Ben Hur... but possibly not as you have seen it before!

Ben Hur
Ben Hur

Ben Hur was the most expensive movie ever made when Charlton Heston led the way back in 1959.

But that’s not quite the Ben Hur the Southwick Players will be offering when they bring it to the stage.

Instead of the movie’s cast of hundreds, they will be offering a cast of just seven. But what they lack in numbers, they more than make up for with laughs.

Director Ron Common promises: “The whole thing is absolutely hilarious!”

The show runs from Thursday, June 5- Saturday, June 8 at The Barn Theatre at 7.30pm (with tickets £11 on 01273 597094 or www.southwickplayers.org.uk).

“I can’t give too much away, but think Monty Python. It’s mad! It will appeal to everyone. It is an absolutely hilarious comedy rather than the Biblical epic. It is from the same guy, Patrick Barlow, that wrote 39 Steps for the stage.

“It is about an amateur company that are staging Ben Hur and take themselves a bit seriously. The author takes himself very seriously. This company are staging Ben Hur and the author has written it and is directing it and has choreographed it, and this is really his baby. He is totally committed to it and he thinks it is wonderful. But they have a very low budget. The film version of Ben Hur had a huge budget and there were something like 365 speaking parts in the film, but Daniel just has seven actors, and they are playing all the actors. He is trying to depict it in the best way he can…

“It is really funny. It is a slightly different concept. You think how do you put on stage something like Ben Hur. You have to find ways around it. It has got the chariot race and the sea battle and it has got the ascension of Christ. The story itself was written by an American general during the American Civil War. It was a silent movie first and then it was the big movie starring Charlton Heston.

“I approach it by keeping my fingers constantly crossed! You think how the heck are we going to do it, but I rang the publisher and asked if anyone else was doing it, and they said it was being done up in Watford and I went to see it there and I thought it was hilarious. It really made me laugh. I thought to myself that I could definitely make this work. You just have to find a solution for everything.

“We are very lucky in Southwick. We have got a number of really good directors and so you get the chance every two or three years. My last one was Goodnight Mister Tom nearly two years ago. It is just a question of being lucky enough to get the chance.”

There is plenty of enjoyment with directing: “It is being with a group of people that share the same sense of fun that I do but people who take it seriously enough to do it well and find the solutions that we need to find. You just have to think things through. It has been a fairly collaborative thing, and I have had a lot of support from people around me. It is about seeing the initial idea and then working it through and seeing how they learn the lines, and once they have learnt the lines, you start working with the props, and you see the whole thing starting to knit together.”