Collider, by Shaun McCarthy. Presented by SatMatCo. Old Fire Station, Oxford. January 2015. Directed by Katie Read

Shaun McCarthy’s multi-layered play, Collider brought the new lunchtime Saturday Matinee Company to Oxford with a big bang on Saturday. The first performance, to a full house, was a triumph. Provocative writing, excellent direction and a team of four local actors at the top of their game could hardly fail. Audiences were treated to an intriguing play - appropriately ‘in the round’ - about the Large Hadron Collider. Katie Read’s deft direction strips away all the superfluity of ‘West End’ theatre and allows script and actors to work their wonders on our imaginations. It is bold and brilliant.

The scientist and engineers are visited by highly cynical American Bible Belt visitors in fear of the potential consequences of Science toying with Almighty God’s creation. The humanity of each of the four characters presents us with the delightful array of flaws that identify them as ‘human’. The play probes ideology and science corrupted by individual interpretation and perceptions. McCarthy has an effective mix of comedy and drama which is compelling throughout the entire hour.

Gaye Poole, as the senior physicist forced to permit the visitors-from-’heaven’, convinces with her lucid scientific brilliance and - in contrast - shows entirely unanticipated (and absolutely ‘unscientific’) skills in burlesque as well! Steve Hay plays the highly-sexed engineer with confident facility, displaying linguistic and manual dexterity. (His juggling is an amusing metaphorical allusion.) This man, the ringmaster of the Hadron circle appears to have his balls well under control, though he, too, proves to be no more than human. James Card, as the visiting preacher, presents with all the confidence of a man with God on his side, though his wife might not be quite as dependable. His missus is delightfully played by Amy Enticknap. Her interaction with each of the other characters show emotionally what powerful magnets and high speeds can do to make particles collide!

Let’s hope this high quality lunchtime drama is here to stay. Entertaining and provocative, Collider is a tantalising mix which will whet theatrical appetites. Don’t miss this! Performances on Saturday 17th and 24th January at 12.30pm. OFS will even provide a sandwich (or, if you really are in the mood of the play, a doughnut!).

Gwily. Daily Information. January 12, 2015

The Mythmakers New York International Fringe Festival 2013, August 9-25, 2013. A So and So Arts Club Production in association with PurpleHays Productions. Dir. Sarah Berger

Friendships can be tricky, especially when people are as seemingly different as J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, and R. F. Scott, the Antarctic explorer. They are the subject of The Mythmakers, a UK import for the New York International Fringe Festival, now playing at Teatro Latea August 20, 24 and 25.
Written by Rose MacLennan Craig and Richard White, The Mythmakers addresses the relationship between two men at the top of their game.
The intimate 70-minute production examines an Edwardian friendship loaded with affection and respect, but kept at a certain emotional distance. Barrie and Scott are adept at articulating their passions, but less successful at dipping into the subtle recesses of the heart.
At first glance, they may seem an unusual pair; but their relationship, portrayed with great feeling by Steve Hay (Barrie) and Jonathan Hansler (Scott), is quietly engaging.
Both were celebrities in pre-World War I England. Barrie had once dreamed of becoming an explorer, but pursued a literary career instead, to great acclaim. Conversely, Scott, heralded from his first South Pole expedition, longed to be a writer, but family pressure pushed him into a naval career.
What they share is a passion for adventure; though Barrie’s exists in the realm of imagination. He dreams of accompanying Scott to the South Pole, which the explorer describes as a place of “terrible beauty” with “ice as architecture.” Scott is poetic in his imagery, lured by the dangers of the icy kingdom. Barrie is envious of his fearlessness. Yet Mythmakers, nicely directed by Sarah Berger, records the moment they became estranged, just before Scott left for his final, deadly journey.
In fact, when Scott died in 1912, Barrie was heartbroken. Among Scott’s undelivered letters, found when his body was discovered, a poignant one to Barrie read: “I never met a man in my life whom I admired and loved more than you…”
Today, movies often reduce male friendship to a silly bromance of boys who refuse to grow up. Barrie and Scott remind us that adult friendships are based on deep, abiding connections. And though both are better at discussing big themes versus their respective domestic travails, The Mythmakers provides a peek into the mind-set of two compelling figures.
Fern Siegel, Huffington Post 19/8/2013

