Charity concert in memory of theatre stalwart

Wick Theatre Company's cast of Godspell
Wick Theatre Company's cast of Godspell

Southwick’s three resident theatre companies have worked together for the first time for a star-studded charity concert.

Vissi D’Arte Vissi D’Amore celebrated the life of Betty Dawes, who was always at her happiest when at The Barn Theatre.

Betty Dawes was always at her happiest when at The Barn Theatre in Southwick

Betty Dawes was always at her happiest when at The Barn Theatre in Southwick

The Barn’s resident companies, Southwick Opera, Wick Theatre Company and Southwick Players, worked together to celebrate the life, passions and far-reaching impact Betty had at the theatre.

Rosemary Bouchy, from the Wick, said: “Fifty actors and singers, plus 35 backstage and front of house staff, celebrated the life of one very special lady, Betty Dawes, who sadly died last year.

“The title given to the event, Vissi D’Arte, Vissi D’Amore, or I lived for my art, I lived for love, sums up Betty’s life.”

While in her teens and a member of the Unity Youth Club, Betty helped to found Wick Theatre Company. She was president for many years, with a long list of acting and directing successes to her credit.

Tony Adams and Yvonne Fair singing Strange Music from The Song of Norway, the first show directed by Betty for Southwick Opera in 1973

Tony Adams and Yvonne Fair singing Strange Music from The Song of Norway, the first show directed by Betty for Southwick Opera in 1973

She was also president of Southwick Opera, directing musical productions from Gilbert and Sullivan to grand opera.

The show was devised by Simon Gray and Betty’s daughter Amanda Evans, with help from Ralph and Jon Dawes.

Simon was musical director and his brother, actor and singer Fenton Gray, acted as master of ceremonies. Both started their careers with Wick and remained Betty’s lifelong friends.

Amanda said: “There was a selection of comedy sketches, situation comedy, poems and music encompassing Gilbert and Sullivan, Noel Coward, musical theatre, light opera, grand opera and music hall. All were somehow linked to Betty.”

Wick Theatre Company's Jane Richards, Hazel Starns, Tony Muzzall and Hannah Beattie performing a number from Godspell

Wick Theatre Company's Jane Richards, Hazel Starns, Tony Muzzall and Hannah Beattie performing a number from Godspell

The Wick’s contribution included excerpts from Sailor Beware, in which Betty had acted, and Godspell, directed by Betty in 1999.

Rosemary said: “Amazingly, it was possible to gather the same cast members as in the original productions, with Amanda taking her mother’s part.”

The Players gave a taste of their next production, Just for Laughs 3, which opens tonight.

The Opera delighted the audience with many lovely musical numbers and the highlight of the afternoon was an appearance by West End star Sheila Mathews, a great friend of Betty’s.

Betty Elliott and Barrie Bowen in Wick Theatre Company's Sailor Beware

Betty Elliott and Barrie Bowen in Wick Theatre Company's Sailor Beware

Sheila, a member of the Wick since she same to live in Southwick, performed a poem and song by Noel Coward. She also led the finale, which saw all the members of the Opera in a powerful rendition of Let the Great Big World Keep Turning.

Liz Gibson performs an extract from Southwick Players' upcoming show Just for Laughs 3

Liz Gibson performs an extract from Southwick Players' upcoming show Just for Laughs 3

The Southwick Opera chorus

The Southwick Opera chorus