Photo by Lexi Clare
Martin Coslett and Echo Time/Ashgate Prods took a brand new show to Guildford. Based on a true story, it begins in the 1920’s when five “flappers” are banqueting at the Dorchester and the news that “Stonehenge is under threat” brings the meal to a sudden halt. The girls were inspired to form the secret... Ferguson’s Gang.
They start a campaign of heritage protection despite the girls experiencing desperate personal problems.
In danger were places like the Cornish Coastline, Dovedale in Derbyshire, Newtown Town Hall on the Isle of Wight, Shalford Mill, Steventon and many other beauty spots and ancient buildings. Huge sums were raised to assist the National Trust in avoiding the tentacles of creeping urban development - as relevant then as it is today.
It was the Roaring 20's but the Secret Gang continues...
The retelling of a true story, we assume, must be complex, balancing the sensibilities of the descendants of the real characters with the need to entertain, but Martin Coslett’s AshGate Productions did just that. The five wonderful actresses who starred in ‘Ferguson’s Gang’ at the Yvonne Arnaud’s Mill Theatre in Guildford this week, switched roles, costumes, accents and storylines in the blink of an eye, without ever missing a beat.
The story of how these five masked maidens anonymously raised funds during the 1920s and beyond for The National Trust (to keep England safe from the tentacles of raging urbanisation) at a time when women were best seen and not heard was told with humour, pathos and sheer enjoyment and despite being set 100 years ago, the issues at the heart of the story are still relevant today.
The Gang's emotions were palpable and brought the audience laughter, elation, wonder, inspiration and shock; at times lifting everyone’s spirits upon a current of sensational songs and witty dialogue, then being dragged to the depths of silence, where barely a breath could be heard throughout the whole theatre. Although on the surface, this is a story of securing our national heritage at a particular point in history, it is also a story embracing the eternal themes of sisterhood and friendship against a backdrop of increasing oppression.
This gang must keep running. It would be a travesty if a wider audience was denied the chance to be inspired by such an uplifting and perfect production.
RH, JI, MF
Previously premiered at the Quaker Meeting House in St Martin’s Lane, in the heart of London’s theatreland after a tour in similar
South of England venues, Perfect City was presented in a costumed performance in the round.
Astutely directed by Andrew Miller, the show proved an entertaining mixture of music-theatre styles, its melodic songs carrying the story to a moving conclusion as Penn’s vision
unfurled of a democratic new city in the New World where slavery would have no place and each individual could be master of his or her own fate.
Any thoughts that such a subject might be too specialised for a wider audience were soon swept away by the young cast and the uniformly excellent material that had been honed by the team over several years.
There can be little doubt that The Perfect City will go on to entertain a wider audience as the team now begins the task of raising fundsto mount it elsewhere in Britain.”
Clive is a regular contributor to the Theatreworld Internet Magazine site at
Video Clip: City Called Heaven
Some Audience Feedback/Reaction to The Perfect City Tour:
The show was truly amazing . Tony and I enjoyed every moment. What a talented group of actors. The music was lovely . B Green (Buckland)
Friday night's performance in Dorking was most enjoyable, a fascinating story sung by a great cast, making the fullest use of the of meeting house space. Congratulations to all involved in this production.
"Fantastic performance at dorking last night. We loved the show, brilliant story,
‘Fab cast and an all-round great show. Thank you!"
"Too good to be over, this is just the beginning. We all thought it should be in the west end, do hope so” Pat Strong (Banstead)
Amazing. Deserves a much bigger tour. Congratulations. Grelle White
Thank you so much for your e-mail and deepest apologies for not writing before to congratulate you on a truly GREAT show. Both Jo, our friends Ian and Suzanne and myself thought it was absolutely wonderful and really does deserve exposure to much bigger audiences. In particular we felt that many of the musical numbers would certainly appeal to a younger audience. Reading this again I see that I have not said a word of how excellent ALL the cast were, please pass on them, the musical director and of course yourself our heartiest congratulations. John Sheldrake (Reigate Heath)
Friday night's performance in Dorking was most enjoyable, a fascinating story sung by a great cast, making the fullest use of the of meeting house space. Congratulations Martin and all involved in this production.
