Secrets to the fore in double bill theatre tour across East and West Sussex

Playing multiple roles will be the challenge but also a huge part of the fun as Lily Smith takes to the road across East and West Sussex this summer with West Sussex theatre company This Is My Theatre.

Lily Smith
Lily Smith

Just four actors will perform Jane Eyre and The Secret Garden, sometimes both in a day – a great chance for Lily to work with old friends from drama school.

Lily, originally from Petersfield, said: “I went to GSA in Guildford from 2012-2015 which was the same time as Ethan and Simon from the (This Is My Theatre) company, and we were in classes together. When you leave, everybody goes their separate ways slightly and does their own things, and Ethan and Simon did so brilliantly at building up the company with (company founder) Sarah. I am really lucky to be working with them.

“I was supposed to be doing The Tempest with them last summer but because of Covid that didn’t happen. But this summer luckily Sarah offered me Secret Garden and Jane Eyre.

“It is my first time with the company. They are all about the real idea of community, theatre which is giving back to the local community, to the local area, theatre which is accessible to people that might not necessarily have access to the West End, not just financially but also physically. There are so many amazing West End shows but local theatre really does bring something special, something with soul.”

For the tour, there will be just the four actors delivering either Secret Garden or Jane Eyre or both at the various locations along the way, which means a great deal of multi-roling.

“You have to be very nimble if you are changing accents or changing your physicality. It is not just about learning the lines. It is very challenging, but it is also a lot of fun for the actors. When you are in rehearsal, you can go through a lot of the process of working out the different physicalities, the different ways people stand, the different ways the characters move, the different accents. Another challenge is making sure they are all very different and that the differences are clear to the audiences.”

Lily is confident that the two shows will work well together, good companion pieces in effect: “I think they do both share a lot of themes. There are themes in both of maybe loneliness and there are also secrets in both of them, the first wife in the case of Jane Eyre and the garden itself in Secret Garden.”

Lily will be playing no fewer than seven roles in Jane Eyre. She admits it is going to be hard work taking two plays on the road: “But we are just really pleased to be doing it. We are happy because we love it.

“On a personal note this past year has been fine. A lot of people have had a lot more of a struggle, and luckily I have had a lot of support around me. Acting-wise I managed to do a film in October last year in the gap between lockdowns. I managed to squeeze it in and then around spring time I found out that I was going to be doing this. So I have managed to keep things ticking over, and I am really lucky that I have got a very flexible day job that I do in between, working in a special needs primary school in Morden in south-west London.”

Forthcoming shows include:

July 23, 4pm – Jane Eyre, Upper Beeding, The Paddock (open air)

July 25, 2pm – The Secret Garden, Hurstpierpoint, Danny House (open air)

July 25, 7pm – Jane Eyre, Hailsham, Michelham Priory (open air)

July 27, 3pm and 7.30pm, The Secret Garden, Chichester, The Guildhall

August 3, 2pm, The Secret Garden, Upper Beeding, The Paddock (open air)

August 3, 7.30pm, Jane Eyre Brighton, Preston Old Church

August 10, 3pm, The Secret Garden, Crawley, The Hawth Theatre (open air)

August 12, 7pm, The Secret Garden, Hailsham, Michelham Priory (open air)

August 17, 7pm, Jane Eyre, Hurstpierpoint, Danny House (open air)

August 21, 7pm, Jane Eyre, Crawley, The Hawth Theatre (open air)

August 29, 2pm, The Secret Garden, Brighton Open Air Theatre (open air)