Edward Alderton Theatre
by Anton Chekhov
Translated and adapted by Michael Frayn
Directed by Mike Higginson
30 November - 7 December 1991 (7 performances)
A collection of comic episodes set in Russia in the late 19th century...
Cast Storytellers Eleanor McEnery, Allison Henderson g
Drama Cast Pavel Vasilyevich Keith King Murashkina Maureen Hardwen Luka Allison Henderson g The Alien Corn Cast Kamyshev Geoffrey Clifton-Green Champugne Tony Donnelly Misha Derek Goulding gg The Proposal Cast Cubukov John Wharton Natalya Stepanova Susan Coral Hampton Lomov Paul Lay h Plots Cast Dr Shelestov Geoffrey Clifton-Green h The Evils of Tobacco Cast Nyukhin Tony Donnelly g The Inspector-General Cast A Traveller Paul Lay A Cart Driver David Hampton g Swan Song Cast Svetlovidov John Wharton Nikita Eleanor McEnery Two Actresses Kim Kingly, Roz Betts f The Sneeze Cast Brizzhalov Keith King Brizzhalov's Wife Kim Kingly Chervyakov David Hampton Chervyakov's Wife Roz Betts Various Allison Henderson, Paul Lay, Susan Coral Hampton, Derek Goulding
Crew Stage Manager Janet Hampton Assistant Stage Manager Christine Smith Set Design Mike Higginson Costumes Freda Phillips Lighting Tim Hewitt Sound Alex Trimm
Nice and sneezy does it!
Eleanor McEnery has spent the last six years involved with the Edward Alderton Theatre, Bexleyheath. Here she describes rehearsals for the next show, Chekhov's The Sneeze, due to be staged from Saturday. Appropriately enough, Eleanor's role this time is one of the two storytellers.
Down at the Edward Alderton Theatre the company is in the third week of rehearsing The Sneeze - little plays and monologues, following each other revue style, introduced by two storytellers. Although the actors are gesturing with scripts in their hands, characters arc emerging, and enthusiasm is infectious.
Onto a stage stripped of all scenery and props are pushed some tiered theatre seats onto which a group of actors climb to represent an audience at the ballet. With meticulous attention to detail, the producer, Michael Higginson, begins to direct the title piece of the evening - The Sneeze. Gesture by gesture, he builds the piece to its climax. As the laughter of the few who have time to watch subsides, you realise the actors never said a word (now that's what I call body language!).
The tiered seals are whipped away, and a young man comes on to make a proposal of marriage. Or is it a declaration of war? And her father's no help. The producer stops them briefly to ensure that a gesture he likes, arrived at by happy accident, is written into the actor's script. One actress is finding to her surprise that neutrally introducing a story, rather than creating an entire separate character, is harder than she thought. Patiently the producer takes her back over the words; rephrasing, shifting emphasis. Polishing.
The industry and concentration everywhere are impressive. Those entrusted with monologues retreat into quiet places muttering, gesturing, and trying out inflections. A wonderful gallery of characters is emerging from the script - a garrulous authoress, a hen-pecked husband, an ageing actor, a totally outrageous doctor, and many more. Together they're making up a splendid evening's entertainment.
The Sneeze, Edward Alderton Theatre, Brampton Road, Bexleyheath, Saturday to December 7 (not Sunday) 8pm. Tickets £3, members £2.50.
The Mercury | 28 November 1991
Not to be sneezed at
There is something about the polite silence in a theatre that induces embarrassing problems: try as we might we cannot guard against the unwelcome cough or sneeze. Think then of the misery of a man who sneezes on the person in front of him in the audience, only to have his agony increased when he discovers the man is his boss.
Such a painfully comic situation is just one of the short sketches collected together by master comedy writer Michael Frayn in The Sneeze. The show was a big hit in the West End with Rowan Atkinson, Cheryl Campbell and Timothy West. Now it is being revived by the Edward Alderton Theatre at Bexleyheath for performances for a week from this Saturday. Frayn's work is a translation of original playlets by the Russian dramatist Chekhov, but rest assured that even if such mighty classics of the stage as Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard are not your cup of tea, The Sneeze will
provide plenty of laughs.
The show, directed by Mike Higginson, can be seen from November 30 to December 7.
Kentish Times | 28 November 1991
Sneeze provides a bag of laughs
Few of the great Russian dramatists from the turn of the 19th century are remembered for their humour. Instead, pain, passion and melancholia seem to have permeated their themes and characters like a self-generated virus. At the Edward Alderton Theatre this week, however, Chekhov's The Sneeze provides a fascinating opportunity to see a variety of comic playlets and monologues which have lost none of their ability to amuse. They include stories about a marriage proposal which goes disastrously wrong; a famous playwright driven to the limits by a persistent aspiring writer; a lecturer who is incapable of keeping to his designated subject; a government official on a secret mission which is not as secret as he believes; and a landowner who mercilessly taunts a French tutor about the shortcomings of the French people.
Of the eight episodes it may be significant that the one that carries the greatest impact is the only item devoid of humour. This is, indeed, a moving and highly dramatic representation of the moment when an ageing actor comes face to face with his own mortality. John Wharton's performance is a truly remarkable demonstration of emotive acting which, on the first night, appeared to leave the whole of his audience stunned by its impact.
There are, however, many moments of delightful comedy acting from the cast including Geoffrey Clifton-Green's portrayal of an inept physician; Susan Coral Hampton and Paul Lay as two warring suitors; and Tony Donnelly's performance as the lecturer beset by some horrific marital problems. The final work, which gives its title to the compilation, is acted in complete silence and has a suspicious resemblance to the first of the popular Mr Bean series on TV. This is a little gem in terms of visual comedy.
The Sneeze was translated and adapted by Michael Frayn and episodes are Interlinked by two excellent storytellers, Eleanor McEnery and Allison Henderson. There is no credit to a director which indicates that the cast directed themselves [sic - director credit accidentally omitted].
Kentish Times | 12 December 1991