Dennis Potter classic in Southwick

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A lot will be riding on the Southwick Players’ production of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills at the Barn Theatre, Southwick from October 12-15 (tickets on sale on 01273 597094).

The play, co-directed by Nettie Sheridan and Gary Cook, is the company’s entry in the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Awards.

On a night they will know in advance, an adjudicator will be present in the audience. The results of the adjudication will be revealed at an awards night in December.

Co-director Gary said: “We will be adjudicated on the Friday. We know that someone will be watching the production with critical eyes!

“And then after the show there will be a deconstructing question-and-answer session where the adjudicator will give his or her impressions. They will just say ‘Well done on this or that’ or ‘Why did you make this choice for that?’ or whatever.”

It shouldn’t hold any fears for the company.

“They are all very experienced theatre people.”

As for the actors during the actual performance, Gary doubts the presence of the adjudicator will make very much difference once they are on the stage.

“Once you are up there, you are very much in the moment. Generally, you are not really very aware of who is there anyway.”

The play is effectively Gary’s choice. He introduced it to Nettie when she was directing Peter Shaffer’s Lettice and Lovage for Southwick Players.

“I was just sitting and just watching and helping out a little bit. We were chatting and I professed my love for Dennis Potter to her, and I just happened to have a script with me.

“She read it and she loved it, and we have both got enough of a shared vision of it to work together on it.

“It is true to say that it was Dennis Potter with Pennies from Heaven on the TV that made me interested in drama in the first place.

“It was 1978, I think. I would have been 18 at the time, and it was the first thing I saw that made me realise that by breaking the conventions of drama, you could get more than just a narrative, if you see what I mean.”

It was an important moment for the watching Gary.

“It made me realise that there could be something more to drama than just watching a story unfold. And then the following year, there was Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills, and that just opened my eyes. We didn’t have a video or anything like that. It just like a one-shot thing, and it just stayed with me – and always has done.

“It is set in the Forest of Dean, Potter’s homeland. It is very much a personal piece for him, and it is set in the war, in 1943.

“It all takes place on one afternoon, from midday to early evening, and it is a group of children (played by adults) playing in the woods and in some abandoned farm houses.

“And they mimic their parents. They bring out all their petty squabblings and their hatreds and their nascent sexuality.

“They start flirting and they start allying with each other and ganging up on individuals, and there is this constant, restless changing movement through the afternoon.

“Their parents are largely absent because of the war, and there is this over-arcing feeling that away from the woods life is going on.

“People have likened it to Lord of the Flies and that’s fair enough, but Lord of the Flies presupposes that once supervision is taken away, the children are acting like this. Blue Remembered Hills is somewhat different.”

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