COLUMN: Rehearsals for arts festival had me in stitches

NBENBE120319c2, local writer George gunby launching a short play festival, Belper.
NBENBE120319c2, local writer George gunby launching a short play festival, Belper.

By George Gunby

Belper Arts Festival

Willy Russell was born in Liverpool. He still lives in the city and it’s no coincidence that his three best known pieces are set there. 
Educating Rita, Blood Brothers and Shirley Valentine reflect the city but they have themes that resonate around the world. 
The last time I looked Blood Brothers was playing in South Africa and South Korea. Rita and Shirley not only filled theatres but cinemas also. 
It’s also worth pointing out that Russell created all three between 1980 and 1986, a truly purple patch for his creativity. 
Belper theatregoers can enjoy two doses of Willy Russell within one month. Educating Rita returns on May 1 by public demand following it’s sell out performance in May last year. Sali Gresham and Jeff Foster are hugely impressive as Rita and Frank. 
Despite knowing the play almost inside out, I’ve laughed out loud during rehearsals. The other dose of Russell comes courtesy of Belper Players. “One For The Road”, written in 1976, is as close to farce as the Liverpudlian gets. 
Set in a bungalow on “phase two” of a fictional housing estate for the aspirational, Dennis Cain invites friends to a celebration on the eve of his birthday. 
The decapitation of garden gnomes and the application of Radox to the fountains are amongst the conversation pieces as they wait for Dennis’s parents, hopelessly lost in the web of “lookalike” estate roads, to arrive. 
Following the success of last year’s “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me”, Jane Wilton directs an experienced and talented cast. 
Mik Horvath and Alex Wrampling are joined by Stephen Lee Rees, Alyson Koe and Sue Wood in a play evocative of it’s time. 
One for the Road runs from April 2 - April 5 at Strutts Community Centre. Tickets are £7. First night tickets are £6. Curtain up 7:30pm. Tickets are available through Belper Players.Educating Rita will be performed on May 1 at Number 28, The Market Place. Tickets are £7. Earlybird Tickets, bought before April 14, are £5. 
Belper School pupils who are studying the play can buy special concessionary tickets. Tickets are available from The Cherry Orchard Gallery, Market Place or phone 07845 400914 or email