Nettie Sheridan is relishing the chance directing gives her to tap into “another part of (her) creativity.”
She is co-directing with Gary Cook the Southwick Players’ production of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills at the Barn Theatre, Southwick from October 12-15 (tickets on sale on 01273 597094), the company’s entry in the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Awards.
Nettie stresses she still loves acting, but sometimes when you are acting you can get the feeling that a lot of the decisions have already been made for you.
As she says, directing makes you the person making those decisions.
“I have only directed one play before, for the Southwick Players, Lettice and Lovage, and it was very nerve-racking. But we had a fantastic cast, and we have got a fantastic cast for this too.
“I am quietly confident (for the awards). Every year the competition is really fierce and everyone puts on such fantastic productions, but really for us it is about wanting people to come back to see the Southwick Players again and again and again. We want people to come and see us time and again, so we have got to put on great performances for everything. We know that people’s expectations are always high because the productions are so good, so really I am not sure we will be doing anything very different for the awards. We always try to make everything the best it can be.
“I was assistant director for Private Lives back in 2013. When Southwick Players have got a free slot, they ask people to come up with ideas, and I put forward Lettice and Lovage.
“I had seen a production of it up in Norfolk, and I just fell in love with the play.”
And Nettie discovered that’s a crucial element in directing: you have got to really want to do the play you are putting forward.
It has also got to be practicable for the company, as indeed Lettice and Lovage was. And it was while she was doing the Shaffer that Gary approached her with the Potter.
“I looked at it and I thought ‘This is a screenplay! How on earth are we going to do a screenplay on stage!’ I had only ever seen it as the BBC screenplay, but I read it and I just fell in love with it straightaway.
“For me, it just felt quite poignant, that it is about children’s play, but the kind of children’s play that makes parents really uncomfortable. When you are watching children playing, you tend to look through rose-tinted glasses, and then when they are being horrible, you say ‘Don’t do that!’ And then when you see adults behaving in the same way, you really see it for what it is. You see them being spiteful and vindictive…
“I love watching children play, but this is a different side to it. There is such a big thing about bullying and raising awareness of bullying and of the impact that it can have.
“I thought that it is really good timing to do the play now, with bullying being such a topical thing at the moment. This play seemed a really good way of demonstrating the impact that bullying can have.
“Plus of course Dennis Potter is an absolute genius, and the way the cast has responded has been great. The way the cast has brought out the characters has been amazing.
“If it is a play that you really love, it is an absolute pleasure. If you have got a gorgeous cast to work with, it can be really fluid and organic.”
Nettie is keen for a good and positive collaboration between the cast members.
“They can all bring something to it.”
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