Haslemere Comedy Festival is launched

The Haslemere Fringe is delighted to announce the launch of the first ever Haslemere Comedy Festival on Sunday, July 9, from midday until late, curated by local MC and stellar professional comedian, Andy Stedman.
This event is taking place at seven popular venues in Haslemere, with many of the venues offering drinks/bars on site and money off vouchers:
Haslewey Community Centre (12.30-6.30pm with a BBQ lunch – 120 max)
Haslemere Hall (7.30-10pm – 350 max)
Dylan’s Ice Cream Parlour – Family friendly and a wide range of free children’s entertainment (1-5pm – 30 max)
ST Engineering (St. Christopher’s Green, 2-7pm – 50 max)
The Station House Restaurant & Bar (2-7pm – 30 max)
Headcase Barbers, Haslemere High Street (1-6pm – 20 max)
Haslemere Museum (1-10.pm – 70 max)
More than 35 professional comedians – the majority of them making a pitstop in Haslemere before appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe – will be appearing, including Mike Gunn, Andrew Ryan, Matt Richardson, Stephen Grant and Jonny Awsum (who recently appeared to great acclaim alongside Ant & Dec on Britain’s Got Talent).

Tickets are strictly for comedy fans over 14 years old – with the exception of the free children’s entertainment event at Dylan’s Ice Cream Parlour on Wey Hill – and are available from Haslemere Hall (01428 642161 or online at www.haslemerehall.co.uk) – or from the other six venues listed.

Tickets are £12 per person for the entire Festival.
Pick up your Comedy Festival wristbands, needed to gain entry to the venues, (but not the free session at Dylan’s), from the new Haslemere Hub next door to Haslemere Station on Saturday  July 8 or on the Festival day itself – Sunday, July 9. This will get you into all the venues and the accompanying Comedy Festival Flyer means you can plan and choose where, when and who you want to watch throughout the Festival event.
Comedy Festival flyers will also be available in advance from Haslemere Hall, the Haslemere Hub and the other six venues.
Tickets are limited to just 650 in total for the entire event – so plan your Comedy Festival journey around the venues in advance. Seats are on a first come, first served basis.
For more detailed information on the Festival comedians and venues go to www.lionfest.co.uk/haslemere-comedy-festival

   Children’s entertainment at Dylan’s
Mike Gunn

Free bridge taster sessions

Free taster sessions to learn to play bridge with teacher Douglas Wright will be held throughout June until July 27.

Sessions are held in various locations (Guildford, Farncombe, Farnham, Churt and Dorking). Get in touch with 3 Counties Bridge – visit www.3countiesbridge.com

There will be more sessions in September.

Petersfield Youth Theatre summer workshops

Petersfield Youth Theatre is offering five-day summer workshops to both members and non-members in August.

Summer Fun for 5- to 10-year-olds involves three workshops each day led by professional theatre practitioners.

Summer Stage It for 11- to 14-year-olds involves musical theatre, working with a Director/Choreographer and a Musical Director. You will work towards a presentation for family and friends on the final day.

The summer school will be held at Bedales School, Steep, August 21-25, 10am-3pm. The cost for PYT members is £85, non-members £105.

See www.pyt.org.uk for more details and to book.

Official opening of Edward Thomas Study Centre in Petersfield

Saturday, June 10, 2017 may become known as the day the literary critic and poet Edward Thomas ‘came home’ to Steep and Petersfield.

Just over 100 years since, in a letter to his friend Gordon Bottomley, he wrote on  October 2, 1916: “I have just seen Steep for the last time” as he took the train from Petersfield to their new home at High Beech, near Loughton in Essex (just over six months later he was killed in action on April 9, 1917 at the start of the Battle of Arras).

This ended a 10-year association with Petersfield, but the literary connection has never been lost, and a wonderful Study Day, with a stellar line-up of speakers and readers, was crowned with a moving tribute to Tim Wilton-Steer and the official opening of the Edward Thomas Study Centre at Petersfield Museum.

Opening of Study Centre – Lucy Milner (Thomas’s great grandaughter); Jamie Matthes (Town Mayor); Hilary, Christopher, A J and Charlotte Wilton-Steer); Julia Maxted (Thomas’s great niece); Jeremy Mitchell. Photographs by Michel Focar

The Study Centre, a collaboration between Petersfield Museum and the Edward Thomas Fellowship, is based on a most important collection of 1800 books by and about Edward Thomas put together by the late Tim Wilton-Steer during his lifetime and donated to the Fellowship by his widow Hilary following his death in 2011.

Prior to the tribute and opening, the 170 attendees to the Study Day, which was held in St Peter’s Church owing to demand for places, were treated to a full programme of readings and presentations by Edward Thomas specialists, actors, poets and authors who have been inspired by Thomas’s work.

