The life of Walter Greaves on stage

Director Tony Clark is promising an engrossing evening with the Fungtington Players whose latest production tells the story of the painter Walter Greaves.

Riverman by Sam Dowling will be performed from Tuesday-Saturday April 12-16 at The Village Hall, West Ashling.

“I saw the play in Brussels when we were living there,” Tony said. “A local amateur group did it, and I thought it was an interesting play. I really thought no more about it until I was looking for a play to direct, and something put this into my head. I got hold of a copy and I got completely involved in the story of Walter Greaves.”

Set in 1911, Riverman tells the tale of the talented naive artist from humble beginnings who was befriended by Whistler, It charts his rise to fame late in life and the less-than-enthusiastic reaction of some of the art world to his appearance in the public eye.

“Walter Greaves was the son of a Chelsea boatman who ran a boatyard at Chelsea and operated boats on the river. Walter was born in 1850-ish and grew up in that environment. The first time he had a paint brush in his hand was decorating the boats. He then the took to painting the river. He never trained as an artist but had huge natural talent.

“When he was in his late teens, Whistler moved to Chelsea. Whistler befriended the Greaves, and Greaves and his younger brother became studio assistants to Whistler, and they rowed him out onto the river.

“On the side, Greaves learnt a great deal from Whistler. This friendship went on for about 20 years but then Whistler dropper Graves. He had a habit of doing that. Various people he befriended and then cast aside when he had other things going on.

“So Greaves was eking out an existence as a painter and remained unknown until he was in his 60s when a pile of his old oils found its way in to the hands of a gallery owner who thought his pictures were interesting and mounted an exhibition in 1910/11. It was a huge success. It was headline news....”

The cast includes Andy Horner, Richard Sanderson, Paul Bennett, Tiffin Jones, Barbara MacWhirter, Heather Birchenough and Hilary Bryan-Brown.

Tickets £8 on 07565 464271.