Arundel Players promise pure entertainment... with just a hint of romance

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Director Margaret Mason promises there is nothing deep or meaningful about it.

“It’s just a really enjoyable play,” she promises as she prepares to bring We’ll Always Have Paris by Jill Hyem to the stage for the Arundel Players.

Set in Paris, the play reunites three old school friends who couldn’t be more different. Nancy, played by Jane Vrettos, is a retired headmistress from Haslemere who is determined to throw off her shackles and enjoy a cultural fling; Anna, played by Brenda Hargraves, is a woman recently widowed and now free from nursing her demanding sick husband; and Rachel, played by Gill Lambourn, is a divorcee in search of eternal youth and a new toy boy.

Adding to the fun are Madame Boussiron, an anglophobic French landlady played by Liz Lawrence and Charlot, a resting actor, also of a certain age, who moonlights as a handyman, played by Paul Taylor.

Margaret said: “Jill Hyem, who is a former actress, turned to writing and wrote this play to provide strong parts for women. She is probably better known for her radio and television writing having co-created the popular 1970s daily serial Waggoners’ Walk and was the original writer of successful series such as Howard’s Way, Wish Me Luck, The House of Eliott and co-wrote the ground-breaking Tenko.

“We’ll Always Have Paris, which most people will recognise as a famous line from the film Casablanca, is a play about the three former school friends coming together to enjoy everything that Paris has to offer. In essence it’s a heart-warming comedy of self-discovery, the rediscovery of friendship and the advantages and disadvantages of growing old which I hope the audience will enjoy.

“It’s just a lovely play for this time of year. I hope we will have sunshine! And it is interwoven with really lovely French songs.”

Margaret had stored it away as something suitable for Arundel: “There are not a lot of roles written for the older ladies. The professionals say it too, but this is a lovely piece for three ladies of about 60-odd. Two of them are in Paris, and one of them is invited to go having just lost her husband. She has been very down recently, and it is just about bringing her up again and feeling her love of all sorts of French things. There is even just a little hint of romance, nothing much, not heavy, but just a little hint…”

Originally Micki Darbyshire was cast in the role now played by Jane Vrettos: “But sadly we had a problem. It was cast, and just a week later, she had a very minor stroke. It didn’t affect her speech or her memory, but her movement was affected. We kept going in the hope it would be good for her, but at the same time we asked somebody else if she would be prepared maybe to step in if necessary.

“A couple of weeks ago, we came to the decision that sadly Micki was not going to be able to do it. Micki extremely generously and graciously stood back when she felt the timing was not right. We shared the decision. Between the two of us, we came to the decision that Jane had got to the position where she could take over.”

Performances are from June 8-13 at the Priory Playhouse Theatre, London Road, Arundel at 7.45pm; tickets 07523 417926, 9am-9pm daily.