FESTIVAL OF CHICHESTER: The Chichester Players tackle Joseph Andrews

Betty the saucy barmaid has been laughing all the way through rehearsals – and she’s laughing still.

Chichester Players
Chichester Players

Gaye Douglas is relishing her role in Chichester Players’ Festival of Chichester production of Joseph Andrews at the New Park Centre, New Park Road, Chichester from Wednesday, June 17-Saturday, June 20, 7.30pm.

She’s promising an uproarious and bawdy adaptation of Henry Fielding’s classic novel in which a young man is surprised to find out the true identity of his mother after many adventures and misunderstandings.

“It’s very, very funny!” Gaye says. “At the last rehearsal, I just giggled all the way through, and I don’t know how many times I have seen it now!

Chichester Players

“It’s by the same author as Tom Jones, and it’s a bawdy farce and is very fast moving. Someone comes in one side of the side and goes off as someone else is coming in. And all the characters are very strong and funny.

“Joseph Andrew is the young lad, a straight role. He is the manservant in Lady Booby’s house. He is about 23 or 24 and is very much in love with another little maid in the same household called Fanny. All he wants to do is to marry Fanny. But Lady Booby has got sexual designs on him. She wants this young lad to herself! She has lost her own husband three weeks before. She started mourning his death three months before he died. But she realises Joseph is so much in love with Fanny that he will reject her, and so she sacks them both. He goes off to London to search his fortune and get some money so he can come back and marry Fanny. He goes off with his friend who is a clergyman – a dithery, pleasant, country clergyman.

“I am playing Betty the barmaid. I am lusty! I have also got designs on Joseph Andrews. He spends the whole play being groped and lusted by a lot of older women, but he stays faithful and true to his dear Fanny!”

At one point is he robbed and arrives naked at the inn where Betty works: “I don’t know yet how we are going to do the nakedness on stage! But Betty tries to comfort him when he is in bed recovering. It’s great fun to play. I have a lot of fun with a warming pan!”

Also in the show is Gaye’s husband, Steve Thomas, who is playing a dim constable.

“I always seem to get the little comedy parts. I enjoy doing them! I get the laughs!”

Steve and Gaye have been involved with the Chichester Players for around 21-22 years: “I have done stage management before,” Steve says. “I am either back stage or on the stage. They are just a great bunch of people to be involved with. We have great fun. There are good social activities as well.”

As Gaye explains: “We were in pantomime at Eastergate, and one of the Chichester Players came to see us and said we should join the Chichester Players.” Like Steve, it’s the comedy Gaye enjoys: “Life can be very serious. When I go out after work, I want to do something that involves having a bit of a laugh. It’s a very uplifting thing to do, and it’s also good fun. I don’t want to do the serious parts. I did Sybil in Fawlty Towers, and I also did Yvette in ‘Allo, ‘Allo – all those lovely comedy parts that are to die for!”

Tickets £9; students £7; children £7. Online: www.chichestertickets.co.uk. Box office: 01243 813595. In person: Cloisters Shop, Cathedral Cloisters, Chichester, PO19 1PX (open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm).

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