Belinda Cratchit Amy Colley
Youngest Cratchit Emily Ashberry
Tiny Tim Cratchit Alex Ashberry
Fred’s wife Jennifer Wallhead
Topper Chris Matthews
Miss Rosie Samantha Berry
The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come Karen Ryan
Important Business Men Chris Matthews, Gary Burdeau
Old Joe Bob Shirley
Charwoman Su Toogood
Mrs Dilber Eileen Finningley
Undertaker’s man John Davy
Boy on Christmas morning Amy Colley
Fred’s maid Kerry Shepherd
Director David Lintin
Assistant Director Su Toogood
Musical Director Mark Scales
Original music composed by Mark Scales
Stage Manager Liam Berry
Crew and properties Carolyn Jones, Sharon Blackburn, Steve Owen
Wardrobe  Carolyn Jones, Su Toogood, Pam Whalley
Lighting design and technician Ed Purle, Adam Howlett
Sound Mark Scales, Sophi Thorpe
Make-up Sharon Blackburn
Sound effects Mark Scales
Set David Lintin
Photography Olan Mills Photography
Front of house manager Charles Newby
Poster design Jez Ashberry, Nick Whyatt
Publicity Jez Ashberry
Programme Jez Ashberry, Su Toogood

Pygmalion

by George Bernard Shaw

17th-19th July 2007
Drill Hall, Lincoln

We continued our run of ambitious productions at the Lincoln Drill Hall with ‘Pygmalion’, George Bernard Shaw’s well known tale of how a professor of phonetics transforms a cockney flowergirl into a genteel young lady in order to win a bet.

Su Toogood took on this challenging play and by scouring the city for the best acting talent assembled a very strong cast featuring a number of actors appearing in a Common Ground production for the first time – among them Aggi Gunstone (Eliza Doolittle), Tim Bradford (Colonel Pickering) and Irene North (Mrs Higgins).

Just as impressive as the cast was the stylish and ingenious set designed by Roy Simpson which lent elegant simplicity to the production, taking its inspiration from original drawings by Felix Topolski.

‘Pygmalion’ broke a number of records for Common Ground Theatre Company: it attracted our largest ever audience (almost 500 over three nights) and produced our largest ever profit; in fact, it would be more accurate to say that it was one of very few productions which made any money at all!

Writing in the Lincolnshire Echo Charlotte Orson described Aggi Gunstone’s portrayal of Eliza Doolittle as ‘feisty’ and admired the ‘strong cast, stunning costumes and stylish set’. The second half of the play was, she said, ‘quite captivating’.

 

Henry Higgins Richard Wood
Colonel Pickering Tim Bradford
Eliza Doolittle Aggi Gunstone
Mrs Eynsford Hill Karen Davey
Clara Eynsford Hill Emma Foord
Freddy Eynsford Hill Ed Capes
Mrs Higgins Irene North
Mrs Pearce Peggy Reading
Alfred Doolittle Andy Richards
Bystander Sheryl Tribe
Sarcastic Bystander Luke Niemiec
Hostess Juliette Sexton
Host Matthew Hall
Nepommuck Jason Hippisley
Parlourmaid Emma Morrell
Policeman Chris Matthews
Crowd Sophie and Sadie Davis

 

Director Su Toogood
Stage Manager Graham Botterill
Crew Daniel Berry, Liam Berry
Lighting design and technician Samantha Berry
Sound Mark Scales, Sophi Thorpe
Costumes Carolyn Jones, Su Toogood
Dressers Carolyn Jones, Jennifer Davidson, Pam Whalley
Properties Emily Norman
Set design Roy Simpson
Set building Matthew Hall, Carolyn Jones, Martin King, Andrew King, Stephanie King, Keith Reading, Roy Simpson, Ian Smith, Su Toogood, Ian Whalley, Jason Hippisley, Samantha Berry
Front of house Jez and Vicky Ashberry, Mala Selvon, Rebecca Guilliatt, Rosemary Gunstone, Eileen Finningley
Poster design and publicity Jez Ashberry
Programme Jez Ashberry, Su Toogood
Photography Rea Mulligan