“You complete me,” is a sentence JM Barrie and Captain Scott never utter in the short play, The Mythmakers, and I am sure also never uttered in their real lives. But it is certainly how they felt.
The Mythmakers
is a one act bio play that explores the relationship between the author of the iconic, Peter Pan, JM Barrie, played by Steve Hay, and the iconic Antarctic explorer, Captain Robert Scott, played by Jonathan Hansler.
On a minimalist set of white sheets, a small tent of white, two chairs and a steamer trunk Hay, Hansler, and the director, Sarah Berger, bring to life the self-doubt and longings of Barrie and Scott. The play opens after Scott’s frozen death at the South Pole with Barrie reading aloud apologetic letters he has written to Scott but never sent. Scott, large and masculine, looms in the background, unseen by the diminutive and boy-like Barrie, and speaks to Barrie of his love for him and his hurt after their estrangement.
The play (like I am certain Barrie and Scott themselves) is extremely verbal and intelligent, so much so that I needed a slower pace. There is so much revealed about these two men, who lived such grand and large lives, that I wanted to savor, to ruminate on. For that I needed more build up to each climax, their very personal revelations, and more space between the one and the next. Hay and Hansler play their parts with great verbal ability and both excellently inhabit the physicality of the famous men they play.
The Mythmakers
tells the story of two great men who find in each other a missing side of themselves. Barrie, stunted at age 14 physically and emotionally, longs to fly, to voyage, to have adventures, to have children (sons). Scott, large, an explorer by default not choice, with a wife he feels he can not hold on to, men whose lives rest in his hands, and a secret desire to write, longs to fly, to be admired for his intellect rather than his prowess, to live the comfortable life of the English gentleman.
Barrie’s and Scott’s love for each other was not the love that dare not speak its name. It was the love, respect and admiration of a now lost ancient form of deep friendship that can teach us, living in these times of electronic friendships that ask little of us, and that from which we dare not demand anything, that there once was a time when friendships mattered profoundly.The Mythmakers, Written by Rose MacLennan Craig and Richard White for Celtic Circle; Directed by Sarah Berger; Produced for The So and So Arts Club in Association with PurpleHays Productions. Cast: Steve Hay (JM Barrie), Jonathan Hansler (Captain RF Scott).
Constance Rodgers, Usher Nonsense. 11/8/2013

The Mythmakers, a two-hander by Rose MacLennan Craig and Richard White, explores the friendship between the author of Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie and celebrity explorer, R. F. Scott. Produced by The So and So Arts Club and Purple Hays Productions, the play is a selection for the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival running now through August 25th.
Just as Scott returned from his famed “Discovery Expedition” to the Antarctic, Barrie made a big splash with his play about the boy who wouldn’t grow up. The two friends were both adventurers: one in the literal sense and one in the literary sense. The play depicts how Barrie, marred by his weak constitution, longed to be a literal adventurer, while Scott longed to be a writer. The two see their dreams in each other’s lives and seem to be two sides of the same coin. A falling out leaves the friendship forever broken when Scott parishes on his second Antarctic expedition.
These figures who were prominent 100 years ago have been largely lost to us as celebrities. This play doesn’t exactly reintroduce us to them in terms of their legacy, but simply explores a friendship as the two argue back and forth concerning Barrie’s desire to write a play about Scott’s adventures. The draw to this play is its subjects, but their greatest points of interest are not revealed. Steve Hay as Barrie, looks right in period sportsman’s garb and bushy mustache while giving a clear Scottish accent. Jonathan Hansler as Scott looks properly rugged and ready for exploration. The two have a maturity in their performance that lends credibility to the presentation of these legends.
Michael D Jackson. 19/8/2013

Quiz Night at the Britannia, by Stuart Lee, Upstairs at Copa, through June, July and August 2012. The Deck Theatre. Dir. Tania Higgins

Stuart Lee’s play offers a very different night out. If you have an old-fashioned mind set of ‘going to the theatre to be entertained’, you will enjoy it as a thought-provoking look at the demise of much of our pub culture. If, however, you like the pub quiz and a great night out with friends, the evening will really take off and you’ll become fully involved.The upstairs bar of the Copa has been used to its best potential by the talented Tania Higgins. She has directed a competent set of actors, too. Principally, Steve Hay gives another thoughtful and multi-layered performance as the wise-cracking regular, Tommy. Sarah Wilkins, as the troubled Brenda, hostess of the ‘Brittania’ provides him with a brilliant foil. Their duologues are rich in humour. So, too are Lucy Hoult and Adie Gargan, who play middle class toffs with huge energy, fun and enough integrity to avoid caricature. It is a very entertaining evening. You may even win the quiz prize. Not many theatre experiences offer that!

