Sewell Barn Theatre, Constitution Hill, Norwich NR3 4BB               Box office: 01603 626414                   Sewell Barn Trust: Registered Charity No 277724

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Waiting in the Wings

By Noel Coward


Director: Cassie Tillett (Musical Director: Selwyn Tillett)

Contact: cassie@tillett.org.uk / 07802 475110

Performance dates: July 11-13 & 17-20 2019 (matinée 20 July)


THE PLAY

The year is 1960. The Wings is a small charity home for retired actresses in the Thames Valley; it is 'comfortable without being luxurious'. Its residents are stars or leading ladies who have fallen upon hard times. The play is a gentle, humorous, moving exploration of the relationships between the women, the staff and others, and of the inevitable friendships, feuds, affection and bickering that arise when characters accustomed to centre stage are compelled to live as a community.


CHARACTERS

Please note:


PERRY LASCOE: Late 30s / early 40s.  Secretary and general factotum at The Wings, slightly camp. Was a successful musical comedy juvenile, sang and danced adequately, but never broke into the big time. Residents adore him as he jokes with them, jollies them along, generally can’t do enough for them.  Sings a gorgeous slow ballad (Come the Wild, Wild Weather) really well during the Christmas party.   Has maybe 150 lines

OSGOOD MEEKER:70s / 80s.  Bald, natty dresser, gentle.  Visits The Wings every Sunday to see Martha (whom we never meet) who’s bedridden; he’s had a thing for her for decades.  Always brings her a bunch of violets.   Nice recurring cameo for a senior gent - about 30 lines.

Dr JEVONS: Early 30s (but can be older), slightly diffident and out of his depth. Only one scene, when Sarita has to be transferred to another institution.   7 lines.

ALAN BENNET: (we will change the surname!). Lotta’s son, appropriate age to Lotta (so probably late 40s/mid 50s).  Only one scene, with his mother, towards end of play.  Hasn’t seen her for many years; stolid, no sense of humour, no grasp of her real situation, nervous and visiting obviously out of duty; a bit of a failure in his life, career and marriages.   About 50 lines.

SYLVIA ARCHIBALD: ‘Miss Archie’; boss (matron / superintendent) of The Wings.  About 50. Brisk and slightly bulky; gruff and rather masculine manner but clearly vulnerable underneath it and actually loves the residents she cares for. Can be overbearing but is popular with them all.   Worked for ENSA throughout World War 2 and came out with the rank of Colonel, of which she’s immensely proud, and tends to slip into military phrasing and discipline.   About 160 lines.

DORA: Lotta’s dresser for many years.  40s, morose, has no idea what she’ll do once that relationship is broken, although she is going to be married to her very long-term sweetheart.   One scene in Act 1, about 8 lines.

DOREEN: Maid at The Wings, early 20s.   Typical small part of its kind; untidy, hasty, awkward.   About 30 lines.

ZELDA FENWICK: Mid 30s, journalist, knows Perry.  Has been wanting a scoop about The Wings for ages and he brings her in incognito as a friend.  She’s very good at asking carefully leading questions and then letting people say far too much; when unmasked she becomes quite hard about the professional job she has to do, but later genuinely apologetic when her Sunday article could be damaging to the place and the residents   About 100 lines.    


NB re ages of actresses: All residents of The Wings must be (or have a playing age of) over 60. However, all other references to ages are flexible as the personalities and skills (e.g. those who sing, play the piano, have certain physical characteristics) are far more important; lines that make specific references to age can easily be tweaked. As such, don't be put off by a specific age as given below as long as you can play a convincing 'retirement age'.


LOTTA BAINBRIDGE: She has a lotta lines (about 350, far more than any other character; possibly because she was originally played by Sybil Thorndyke who was clearly the actress most consistently still working).  Early 70s; very well preserved, well dressed, well groomed.  Starts nervously in her new environment but quickly wins many of the others round by her polite gentle easy manner and becomes the hub around which they revolve and the main interest of the developing story line. Key to this (and most interesting for both actors) is the gently unfreezing relationship with May.

MAY DAVENPORT: About 75.  Speaks and moves slowly and with great dignity – even majestically – as she knows befits a former Shakespearean leading lady.  Tends to wear black and be very carefully made up to complete the picture. Has been the undoubted queen bee of The Wings for years until Lotta’s arrival. They haven’t seen each other or spoken for over 30 years, since Lotta went off with May’s husband. The atmosphere between the two is formal and frosty and drags several of the others down with it.   About 170 lines.

