The Browning Version and Dirty Business

Date 23rd February 2019
Society Cuckfield Dramatic Society
Venue Queens Hall, Cuckfield
Type of Production Plays
Director Emma Gosling - The Browning Version
Director Lesley Jenks - Dirty Business
Producer Martin Sheldon


Author: Dee Sharpe

Cuckfield Dramatic Society presented a double bill with two very different one-act plays; The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan and Dirty Business by Derek Webb.

The Browning Version by Terrance Rattigan was directed with sensitivity and skill, creating an old style classical public school atmosphere. Touches of humour throughout created a winsome feel without detracting from the play’s poignancy.

Set in a public school in the 1940’s, classics master Mr Crocker-Harris, who is facing early retirement, discovers that his students mock him behind his back and that he is not getting a pension. To add insult to injury he finds out his wife has been having an affair with a fellow master at the school, and that his headmaster wants him to stand aside to let a popular sports master give the end of term speech. But a gift of a classic from a school boy touches him deeply and helps him to gather the last remnant of dignity.

I have seen Philip Robinson in a few parts now and he inhabits his roles with effortless genius.  As Mr Crocker-Harris or ‘The Crock’ he conveyed his dilemmas and disappointments with subtlety and grace as his emotionally stifled character tried to smother his deep humiliation at the unfolding events.

Hazelle Woodhurst, another jewel in Cuckfield Dramatic Society’s crown of talent, was perfectly cast as his wife Millie. Her portrayal of the unfulfilled snobbish woman slowly suffocating in the routine of academia, desperate for affection yet narrow minded and searingly cruel, was totally convincing. She and Simon Perkins as Frank Hunter were well matched lovers and I liked the way Simon demonstrated passion changing to disgust. 

Logan Brewer was perfect as schoolboy Taplow and I loved his impersonation of ‘The Crock.’  The humour and interplay between him and the masters was well executed. Josh Hards and Heather Gosling were well cast as Mr and Mrs Gilbert while Laurence Leng pontificated beautifully as Dr Frobisher.

I thought the timing throughout was exquisite, with eloquent body language and facial expressions making silence as potent as words.

The simple set and lighting were perfect for the drama enabling the audience to feel the mounting tension and claustrophobia. 

The ending left a sense of pathos hanging in the air.  A beautifully executed production.

In total contrast,  Dirty Business by Derek Webb bought a cheeky cheeriness to the evening with his play about the cleaning business, spending cuts and two women determined to keep their jobs. The set transported us to a modern day council office with a counter and filing cabinet, coat stand bookshelf and of course, mops and buckets for the cleaners, who looked the part in casual clothes and tabards.

Josie (Caroline Morley) and Angela (Lorraine Jordan) are cleaning the offices of one of the council bigwigs, Roger Beasley (Paul Ruse) when they discover that their jobs are going to be axed.  They find a pair of knickers which indicates that Roger is having an extra marital affair and use their knowledge to persuade him to think again.

Amusing rather than hilarious, it was well played by this accomplished cast of three.

Malapropisms such as ‘incontinent’ instead of ‘incompetent’ had the audience laughing and Roger Beasley’s pronunciation of ‘R’ as ‘W’ was a nice touch.

I enjoyed the evening hugely, so thanks to all involved in The Browning Version and Dirty Business