Educating Rita

Educating Rita

Written by Willy Russell

Directed by Micaela Elphick

May 2014

In May 2014, Valley Artists Inc.  presented Educating Rita, the wonderful Willy Russell stage comedy.

Familiar to many through the Oscar-nominated movie starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, Educating Rita is set in the 80’s in a northern English university and traces the powerful story of a woman’s journey of learning. Rita is a young hairdresser who seeks escape from the routine of her job and social life, enrolling in an Open University English Lit course. Her tutor is Frank Bryant, a jaded, middle-aged academic with a fondness for the bottle. Frank has misgivings about Rita’s ability to adapt to academia but is won over by her refreshing enthusiasm and brash sincerity. Over the course of a year these two beautifully drawn characters have a profound effect on one another.

Valley Artists used Russell’s revised play script which many may not have seen and audiences can expect the high production values for which the company is so well regarded. Robyn Blackwell, no stranger to the VA stage herself, made her directorial debut with Educating Rita. Cath Patterson, who sings regularly with the Central Coast’s women’s harmony group Coastal a Cappella, made her acting debut as Rita. Frank Bryant is played by VA stalwart, Alan Glover. Alan is a renowned Hunter Valley stand-up comedian who works in television, film and radio and is a regular on the national festival circuit.

Across the Water

Across The Water

Written by Noel Hodda

Directed by Bob Philippe.

November 2013

                  With performances from Bob Philippe as Ken (Older), Karen Jones as Sissy (Ken’s Daughter), Darren Philip as Glen (Ken’s Son),                          Dain Southwell as Ken (Younger) and Sally Jackson as Cath (Ken’s Wife).

The fact that this play is having its World Premiere in Laguna and in the more than capable hands of Bob Philippe is a double thrill for me. When we were younger (some time ago!) and starting down the path of theatre, Bob and I would often talk into the night about what the future might. hold for us. Well, now that future is here and we are on a theatrical journey together again and I couldn’t be happier. I hope you enjoy spending some time with the characters of this play. They mean a lot to me and I thank Bob and the cast for taking them into their hearts as well. Thanks also to Valley Artists for supporting Australian plays.

Noel Hodda, Playwright.

The Golden Ass


The Golden Ass

Written and directed by Craig Howe

April 2013

Valley Artists is committed to encouraging and fostering the active involvement of youth in theatre, in both acting and backstage roles. Over the years, local children have experienced the magic of theatre and delighted audiences with shows such as The Wind in the WillowsThe Ugly Duckling and The Twits.

This tradition continued in 2013 as Valley Artists proudly presents The Golden Ass, an original play written by our very own Craig Howe. Craig is well known to many in the Valley through his teaching role at Laguna Public School and for his acting roles in such VA productions as Money and Friendsand A Streetcar Named Desire.

Craig will be made his directorial debut with The Golden Ass, a play which is loosely based on a Grimm’s fairy tale. Just about everyone is familiar with the timeless stories of the ‘Brothers Grimm’. These 19th century German brothers together collected and rewrote European folk tales, popularising such stories as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. The brothers’ original fables were meant to teach lessons and morals and often employed scare tactics to do so. Many of the tales have been rewritten and adapted, as it was felt they were too dark, even gruesome. Nonetheless, they continue to be popular around the world to this day.

The Golden Ass is altogether a lighter-hearted tale. Set in a small rural village, the cast of characters includes a farmer of modest means, his kindly wife and three clever daughters, a greedy innkeeper, a duplicitous goat and a donkey with a very special gift.

The Golden Ass promises to be a great night of entertainment with something for everyone: kids of all ages will enjoy a rollicking story liberally dosed with humour, magical tricks, singing and dancing. In common with all good fairy tales, there Performances are some valuable lessons for us along the way!


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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)

The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (abridged)

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield

November 2012

Valley Artists Presented the VERY FUNNY international hit play “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)“.

Three actors – Alan Glover, Bob Philippe and Ross Fletcher were very busy presenting 37 of Willy’s plays in 96 minutes!

This was a high-speed, outrageously hilarious show that was an absolute MUST SEE

Alan Glover, Bob Philippe and Ross Fletcher can do good quality serious theatre. However, they can also be very, very silly – and in this production of ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)’ they were very silly indeed. Gags, puns, double-entendres, cross dressing, silly voices, involuntary audience participation, a puppet show, madcap mayhem and every other comedic device they could pull out of their formidable repertoire awere employed in this production. Anyone who saw the sneak preview of ‘Othello’ These three just can’t help being funny. It’s in their bones .

