January, 2009 Newsletter

Dear Email Friends,

The Directors returned recently from auditions in London where they were able to cast four strong professional actors to play the family members in A..R. Gurney's turbulent comedy-drama, THE COCKTAIL HOUR, which premieres on 19 February, 2009. The actors are pictured below. If you were able to see W. Somerset Maughm's THE CIRCLE in 2003 you will remember Jennifer Thorne who played Lady Kitty so well. What a talented lady! That was a wonderful play, and we are glad to have Jennifer back with us again.

Those of you who have seen Ray Cooney's CAUGHT IN THE NET (closing on 7 Februry) may have recognized Stephen Chance and Jan Hirst. Stephen played the priest in John Patrick Shanley's DOUBT, one of the plays we did last season, and Jan played the nun who was suspicious of the priest's behaviour. The man who plays Stephen's senile father in CAUGHT IN THE NET played the title role in VISITING MR. GREEN; and John Smith, played by James Walmsley in CAUGHT IN THE NET, has been on our stage many times before. You last saw him (we hope) in ALONE TOGETHER, the successful comedy we did last Christmas.

Next Season we are going to bring back Robin Hawdon's hilarious comedy, BIRTHDAY SUITE. It was so popular that a lot of people could not get tickets when we did it 10 years ago. It looks like we may have the same problem with CAUGHT IN THE NET. Our best advice is to book tickets early even if you plan to come late in the run of a play.

Soon we will announce the plays for the 2009/2010 Season. You will be the first to know and we hope you will subscribe. By doing so, you save a lot of money (four plays for the price of three) and you help the theatre by providing income over the summer months when the we are closed.


David Nicholson

Jennifer Thorne

Richard Franklin

Helen Worsley




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33rd Season
(2008 / 2009)

Closes 7 February:


a comedy by Ray Cooney

John (James Walmsley), the bigamist, explains to his two wives (l. Sarah Ogley, r. Jan Hirst) how much he loves them both.


Below is a photo of the miniature model our Set Designer, Mathias Wardeck, made for THE COCKTAIL HOUR. Some bits and pieces are missing in the model, but Mathias, who is arriving next week, will do his usual work to produce the lavish drawing room in which the play takes place.


The main theme of THE COCKTAIL HOUR is the break-up of the traditional family unit, a major change in society that started taking place in the twentieth century and has continued to the present day. The play shows how two generations in the 1970s viewed family life in different ways and how sacrificing everything just to remain together became, at some point, less important than realizing one's own dreams. A. R. Gurney deals with one family's struggle to cope with the changing values and shows how the people themselves change, sometimes painfully, in the process.

John, a young playwright, returns to his home in upstate New York to ask his wealthy mother and father for permission to produce a new play which he has written about them. Writing and producing plays is the most fulfilling part of John's life, but his parents, with their traditional values, do not want their private life to be exposed on stage. John's sister, Nina, on the other hand, is primarily concerned that she is only a minor figure in the play. As the cocktail hour, a family ritual, progresses, we learn that John's younger brother, to the dismay of his parents, has decided to leave his boring job and move his family to California where he can build boats, and realize his childhood dream. Nina, whose passion is animals, alarms her parents further by announcing that she wants to go to Ohio where she can work with seeing-eye dogs. Her parents are appalled that she can even consider spending so much time away from her family. Ann, John's mother, reveals to her son that she gave up her youthful efforts to write books in order to devote herself to the family. John's father, Bradley, whose professional life has been profitable but unfulfilling, objects more vehemently than anyone to John's producing a play that he thinks will treat the family in a negative way. The conflict is dramatic, but also quite amusing at times. The parents have made sacrifices to maintain the traditional family ties. Now they see the conventional close-knit family breaking up as travel and new opportunities become available for their children. The clash between generations caused by the changing times and values results in the cocktail hour turning into a shouting match at times. As more drinks are poured, feelings are hurt and family skeletons come out of the closet. In the end, despite the changes in family structure, there is reconciliation and acceptance of the new way of life.

"THE COCKTAIL HOUR is funny and moving. It could be the best play (Gurney) has done so far." The New Yorker

Free Teaching Material
If you are interested in receiving our teaching material which includes a summary of our current play, CAUGHT IN THE NET, a comedy by Ray Cooney, and our next play, A.R. Gurney's THE COCKTAIL HOUR, just click on the images below or on the Teaching Material link at the bottom of this page.


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