Wick Theatre Company celebrates the genius of Neil Simon

Graham Till
Graham Till

Wick Theatre Company are inviting you to join them at New York City’s iconic luxury Plaza Hotel in its late-60s heyday.

In suite 719, we meet three pairs of Manhattan visitors all battling the ups and downs of marriage in various ways.

We first meet Karen who after decades of marriage, is still besotted with Sam, but is he having an affair? Then call in on Jesse, Hollywood producer, meeting up with his old high-school sweetheart. And finally, we join Norma and Roy as they desperately try to get their daughter out of the hotel bathroom and up the aisle.

Graham Till is delighted to be directing Plaza Suite on its 50th anniversary in Wick’s 70th season, especially as it brings a number of new faces to the stage at The Barn Theatre.

“This is the last item in our 70th-anniversary season and we wanted to do something that reflected some of the life and the times of the company, and we have also got the anniversary of the play as well. And I think we are the first company to perform this play anywhere in the world since Neil Simon’s death last month.

“It is a lovely nostalgic comedy that will remind many people – many of our audiences are of mature years – of their youth in the 60s and the 70, and not just the theatre, but also the music, of that other Simon, Paul Simon & Garfunkel. There are just little hints here and there, nostalgic elements to it all.

“It is set in the year it was written, in 1968. You could try to update it, but I don’t think it would really work. We have had to try to create an image of a plush top-quality hotel suite on the stage, which has been fiendishly difficult. You have got to thank the unsung workshop team. They have done an amazing job coming up with ways of realising it, to make it look like a rich hotel suite.”

Graham is hoping, since Simon’s death, there will be a better appreciation of his work.

“We have done Alan Ayckbourn before and talked about how underrated he is by the gurus of the theatre critics. He is never allowed to be up there in the pantheon of the great writers, and the same thing has happened with Neil Simon in America.

“Plaza Suite is really three in one, three one-act plays. The first is quite deep, a tragicomedy, bitter-sweet. One of the great things about Neil Simon is that he sees more clearly than most that comedy is rooted in pain. He was very keen on watching Charlie Chaplin, that physical comedy rooted in pain, but so too is verbal comedy... and the other two acts move on from there. The second is basically romantic situational comedy, and the third is more or less outright farce. You can see the broad span of his comedy in this one piece.

“And I am really pleased with my cast. I have got a brilliant cast.”

Performances of Plaza Suite run from Wednesday, September 26 to Saturday, September 29 at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick. The curtain up is at 7.45pm.

Tickets cost £11 on 01273 597094 or www.wicktheatre.co.uk. The production is also entered into the annual Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Awards.

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