Stuart continues his short play contribution to the Arundel Festival

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Playwright and actor Stuart Smithers is once again contributing a short day-time play to the Arundel Festival.

This year it will be Tomboy which runs at the Arundel Players’ Priory Playhouse Theatre home from August 19-26, with Muriel Carnegie directing and Stuart himself among the three actors on stage – all under the banner Shortcuts At The Priory. This year is Stuart’s 11th year of Shortcuts. Had it not been for Covid this year would have been his 12th. For the first time this year, it will be offered as part of the Arundel Festival Theatre Trail.

“I suppose it started after I retired or semi-retired just before I was 60.” Stuart says. “I was starting to write plays. I had been acting for many, many years and I wanted to see if I could write a play. I was just thinking that I had been in enough plays and that I ought to be able to write one so I just thought I'd give it a go. The first one I wrote was a monologue called Poor Visibility with Rosie Purchase playing a bag lady. It went very well so I thought I would write another one and that went well so I thought that I'd keep on going until ten and I've now done ten and I'm still writing!”

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Clearly there have to be a number of rules: “First of all it's got to be between 30 and 40 minutes which is 5,000 to 6,000 words which I work to in terms of length. It has to be for a small number of characters but in terms of genre and style I've always tried to change both radically from year to year so that people wouldn't just think ‘Oh, here is another play from Stuart!’

Stuart Smithers once again is taking part in the Arundel Festival (contributed pic)Stuart Smithers once again is taking part in the Arundel Festival (contributed pic)
Stuart Smithers once again is taking part in the Arundel Festival (contributed pic)

“Last year we had Barnum as the main Arundel Players production for the festival in the evenings and I was asked to produce a show on a circus theme so that we could use the Barnum set for it as well.”

This year the main Arundel Players’ production is Daisy Pulls It Off, running from August 19-26 and directed by Stuart’s wife Dawn. And again the suggestion was that Stuart should use the same set, in this case Grangewood School for Young Ladies.

“For Tomboy, it is the same school and in the same hall but 100 years later, the 2020s rather than 1920s.”

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In the gymnasium of Grangewood School, the Class of 73 reunion party is in full swing. Seeking refuge from the melee, Andy finds himself in the school hall which has changed little since he was last there, 50 years before. He is joined by contemporaries, Gerry and Val, and their acquaintance is gradually renewed, but a mutual secret, hidden away since their shared school days, reveals itself to devastating effect.

“It is a modern play and I've got these three former students from 73 who are meeting up after a long absence to renew their acquaintance but there is this awful secret that is revealed... and I’m not going give away any more away than that! I've written quite a lot of comedies but this one is rather more serious. Hopefully it will pack quite a punch. There are not too many laughs but it's going to be really quite dramatic, I hope.”

Tomboy runs from Saturday, August 19-Saturday, August 26 at 12 noon. Tickets £6. Tea and coffee will be available in the bar from 11am onwards. Tickets available on TicketSource or ring 01903 412990.