A really fun and different type of theatre - a play about a pub quiz night where the audience is part of the play and also gets to do a quiz. And it works! Gathering pace as the evening went on, it is Steve Hay’s performance as the rough layabout that really moves the audience at the end.
If you want a great night out that’s a bit different - go for this.
Daily Information, July 2012

Short Stories Aloud. Curated by Sarah Franklin. Old Fire Station. May 29, 2012

It is a hot evening and we’re right at the top of The Old Fire Station. Not the most comfortable setting to listen to ‘Stories Aloud’. It is a measure of just how well these programmes are put together that disbelief is immediately suspended and a capacity audience is transported away on the literary power of the spoken word. Choosing the selection and hosting it is clearly a lot to do with its success. Sarah Franklin was hosting her third meeting. She had a chosen for us a menu of startlingly fresh and original stories read by two accomplished actors, Steve Hay and Julie Mayhew.
Caroline Smailes’ book, ‘Freaks’ was the source for ‘Magic Beans’ and ‘Before I lost You’ - touching and humorous with much to consider. Ben Johncock’s short stories include ‘The Rocket Man’ a hauntingly futuristic adventure told from a child’s perspective. Steve Hay controlled the piece perfectly and used his rich vocal range to excellent effect.
After a short interval, we heard ‘Soup’ and ‘She Sees Two’, culminating in a longer story from Rebecca Makkai. Rebecca is a hugely talented American writer who has had stories regularly chosen for the ‘Best American Short Stories’ anthology. Julie Mayhew’s flawless reading of this masterpiece of concise analysis of contemporary American life was a splendid climax to the readings.
The format is deceptively simple - six short stories, refreshments and afterwards a chance to ask questions of the writers. In an era of I-Pods, I-Pads and electronic entertainment of all kinds, it is fair to wonder why it should work at all. It reaches us all, because it is delivered with professional skills and with a social ambience that is universally involving. It simply could not be more accessible or engaging. If you enjoyed being read to as a child, you’ll enjoy it even more now. Many of the people present had been to previous meetings. Many hadn’t, but I suspect most will not wish to miss the next offering of literary delights on June 26th. (This will also be at The Old Fire Station at 7.30pm)
Gwilym Scourfield, Daily Information 6/12/2012

The Mythmakers, the unexpected friendship of JM Barrie and Scott of the Antarctic, by Rose MacLennan Craig and Richard White, Charing Cross Theatre, WC2N 6NL. March 18-25, 2012. Celtic Circle. Dir. Kenneth Michaels.
I expected nothing of the actor who, by the unique power of the theatre, was about to become Barrie in this place, but a certain sense of friendship and respect was soon born in me when last Sunday I began to witness the work of Steve Hay. He incarnates a Barrie both impish and sad, a Barrie both tormented and carrying a strange enthusiasm, a Barrie in despair and terribly alive, displaying his personal interior ghosts–thus becoming one himself at least on the symbolic level
Steve Hay serves Barrie with a great deal of honesty and a certain clear perspective.

Celine Albin-Faivre, author and JM Barrie expert,

Quiz Night at the Britannia, by Stuart Lee, upstairs at Bar Copa, June 15-17, 2011. The Deck Theatre. Oxfringe 2011. Dir. Tania Higgins.

Quiz Night at the Britannia is now finished. But if in future if you see anything by the writer Stuart Lee then go along. If you don’t, you’ll miss a script bursting with originality, verve and insight – whatever the genre.
This particular vehicle for Stuart’s talents was a comedy. For its success – which was great, judging by the enthusiastic applause at the end – a deft script might have been enough but the words were enhanced by splendid acting, not least from Steve Hay (as Tommy) and Hannah Morrell (Brenda).
So – what was Quiz Night actually about? Well, it consisted of a quiz, set against a series of background squabbles and crises: Brenda with her battles against brewery changes; Tommy, Joe and Berne fighting the Faceless Bureaucrats and all the time there is a Public Inquiry in the new hotel round the corner. Back-handers…and politicians, the Big Society and Coalition Government (with its record 12 U-turns so far). This was a very human drama set against the comedy that is politics.
The rapid switch from one couple talking to someone on the phone, to someone else bemoaning the Coalition – that’s what made the play. Even when actors were not speaking they still behaved as customers in the run-down pub. So action was happening all the time. The setting (Copa Bar) added to the reality. Excellent work – well-directed by Tania Higgins – and a credit to all involved.

chrisOSL (Daily Information), 20/06/11

Quiz Night at the Britannia was original, interesting and very entertaining. All actors gave wonderful performances, in particular Steve Hay as Tommy was excellent. The dialogue was a thought-provoking and a timely assessment of political ideals - big society - and how it impacts on the individual.
The story is presented in a staccato of short scenes all in the same setting, the pub, jumping from various crises affecting the characters each in his/her own way. The authentic setting of the Copa Bar enhanced the performance considerably. Although genuinely funny - I laughed lots - the play was at times quite sad as it was very easy to identify with the plight of the characters. You empathise with them and imagine what will become of them after the play has finished and the adjustments they will have to make. All in all very entertaining but also plenty to think and talk about after the laughing stops.

