Tony Clark directs his third production for the Funtington Players, for the first time a show which he has previously seen on stage.
Star Quality by Noel Coward, adapted by Christopher Luscombe, will be performed at West Ashling Village Hall from November 21-25 (www.funtingtonplayers.org.uk).
“Noel Coward wrote it as a short story,” Tony says, “and it was published in a volume of short stories in 1951. Nothing happened with it for a number of years, and then Noel Coward did adapt it into a play, but it never got performed in his life time. It was a bit of an epic. It had 18 characters, and there were multiple locations. I don’t think any commercial management was willing to take it on, and it was not until 2001, 50 years after it was written, that Christopher Luscombe got hold of it and felt he could do something with it, taking it back closer to the original short story and performing it in a slightly more fluid way and not worrying too much about all the different locations. That’s what he did, and it had a reasonable success, but I don’t think it has been revived very much since.”
Tony saw it when it toured to Brighton: “It comes across as a more modern Coward. It’s about a theatre company putting on a play, so you have got the play within a play, and it is about the clashes of ego and all that goes on behind the scenes when you are putting on a production.
“The premise is that there is a relatively-young playwright that has produced a play that he wants to get staged. With the director, they are trying to get the company together, and they persuade this star called Lorraine to come on board. We see the author persuade the star to join. She is being completely outrageous, chatting him up and coming out with all her bits of theatrical gossip. But they get together and they start working on the play – and then there is a huge bust-up between the director and the star Lorraine because of one of the supporting actresses.
“Lorraine wants this really rather bad actress in it because she is the perfect foil. Having Marion on stage makes everyone else look brilliant. The director says she can join the company and then realises that it is going to be a disaster so there is a huge bust-up. The play is about the power struggles behind the scenes. What makes it interesting is to try to bring those relationships to life. It is well written in the style of the period. The adaptation took place 50 years after it was written, but it is very faithful to the original short story, and it captures the style of that era. There is a bit of a challenge to get the most out of the words and also to give the actors the freedom and the courage to really go for the emotional highs and lows, but we are really enjoying it.
“I do a mix of acting and directing. This is my third for the Funtington Players after Daisy Pulls It Off and a play called Riverman, and it is the only one I have seen in production. I like being able to start with a blank canvas and to pull everything together. It’s quite challenging. I wouldn’t want to be doing it all the time, but to do it every now and again gives a good buzz.”