The Stepmother by Githa Sowerby

Directed by Rosemary Nice.

History will tell many tales of 2020 not least the onset of a global pandemic and what happened to the world as a result. For HTC's part our spring production had to be cancelled during the week of the play, a bitter pill to swallow especially after so much care and effort had steered it right through to the final dress rehearsal stages. The cast had reached a fever pitch of anticipation and our ever supportive audiences were ready to be entertained. Successive "lockdowns" meant that rescheduling things became ever more challenging. It wasn't until much later in the year that a plan was formulated that would allow an audio production to be shared with our members.

The cast photographs above were taken at a dressed rehearsal a few days before the production had to be cancelled back in 2020 and capture some of the efforts put in by the costume and set building teams.

The following thoughts are from the director Rosemary Nice and the review is by Patricia Riley, Githa Sowerby's biographer. They are based upon HTC's experimental audio version of The Stepmother.

Please take the opportunity to listen to the production.

"Thank you for listening to our experimental version of this long play, which was doomed never to reach the Henfield stage.  It was intended that you should at least witness all the effort and work and, above all, talent that went into the production, even if you didn’t get the visuals, the costumes and sets.  A radio play is intended to create a world in your mind, as those of us who have always listened avidly to them appreciate, and we’d like to know, for better or worse, whether this was achieved.


So before it fades from your memory, what we really need from you is your opinion, comments and constructive criticisms.  This is so that we can take them on board and perhaps explore the possibility of doing it again in the future.  We are all pining to return to real staged shows, of course, but it could provide a useful and interesting extra entertainment tool, now we know it’s possible. 


I’m aware that you probably needed a cast list as some of the voices were unfamiliar.  Here it is, in order of speaking:


                                                Charlotte Gaydon                               Lesley Barnes

                                                Mary                                                     Susanna Seaford

                                                Eustace Gaydon                                 Ken Jones

                                                Monica (aged 9)                                Darcey Bantock

                                                Betty (aged 7)                                    Ayla Milward

                                                Monica as a young woman             Pandora Sowter

                                                Betty as a young woman                 Zoe Ainsworth                  

     Mr Bennet                                          John Coit

                                                Lois Relph, later Mrs Gaydon          Rebecca Seymour

                                                Cyril Bennet                                       Will Nice

                                                Peter Holland                                     Trevor Hodgson

                                                Mrs Geddes                                       Mandy Ainsworth

                                                Servant                                               Peter Ingledew


Several of the cast have never performed in our productions before, including Becky and Pandora Sowter and Mandy and Zoe Ainsworth.  Will Nice took on the role of Cyril.  All of these gave excellent performances, as did the rest of the cast who were far more experienced.  I’d like to pay tribute to them for their tenacity over the year since the first lockdown prevented the staged production.  If anything, their characterisation grew deeper and better and I was proud to direct them.


Peter was the sound-editor, a job he embraced with alacrity and which turned out to be far greater than he anticipated.  Susanna kindly assisted me and took on the part of Mary.  To all of them I am very grateful, and now we would like to hear your thoughts too.  We’re also appreciative of those who donated their ticket-money to the St Barnabas Hospice in memory of Jerry, who supported me in the casting stage of the show".


Rosemary Nice


From Patricia Riley:


"Hello Rosemary –


How lovely to hear from you and thank you so much for forwarding the link so I could hear this radio version of The Stepmother.


It is, as you say, a long play for an audio performance and because of that I had to listen to it in sections to fit in with other things over this weekend, but I enjoyed it enormously. You did a clever job with the adaptation which can’t have been easy, especially where actions are taking place which the audience would normally see – the paper flowers; Charlotte’s confusion as she drops the spectacles, kisses between Monica and Cyril, and Peter and Los; the physical threat by Eustace towards Lois at Ginevra’s, Eustace’s theft of the money, etc.


The play built to a wonderful climax in the second half, just as it should, and there were some fine performances that became more and more convincing as the story developed. The pace built up as the play progressed; the choice of music was excellent; the sound effects were in general well handled; and the over-riding impression was of a story that is so very, very, 1920s British, which is just as it should be.


In a play where body language and the subtleties of interaction between the characters are so important, you had to find ways of conveying these nuances without visual cues for the audience, and the actors had to respond to each other without the intense emotional energy that is generated when people come together on a stage. I’d be interested to know how the actors overcame the loss of this stimulation from the live stage action they’re used to, and how they felt when acting to an unresponsive microphone and not to a live audience. Audiences for this play usually show some signs of disgust, anger with, or even hatred of, Eustace and “get” very quickly the fact that he has lived a world of self-deception for so long that he has come to believe his own lies. Have you had any feedback from your audience about this?


Did you all enjoy doing The Stepmother? I do hope so. It’s such a fine play, and you certainly did it justice despite not being able to perform it as you originally planned because of Covid. I think Githa would have enjoyed this audio performance very much.


All the best –