It opened at Laguna Hall on Friday 9th November 2012 and continued Saturday 10th, Sunday 11th, Wednesday 14th, Thursday 15th, Friday 16th closing on Saturday 17th November 2012.

By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd

On behalf of Paradigm, New York




Written by Patrick Meyers

Directed by Wojt Kowaluk

With performances from Dain Southwell and Wojt Kowaluk

April 2012

Have you ever thought of building a mountain in Laguna Hall? Probably not. That’s what Valley Artists did for their first production for 2012. K2, the mountain, is the second-tallest peak on the planet, rising to an elevation of 28,251 feet on the border between Pakistan and China. K2, the play, is a 75-minute harrowing tale of two mountain climbers who are stranded on a ledge at 27,000 feet. After an accident leaves one of the men with a severely broken leg, the two survive the night only to confront the fact that they do not have the necessary equipment to rappel to Base Camp safely. K2 is the story of two contentious friends and their struggle to solve an impossible problem. It is a tale of friendship and morality, of love and mortality, of climbing, quantum physics, and the search for God. K2 is known as the Savage Mountain due to the difficulty of ascent and the second-highest fatality rate among the “eight thousanders” for those who climb it. For every four people who have reached the summit, one has died trying. In essence K2 is an old-fashioned melodrama, the kind of spectacle, as one New York drama critic said, that must have attracted people to the theatre in the old days.

Valley Artists committed a lot to this production including attending weekly classes for mountain climbing. Go team go!

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire

Written by Tennessee Williams

Directed by Janine Oliver

November 2011

Valley Artists Inc., in association with Dominie Drama presented ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.

One of the reasons that ‘desire’ became famous was because it dealt openly with sexual matters. And that was just after World War II.

The backdrop: New Orleans has a remarkable cultural heritage and this has made it a city of great paradoxes. By turns swampy and swanky, it’s a city where sadness and joy are embraced with equal gusto; where a history of startling opportunity has played out against economic despair; where the legacy of slavery looms, but exists against a backdrop of strong civil rights and inimitable joie de vivre. Jazz, cocktails, vibrant cuisine and Mardi Gras celebrations are all products of this diversity and part of what makes New Orleans unlike any other city in the world. Elysian Fields, where Stanley and Stella live in Streetcar, is actually a few blocks away from the Quarter, in the Faubourg Marigny, a bohemian (and particularly gay-friendly) neighbourhood beginning at Esplanade Avenue that was originally established as the first Creole suburb in New Orleans.

The characters:
Blanche Du Bois (Alice P. Williams),Stanley Kowalski (Eamonn Smith), Stella Kowalski (Tennille Hogan), Harold Mitchell (Craig Howe), are drawn from the complexities of Tennessee William’s own life. He lived in the French Quarter of New Orleans which contains landmarks such as Bourbon Street (the infamous centre of Mardi Gras revelry), the French Market, Saint Louis Cathedral, as well as many jazz clubs and restaurants. The other characters were played by Ken Barnett, Micaela Elphick, Fiona Burless, Rosie Glover, Neville Newman, Dain Southwell, Wojt Kowaluk & Donna Robinson.

The famous New Orleans streetcar line immortalised in Tennessee Williams’s play is the oldest continuously operating street railway line in the United States.  It began service in 1835, with cars pulled by mules. The Desire line was established in 1920.  Its route ran from Canal and Bourbon, down Bourbon, Pauger, Dauphine, Desire, Tonti, France, and Royal to Canal, servicing the bar and nightclub section of the French Quarter. In the 1930s, miles of streetcar track were covered to make room for buses.  The Desire line was discontinued in 1948, to be replaced by a bus line also named Desire.

Diving for Pearls

Diving For Pearls

Written by Katherine Thomson

Directed by Micaela Elphick

April 2011

This social drama stared Ken Barnett (Den), Robyn Blackwell (Barbara), Peter Firminger (Ron), Sally Jackson (Verge) and Cassandra Holdom (Marj).

This cleverly written play about restructuring and redundancy in working class Australian towns kept audiences glued to their seats as the characters unraveled their stories with great Aussie colloquialisms – and the odd bit of swearing!

Diving for Pearls is a very rich piece set around the closure of a steel mill in a coastal industrial setting in the early 90s, not because the mill is inefficient or the company is running at a loss, but because the site has become valuable, prime real estate.

