Shortcuts at the Arundel Festival

Stuart Smithers
Stuart Smithers

Stuart Smithers is back for the seventh year with his Arundel Festival tradition – a short one-act play, known as Shortcuts at the Priory.

This year’s play is A Long Way Down which the Arundel Players will perform in the morning slot at the Priory Playhouse (Monday, August 20-Saturday, August 25 at 11am at The Priory Playhouse, London Road, Arundel).

“Before I started this, I had written one or two extended sketches for Drip Action,” Stuart said. “Drip Action has got its theatre trail, and the suggestion was that the Arundel Players should put on something in the morning in some way. Arundel Players has got a core audience, and a good number of them will come along to it. As it is in the morning, it does restrict things a bit. I would not expect it to sell out, but we get about half full every time, and the overheads are minimal. It works well.

“We do it using the set of the evening production that the Arundel Players are doing. I have to have a minimalistic set, and I can mask their set in several ways using screens or blacks. We can’t usually wipe out the whole of their set, but we can create a neutral backdrop. I have tried all sorts of plays over the years. People come to the festival and there are a lot of people in the town who are open minded as to what they will accept. I have done comedies. In fact, most of the plays have been comedies. But in 2014 I did a serious play about the Pankhurst sisters during World War One, and I think that is the one that I am most proud of.”

This latest play takes place half way across the western carriageway of the old Severn Bridge: “When I was at university in Cardiff, the old Severn Bridge was the M4, but it isn’t any more, but the point is that the new crossing does not have a pedestrian crossing or cycle path, but the old one did, and that’s important for the play. It takes play half way across.

“Adam Traynor, played by Isaac Sturge, is sitting staring out into the abyss. Along comes a passing cyclist Gareth Jones, played by Freddie Hill, who stops to speak to Adam. The audience will discover if Gareth is able to put Adam’s world to rights. Can he show him the error of his ways or must Adam jump to his own conclusion?

“You have got the one young man sitting there contemplating jumping, and another young man comes along, and the play is about his attempt to talk him out of his idea, which all sounds very serious, but it is in fact a comedy. It wasn’t inspired by any particular incident, but the play itself was inspired by the fact that I was going up and down the M4 for three years when I was at university. The reason the young man is there is because of woman trouble, shall we say. He is young. He is 21. He is doing a degree at Cardiff University, and his girl back home has done the dirty on him, and he decides that life is not worth living. He has got everything out of proportion. He is a decent chap in every way. He is the innocent party.”

Performances are at 11am at The Priory Playhouse, London Road, Arundel. Tickets are £5 on 01903 412990. arundelplayers.org.uk.

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