Betsy: Wisdom of a Brighton Whore

“I’ll show you what I’ve been hiding, for thousands of years”

A one-woman show
Performed by Isabella McCarthy Sommerville
Best Actress BHAC 2017
Written & Directed by Jonathan Brown
Best New Play, New Writing South 2012
Best New Play (shortlist), New Writing South 2013

“writer Jonathan Brown knows how to drive a plot… ” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian.

A Tale of Sex, Seduction and Survival.

Journey into the murky, sordid and dangerous depths of Brighton’s Underworld, an evocation of memories and past lives.

Betsy, a sauce box, a church bell and a woman on the edge, with mouths to feed, nobs to fleece, and  blobby boys to repel.

Please”, he says, “just half-an-hour of your time.”

I says, “Ain’t you listening? You on The Blob? I ain’t in the business for bloody boiler hands and stokers. I don’t do dingers and I don’t do blobby boys.

Look at ya, You look like you’ve got the French Pox on ya. Now get lost. I got nobility waiting on me, with cleans sheets and clean dicks, so I don’t need to go bug hunting. Now sling it!’

Outstanding Show –
“Writer/director Jonathan Brown’s protean imagination and craft,,, it’s wonderful to see one of the most darkly-visioned of all return.,,,feel your way down a candlelit tunnel only a little over five feet high, into a traverse space where candles lit on ledges are gradually snuffed out: save one.,…McCarthy-Somerville unleashes  further voices of lost women – prostitutes dying or abused, giving birth to a litany of names, … names like an aural cenotaph for the truly forgotten. McCarthy-Somerville possesses a fluidity of movement that’s remarkable: from jagged in-yer-face to oceanic immersion and poetic surrender to other forces….enormous fluency, a capacity to terrace the different accents and voices so her polyphony of characters spring believably…..” Fringereview 2019. Full Review

5 Stars! “This incredible piece of writing by Jonathan Brown is the confirmation that the fringe is the place for new theatre and talent. This one woman drama is a feat of almost unbelievable measure….Actor Isabella McCarthy Sommerville (emerges) from the flickering candlelit cellars of the Old Ship Hotel …, pulling on her draws, lacing her boots,…confronting her audience.
This exquisite performance is colourful, unrelenting and at times brutal. The characters portrayed along the way are brilliantly realised, the sense of place tangible, the stench of poverty balanced by the sweet scent of privilege becomes real in our minds. So too the explicit raw sexuality and the degrading violence – it’s totally shocking and often repellent but despite that this is utterly compelling theatre of the highest order and deserving of a much wider audience. This is the kind of work that should remind us all of the real need for live theatre. Why do I only have five stars to award?” Latest 7, Brighton 2019.  Full Review

“Magnificent!!!! Whatever expectations I might have carried in with me you immediately fired out of the air. It is a monster of a piece for so many reasons – pace, characters, language – you made it your own. You commanded the stage and held everyone.” Terry Garoghan, Brighton May 2019.

Returning  to Brighton Fringe May 2019.
DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND: ADDITIONAL MATINEE ADDED ON 31 May 2019!
Dates & tickets here

Preview interview here

Betsy is part of The Well Trilogy,

and is a prequel to The Well and a sequel to The Silent Stream.

All three are being published in May 2019, and you can pre-order here.

It’s 1820 (ish) and Betsy is a Brightonian, “at work”. Having parted company from the St Mary’s Home for Penitent Women, she’s been given a “situation” by the knobs of the town, keeping an eye on the house of builder and land developer Thomas Kemp, lest he should return with the money he owes his creditors. Whilst she’s there, she’s required to give comfort to members of the brotherhood, and it isn’t long before she meets Guardian of the Town and Chair of the Committee for the Provision of the poor, George Bintshaft.

Flowers arrive. Then wine, then dresses. A carriage to take Betsy to a private supper. More wine, soft words, and then a hot wine-laden breath, urgent whisperings, fumblings at the same dress…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also played by Rachel Guershon (2013)                                     and Elle Dillon Reams (2014) 

Rachel Guershon in Betsy: Wisdom of a Brighton Whore              

Rachel was nominated Best Female Performer Brighton Fringe 2013 for her performance.

5 Stars! “Eleanor Dillon-Reams had everyone engaged from the start!  The reality of what a whore has to do in order to survive. You can tell director/writer Jonathan Brown wanted to (make) the audience laugh, and feel turned on.
How Eleanor switched between different characters was so powerful, moving, seamless…one forgets you’re watching just one woman on stage. She has a presence, and talent, that surpasses everything you would expect in an actress – strength, flexibility and dedication. The way she made sure you knew exactly what happened to her with no holds barred was intimidating, yet extremely vulnerable.  A secret gem of the fringe not to be missed!” Sasha Cooper, Remote Goat 2014

Press coverage #1             Press coverage #2

5 Stars!   “…Right from the start she blew us away. …. it was hard to remember that we weren’t actually watching two people…….. it will haunt me for years…………… a lot of very funny lines ….and  an awesome piece of physical theatre…… Rachel Guershon is truly a woman to watch. Try to catch her if you can.”  Fringe Review, Brighton, May 2013.

4 Stars!  “Rachel Guershon is great as Betsy, a spectacularly foul-mouthed but deeply flawed woman.  Guershon is a wonderfully physical actor, and one of the highlights comes early in the play…. You can really feel the pain and fear in her performance.” www.fringeguru.com Brighton, May, 2013

“Betsy, performed with passion & easy rapport by actor Rachel Guershon…..writer Jonathan Brown knows how to drive a plot….. I will never look at the North Street clock tower again without seeing Betsy’s frightened face.”
Lyn Gardner, The Guardian.

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