Watching The Just Cause, a Worthing Community Play performed on Saturday June 28th, I was transported to the Worthing of the 1880’s – sitting in a pew of Victorian Christchurch with people of all ages clad in their Victorian costumes, representing the different social classes of the day.
The director had skilfully made use of the whole church, including the balcony where the riff raff sat: two policemen patrolled the aisles, women of the Temperance League cajoled us to sign the pledge, the Sunday School class marched through singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, the minister gave a sermon from the pulpit, two urchins scampered up and down the aisles chased by the two policemen, an upper class wedding procession made its way to and from the altar. It was a lively two hours of sketches and songs, the director cleverly incorporating popular songs such as “Daisy, Daisy”, “My old Man” and the hymn “For those in Peril on the Sea”, some of which we the audience joined in. As well as enhancing the sketches, this gave us the excuse we sorely needed to stand up and relieve the pressure on our bottoms from those hard pews!
In addition to being a lot of fun, the sketches did give a minutely researched picture of Worthing life in the 1880’s: a public meeting showing the snobbery and rigidity of the upper classes and their desire to maintain the social order, a court scene reminding us of the harsh punishments such as hard labour or lashes meted out to the down-and-outs for petty theft and vagrancy, a wedding that had been arranged for the purpose of uniting two influential Worthing families. And there was plenty of excitement – the re-enactment of a shipwreck on Worthing beach and a “rollicking good riot” when the Skeleton Army composed of working class lads attacked the Salvation Army – a riot which culminated in the reading of the Riot Act. Everything about this production was excellent: the costumes, the acting, the direction, the script, the music and the singing. You sensed the commitment of everyone, including the small children, to what was truly a community event. A success that I am sure is mainly due to Ann Feloy, the writer and director of this production, who gave everything she had to it and to the two-year lottery-funded community project behind it.