Pennie Billinghurst will be directing the play at Chapel Barn, South Stoke, near Arundel from June 19-23 (www.dripaction.com).
“It’s a play that won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize,” Pennie says, “a play about Becca and Howie who appear to have a perfect life. But there is a tragic accident.”
People might know it from the film which starred Nicole Kidman as Becca and Aaron Eckhart as Howie – not that Pennie would recommend it.
“People that turn plays into films take them out of the area they are set in and bring in all sorts of extraneous people.”
Pennie is promising a much closer focus with the play and with her production.
“Their life seems perfect, and then there is a random tragic accident that takes the life of their four-year-old son. He is run over by a young driver who was possibly speeding. It was a traffic accident. Becca’s mother and father are in the piece. It is about how they each deal with grief in their own way.
“Becca has her grief inside her and has a tremendous amount of anger. She lashes out at the people closest to her. Her sister Izzy is a bit of a slapper. She has her own problems with drugs and alcohol addiction and loose morals. And Izzy turns up pregnant which all adds to the problems.
“The mother is a bit ditzy and also a bit of a dipso. She does like a little tipple now and again. Her trouble is that her son committed suicide at the age of 30 because of his drug addiction. They have all got their own cross to bear.
“Howie can’t let go of the boy and wants everything to stay as it is. Becca is going around putting photos away and toys away…”
It sounds grim and sombre, but Pennie stresses the humour in the piece: “And there are some wonderful speeches that they have to deliver. Ultimately in the end it is saying that things might not be utterly broken beyond repair.
“I first came across the play in 2008, and for some reason it wasn’t the right time to do it then. I gave it to (Drip Action artistic director) Bill (Brennan) a long time ago. Bill read it and it got put to one side. But now is the right time. Bill brought it out and said ‘Do you remember this?’
“I can’t remember how I first came across it. I am so used to looking at playwriting publishers’ websites. It came up when I was looking for something interesting to do.”
Pennie was also one of Bill’s team of readers for selecting the plays for this year’s Drip Action theatre trail at this year’s Arundel Festival. Bill went through more than a couple of hundred submissions and reduced them to a manageable number which was then reduced to the required number by the theatre’s trail’s team of four.
As ever, the theatre trail will be offering eight plays for eight days in eight different venues.
You can see all eight in one day if you wish; or you can dip in and complete the set over successive days, running from Saturday to Saturday, August 18-25.
Season tickets are now available from: The Book Ferret, 34 High Street, Aundel, BN18 9AB on 01903 885727. Those wishing to have tickets sent to them should include a SAE (Tickets cannot be reserved without payment). Eight-day seasons for August 18-25 are £30 (no concessions); three-day seasons for August 18-20 are £25 (no concessions). Season ticket holders are guaranteed a seat up to 15 minutes before the play starts. Tickets can be bought at the door, space permitting. £5/£3 students
Drip Action are also offering an evening performance, Saturday to Friday, August 18-24: The Children by Lucy Kirkwood. Two ageing nuclear scientists in an isolated cottage on the coast as the world around them crumbles. The Victoria Institute 8pm. Tickets £12.