Thursday, 23 October 2014

Playgoers Present ‘Words From the Great War’

Newport Playgoers Society will be commemorating the centenary of World War One with a unique performance of ‘Words from the Great War’ at the Dolman Studio on Remembrance Sunday 9 November.

The event, which has been researched and compiled by Playgoers veterans John Sheen and Eileen Symonds, will feature many of the society’s actors and singers of all ages performing some of the stirring poems that were inspired by the fierce warfare, as well as popular love-songs and military melodies of the time.

Local flavour will be provided by a selection of humorous tales found in editions of the South Wales Argus from 1914 to 1918. 

In the powerful anti-war play ‘For Services Rendered’ 
Nicola Jones as Eva berates her father (Peter Bourne) 
for being oblivious to the terrible aftermath of the Great War.
“It is fascinating to compare the quirky events that were happening on the streets of Newport with the horrendous experiences that the troops were enduring on the Western Front,” says John Sheen, who is directing the performance.

“Almost two thousand citizens of Newport sacrificed their lives during WW1, and we will remember them in an emotional recitation of names selected from the Roll of Honour held at Newport Library”.

Tickets for ‘Words from the Great War’, which begins at 7.15pm on Sunday 9 November, are available from 01633 263670. 

Playgoers will also be presenting a trilogy of World War One plays during their current season, commencing with Somerset Maugham’s classic anti-war drama ‘For Services Rendered’ which is on from 12 - 15 November and the stage version of the evocative TV series 'Blackadder Goes Forth in May.
In ‘For Services Rendered’, unmarried sister Eva (Nicola Jones)
is driven to despair caring for her blind brother.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Chance for Young People to be in the Spotlight

One of the leading local dramatic companies is recruiting young people aged 16 to 35 to join them and help stage their ground-breaking productions.
James Reynolds as Holmes and James Symonds as Watson
 in the recent PNG production ‘Sherlock Holmes and 
the West End Terror’. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Members of PNG rehearsing 
‘Around The World in 80 Days’.
Playgoers New Generation (PNG), who are based at, Newport’s 400-seat Dolman Theatre, produce a wide range of plays on both the main stage and the Studio Theatre. They are very active in taking productions out into the community and also compete in festivals.

Founder member James Reynolds said, “We are looking for anyone who fancies getting up onstage and strutting their stuff, or would prefer a backstage role behind a hi-tech lighting board, running sound or learning about stage management.

PNG members have fun during rehearsals
“We’re looking for anyone who wants to be involved including people who would like to direct or write scripts.”

PNG are holding a special open day at the Dolman Theatre on Sunday 19 October at 12.30pm. Anyone unable to make it can pop along to one of PNG’s regular meetings on Monday evenings at 7.15pm. For more information contact Emma Brunnock on 07792 362790. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Awards Presented at Newport Playgoers AGM

Rachel Fenwick was named Newport’s best actor when she was presented with the prestigious Webley Award at Newport Playgoers Society’s AGM.

Rachel Fenwick was presented with her award by
Playgoers President Richard Dymond
Rachel as Eliza Doolittle
Rachel won the coveted award for her virtuosity in playing Eliza Doolittle in ‘Pygmalion’ –  and achieving the magical transformation from cockney flower seller to well-spoken lady.

She was also commended for playing the part of Alice Tinker in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ earlier in the season for which she won Best Supporting Actress at the recent Gwent Drama League Awards.

“I am delighted and honoured to have been presented with this award, and would like to thank Newport Playgoers for giving me the opportunity and support to play such a variety of roles,” she said.

Rachel – who has also had major roles in the Moliere comedy ‘The Hypochondriac’  and Ira Levin’s chilling ‘Veronica’s Room’ – is about to start a one year Diploma in Professional Acting course at the Drama Studio London.

Becky Griffiths is presented with the Jonathan Conick Award
by NPS President Richard Dymond
Another proud winner was Becky Griffiths of Playgoers New Generation who received the Jonathan Conick Award which commemorates a much-loved member of Playgoers who lost his battle with cancer, aged just 29. It is given to youngsters who have been active not just in acting but in all areas of theatre.

“I feel really honoured to become the third recipient of this coveted award,” said 18-year-old Becky. “It’s particularly nice becomes it comes just as I’m about to go to university to study for a degree in performing arts.”

Becky has been involved in several productions not only acting on stage but also working on sound, set-building, props and stage managing. She has also been an enthusiastic volunteer front of house working in the Dolman box office.

Rachel Fenwick won Best Supporting Actress and Nathan Hodge's
production of  'Killer Joe' was names Best Play
Earlier this week Playgoers scoped a number of awards at the Gwent Drama League evening including Best Play for ‘Killer Joe’ directed by Nathan Hodge.

Playgoers are currently gearing up for their 91st season which opens with ‘According to Claudia’ by local writer Phil Mansell. Other plays in the season will mark the centenary of the First World War with ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, ‘The Accrington Pals’ and ‘For Services Rendered’. For full details and to book tickets either phone 01633 263670 or visit

Monday, 23 September 2013

Dolman Theatre Hosts World’s Biggest Coffee Morning

The dark Irish comedy
'The Beauty Queen of Leenane'
is one of the plays visitors
will see in rehearsal.
(Photo: Phil Mansell)
The Dolman Theatre is playing its part in a UK-wide fund-raising event by taking part in the world’s biggest coffee morning on Saturday 28 September.

