What ARE the Thirty Nine Steps?

And so another opening night arrives. At 8 o’clock the (brand new) curtains ‘go up’ on our 109th production, The 39 Steps. It has been a marvellous rehearsal progress – I think I have said that before – with great inventiveness, energy, enthusiasm and lots of laughs. When one directs a piece it isn’t always like that, there can be highs there can be lows, disappointments and unexpected triumphs- all plays are memorable but some more memorable than others. That said however this play has been a truly joyous experience. If you believe a director can turn up and have a vision of a show at its beginning then this piece is one of the few that fulfilled it perfectly – the set, the music, the lights, the sound, the special effects and performances have come together to present a great night of entertainment.

So, I wish all involved the very best, may they break their legs with aplomb, and now I shall sit back, become a member of the audience and enjoy the show. I hope many of you will do the same. And if you need a taste to whet the palette, here are a few sneak peeks from the dress rehearsal (with thanks, as ever, to Karen Warner)

See you anon



And if you’ve got here and you’re looking for something more to while away the time why not check in on these 39 facts related to The 39 Steps:




The Final Steps


39Tonight, then is the final dress rehearsal of The 39 Steps, nine weeks of work culminating in our three day run starting tomorrow. As with so many productions is has been a team effort of acting, set design, staging, light and sound and I think we are just about ready to go. As one would expect for a play with such a popular reputation, ticket sales have been strong though there are still a few available for Thursday and Saturday, Friday is a sell out.

It has definitely been a challenging time recently, but again it is testament to all involved that everyone has pulled together and the result is an evening of fast paced, enjoyable comedy with all the elements one might expect from a Matchbox Sized Shakespeare Co. show. The evening also serves as debut for a new addition to the Matchbox experience and St Francis Church Hall, but more of that anon.

If you haven’t booked your tickets, there is still time, you will not regret it. But for now, I must get ready for the evening ahead; I’ll tune in tomorrow as is customary with my final words and thought but hope to see many of you at some point over the next three days.

Take care until then

M x

A Few Steps Closer

Rehearsals have been progressing at a steady rate of knots for our March production, The 39 Steps. Under the Matchbox Sized Shakespeare Company banner, though I want to make it clear the play has nothing at all to do with Shakespeare, it embraces the tradition of fast paced, funny and epic entertainment carried out with a minimum of cast. In this case six actors step up to play in excess of 100 roles in this loving homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1935 film, alongside a few more from his body of the work along the way. Be amazed as we recreate a high speed chase across the top of The Flying Scotsman, gasp as the Forth Bridge is recreated in the church hall, thrill at a high speed aeroplane chase which to take you North by Northwest. Yes, this is an evening of spectacle, exciting action and more whizz bang one liners than you can shake an unlit pipe at.

Again another play that enjoyed a considerably successful run in the West End, we bring it to West Wickham and hopefully provide an evening of high entertainment and comedy. My fiftieth play with the Matchbox in nearly twenty years, I hope this is going to be something special, revisiting the spirit of The Compleat Works, All the Great Books and most recently last year’s Umlaut.

Tickets will be available very soon. In the meantime here are a handful of images from rehearsals, with a special guest Hannay.

Until next time

M x


And so the new year is firmly underway and work begins on our March production, The 39 Steps. More details on that very soon but as many of you know, last weekend saw a sizeable turnout for the AGM. Besides the usual agenda items very serious mention was made regarding the current need of a Stage Manager to assist in the running of shows. Although recent plays have managed effectively and imaginatively without this role being firmly filled, the time is approaching when producing plays with minimal or no sets becomes challenging. To this end if there is anyone reading, or you know anyone, who would be interested in getting a feel for the position, I would welcome their involvement in the forthcoming Steps. Please drop a line to the blog in the first instance and we can take it from there.

As is traditional, here is Annie’s speech as Chair:

always a very warm welcome to you all and thank you for coming along to support our 36th AGM.

2017 – Another year upon which to reflect – it has been interesting, at times testing and frustrating, but nevertheless it has also been successful and diverse.  In large part this is due to our lack of a regular Stage Manager and consistent back stage support.  This is not to suggest that everyone involved has done other than work extremely hard and been committed and loyal to each production.   But we shall talk more on this subject a little later.

Our first production for 2017 was The Farndale Farces, directed by Mike Savill.  These two farces had the advantage of providing opportunities for a large number of actors but, at least partly because of the need to manage with a minimal set – it was decided we would not enter the production into the BTG festival.   It was nevertheless enjoyed by our audiences, who always appreciate something funny on a chilly March evening!

After much discussion about the summer production Tim undertook to direct (with a little help from yours truly!) another evening of Talking Heads.  We had last done a trio of Alan Bennett monologues in 2013. This time we did two AB monologues, brilliantly performed by Dot Pullan and Helen Roffey – and, because AB’s monologues are nearly all for women and in the interest of maintaining a balanced evening! – Tim found Anorak of Fire by Stephen Dinsdale which was equally brilliantly performed by Zach Stiling.  Each performance was very well received, the audiences are always in awe of the actors’ ability to learn and perform for 35-40 and, in Zach’s case, 50 minutes.