Daily Information 01/07/11

Subs by R J Purdey, Cock Tavern, Kilburn, January 5-29, 2011. Good Night Out Presents. Dir: Hamish MacDougall

The Cock Tavern Theatre is getting good at spotting hits. RJ Purdey’s Subs returns to Kilburn for another month of word and workplace humour.
Set on the subs desk of Gentlemen Prefer… magazine, Purdey’s play is a night at the office for this reviewer, who’s usually subbing on a national news website right about now. Minutes in and I’m chuckling at the familiar mix of pedantry and pessimism clouding those who “get paid for their spelling and syntax”.
This is a tale of two men: wiry, whisky-fuelled chief sub Derek (Steve Hay) and his ‘dour from the Gower’ Welsh deputy Finch (Michael Cusick). Drop a quietly ambitious junior and a confident female freelancer onto the page and the stage is set for a showdown.
Hay and Cusick are worthy sparring partners but then they do get the best lines. Purdey sadly paints his secondary characters so thin that Max Krupski and Naomi Waring are wasted on them.
It’s an entertaining 90 minutes. Jemima Carter-Lewis does a good job with the set, aided by effective lighting and sound by Steve Lowe and Nick Jones. Only the abundance of female flesh on the mocked-up Gentlemen Prefer… covers lets the side down. Hardly the ‘class and sophistication’ for which the magazine is meant to be.
Nancy Groves, What’s On Stage

Light-hearted entertainment with a touch of drama. This is something we are all familiar with in TV sit-come but is less familiar in the theatre. Why? Because we are used to having sit-coms on in the background while we eat dinner or do the ironing – it takes something special for this light-hearted drama to hold our full attention – so did Subs have what it takes? For the most part I can say Yes; Purdey’s script while having perhaps a little too much of the same office chit-chat and typical male banter, was pacey with the 1h30(15min interval) seeming to whizz by.
This is actually a more familiar theatrical story of pride and how easy it is to have the carpet whipped out from under you as you are feeling pleased with yourself. It is reticent of Kreon’s fall from grace in Greek theatre but for a more modern and modest era.
It is this fall from grace that provides the drama where the audience really did seem to lean forward and come into the action.
Steve Hay as the Chief Sub-editor, Derek, handled the complexities of a likeable character turned power happy and finally falling with grace with skill and ease. Driving the piece forward was Michael Cusick as downtrodden Finch; he is responsible for much of the comedy while handling the biggest character journey of the piece from loud and bitter office worker to recognisable man with flaws who we grow to sympathise with. Not an easy task but one he accomplishes admirably.
Naomi Waring as the female entering the male environment and therefore changing their behaviour has a gift for the quieter more awkward moments. She is forced to turn down the advances of a drunken married Chief Sub-editor and also has to turn down Finch who has finally overcome his fear of women to ask her out. These moments and indeed these relationships are the strength of the piece. Max Krupski completes the cast convincingly as the quiet young achiever who ultimately pulls the rug out from under his Chief-editor.
It is within these relationships that Director Hamish MacDougall’s eye for detail really shines as the dominant male characters lose their strength. He captures the dynamics of the office environment beautifully not even letting it slip in scene changes that make even the most simple of office activities watchable.
The design in this is piece is more than worth a mention, Designer Jemima Carter-Lewis’s set is subtle but ultimately very effective in providing a realistic office environment for the characters to inhabit and is supported wonderfully by Steve Lowe’s lighting design and Nick Jones’ sound design.
Overall this was an effective light-hearted piece and an enjoyable evening but I couldn’t help but feel that I could have got similar from a good sit com. A little more time on relationships and drama and less time on chit-chat would then give SUBS the edge.

Vicky Bell, The Public Reviews

“It’s the first rule of subbing: never take anyone’s word for anything. Check, check and check again.”
R J Purdey’s play, Subs, takes a microscopic look at life on the sub-editors’ desk of the fictional magazine Gentlemen Prefer… Sub-editors have the responsibility of checking the grammar and accuracy of all the articles in any magazine or newspaper. And they have a reputation for being a strange breed (a result of spending too long thinking about semi-colons).
Derek, one of life’s losers, is the chief-sub. With a depressed wife, two children and empty hopes of a promotion, it is no wonder he takes it out on his deputy. Finch, the deputy sub, is obnoxious, lazy and terrified of women: so when he learns a woman will be joining the team he is more than a little flustered.
Hamish MacDougall’s production is fast-paced, well staged and captures the politics and in-fighting of an office. When Finch is asked to switch places with the junior sub-editor he wails ‘But the seating line is symbolic. It’s the hierarchy made flesh and furniture.’
Michael Cusick is an irrepressible Finch and, amazingly, manages to both alienate and endear himself to the audience. He may be borderline offensive and chauvinist but Cusick once or twice lets the mask of lads’ banter slip to reveal a lonely, unfulfilled character.
Cusick does rather dominate the production – and his ranting tends to overwhelm in the Tavern’s small space – but Steve Hay as Derek has a good turn as the hopeless boss and Finch’s sparring partner.
Naomi Waring as the bright young thing, Anna, doesn’t have much of a role, but her scenes with Finch inject some pace and wit into the second half. Junior sub James, played by Max Krupski, is similarly underwritten.
But designer Jemima Carter-Lewis deserves a nod for her super-detailed set: she minutely recreates an office, right down to the desk clutter and retro Christmas decorations.
It is an enjoyable evening of banter, in-fighting and politics – well worth a trip if you’ve not already had a day of that at the office.
Elizabeth Davies, Kilburn Times

