Staging a play close to her heart for the Southwick Players

Susanne Crosby
Susanne Crosby

There might just be a risk in putting on a play that is very, very dear to your own heart.

But it’s a risk which is being fully rewarded, says Susanne Crosby who is directing the Southwick Players’ production of The Corn is Green by Emlyn Williams – their entry in the Brighton & Hove Arts Council Drama Awards this year.

“I am super-proud of the cast. I hope that the adjudicator will be as well and that the audience will love it too. It was maybe a risky thing to bring something you love so much to the stage, but I think in order to share what you love, you have got to let go of it a bit, and the cast have loved it too and have completely come on board.

“I grew up in Wales where the play is quite famous. When I was pitching it to the Southwick Players, nobody had heard of it, and I was a bit confused. Everyone studied it at school, and I absolutely loved drama and English, and that’s when I fell in love with the play. It has led to a life-long commitment to theatre and writing and acting and directing and all things theatre, but this particular play just really spoke to me because it is all about following your dreams.

“It is set in Wales and into this tiny little mining village in 1898 storms this matriarchal Englishwoman who decided that she is going to educate all the Welsh people whether they need it or not. But her heart is in the right place! Books are her life and she is saying that they are all prevented from entering this world because they can’t read or write. She wants to open up new worlds for them, and at first everyone is against it. But she finds this diamond, this coal miner who is 16 years old who she finds to be extraordinarily talented. She is about to give up. Everyone is against her. No one is going to co-operate, especially not with this Englishwoman who thinks she knows better. But then she finds this miner who is incredibly talented. She fosters this talent. But she is very head-orientated, so so intellectual. When I first read it, she reminded me so much of my grandmother! But she ignores the Welsh spirit and the Welsh culture.

“It was written in 1938 and it was a huge success in its day. There have been all manner of famous women playing her like Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn. It went on stage for more than a year and a half when it first opened, and what was interesting for me is that Emlyn Williams wrote it semi-autobiographically, that he had a teacher who discovered him and fostered him.”

Susanne joined the Southwick Players in 2011: “I saw an audition for The Miracle Worker and I really love the story of Helen Keller. I went along, and I had no idea how big the company was. And I was overawed. But I was successful in getting a part and the play was so well done that I fell in love with the Players and I fell in love with Southwick. I am in Brighton, but I always say that I can get to Southwick quicker than I can get into the centre of Brighton!”

The play opens on October 10 and runs until October 13. The company’s adjudication (which is a public one so the audience can stay after the show that night and listen to the comments) is on October 11.

www.southwickplayers.org.uk or 01273 597094.

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