And so to the December production ……..what could we possibly do that didn’t require a set!!!   Vicky and Pat read a number of plays and Vicky decided to go with Jumpy by April de Angelis.  This was a play that started life in the  Royal Court Theatre, a modern play with a modern take on various possible situations in “every day family life”!  We did sanitise the script for the benefit of the audience – and ourselves actually – and it lost nothing in the performance.   Although for some reason our audiences were smaller than usual, this play was much enjoyed by all who came – with some classic moments of comedy from everyone involved.  It was particularly good to have four of our younger actors performing.

As with The Railway Children in 2015, the movement of props was co-ordinated so that it became part of the action and this was also appreciated, commented on and applauded by the audience.

Our grateful thanks to Mike Sav, Tim and Vicky for keeping us going this year, with diverse productions and coping with everything involved with each production.  Each one is a huge commitment all involved – so my thanks and appreciation to all members for all they do front and back stage.

Thank you once again to Vicky for all her efforts, quite apart from directing!  Posters, handbills, programmes and tickets are very time consuming to design and produce.  Our thanks also to Gill Kehoe for continuing to organise refreshments for each performance, keeping stock and arranging the rota.  Gill has agreed to carry on for one more year, but will retire after this December’s production – so we need to find someone who is prepared to take over this responsibility and we also need more people who would be prepared to go on the list of helpers.  If there’s anyone here who would be interested or who knows someone that might be – please do let Gill know.

Thank you Sav for continuing to produce the Matchblog.  I hope  you all see and enjoy it.  Please look out for it, share with other Matchbox supporters and add your comments.  Feedback is always helpful and appreciated.

As always, many thanks to all committee members for the time and effort they put in during the year.  And lastly – our grateful thanks to the church for their patience and understanding in allowing us to borrow furniture of all descriptions and to store excess chairs and boxes in the Bernard Dent room.

Our March production has been decided and auditions are underway with a read through next week.   So we look forward to seeing you all again throughout the year and thank you for your ongoing support.  Please stay and enjoy the refreshments – we look forward to the chance to chat and catch up with you after the meeting.

AMN 7.1.18

I hope that your year has started safely and splendidly and that the January gloom hasn’t lingered too long. I will be back here in a week or so with an update or two and a return to the nostalgia bank and a few reflections on plays of yore. Have a great week, take care and see you soon,

M x

Happy New Year

A very Happy and Healthy New Year to all friends and members of the Matchbox Theatre; here’s hoping 2018 is another year of great theatre.

All the very best and see you soon

M x

Seasons Greetings

A Merry Christmas to Matchbox members, friends and audiences new and old. Wishing you all a splendidly healthy and hearty and fun filled festive period, from the Matchblog.

Loads of love

M x

Audition Announcement: March Play

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the March play of 2018 will be The 39 Steps. This adaptation of John Buchan’s novel and, more notably, Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller has been a popular favourite in the West End for many years winning numerous awards including the Olivier Award for Best Comedy. It has long been a desire of mine to direct it but when the time came two years ago the rights were unavailable. In the interim the rights became available once again and both Bromley Little theatre and Theatre 62 have staged it.

Now it is the Matchbox’s turn.

In the tradition of ‘The Compleat Shakspear (abridged)’ and ‘All the Great Books’ this Matchbox Sized Shakespeare Company production will have 4 (possibly 5 actors) playing all 150 parts. As one would expect it will involve a lot of physical performance from all actors who are pretty much on stage all the time. Timing and speed will be essential as well as the ability to perform this spoof with the sincerity it needs to be truly funny. The cast is as follows:

Richard Hannay (male)– playing age 30ish, tall, dark and handsome, British orphan, involved in international espionage and intrigue

Pamela, Annabella, Margaret (female)– playing age 30s, played by same actress, love interest, secret agent, Scottish wife, also involved in espionage and intrigue.

Clowns (2 or 3 – any mixture of male or female, age is open): These actors play all other supporting characters. They include spies, commuters, madmen, vaudevillians, policemen, Scots, innkeepers, heavies. Must be fairly versatile with dialects and accents and be willing to be take on a lot of physicality.

Auditions will be held on Wednesday 3rd January with the intention of doing the read-through on Monday 8th January and beginning in earnest on Sunday 14th January. Performance dates are 15th-17th March. Rehearsals will be most Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays.

If you are interested in auditioning but unable to make that date then please let me know by email or on 07940495474 and I will arrange an alternative time. They will start at 8:00 at St. Francis Church Hall, Ravenswood Ave, West Wickham.

If you wish to get involved in a backstage capacity then please let me know as and when is convenient, there will be plenty to do.

Audition pieces will be available within the next week and will be sent out upon request. Please let me know if you would like to read the play and I will send a copy to you.

As always, if there are any problems,  queries or issues then please let me know and if you think there is anyone who would be interested in this and who is not on the mailing list above please forward accordingly.  I look forward to seeing many of you there and adding another hugely successful show to the Matchbox repertoire.

Best wishes

Mike x