Den, the quiet plodder, is now facing an uncertain future – he doesn’t want to change – Barbara (his first love) does. The problem is that her ambitions are unrealistic.

‘…and I don’t mind Housing Commission, I never have, but we’ve all lived in each other’s pockets for too long. I’ve won every prize at bingo, I’ve borrowed every decent video, and I’m starting to go off the football…

In Diving for Pearls, Katherine Thomson explores hope, loss, ambition, greed and the triumph of character in adversity, “I didn’t want to write about victims.”

Although it is at times confronting, there is a lovely, very Australian humour that comes from the difficult situations the characters find themselves in and the way they deal with those situations.

A play about change and how we cope with it.’ – Dr Tess Brady

Money & Friends

Money & Friends

Written by David Williamson

Directed by Bob Philippe

July 2010

                With performances from Micaela Elphick, Craig Howe, Tim Williams, Lesley Bloomer, Peter Firminger, Rosie Glover, Darren Philip,                   Karen Butler-Hues and Dain Southwell

“Back in march 199 that i first directed a David Williamson play for Valley Artists. it was the extraordinarily funny and confronting The Removalist’s – a play that still gives me goose bumps whenever i recall it. Williamson had burst onto the scene in the early seventies with ‘The coming of Stork’, ‘Don’s Party’ and the brash ‘Removalists’. When we played ‘The Removalists’ twenty years after its writing the issues raised in it were still relevant to the day. Over the next twenty years Williamson became Australia’s foremost playwright and this play Money & Friends is regarded as the cleverest and wittiest of his works. Once again Valley Artists are producing his play well after it was first performed in 1991 yet again the issues are spookily relevant to today. History does repeat itself. Australians discovered in the 1890’s that property can indeed fall dramatically and many were wiped out. 100 years later in the 1980’s it was possible to borrow almost 100% of the value of a property because bankers could not conceive of it failing. Sitting here in 2010 it all sounds a bit familiar. Money & Friends is another funny and confronting play. Materialism and ideals clash. I am very Pleased to revisit David Williamson who as always demonstrates his acute observation of the Australian character, which is another thing that seems to stand the test of time.”

Bob Philippe

The Rise & Fall of Little Voice

The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice

Written by Jim Cartwright

Directed by Janine Oliver

April 2009

With performances from Emma Pogonoski as Mari Hoff, Jodie Bawden as Little Voice, Malcom Goudie as Phone Man, Tim Goudie as Billy, Fiona Burless as Sadie and Craig Howe as Ray Say

From the Director – Many thanks to Valley Artists Incorporated for allowing me to direct this play, particularly to my producers Leanne Bell and Louise Clarke for keeping a watchful eye on the budget me and the financial crisis we farce. AND, for Pixie Pete (Fewtrell) for materialising out of nowhere to put up his hand for the huge role of Stage Manager Casting ls always a challenging task. As much as you advertise for auditions, sometimes not many people seem to turn up. So, some of the community will tell you, that I was out there canvassing. Fortunately some actors appeared. We had a read through, and’I don’t know, but somehow I felt that for once maybe that f#$%er fate was smiling down on me”. Apart from Craig Howe, (this is his acting debut) I have at some time worked with all the other actors, either as a director, stage manager, producer or in marketing/publicity. I am in awe of their dedication to the devotion of their roles, and it has been a pleasure to work with them all over again. There were many emotions and laughs during rehearsals. I thought when I directed the outdoor epic, The Wind in the Willows in November 2006, that it was a huge ask of everybody, but this show in particular has it’s own staging difficulties. The collective creative talent/genius of Giles Tester and (I am proud to say) my partner Col Philip on set design has been awesome. This combined with Neville Newman’s technical design and installation, bring to you this portrait of LVs life.

 In 1965 I did a solo on stage at the Wyong Memorial Hall. Mrs. Gertrude Achkurst of the blue rinse set-was an old lady who used to live over the back fence and every year she put on a big concert to raise funds for handicapped children (as they were called In those days). She took a liking to me and I became her star opener in a lot of her shows. Except this was the first show I opened on my own. I had to sit on a swing and sing ‘Little yellow Bird’ (can’t even remember how It shoes), and I GOT STAGE FRIGHT!! Someone had to come on stage and prise my fingers off the swing and carry me off stage. I was still In the shape I was when they carried me off stage. The sad thins Is-the next year I went back for more