Fun Run by Joe Graham, Old Fire Station, Oxford, May 18-22, 2010. Balancing Act. Dir: Joe Graham

The office sets the scene for The Fun Run, a play that weaves office politics with issues of relationships and sexual frustration. This Balancing Act production showed at the Old Fire Station in the third week of May. Steve Hay skillfully navigated the role of the Moody Manager Ken who at one point spectacularly gets butt naked. He brought some poignant moments and successfully grounded the comic premise of the other characters. Actor Sam Mansfield played the boyish and inept Sean. Katie Mansfield morphed her way through the role of office new girl Amanda. Touchy (played by James Card) got the most laughs closely followed by Libby (played by Louise Cobb whose performance stood out). The play descended into betrayal, scandal and explosive sexual tension in an uplifting ending that left the audience apparently titillated. There were some distracting errors of light and sound but overall it was a ballsy production [pun intended].
Pete (The Temp) Bearder, Daily Information

Fun Run was just that. A funny, fast-paced romp with some excellent characterisations from Steve Hay, Katie Mansfield, James Card, Sam Mansfield and Louise Cobb. In fact, all four actors excelled at delivering farce but Steve Hay had the greater challenge of ensuring a darker under current throughout both acts, which he delivered in an appropriately measured manner amidst the wackiness of the design crowd. An enjoyable and memorable evening in the final weeks of the ‘Old’ Fire Station.
MAF, 27/05/2010. Daily Information

This was a good old-fashioned British farce, pulled off by an accomplished cast. The characters were larger than life as one would expect in such a play, though Steve Hay managed to engender genuine sympathy for his character (Ken) who has to tackle genuine problems whilst around him chaos breaks out as his staff attempt to advertise, and then take part in, a fun run. Some of the jokes hit home harder than others, and one or two were not to everyone’s taste, but this was farce in the ilk of Ray Cooney, and a throw-back to the 70s, so exactly what the genre requires.
Stuart Lee, Daily Information

The plot, the pace, the acting was first rate. James Card, who played Touchy, doesn’t seem to have aged a bit since we used to see him in productions at Matthew Arnold School, and ably played his part with gusto. Steve Hay as the office manager was excellent as was Katie Mansfield as the chameleon like receptionist, changing her image in every scene. A great production.
Lance Bassett, Oxford Mail website blogger

Never Tell Them by Stuart Lee, New Road Baptist Church, Bonn Square, Oxford, March 24-27, 2010. Front Row Productions. Dir: Stuart Lee

I then hurried around the corner to the New Road Baptist Church for a very different kind of show set in the aftermath of the First World War, although Never Tell Them, by Stuart Lee, certainly had its humorous elements too. It begins with a woman consulting a medium. He thinks she wants to contact her fallen husband. Simon Holden-White was hilarious as the bogus parapsychologist ‘Professor’ Bailey, while Hannah Morrell as Celia the bewildered wife brought great pathos to this fundamentally tragic story of what we now call survivor guilt. The two military characters, her husband Captain Jones (Steve Hay) and Jenkyns (Michael Fraser), were powerfully played with honesty and strength. Several cunning plot twists kept me on the edge of my seat. It’s a complex piece, which the accomplished company brought to eerie life.
Angie Johnston, Oxford Times, April 1, 2010

Collider by Shaun McCarthy, East Oxford Community Centre, Saturday November 14, 2009. The Oxford Saturday Matinee Club. Dir: Katie Read

On September 19, 2008, the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful physics experiment ever built, was shut down. A magnet problem had caused a tonne of liquid helium to leak into the 27 km-long LHC tunnel, which runs under the Franco-Swiss border. This is the moment in time that Shaun McCarthy selected for his compact play Collider, which was chosen by Katie Read as the first production for her newly founded Oxford Saturday Matinee Club.

