Stuart Smithers will once again be providing the late-morning entertainment for the Arundel Players during Arundel Festival week.
Last year’s Festival saw the first of a series of one-act plays presented at the Priory each morning during the annual August celebration. Stuart’s play Poor Visibility starred Rosey Purchase as a homeless woman living on the streets of Brighton.
Now Stuart provides the second in the series: a play entitled Blue Yonder, a three-hander featuring (Stuart’s real-life wife) Dawn Smithers and Roger Booth as the warring parents of the bride, with Tracy Clayton as their daughter.
“For this year, I wanted to do something rather different,” says North Lancing-based Stuart, by day a solicitor in Hove.
“This one is set in a church, with a father and mother immediately after the daughter’s wedding.
“The mother and father have been estranged for many years so the relationship between them is very strained.
“The daughter attempt to get them back together. She is going to emigrate imminently, and she wants to sort her parents out before she does. The father wants things sorted out, but the mother doesn’t.
“We are talking about a middle-class family. The daughter is, I suppose, a hippy-type, but her parents are very middle class and conventional.
“The father feels very guilty because he was responsible for the break-up of the marriage, but he has got a rather good relationship with the daughter.
“The mother feels that her daughter is being disloyal to her. The mother is bitter even though many years have passed since they split up. The daughter is the person the mother has hung on to. Now that her daughter is married and emigrating, it feels like everything is being taken away from her. She sees herself as being left with nothing. She is sad and bitter; the father is guilty and wanting to make bridges.
“Yes, it’s a drama, but it is written in a slightly-surreal way. The lines are poetic. The dialogue is not entirely naturalistic.
“These are real people, but they express themselves in reasonably-poetic terms, and the whole thing has a rhythm in the same way that perhaps Shakespeare has a rhythm.
“I am directing. Dawn is playing the wife, and the other two are stalwarts of the Arundel Players. I have been accused of being a little bit picky about getting the lines exactly right, probably more than if I was directing somebody else’s lines! But because of this poetic element and the rhythms, it is very important to me that we get the lines as I wrote them rather than as the actors want to present them! But it is all going extremely well.”
Stuart is quick to acknowledge the important contribution the actors make: “That’s the interesting thing about directing a play. The way that you think the line and the way that it is perceived by the actors are not necessarily the same thing at all, and they can improve on it. It can be that the way they have perceived it brings out more than you first think is there.
“That happens with all plays, but it is more apparent when you are the writer.”
Stuart says he hasn’t directed an awful lot, but he certainly can’t see the writing taking over to the exclusion of acting: “I certainly wouldn’t want to give up acting. I would say that acting is my first love.”
Performances are August 19-24 at 11am. Tickets £4 on the door or 01903 765919.