As well as coffee and cake, visitors can enjoy stalls selling a host of gift items and also take a tour of the theatre where they will go backstage to watch Newport Playgoers rehearse ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ and other plays.

“The is part of a nationwide event that started in 1990, when a local fundraising committee decided to hold a coffee morning where people came along to meet and mingle – and to donate the cost of their coffee to Macmillan Cancer Support,” explained Playgoer Steve Bissex-Williams.

“Since then this annual event has raised over £75 million in total for Macmillan Cancer Support. We hope the people of Newport will come along and support in this great fund-raising event,” he added.

The event invites people across the UK to hold a coffee corning where donations are made on the day to to MacMillan. In 2012 115,000 people signed up for coffee mornings, raising a record £15million.
Steve Bissex-Williams who has organised
the coffee morning at the Dolman Theatre
(Photo: Phil Mansell)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Playgoers Get Set to Tackle ‘The 39 Steps’

David Constant as Richard Hannay
(Photo: Phil Mansell)
Newport Playgoers are all set to start their 90th season with a bang – by presenting the action-packed, fun-filled stage version of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic ‘The 39 Steps’.

Imagine four actors playing 139 characters in 100 minutes and you get an idea of the mystery, madness and mayhem involved. 

Audiences will find plenty of thrills and spills as they follow the adventures of stiff upper lipped Richard Hannay as he flees from spies, the police and killers in his quest to answer the question: what is the secret of the 39 Steps?
Hannay - a tongue-in-cheek 1930s James Bond - woos every attractive lady in sight and jumps through windows and onto trains as he tries to escape villainous enemy agents.

Richard Hannay (David Constant) escapes from
 the  villains  (Richard Dymond and Jes Hynes) 
whilst  handcuffed  to Pamela (Ros Jones-Griffiths)
(Photo: Phil Mansell)

Anabella Schmitt (Ros Jones-Griffiths)
 is the spy who discovers the 
secret of the 39 steps.
(Photo: Phil Mansell)
“This is a really fast-paced play that has enjoyed considerable success in the West End,” said the play’s director Lynn Phillips.

”Anyone who has seen Hitchcock’s 1935 film will be sure to love it as we take audiences to a variety of locations, including a train, the wilds of Scotland and the London Palladium.”

Enemy agents (Richard Dymond and 
Jes Hynes) in hot pursuit.
(Photo: Phil Mansell)

‘The 39 Steps’ adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and the film by Alfred Hitchcock is at the Dolman Theatre from 11t– 14 September at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. 

To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Messages from Helen Mirren and Lynda Bellingham

When I heard that Newport Playgoers would be staging 'Calendar Girls' I thought, as leader of the publicity team, that it would be a good idea to write to the stars of both the film and stage versions asking them to send good luck messages.

First to reply was Helen Mirren which was a promising start. Next came an autographed photo from one of my favourite actresses, Lynda Bellingham, who also wrote a personal message - which was even better.

Personal messages also came from Annette Crosbie, Penelope Wilton, John Alderton, Anita Dobson and Charlie Dimmock.

Tim Firth, who wrote both the film and stage versions, sent a lovely card with a special message. It's good to know that such, famous - and busy - people take the time to reply to those who write to them.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Tregaer Man Treads the Boards in Feel Good Comedy

David Leigh from Tregaer is bringing out his naughty side when he plays a rascally grandfather in the play ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ at the Dolman Theatre in Newport next week.
David Leigh as rascally grandfather Gus fails to 
impress Dee Dee (Catherine Morgan) with his singing.

“This is the first time I’ve done any amateur dramatics since I was at Durham University in the 1960s and I’m enjoying it immensely,” says 69-year-old David who plays the part of Gus in the comedy which is being presented by Newport Playgoers.

“Gus is fiercely resisting his son’s efforts to put him in a retirement home and prefers learning the latest dance moves from his grand-daughter Dee Dee. Being a grandfather myself, I have sympathy with the character – but I deny sharing his wackier and naughtier tendencies! It’s a very funny play so the challenge in rehearsals has been not to laugh.”

David (second from left) with the cast of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’:
 Catherine Morgan (Dee Dee), Lyndon House (Leonard) 
and Nicky Davies (Harriet). (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)
The play, written by Simon Williams, has a plotline reminiscent of the Dustin Hoffman film ‘Tootsie’. Gus’s son, Leonard, is frustrated writer who has all his books rejected by a feminist publishing house because he is a man. However, when he submits a novel based on his experiences as a single parent under the pseudonym Myrtle Banbury, the editor, Harriet, loves it. The snag is she insists on meeting Myrtle so she can hand over the prize money and sign her up. In order to collect the money, Leonard is forced to dress up as a woman. 

“As Gus, I go along with deception – for a price,” says David. “The play is a marvellous comedy in the tradition of ‘Charley’s Aunt and ‘Some Like It Hot’’. It’s been acclaimed as a classic feel-good romantic comedy and offers belly laughs galore – with four irresistibly loveable characters locked into a hilarious plot. The final scene has been described as a comic masterpiece.”

David has been keen to get back into acting in amateur productions since he retired from his career in the conservation of cultural heritage a few years ago.

“Joining Newport Playgoers attracted me because of the scale and the thoroughness of their approach.  A company which runs its own 400-seat theatre and mounts eight full-length plays a year has to be taken seriously. I was chuffed that they let me through the auditions!”

You can see David in Newport Playgoers’ production of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ by Simon Williams at the Dolman Theatre from 14th – 17th November at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit  New members are always welcome to become involved both onstage and behind the scenes.