As Collider opens, Dr Cydney Lavelle (Holly King), a key scientist working on the LHC experiment, is meeting American evangelist Pastor Nathanial Goodman (James Card, pictured). In the background, wild-haired physicist Vivien Houghton (Steve Hay) obsessively practises a juggling act with some apples. Lavelle is stressed – the experiment is already showing signs of going wrong – and the meeting with Pastor Goodman is distinctly prickly.Things get much more entertainingly complicated when the Pastor’s wife Martha (Amy Enticknap) appears: “Ah thought everybaddy heer would be real geeky,” she exclaims, to Lavelle’s evident annoyance. With her gyrating body and curve-hugging clothes, she is not the obvious wife for a pastor from North Carolina.
Relationships collide, as problems with the Collider itself mount up. McCarthy writes well, and has a good ear for a telling one-liner. If his play has a fault, it’s that he tackles too many issues almost simultaneously: male chauvinism, racism, science versus religion, transparency, world poverty, and – of course – sex, they all get an airing during Collider’s one-hour running time. But that’s so much better than a single point, hammered home time and time again. Above all, McCarthy is extremely good at moving relationships in unexpected directions, with humour.
The play was very well served by the professional cast, working under Katie Read’s direction. Using only simple props, and no stage lighting, atmosphere and characterisations were expertly established. Altogether, the production was an auspicious start for this new venture
Giles Woodforde, Oxford Times, November 19, 2009

A Fistful of Mondays by Joe Graham, Old Fire Station Studio, Oxford, June 30 to July 4, 2009. Balancing Act. Dir: Joe Graham

A Fistful of Mondays is very well scripted and choreographed with an excellent choice of casting, in particular Barry the Barman (Steve Hay) and Tom Jones (Sam Mansfield) the karaoke singer (no, not that one). The performances from all 8 actors were flawless, funny and the cast had good chemistry between them.
My favourite scene was when Barry caught Tom cheating on him with the Munching Mule and storming off in a huff with his plastic cactus (you really have to see it to appreciate it) – a really well scripted scene and the funniest of the show. The subplot running through the play was the loss of the local pub and social club in favour of the cheap chains springing up all over the country, and Barry’s battle to fight the local rival chain to keep the social club open.
The story about love, life and loss was interwoven around the songs and dance routines to usually good effect, however I felt that ‘Annie’s Song’ was a bit wasted being just a filler in the first half, this could have been a powerful dealbreaker song for Tom and Annie (Louise Cobb) but instead it passed almost like background music.
The audience loved the show and were engaged throughout, however the OFS was unbearably hot and I couldn’t believe they had no air conditioning in there (or if so it was extremely poor). People all around were visibly dripping with sweat and it was a credit to the excellent show that nearly everyone stuck it out till the end in support. If the temperature had been more bearable, I think the audience engagement would have been even more enthusiastic.
After seeing this my girlfriends and I would certainly try out a linedancing club if it meant we found our very own Tom there. However, as I pointed out to them, sadly we do live in the real world, but it was a nice evening of escapism.

Marie Jones, 01/07/09, Daily Information

A feel-good musical about a line-dancing group has burst onto the Oxford stage brimming with bouncy Country and Western numbers.
A Fistful of Mondays follows the trials and tribulations of the club who meet at Walbeswick Sports and Social Club every Monday night.
This slightly dysfunctional group provide much comic drama as they fall in love, argue, both lose and gain confidence, forget their teeth and get diahorrea.
Throughout the action the cast entertain with line-dancing routines and rousing classic songs from artists such as Johnny Cash and Shania Twain.
They clearly enthused their audience into clapping along and whopping in all the right places - despite the tropical heat in the theatre.
Barry (Steve Hay), the club’s barman, is a grumpy Scot determined to get the punters to buy drinks at his club rather than at his rival the nearby Munchin’ Mule pub.
Hay plays the witty, sardonic and astute bar-tender in a brilliantly deadpan way, making Barry one of the most comic and memorable characters.
Sam Mansfield plays Tom the reluctant lover who can’t dance with authentic gruffness.
There are some great vocals, particularly from Sophie (Pat Giles) when she sings Patsy Cline’s Crazy.
James Card is highly entertaining to watch as the group’s token flagrantly gay member. Card plays the proudly effeminate dancer with style and flair.
The cast’s costumes, cowboy outfits of course, are used to create atmosphere and comedy.
The show is very light-hearted and fun and it is the singing and dancing that really make it.
At times the dialogue seems a little slow and arguably much could be cut to make the piece more snappy and less repetitive of the same jokes.
However there are some very funny lines and scenarios which provoke laughter from the audience throughout the show.
To sum up, A Fistful of Mondays is a fun night out and will especially appeal to Country and Western fans or line-dancing lovers.
It runs until Saturday at the Old Fire Station.

