|William Patterson||Derek Farenden|
|Margaret Patterson (his wife)||Jane Charman|
|Mrs. Penfold||Annie K. Walker|
|Stan Billet||Chris Scott|
|Woman with kite||Eileen Sauders|
|Man with kite||Eric Howker|
|Bernice Billet (Stan's wife)||Sylvie Beckett|
|Pauline (Bernice's sister)||Yvonne Featherstone|
|Mrs. Billet (Stan's mother)||Doris Lemon|
|Ida||Annie E. Walker|
|Mrs. Newman||Jo Atkins|
|Children||Harriet Warren, Alice Hearn, Clare Guy|
|Assistant Director||Eileen Saunders|
|Stage Manager||Neil Collier|
|Lighting & Sound||John Tanswell assisted by Ed Staines|
|Set||Phil Stringer, Neil Collier, Martin Pratt, , Derek Farenden,|
|Front of House||Elizabeth Wood|
|Box Office & Publicity||Sylvia and Derek Farenden|
We all like to be beside the seaside and as everybody knows, an Englishman's home is his sand castle. Stan and Bernice Billet and William and Margaret Patterson have been taking their holidays in the same resort for years. They don't exactly rule the waves but they have turned the area around their beach huts into a cozy little fiefdom. And then along comes Doug, with his nubile nieces. They don't give a hoot for beach hut protocol - they just want to have fun in the sun.
From the Dorking Advertiser, 10th January 2002:-
Bob and Trisha Larbey’s ‘Sand Castles’ (the idea being Trisha’s, the writing Bob’s) was written to a commission by British Telecom for a Millennium project, but it is very hard to escape the conclusion that it must have been conceived with the Ockley Dramatic Society in mind, so perfectly was it pitched to the strengths of the cast.
The theme and the scene-setting were ideal for a bitter December night. Having had to scrape our windscreens free of ice before setting out, our party found ourselves transported to a summer beach scene ‘somewhere in the South of England’. The beach theme was cleverly carried through into the auditorium, even down to the jolly awning over the beach bar at the back.
(One small carp, though: the theme apparently extended to inviting the audience to bring picnics for the interval. Unfortunately, many of the audience seemed unaware of this. I’m surprised that fish and chips, which feature heavily in the script, were not included in the ticket price, as they have been most welcomely before with no thematic excuse at all!)
Missed catering opportunities aside, the production exuded the customary good humour of local bard Larbey in buckets and spades. The affectionate banter in the opening scene between Derek Farenden and Jane Charman, breezily bracketing rubber sharks, the SAS and a simple visual gag involving binocular straps, set the tone for the whole production.
These are old—fashioned, middle-aged, middle class beach hut owners who cannot bring themselves to tell a lie and are therefore all at sea when it comes to beach hut politics. They soon find themselves in the middle of a war zone. No sooner are they on first name terms with their neighbours of six years (the oily used car salesman, Stan, played with snaky charm by Chris Scott, and his constantly well-lubricated wife Bernice, played as if to the manner born by Sylvie Beckett) than the cosy world of beach hut ownership is pounded by waves of barbarian invaders.
Stan and Bernice are determined to defend their beachhead in bourgeois respectability (the sand in front of their beach hut) against all corners. First, there comes a triumvirate of landless serfs (solidly played by two Annie Walkers and one Jo Atkins) and a string of children, who own no beach huts but insist on squatting on the communal sand.
The resulting stand off is nothing to the havoc wreaked by the arrival of the lowest form of life imaginable to Stan and Bernice: people who rent their beach hut. Not only that, but the new arrival, Doug (Phil Stringer in ebullient form), is in the fish-and-chip trade and has a brace of nubile young beauties in tow (Shelley Barnes and Holly Case) who think nothing of sunbathing topless. (The end of the first half required split second timing in killing the lights!)
Through all this, Derek Farenden’s character, William, remains humane and philosophical, a stance enlivened periodically by flashes of cheerful lechery played with great relish, gently restrained by Jane Charman’s tolerant but ever-anxious Margaret. In a sad coda we realise that William has good reason to be philosophical as, from an almost throw-away remark, we realise that he has just months to live.
Mention must be made of some fine supporting performances. Yvonne Featherstone gave us a convincing transformation from Bernice’s bashful sister, too shy to wear a skimpy bikini to the brazen hussy who runs off with the fish-and-chip tycoon. Martin Pratt made some amusing sweeps of the stage with his metal-detector, unsure if he could stand the excitement of actually finding anything interesting.
But the biggest roar of appreciation at the curtain call was reserved for Doris Lemon’s magnificently miserable old curmudgeon as Stan’s mother, the Giles cartoon character made flesh. Permanently muffled up in her hat and coat, her peppery pronouncements were liberally sprinkled through the action and delivered with perfect timing to the audience’s great pleasure.
I was pleased that Larbey resisted the temptation to work in too many of the more obvious saucy seaside postcard gags (though he couldn’t quite resist the one about wind-breakers). The result is a whimsically affectionate homage to the virtues and insecurities of middling middle-English folk muddling through and making light even of dark things. (Why do Hobbits suddenly spring to mind?)
The Ockley players are fortunate in enjoying the affections of the Larbeys and the affection was warmly returned by the cast in this last night performance in the presence of the authors.