Ben Hur review: Southwick Players has audience in stitches with crazy spoof

The cast of seven for Ben Hur, from left, Louise Yeo, Sharon Churchill, Giles Newlyn-Bowmer, Amy Bowyer, Jon Terry, Tim Ingram and H Reeves
The cast of seven for Ben Hur, from left, Louise Yeo, Sharon Churchill, Giles Newlyn-Bowmer, Amy Bowyer, Jon Terry, Tim Ingram and H Reeves

Patrick Barlow has turned General Lew Wallace’s 948-page book into just over two hours’ worth of theatre, including a sea battle with real water and a chariot race.

It’s all very Monty Python, with the cast of seven having to put in a deliberately bad performance – which means they have to be really rather good.

The Daniel Veil Collective, touring actors with delusions of grandeur, are putting on the play.

There is plenty of audience participation, which is really rather fun, and most of last night’s audience were pretty much laughing all the way through.

Though everyone had multiple parts, Louise Yeo had probably the hardest task, with two and even occasionally three of her characters in the same scene (though at one point she was replaced with a dummy).

She included different accents and had totally different personas, very impressive indeed.

In the play, Amy Bowyer is making her debut with the collective but we at Southwick, of course, know she is no stranger to the Barn stage. She had some great little parts, including a Centurion who has to tie up several prisoners by running round and round them with a piece of rope.

H Reeves, another Players stalwart, demonstrates his expertise as a character actor with his roles as the ancient Edgar T Chesterfield and the mother figure Sara but is at his best as the Roman warship commander Quintus Arrius.

Giles Newlyn-Bowmer and Jon Terry were performing with the Players for the first time and both made impressive debuts.

Giles’ little dance with Tim Ingram and Sharon Churchill was just brilliant.

There was much hilarity all round but there were also parts which dragged a bit and at times it got very confusing.

When the play is about things going a bit wrong, you get to the point were you are not sure whether or not the mistakes are deliberate.

But it certainly went down well and there was no encouragement needed when the audience was asked to join in as galley slaves and simulate the rowing.

Little asides like the camel nudging up to an audience member were also well done.

New member Mark Eccleshall composed all the original music and Milla Hills made the many costumes.