Ros Miles, Oxford Times, July 2, 2009

A Last Belch for the Great Auk, by David Halliwell
Old Fire Station Studio, Oxford, April 1 and 2, 2009. Makespace Productions. Dir: Sarah Dodd

A birdwatcher and a model are forced to confront their prejudices about one another in David Halliwell’s off-the-wall comedy A Last Belch for the Great Auk. Reginald Armitage, an ornithologist studying the long extinct Great Auk, sub-lets the flat of model Dymphne Pugh-Gooch while she is in New York. She writes to him to explain she is to return earlier than expected and his imagination is thrown into a frenzy. When we first meet Dymphne it is as a figment of Reg‘s fevered brain. She is unbelievable snooty, spoilt and stupid, a wholly two-dimensional stereotype.
Near the start of the play Reg also makes an appearance in the mind of Dymphyne. He is a complete bore whose only joy in life seems to be the lack of pleasure he gets from being outside in the cold waiting for his life’s only excitement, the appearance of a rare bird. Of course these are their preconceived ideas made into physical entities. These crude imagined versions of themselves meet three times and engage in blazing rows before the real characters finally meet.Happily, the actual Reg and Dymphne are infinitely more likeable than their notions of each other, and the pair strike up a kind of friendship. But when the real characters fall out, dialogue used by their imagined selves is repeated in their argument.
The alternation of perspective between the real and imaginary was at first slightly confusing but what was happening became clearer as the action progressed.  In any case the piece is well written, clever and laugh out loud funny. It is especially so in the way it authentically reproduces the thoughts of an inexperienced man befuddled by the personal effects of a sophisticated woman. “She has so many pants she could s**t her pants for a year” he says.
Steve Hay is every bit the cardigan-clad Reg, extolling with gusto his views on women, models, frivolity and the joy of birds, in broad Scottish tones. Alexa Brown effortlessly transforms herself from the awful imaginary Dymphne to a sympathetic real Dymphne, who is unpretentious and has the same problems as anyone else. The spirited performances make the production, by Oxford company MakeSpace, a fun and thought-provoking watch.
Halliwell, who lived in Charlbury, was a pioneer of multi-viewpoint drama. He was most famous for Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs. He died in 2006, after reworking parts of Belch with Hay, who subsequently showed the script to director Sarah Dodd of MakeSpace.

Rosalind Miles, Oxford Times 16/4/2009

It is a testimony to the strength of Oxford’s emerging Fringe festival, that it is providing opportunities for artists around the city to bring to life projects which otherwise may have remained hidden. ‘A Last Belch for the Great Auk’ is one such example. Written by David Halliwell (he of ‘Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs’) this was a piece that possibly would have never seen the light of day if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of Steve Hay, a friend of Halliwell’s, who encouraged Sarah Dodd to take up the production for the Oxford Fringe.
The play rests on a simple pretense - an ornitholagist, Reginald Armitage (Hay), trying to finish his life-time study on the long extinct Great Auk, thinks he has landed on his feet by finding a short- term rent on a London flat; only to discover that the flat’s owner, the wonderfully-named model Dymphne Pugh-Gooch (played by Alexa Brown), is coming back unexpectedly to live there. Yet this simple story becomes a multi-perspective narrative as we alternate between the real characters, and how they imagine their counterparts to be, until eventually prejudices and preconceptions collide when the two meet at the flat. Viewpoints are challenged, dismissed, and then re- emerge as the two get to know each other.
This was a wonderfully funny and engaging play, and a debt of gratitude is owed to all the cast and production team for bringing it to the public. The ever-versatile Hay balanced the righteous indignation of the academic confronted by the fashion world with a dry cynicism. He was matched by an equally strong performance by Alexa Brown who pulled off the very difficult task of playing the imagined Dymphne to its full dreadful effect, and then creating genuine sympathy for the real one. The sparring between the two presented some first-class comic moments, and one could almost hear the squawks of derision from the long-departed Auk as it looked on at the antics of its supposed evolutionary superiors. Credit must also go therefore to Sarah Dodd’s direction on timing, and also for keeping the narrative moving despite the numerous short scenes and jump-cuts.
‘A Last Belch for the Great Auk’ was part of an evening of three one- act plays at Oxford’s Old Fire Station studio theatre on 1st and 2nd April.

Stuart D Lee, Oxford Prospect

What starts as slightly stilted action between Steve Hay’s exaggerated Scottish bird-lover and Alexa Brown’s poised but irritating English model, soon relaxes into an engaging and believable discourse. Hyperbole being a key feature of A Last Belch for the Great Auk, the reason for this over-action of each stereotype becomes clear when we realise that the script is making slick and fast-paced switches between reality and imagination.
Brown and Hay successfully distinguish between their different ‘selves’, displaying an interesting progression in their relationship during the one act and providing what becomes a brief yet entertaining glimpse of our worst habits, our flaws, and our intolerances. The tangents of the ‘Great Auk’ and the life of a fashion model add to the comedy of Halliwell’s script, and allow room for the actors to enjoy the potential of this endearing and amusing piece. MakeSpace provided a very convincing and amusing start to the evening.

