Eastern Angles spring tour finds drama in the seaside Guesthouse
- Credit: Archant
Seaside holidays have long been part of East Anglian life but what happens when the visitors stop coming? Arts editor speaks to director Tony Casement about Eastern Angles new tour Guesthouse about the personal dramas happening in a failing B&B
East Anglia has a long history of providing seaside holidays and weekend breaks for people. All along the coast, businesses developed and holiday accomodation florished, providing visitors with a welcome break from their work-based daily lives.
Then, the world changed. People’s holiday habits became increasingly international in outlook and gradually the British seaside holiday became a nostalgic memory. Bank holidays may be spent by the coast but the large summer crowds required to sustain a tourist economy evaporated.
These changes in our holiday habits may look like the subject for a quaint BBC 4 documentary but for some it represents real economic hardship.
This is the subject for Eastern Angles latest play Guesthouse by Essex playwright Nicola Werenowska and has been directed by Colchester Mercury actor-director, Tony Casement.
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The play tells the story of three generations of women whose lives revolve around a formerly prosperous Clacton guesthouse that has now fallen on hard times.
It’s owner and family matriach Val, is not well, and is reliant on estranged daughter Lisa and grandaughter Chloe to keep the wolf from the door.
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Chloe is close to Val, having spent most of her childhood raised by her grandmother, but Lisa and her mother are not on best terms and simmering tensions soon errupt onto the surface. However, it rapidly becomes clear that if the family-run B & B is to survive then these strong-minded women will have to set aside their differences and find a way of living together.
Tony Casement said that this is a play about facing facts and forcing yourself to see the world as it really is. “Guesthouse asks what’s it like when the town you were proud to grow up in becomes impoverished? What does it take to keep going? And what does it take to face the truth?”
He said he has known playwright Nicola Werenowska for many years and Eastern Angles artistic director Ivan Cutting was working with her independently, developing the play, and when he felt it was ready to be staged, asked Tony to direct the play.
“It’s been a long process. I think it’s been in development for more than two years. In that time we have done a rehearsed reading both here in Ipswich and in Clacton.
“We love working with Eastern Angles because they are so good at working with writers and developing new work. Ivan has been so supportive. He’s let me and Nicky get on with it. When we’ve needed feedback, he’s given it but, apart from that, he’s let us get on with it.”
He said that what attracted him to the play was the complex relationships which existed between the three women. “I love the emotional fireworks between these three women and how a lie can be perpetuated through the generations. It is a play about a particular place but like all good dramas, I think the themes are universal and you take situations, feelings, characters and emotions and put them into your own lives.
“It’s a family drama, they are haunted by ghosts, echoes from their past, and I think the real message contained in the play is that you can never escape your past. You have to deal with things otherwise they will catch up with you eventually.”
He said that the beauty of the writing means that the characters have real emotional depth and the play doesn’t feel or sound like a soap opera. “The characters are troubled but they come across as real people rather than a collection of cliches. They are more than their problems and the actors are having a great time in rehearsal making them live.”
He said that contained within the relationships are moments of laughter, black humour, touching moments of humanity which help lend context and texture to the play. “The dynamics of families are fascinating and these women are fighting to express their version of ‘the truth’ as they see it and ‘the truth’ is different depending on who you are and what your position in this family struggle is.
“And one of things I have tried to do as a director in this, is give the play a sense of time and space, memory and place. I think its important to root it in somewhere specific, so the effects of this family struggle have consequences in their world.”
Guesthouse by Nicola Werenowska, starring Amanda Bellamy, Clare Humphrey and Eleanor Jackson, is the Eastern Angles spring tour, starting at the John Peel Centre, Stowmarket on March 14 and touring until May 26. Tour information can be found online at easternangles.co.uk