"Comedic Ben Hur a hit"
by Sascha Cooper for remotegoat on 06/06/19

The Southwick Players took on their biggest challenge yet with 'Ben Hur'. Some of you reading this may be thinking that this can only be done on film, but if done the right way, seven people can achieve this feat. And achieve it they did!

This adaptation by Patrick Barlow incorporates the play within a play technique by focusing on an amateur dramatics society with egos running riot and behind the scenes relationships infiltrating into the piece to give it a comedic slant. Whilst this is a great technique to use for stage work, it takes great skill to act as if you are the worst actor in the world. Whilst The Southwick Players did manage to get a lot of comedic laughs, it felt like they were trying too hard to push the comedy, so what happened was that at times throughout the piece the pace fell flat. They do not need to worry about pushing it, just need to relax into it more and the pace will change for what is already an extremely strong piece.

The cast were extremely strong in their portrayal of numerous characters and their comradery on stage was second to none.

Giles Newlyn-Bowmer excelled as Messala the villain of the piece and various other regal characters. His adaptable approach was extremely smooth and made each one engaging - especially Jesus.

'H' Reeves was one of the leading lights of the cast too. His portrayal of Sara and Quintus Arrius was particularly convincing to watch and engaging with his character choices.

Jon Terry was the last member of the cast to join and you would never have guessed this! It looked as if he had been performing with The Southwick Players for years. More importantly, all three roles including Ben Hur were strong and extremely believable.

Louise Yeo had one of the hardest tasks of changing wigs every few seconds! But every role she played was full of energy and sass. I particularly enjoyed Esther and Catalyna.

Sharon Churchill was also enjoyable to watch as she played both male and female roles. Her stage presence is second to none and really showed her commitment to every role portrayed.

Amy Bower played a more nervous role taking on different characters. This was not only charming to watch, but it added a good amount of warmth to all she did.

And finally, Tim Ingram shone in his character roles - especially as General Lew Wallace the original writer of the book, the slave driver and Pontius Pilate. He showed great depth and drive for everything he did.

With this strong cast and deliberately mistimed sound effects and music, 'Ben Hur' will get stronger as the run progresses. Do not miss out!

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