Emily Shirtcliff, Daily Information

I saw this play on its second night and I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable and stimulating theatre experiences I’ve had for years. I loved the way the play mixed reality and fantasy – it was effortless (credit due to the light-touch directing here) and always relevant, taking advantage of the fact that on-stage fantasies or dreams are no less real or true than on-stage ‘reality.’ I have seen this kind exploitation of the fundamentally dream-like nature of drama in the films of Bunuel and David Lynch, but never before on stage, and I was joyfully surprised to find that it worked just as well as it does on celluloid.
The actors were both excellent and perfectly suited to their roles in both looks and manner. Apart from noting some small technical errors such as one or two mistimed lighting cues and a skipping CD used for musical links, my only slightly negative comment concerns the dating of the action to the beginning of the seventies. Perhaps because the play itself felt very modern, particularly in the character of Dymphne (I’ve known one or two just like her), I found any reminder that it was set several decades ago to be somewhat jarring.
Here’s hoping it gets a tour (and comes to London so I can get my friends to watch it!).

Master Venefice, UK Theatre Network

A challenging two-handed one act play which intrigues its audience by presenting two different perceptions of a situation.
Steve Hay is Reg Armitage, a slightly curmudgeonly Scottish ornithologist who, pretty much by chance, finds himself living in model Dymphne Pugh Gooch’s flat whilst she is away.  Unfortunately Dymphne, beautifully played by beautiful Alexa Brown, needs to reclaim her living space sooner than expected and the two find themselves sharing the flat.
David Halliwell’s play might be examining an existential theme but at least it has enough wit to hold the audience rather than baffling them entirely.  Sarah Dodd’s production is simply staged with little more than a couple of chairs, a table, two plinths and some white lines to define the space and she is served well by strong performers who have to deliver some fairly hefty monologues alongside the more snappy dialogue as Reg, Dymphne, and thus the audience, discover their ideas of who they are and how the other will react are often way of mark.
Occasionally the lighting, which was probably meant to assist the audience in following whose perception we were following, only served to confuse on the first night at the OFS Studio and the production was further hindered for this reviewer by uncomfortable seating.  However, the actors were strong, with Steve Hay particularly good at engaging the audience, and although both characters could have been unlikeable they succeeded in winning over both us and each other.

Ruth Curtis,

Never Tell Them, by Stuart Lee
Burton Taylor Theatre, Oxford, September 2008. Dir: Joe Austin

Never Tell Them, by Stuart Lee, concerns the rage for Spiritualism after the First World War. It has elements of surprise, comedy, and thriller united to a good feel for the period. The  distressed wife and the conman who exploits her predicament are skillfully acted by Jo Myddleton and Cymon Snow, and the most challenging role, that of Captain Jones, is taken by Steve Hay and carried off very convincingly.You can hardly get a better evening’s entertainment than this.
Julia Gasper, Oxford Prospect

Stuart Lee’s 50 minute play ‘Never Tell Them’ takes us back to the aftermath of World War One. A gripping performance is solicited by Director Joe Austin from Steve Hay who as Captain Simon Jones struggles with the guilt of surviving the battle. A strong chemistry is built up between Hay and on stage wife played by Jo Myddelton who seeks the aid of eccentric medium Professor Brailey (Cymon Snow) to try and connect her husband to his fallen comrades.The cold chill of the séance lingers in the studio theatre air.
Lita Doolan, Daily Info, Oxford

Glass Onion, Hollyrood Tavern, Edinburgh Festival August 2005. PS Theatre.
Dir: Steve Hay, Pete House

They introduced the Beatles to a new generation. Like two mates in a bedsit, this was like a Beatles appreciation society. Ultimately, a good thing! The admiration was truly sincere.
Three Weeks Daily

In That Summer of Sweet 16 by David Halliwell,
Old Red Lion Theatre. I’m A Camera. Dir: Jane Clark

Steve Hay as Billy Meechan is a splenetic Scot randy to get back to the killing fields of northern France. Robert Lloyd Parry. Highbury & Islington Express

Hero of the piece is Steve Hay, a convincing Private Billy Meechan, who grows from bullying yet likeable rabble-leader to shell-shocked victim
Barbara Lewis, The Stage

The psychotic Scot who can’t wait to kill more Jerries rails against the doctor who diagnoses him as shellshocked.
Nick Curtis Evening Standard