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Introducing our latest innovation …

Hello. I’m Keith Begley, set designer for We are Three Sisters. I’d like to introduce our latest innovation: the back projection screen! No prizes for guessing that, after its successful introduction for our production of April in Paris, directors are already thinking of how they too can make use of it.

Our next production is about the Brontë sisters and though they lived relatively constrained lives in the Parsonage at Haworth, their minds were free to roam the wild moors that loomed large in their imaginations. It is quite a challenge to present their small parlour on stage, with as many as ten characters jostling for space. Putting their lives in context means putting the Moors in there as well! Now that is a challenge, but ‘can do’ technology has enabled us to try. Come and see if we have succeeded.

'We are Three Sisters' will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 2 – 9 June. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our Ticketsource website.

Keith Begley, May 20, 2018,

Bringing laughter and warmth to the Bronte home

“Cold and dreary”, “The wind never stops blowing!” “and there are midges”. So say the Bronte sisters about their home in Haworth in Blake Morrison’s We Are Three Sisters. Writing at twilight and sewing dutifully during the day, they live surrounded by gravestones, chauvinistic men and consider the immortality of writers.

Our own Bronte girls, Kate Davies, Maye Battersby and Esther Weetman have had fun bringing the siblings to life at the expense of the love-lorn doctor, the sweet-talking curate, the pompous teacher and of course their troubled brother Branwell. All watched over by the pistol firing Patrick Bronte.

But it is Verity Mann as Lydia Robinson, Branwell’s love interest, who is having the most fun. She flounces and pouts and looks down her nose at the parsonage residents. Her bete noire is Tabby, played by Lisa Kay, the Bronte housekeeper who gives as good as she gets. Amusingly, Sam Reid as Branwell (seen last season in The Graduate) is onto his second Mrs Robinson!

Re-visiting Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has also helped to bring this household to life - the models for literary hero, villain and supporting characters are found here in this parlour. And despite the wind, disease and moroseness, I hope we have brought some laughter and warmth to the Bronte home.

Meanwhile set designer, Keith is creating the Parsonage dining room ,Tim is creating a windy soundscape and Bob is shedding light on the whole procedure. Verity and Sandie are hot on the trail of costumes and props and Frank is keeping us all on text.

It is a real delight working with such a talented cast and crew and I hope you enjoy the results of our labours.

We are Three Sisters will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 2 – 9 June. Tickets £9 (£5 students).

Carol Davies, May 18, 2018,

On playing Lydia - the green-dressed monster

Hi, I’m Verity Mann and I’m playing the role of Lydia Robinson, Branwell Bronte’s mistress in We Are Three Sisters by Blake Morrison. It’s a perfect part for me. Lydia flounces on at the end of Act One, flounces off in Act Three and is seen no more. That means that while the rest of the cast are strutting and playing, I’ll be in the Green Room with my feet up and a nice cup of tea! Lydia is also a gift of a part because she is, as Carol Davies our director succinctly put, ‘a monster’. Vain, insensitive and condescending, she insults the much loved servant, Tabby, ousts Anne Bronte from her own bedroom, and breaks Branwell’s heart. All in a hideous green dress! I did toy with the idea of trying to make her more sympathetic, but it’s much more fun to play the villain!

In researching the real life Lydia Robinson, I realised that the characterisation is based on facts. She was suspected of having an affair with Branwell, her children’s tutor, under the nose of her ailing husband. Branwell expected her to marry him after Edward’s death, but she promptly ditched the penniless tutor and bettered her social standing by marrying a Lord. The discarded Branwell drank and doped himself to death. When we meet Lydia, in the gloomy parsonage in remote Howarth the shine is definitely going off the romance. “A woman ought to be treated with dignity, not slobbered over like a bone”. Hear, hear, Lydia!

We are Three Sisters will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 2 – 7 June. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our booking site.

Verity Mann, May 13, 2018,

Lighting up Paris

Hi, I'm David Plowright, and I've been delighted to have the fascinating role of designing the lighting, sound and projection for 'April in Paris'. Together with the set designer, we've been creating the visual and auditory surroundings for our actors' voyage of discovery from Yorkshire to Paris and back.

The vision of the original director, Melvyn Bates, who sadly had to drop out of the production, was to use a small number of images in the background of the scenes in Paris. We already have a projector in the auditorium ceiling, used with a screen for lectures, parties, etc., but its images would shine on the actors and cast shadows on the backdrop. So, back projection was the answer, and hiring the equipment was the obvious but expensive means. However, after much careful research, Millgate Arts Centre is now the owner of its own large back-projection screen and a second hand projector.

Has the effort been worth it? Come and see for yourself - and while you wait for the curtains to open, listen to a selection of French singers, from Aznavour to Zaz! Book your tickets here.

David Plowright, April 11, 2018,

The more we see, the more we don’t know

John Godber’s two-hander April in Paris is the latest offering from Saddleworth Players and runs from 7th-14th April 2018 at the Millgate Theatre, Delph.

Al (Paul Dawson) and Bet (Liz Travis) are a couple whose relationship is marked by boredom, bickering and a lack of joint interests. Unemployed Al’s passion for painting in his shed irritates his long-suffering wife, Bet, and similarly Bet’s penchant for entering magazine quiz competitions frustrates Al. We quickly discover that neither Al nor Bet listen to each other and have their own priorities.

An unexpected quiz success sees a thrilled Bet win a ‘Romantic Night in Paris’ travelling on North Sea Ferries and she persuades a reluctant Al to join her for this exotic adventure. The rest of the play follows Al and Bet trying to come to terms with ‘la vie Francais’, with some references to the French bordering on stereotype.

Although initially bleak due to the constant bickering between Al and Bet the plot becomes increasingly comic as these naive travellers’ struggle with a new culture and feel obliged to be romantic for the weekend.

The initial scenes nicely set up the situation in their relationship and are well played by Dawson and Travis, some arguments seem to arise too suddenly to be realistic rather than develop over time. This is largely due to the sporadic nature of the dialogue and could have benefitted from some awkward silences to highlight the tension and weariness of this couple after 10 years of marriage.

Both Dawson and Travis displayed great comic timing and are confident performers and very watchable throughout this ‘tour de force’. The scenes in the North Sea Ferry Disco, French Restaurant and at The Louvre were particularly well played, showing the disparity between the couple and their surroundings. There are innate challenges in trying to create distinct playing areas on a small stage such as this but this was handled well and visual projections helped transport the audience around a whistle-stop tour around Paris.

The whole play was directed with pace and sensitivity by John Matthews who makes his directorial debut at the Millgate Theatre. The play demands careful handling to avoid crude stereotypes and Matthews succeeds in this and delivers a nuanced production.

The Mondrian inspired set is simple yet effective and adds to the claustrophobia in the couple’s living room scenes and provides a more expansive feel, suggesting various Parisian locations in Act 2. Generally, the scene changes could have been slicker and music used more creatively throughout the piece to add to the atmosphere.

It is interesting watching this 1990s play through post-Brexit lens as Al and Bet wonder about both their own relationships and the relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe. This is a comic yet thought-provoking evening of theatre which explores Al and Bet’s troubled relationship and we are left wondering whether their romantic Parisian adventure will save their marriage.

CMG & JLT, April 10, 2018,