Double delight for Players' performers at awards night

Master of feigned misanthropy, Bill Griffiths won his second best actor prize at Southwick Players' annual awards night at the Barn Theatre on Saturday.

Sposcars winners, from left, president Harry Atkinson, Kate Armes, Bill Griffiths, Jenny Burtenshaw, Gary Cook, Thomas Scott and Louise Yeo
Sposcars winners, from left, president Harry Atkinson, Kate Armes, Bill Griffiths, Jenny Burtenshaw, Gary Cook, Thomas Scott and Louise Yeo

He was just one of four outstanding Players performers to celebrate two-time success at the group’s sparkling SPOSCARS ceremony, compered as usual by perennial Barn favourite H Reeves.

Bill superbly brought to life the acid-tongued title role of Sheridan Whiteside in 1930s period classic The Man Who Came to Dinner.

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“Great script, great cast, good backstage, good admin – it couldn’t go wrong, could it?” he said as he received the Richard Pincott Award from Players president Harry Atkinson.

Bill had won the award for the first time following his portrayal of another bad-tempered character, foul-mouthed misfit Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron, in the Players’ 2013 production of Jerusalem.

No one was more surprised than Jenny Burtenshaw herself when she was voted best actress for playing Sammy the dog in life-affirming wartime drama Goodnight Mr Tom.

“I really didn’t expect this, not in this role,” she said, receiving the Venetia Baker Award, but the vibes had been far from negative as her triumph came hot on the paws of her winning the Coffin Mew Award for outstanding achievement at the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Awards in December.

Jenny had been singled out then by adjudicator Trevor Jones for the ‘brilliant’ way she puppeteered Sammy – and Goodnight Mr Tom’s silverware did not end there.

Its two young leading actors, Henry Andrews, who played William, and Thomas Scott, as Zach, jointly won the Peter Gullen Award for most promising youth member. This followed their collecting the Arthur Churchill Award for Excellence for the same two roles at the Brighton drama awards.

Kate Armes took the best director prize for presiding over The Man Who Came to Dinner, which tied with an elegiac version of Under Milk Wood, directed by Harry Atkinson, for the John Stone Memorial Shield for best overall production.

Louise Yeo received three nominations and it was no more than she deserved when she won the award for best supporting/cameo role for playing William’s abusive mother, Mrs Beech, in Goodnight Mr Tom.

The award for Players’ Player went to publicity officer Gary Cook, who, with his director’s hat on, is currently helping add the finishing touches to the Players’ next production, The Turn of the Screw, from March 7 to 10.

Photographer Miles Davies’s dress rehearsal stills had earlier provided a classy backdrop for a montage of last year’s productions, which also included Pinocchio and Just for Laughs 3. Mr Atkinson thanked Miles for his vital work in helping to sell the shows.

Mr Atkinson reminded the audience that gratifying though it was to celebrate the success of nominees and award-winners, their achievement would be impossible without the hard work of those behind the scenes who carried out the thousands of jobs each production demanded.