Double dose of comedy at West Dean Gardens

The performers are all thrilled to be back in action this week as New Theatre Productions return to West Dean Gardens

Tiffin Jones
Tiffin Jones

They are offering See How They Run by Philip King, directed by Gill Montgomery on September 5, 8, 10 and 12, alongside three of the plays within the Confusions set of five by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Tiffin Jones (September 6, 7, 9 and 11).

Tiffin was due to be directing a different play during last year’s blank year. She was delighted to be offered the chance to direct the Ayckbourn by New Theatre Productions chairman Peter Breskal: “This year’s plays are both very popular pieces and great fun. Usually we would do one light piece and one more dramatic piece, but Peter thought people needed cheering up with this year with two lighter pieces.”

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Both are comedies, but as Tiffin says, they are different comedies: “They are both set in different eras. See How They Run is set during the Second World War, and it was written around then, I believe, whereas Confusions is from the 1970s. There are five plays in the set of Confusions, and we are doing three of them for reasons of time, and each of the pieces is quite different while also being very amusing, of course.

“We are doing Drinking Companions and Between Mouthfuls and Gosforth Fete, and each of them has an underlying serious element. They are all about relationships and about relationships going wrong.

“Drinking Companions is more subtle. It is about a travelling salesman on his own in a hotel, and he is desperately trying to chat up this girl and get her upstairs, and it doesn’t work.

“And it turns out he has got a very sad home life. You finish up feeling rather sad for him. You have got this rather sad man trying to be cheerful and boyish.

“Between Mouthfuls is the waiter one where you are hearing just the conversation from the table which he is attending at that moment. It has been quite complicated to do. It has needed quite a lot of rehearsal.

“And Gosforth Fete is just a lot of fun.”

Tiffin is working with a cast who have all been in the plays before, and so it becomes a question of using their experiences where appropriate.

It is not so much the art of directing Ayckbourn as the art of directing, full stop: “The performance is effectively the director’s property. The director needs to have a complete overview of the whole thing, tailoring it according to the actors so that they can bring their own interpretation but the whole thing must remain overall the vision of the director.”

Primarily, Tiffin has acted, but it is the pleasure of having that overall vision which is the big attraction when it comes to directing: “All the actors are working on their parts, but as the director you are working on the whole picture – though you have to accept that some elements of it will be dictated by what the actors can bring to it when they show you what they can do and what they can bring to it.”

New Theatre Productions chairman Peter Breskal and the team are promising a Covid secure venue.

The audience will wear masks at its own discretion; you will be shown to your seat by someone in a mask.

Unlike in previous years, seats will be allocated, and, again unlike previous years, no tickets will be sold in advance.

New Theatre Productions are asking you to buy your tickets on the night.

You are welcome to picnic before the show, but you are asked to buy your tickets as soon as you arrive on site and before you picnic.

Tickets will be £10 (£8 under 16s), and because of the later date (performances are usually June/July), all performances start at 6.30pm. Tickets will be available from 5pm on performance nights.