Hilary Wilton-Steer cutting the ribbon to open the Study Centre, with Lucy Milner

These included Michael Longley, considered to be amongst Ireland’s most prominent poets, his wife Edna, Professor Emerita of English at Queens University Belfast, Richard Emeny, Chairman of the Fellowship and widely respected ‘Thomas specialist’, Guy Cuthbertson, Professor of English at Liverpool Hope University, and Matthew Hollis who rounded off the ‘Study’ part of the day with an engaging and professionally delivered talk on Thomas’s ‘Path to Poetry, Path to War’.

Readings were provided by the actor Edward Petherbridge and by Petersfield’s local author Michelle Magorian. Amongst the most moving, however, were the readings delivered with full feeling and from memory by another actor, Tom Durham, who enraptured the audience.

The event culminated in a moving eulogy to Tim Wilton-Steer delivered by his son Christopher, followed by a few words from Tim’s widow, Hilary, before the family party moved over to Petersfield Museum for the formal opening of the Study Centre.

The day ended with a tour of the museum and tea and cakes in St Peter’s Hall.

For many attendees it was the first time they had visited Petersfield and for almost a third the first time they had been introduced to Edward Thomas.

In summing up the day, Jeremy Mitchell, on behalf of both Petersfield Museum and the Edward Thomas Fellowship, said: “It was a truly wonderful, and moving day enjoyed by all and I would also like to thank the South Downs National Park Authority, East Hampshire District Council and Petersfield Town Council for their financial support which helped make the day so successful.”

Michelle Magorian
Tom Durham 



Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas was a renowned poetry and literary critic who turned to writing poetry late in life. Over a 20-month period from December 1914 he wrote 144 poems, that we know of, including two of the Nation’s favourites – Adelstrop and As the teams head brass. He and his family lived in Steep from 1906 – 1916 and he wrote his first poem Up In The Wind at The Pub With No Name (The White Horse) at Priors Dean.

Petersfield Museum is open between March and the end of November on Tuesdays – Saturdays inclusive between 10am and 4pm. It is an independent, accredited Museum and receives no statutory funding. A small admission charge of £3 is payable (children free).

The Edward Thomas Study Centre is currently located in temporary space (pending completion of the Museum’s re-development in 2021) outside public areas. From mid-July it will be open to visitors, by appointment, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm. It is primarily a research and reference resource and will be open at other times to students and researchers by appointment.






 The seminal story of two girls who fled Ireland for freedom


The Country Girls, by Edna O’Brien

 Minerva Theatre, Chichester

The first novel of Edna O’Brien, ‘The Country Girls’, was banned in her native Ireland and criticized by the church when it was published in 1960. This seminal coming-of-age story mirrors her own experiences of growing up in a highly conservative Roman Catholic country where women struggled to make their feelings and voices heard. Her domineering mother despised literature and even tried to burn the books Edna was reading.

In 1954 O’Brien married an Irish writer, who was disliked by her parents, and they moved to London. Her groundbreaking book was published in her 30th year, and it changed the tone of Irish writing.  She later adapted it for the stage, and has since won international acclaim.

The heroines are charming Kate (Grace Molony) and her bubbly best friend Baba, short for Bridget (Genevieve Hulme-Beaman).  We meet the girls in drab convent school uniforms, white socks and sandals. They feel troubled and trapped in their west of Ireland convent, although they are befriended by one of the nuns, Sister Mary.

This matches Edna O’Brien’s own experience in county Clare where she grew up. As a girl before the War and as a young adult, she lived in a deeply  deprived country where women were particularly oppressed. In 1951 Noel Browne, the Health Minister, tried to introduce the free Mother and Child Scheme to protect young women. This was opposed by the church and the medcial profession, and the Minister had to resign. Books were banned, films were censored, and there was no TV, or mains water for many people, until the Sixties.

Against this real life claustrophobic background, we find the two teenage girls in the story trying to find their way. Baba is constantly breaking the rules in search of fun and leads Kate astray. Out of school, they meet a couple of spiv businessmen. Kate rejects their advances as she is being courted by an older married man, known simply as Mr Gentleman (Valery Schatz). Baba is expelled from the convent after going off with her beau, and the two girls are separated for a while.


Kate is flattered by the attentions of the older man and shows a growing affection for him, although he is married. However, the two girls are reunited and Baba persuades Kate, with some difficulty, to leave Mr Gentleman and go with her to London. Kate battles with the demands of her drunken widowed father. In leaving home she overcomes her innate sense of duty, but only with the help her wayward friend Baba. For them, that marks the start of a brave new world as they move from childhood to womanhood, suitcases in hand.

