Production notes for "Sexton Blake & The Orford Oysters"
What an autumn this has been. "David Copperfield" broke every record we had set, with capacity audiences at almost every venue on tour, a never-ending series of enthusiastic reviews and a flood of letters from people saying how much they had enjoyed the production. The cast, basking in this attention, and with the added bonus of a particularly mild autumn, left on the high note of selling out the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds. We are now looking seriously at the prospect of remounting the show for a national tour, if we can attract interest and money from outside the region.
The follow on from this is an even brisker booking period for "Sexton Blake and the Orford Oysters", our eighth Christmas show at the Sir John Mills Theatre. By the time we open we will have sold about 75% of our tickets, another record.
Sexton Blake has offered a different challenge to us this year, being an all action hero, boasting feats of great derring-do rather than the cerebral eccentricities of a Holmes or Wimsey. Eileen Ryan, who has written the show, and whom some may remember as the car-owner Mercy and archeologist Dorothy in the last two Christmas shows, has had to dig hard to root our Blake's unique Boys Own style qualities.
The biggest problem has been coping with the changes to wartime Orford where the castle was out of bounds and local boats forbidden to be used. However, not to be denied two of Orford's great characteristics, we have sneaked our characters past the barbed wire into the castle and allowed our fisherman one secret trip up the creek! We have set the play in the late months of 1940, after the Battle of Britain and as rumours of German spies were beginning to escalate. There is one major cheat we have to admit to. The WAAFs didn't actually arrive on to the Island until 1943, but for the sake of balancing out the roles we have speeded up the time scale!
You will be pleased to hear that our "cushion fund" last year was so successful that we exceeded our target of £450. We were enormously encouraged by the willingness with which people gave a little extra for this added benefit and are actively considering what to do with the extra money. We feel it should go on making your future visits to the Sir John Mills Theatre even more pleasant and convenient. Perhaps you would like to make some suggestions (a cooling system, do I hear someone shout?). If you have any ideas please contact us.
Something else you may be able to contribute is stories about your local fields. I am currently writing our forthcoming play "Fields" which will be touring village and town halls from February to May 1996. I need any local stories or traditions you know about to feed into my research and into the actual play. If you know of any particularly interesting field names and their possible origins, then please write to me at Eastern Angles, or give the office a ring and leave your number for me to get back to you.
Looking even further ahead, our project show about the original Royal House of the East Angles, the Wuffing Kings who were buries at Sutton Hoo, is beginning to take shape. Planned for Spring 1997, it will also be an opportunity to celebrate fifteen years of Eastern Angles.
It will be created for performance in specially adapted venues, perhaps a large deserted warehouse or aircraft hanger where we can genuinely re-create the fire and water ceremonies that marked the early culture of the Anglo-Saxon kings! We are looking for such a venue in each of the counties we visit: Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex. Ideally they should be close to main roads, be of sound structure and able to host the large audience numbers we hope to attract for this extravaganza. We expect to have to provide electricity and want to bring in raked seating and facilities for about 300 people. If you know of anywhere, please contact us as soon as possible.
Ivan Cutting - Artistic Director