BONITA BELGRAVE: Late 60s. Bright, resolutely cheerful, highly developed theatrical sense of humour.  Had a good career in revues and musical comedies, then well-known in supporting roles in ‘legit’ theatre.  Nice line in cutting rejoinders.  About 120 lines.

Music: Has a short gentle solo (Over the Hill) during the Christmas party, which she sings huskily and uncertainly. Joins in with Waiting in the Wings and Oh, Mr Kaiser with Maud.

MAUD MELROSE: Small, 70s, huge glasses and a huge handbag that goes with her everywhere. Invents the ‘Waiting in the Wings’ song with Bonita during Act 2 arising out of a spoken comment. Occasionally we see that her quick responses and banter hide a life that has been largely difficult and unrewarding.  About 70 lines.

Music: Used to be a fine soprano (sings / leads Miss Mouse and Champagne during the Christmas party, and sings Waiting in the Wings and Oh, Mr Kaiser with Bonita) and needs to be still an accomplished pianist (plays for all six musical numbers in the script and often plays well from the classical repertoire as a gentle background or wry comment on what some of the others are doing and saying; familiar pieces of Chopin, Rachmaninoff, etc).

CORA CLARKE: Late 60s / early 70s.    Brightly made-up, usually wears a turban under which there are signs of obviously dyed dark hair, lots of chunky jewellery especially big bead necklaces.  Waspish sense of humour and has the best line in good put-downs; a gift of a part!   About 90 lines.

DEIRDRE O’MALLEY: Spry, active, argumentative, complains about most things including the fact she’s still alive. In theory early 80s but could be played younger.  Has spent all her career playing obvious stage Irish caricatures, with the result that this is what she’s become.  Finally gets her wish as she drops dead dancing a jig during the Christmas party.  About 85 lines; another gift of a part.

SARITA MYRTLE: Late 70s; wispy, slight, often in dressing gown and slippers. A wonderfully sensitive depiction of someone with what would now be clearly identified as advancing dementia; it manages to be both incredibly moving and sometimes extremely funny.  A really interesting challenge to the actor.  Has spent her whole life on the stage and hears almost everything said to her as a cue from a play she’s been in; she responds with whatever her next line was.  Or she understands any question in a theatrical context, and responds with a comment about her digs or a recent audience or fellow actor.  Is regressing to childhood and fascinated by matches, often striking them to watch the flame; she steals a box and manages to set fire to The Wings as a result.  Has to be put into Dr Jevons’ care and taken to a secure institution – her final exit ought to break every heart in the house…   About 70 lines.

ESTELLE CRAVEN: Mid 70s, wistful, knits for real.  About 25 lines.

ALMINA CLARE: About 85, large, spends much of the play eating chocolates and saying how bad for her they are.   About 30 lines.  

NB: Both these ladies [Estelle and Almina] have been on stage all their lives and have never really made it. They do almost everything and go almost everywhere together; slight gentle unspoken hints all through that they are in fact a couple.

TOPSY BASKERVILLE: Late 70s, frail, last new resident. Comes on only for the play’s final minute to find the others singing her big hit song as a welcome; speaks four words.


REHEARSALS

Most likely days are Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons and/or evenings, other days negotiated as available and required. NB: given that it's likely that a large number of cast members will be retired, we will explore the possibilities of daytime rehearsals. A read through will be arranged as soon as possible after casting.


Rehearsals are likely to begin around the middle of May (immediately after The Children has ended). There will, however, be a very few additional rehearsals for those performers who sing during the previous month. Rehearsal calls will start at 2 per week, increasing to 3 and then as usual more in the final fortnight or so.


AUDITIONS

3 March 2019 at the Sewell Barn. As this is a large cast, please get in touch and we will allocate attendance times, starting at 2.00pm and continuing into the evening as necessary.

If you wish to audition for MAUD, we need you to demonstrate your piano-playing [both classical and popular] and singing skills. PERRY and BONITA also need to sing. In all cases, simply bring a song of an appropriate style (Noel Coward if possible, but otherwise music hall, musical comedy or similar will be fine). For all characters, sections of script will be provided for auditions.


Script

French‘s edition – ISBN 9780573014703