The theatrical version of Edna O’Brien’s tale works well. The innocent rebelliousness of the girls within the confines of their strict social straightjacket rings true. The setting by Richard Kent of bleak stone buildings against a green floor provide the stern background for life in Ireland in the first half and London in the second act. ‘The Country Girls’ is at the Minerva until July 8 and you can enjoy a play with good writing, deft direction, and two fine young lead actors.


Nick Keith

 Powerful performances in a classic cocktail


‘Sweet Bird of Youth’, by Tennessee Williams

Chichester Festival Theatre

Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III is reckoned to be one of the top three American playwrights of the 20th century, together with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller. The last of his great works, ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’, has stormed into the Chichester Festival Theatre this June. Typically for Williams two lost souls battle for survival in a turbulent sea of alcohol, drugs, disappointment, corruption, blackmail, and sex, where inner turmoils are embroiled with outer hostilities. This is truly an exceptional work and it is a big surprise to learn that there were 26 years between its opening on Broadway and its first production in London.

Elia Kazan, who directed the play in the fifties and most of Tennessee’s other successes, has said: “I think this is the most autobiographical play Williams ever wrote. I believe it is Tennessee in disguise.” The Pulitzer Prize winning author himself said, before he became famous with ‘A Glass Menagerie’ in the forties, that his plays would be a “picture of heart”. What a troubled and tormented heart.

Set in St Cloud, Mississippi, on the Gulf of Mexico, the play opens in the large suite of a hotel where gigolo Chance Wayne (Brian J Smith) staggers out of bed leaving his restless older partner moaning in her sleep. She is ‘the Princess Kosmonoplis’ (aka fading film star Alexandra del Lago, played by Marcia Gay Harden). He has returned to his home town shortly after his mother’s funeral, which he failed to attend. He is desperate to regain the respect of the local people by showing them he is still a player. He also wants to regain the love of his teenage crush, Heavenly Finley (Victoria Bewick), the daughter of local bigwig Boss Finley (Richard Cordery), with his dream of making them both Hollywood stars with the help of Alexandra.

The scene seems familiar territory, with echoes of Williams’ previous big success with ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’, first produced in 1955. Paul Newman, who had starred on stage and in the later screen version of that work, was also cast as Chance on Broadway. Williams believed that he was rapidly losing his creativity with age (he was only 48 in 1959) and that process was being hastened by drink and drugs. In 1954 he had said: “I don’t dare turn down a street unless I can sight a bar a block and a half down it.”

In the play the word “monsters” is a prevailing theme. “I like you. You’re a nice monster,” Chance tells Alexandra early in the piece. Much later, she says to him: “Monsters don’t die early; they hang on long. Awfully long. Their vanity’s infinite, almost as infinite as their disgust with themselves.” Yet, these monsters are sad, disempowered creatures, brought low by misconceptions, denial, and unrealised dreams. Alexandra is running away from what she expects to be bad reviews of her recent comeback movie; Chance is living on a dream in which someone else can make him a star where he has failed, and when his attractions are beginning to fade as he approaches his thirties. As Alexandra tells him: “Of course, you were crowned with laurel in the beginning, your gold hair was wreathed with laurel, but the gold is thinning and the laurel has withered. Face it – pitiful monster.”

Initially Williams wrote this as a one-act play featuring only Alexandra and Chance. Kazan persuaded him to expand it, so he brought in Boss Finley and his family and the St Cloud people, who are all hostile to Chance. In the background is the story of a black man who was attacked and castrated, and Boss Finley turned a blind eye to this event. Chance fears his own fate, and also learns that at some time he has infected his beloved Heavenly with a sexual disease; she has had a botched hysterectomy, which has left her barren and bitter.

This volatile cocktail has painful effects in a visceral second act which takes place in the downstairs bar of the hotel where Boss Finley is to hold a rally and make a big speech. A drunken, drug-filled Chance tries and fails to convince his former friends that he is on the way to Hollywood stardom. Meanwhile, Alexandra has learned that her fears have proved wrong about her new movie, which has had critical success. She offers Chance the opportunity to escape an angry situation by getting out of town fast and remaining her driver. Will Chance take the chance? He explains his feelings and his decision in a powerful and emotional speech directed straight at the audience at the end of the play.



This work provides dramatic and memorable theatre. The treatment of the characters and issues make for universal interest, whereas some Williams’ epics seem more removed from everyday life. The performances, especially by the two award-winning leads, and the sets are superb; and there is masterly direction from Jonathan Kent (who directed hits for Chichester and London like the Chekhov trilogy, ‘Gypsy’, and ‘Sweeney Todd’). You are urged to grab the opportunity to taste this wonderful cocktail in the next two weeks, with the run of ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’ at the Festival Theatre ending on June 24.



by Nick Keith