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The Killing of Sister George - Reading and Audition Notice

Sister George


Reading:  Sunday  3rd  April 2022    6.00pm

Audition: Sunday  10th April 2022   6.00pm

Performances :  Wednesday 6th July – Saturday 9th July 7.45

(with possible Matinee 9th July)    A studio production


“The only honest conclusion to comedy is the sense of life going on.”

So, why The Killing of Sister George? Quite simply, I saw the film on TV while I was looking for a debut project to submit to the PSC.  I really didn’t like the film and I realised that despite several attempts over the last thirty years or so I’d never watched it all the way through. I wondered if the play was any better. Mercifully, the play is a very different kettle of fish. It is much lighter and funnier. We’ll come back to the film later as it’s baggage has firmly attached itself to some people’s impression of the play!

Frank Marcus came to England with his family as refugees from nazi Germany in 1939. He became an actor and playwright. His plays were known for their sensitively written parts for female actors such as in this, his best known play, perhaps because of the active collaboration of his wife the actress Jacqueline Sylvester. As well as his own plays he made several translations and adaptations from his native German, notably adapting Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde.

Considered by many to be dark and ending tragically, there are sufficient clues in the script of The Killing of Sister George to arrive at a different impression. There are plenty of laughs and it is for the audience to decide whether the play ends sadly or happily and for whom. As director I might give the play a nudge or two in the direction I think it should take.­­

Without wishing to give anything away (and we wouldn’t want to do that, would we?) what happens to the character June, who plays Sister George in a long-running and much loved radio serial reminds me of Emperor Hirohito’s masterfully understated remarks about the defeat of his country at the end of the second world war : - 

“The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”.

On reading the play through I found it interesting how the playwright manages to make hints and suggestions about the characters that today we would call non-binary. Written four years before the Theatres Act of 1968, the play never specifically states that the two main characters are in a sexual relationship. Of course, much of this was of necessity. Relationships between women around this time were not recognised by the law and therefore although not actually illegal, still very much frowned upon by society in general. Open discussion of the issue on stage was likely to incur the wrath of the censor or at least his pen.

The characters of June and Alice live a double life as ‘respectable’ lady companions soaking up the cultural delights on offer in central London, living as they do less than a mile from the West End and theatreland, taking their particular shared pleasure in the ballet. Perched in their top floor Devonshire Street flat, they are also perfectly placed to enjoy the demi-monde lifestyle of discreet gay pubs and clubs. It’s a life that seems to suit them both.

Then June (Sister George) has to ruin it.......

Of course, the play has never been able to escape the effect of the film version, which thoroughly objectifies the character of Alice, seemingly for titillation and was one of the many reasons for the playwright to distance himself from the film as much as he could, without wishing to detract from Beryl Reid’s success in it.

The play itself was a huge success, transferring from Bristol Old Vic to the West End, to another West End theatre and then on to Broadway and winning Beryl Reid a Tony award.

What the Director's Introduction.

There are four characters:-

Alice (Childie) McNaught. 34, takes care of herself, looks ten years younger hence the nickname. Pale,  good-natured with a slightly rebellious streak. Likely to think the best of people rather than the worst. She is well suited to thrive in the progressive atmosphere prevalent in the late 1960s, light and open, clearly being held back by June, who is dark and closed. Her obvious oppression by June helps to mask her own manipulation.  Capable of cruelty herself, there is though the sense that she is goaded into it. “Handy with the needle”, she is an expert seamstress. This is reflected in her skill at making dolls and their clothes. Her own attire looks carefully chosen and possibly hand-tailored. The character of Alice is a large onerous part and she is barely off the stage throughout the play.

June Buckridge (Sister George) middle aged, possibly 45-55. Bad tempered, judgemental, highly strung, very critical of other women, regards cooking and homemaking as “pansy stuff”. Likes wearing tweed, collects horse brasses and trophies made from dead animals which she regards as manly. Drinks far too much and she is a belligerent drunk. Her role as the nation’s favourite radio serial character is the only real success in her life. June is a very large part and she is on stage for most of the play.

Mrs Mercy Croft 40-55 BBC Executive, Assistant Head of Radio Drama. Also has a guest speaker slot dispensing advice on Woman’s Hour. A power in her own right at the Beeb, where she ‘empire builds’ with the best of them. Very measured and precise. This is reflected in her appearance which is meticulous.  She is fashion-conscious and appropriately on-trend for a woman in her position and lifestyle. A medium sized part, she is on for almost half the play. Although she is a ‘player’, her attraction to Alice is genuine and actually rather sweet.

Madame Xenia.  Intended to be elderly, but written so that she can be any age or ageless. The role is ideally suited to someone with excellent comic timing.  Exotic downstairs neighbour, a medium with a crystal ball and Tarot cards. Very much at home in 1960’s London. Madame Xenia can steal every scene she is in and needs careful unselfish playing. She is on for just over a quarter of the play, so not a cameo role.  Xenia is the greek concept of hospitality.

From the author- “ the sense in which I write my plays, comedy is the very last

alternative to despair.”

The show will be set in the traditional L-shaped configuration in the Coward room, using a minimalist set .  Rehearsals will be evenings mostly, with the odd Sunday to start with. There will be more Sundays as we get into June. (No pun intended). What evenings we rehearse will depend on availability.

Jeremy Gill, Director

TTC has a totally open audition policy and we enjoy meeting new people.  You don't have to be a TTC member to attend the reading and audition - and if you aren't available for the audition date set don't worry - you can still audition. If cast, will then be required to join as a Full Member. 

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