Thanks for yesterday evening Martin. Well worth coming up to London for. For me there were some really powerful moments: probably the most powerful was Anthony's song 'My Mary' with the terrible cruelty in the background. The acting was great - William and Admiral Penn especially. The whole point - that in this world there is no perfect city - came over powerfully. Carole (Bourne)
My family and I really enjoyed The Perfect City on Tuesday at Rickmansworth. I want to congratulate you and the whole team on a very good show. As Quakers who are also into musical theatre, we were obviously going to be watching from several angles at once, and we were delighted.
Particular highlights for me were the way you kept the pace going, the quality of the singing, the effective way that actors played different characters without it ever being confusing, and some lovely melodies.
Congratulations on your musical play at Dorking yesterday. It was well worth the effort of driving the 250 miles back from Cornwall to see it. You have a very talented little group there. Brenda Judd bj@windmillway,wanadoo.co.uk
it was good to have you with us. What a lovely Company of performers - with some fine voices.
Everyone who was there who has spoken to me has said how muvh theyenjoyed the evening - so well done to you all.
The Reverend Deborah Snowball
Vicar of Rickmansworth
Thumbs up and power to your elbow for the show, Martin. I noticed that cast only had 45 minutes to 'escape & refresh'. I marvelled very much at that.
I saw the show at the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge last Saturday. Still the songs are circulating in the orchestra in my head, and in my heart.
I had trouble focusing on the difference between a watcher and watched as the debut performance of 'The Perfect City' unfolded before me in the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge.
When I slept that night, the story and lyrics were floating in my dreams and as this week progresses the story is seldom far from my mind and it has roosted to take up place in my heart.
Congratulations on an excellent show last night. It was really professionally done – singing and acting first class. You had a large and appreciative audience and much support from friends and supporters.
I hope the rest of the tour is as successful. Chris (Slater) Bookham
Phenomenal sell out at Dorking ! Congratulations !
However if you have a ticket( or two) returned for the 23rd let us know ! :
Thank you for your performance at Jesus Lane last night - thoroughly enjoyed it! Marisa Johnson
Astutely directed by Andrew Miller, the show proved an entertaining mixture of music-theatre styles, its melodic songs carrying the story to a moving conclusion as Penn’s vision unfurled of a democratic new city in the New World where slavery would have no place and each individual could be master of his or her own fate.
'Oswald and the Mystery of Comet Island' is an up and coming family musical. Even
though this performance was a 'read through', and not a staged production, the story was brought vividly to life demonstrating the talent of the six actors and imagination of the writers Martin
Coslett and Thomas Forbes Briscombe. The music, for me, was the best part of the show as it beautifully helped narrate the story, deepen the plot and most importantly had me humming the tunes for
days after. My favourite song in the show is "Wind the Clocks" sung by Bella (played by Ciara Power) and Oswald (Charlie Houseago).
It would bring me such joy to see 'Oswald and the Mystery of Comet Island' on stage in the future and would recommended anyone to see it when the chance arises.
Allie Hadley - Portsmouth University
Based on the novel "Oswald and the End of the World" by Andrew Strong published by Scholastic.
A two Act Showcase Reading took place
at Betchworth Village Hall, Dorking, Surrey on Saturday October 21st 2017.
It was a 'catastrophe!' said Jeremiah.
(image by David Kingham)
It was a terrific performance and we were so glad that we were able to be present! All the best for where it goes next because with its story line and the engaging music, its message for today certainly deserves to be seen by young and old. Linda Ramsden
A recent co-production was: The White Feather at the Union Theatre, Southwark, London. (Arion Productions)
"The White Feather is everything musical theatre should be - it will make you think deeply about bravery, war and the nature of humanity all the way home...."
Danny Coleman-Cooke (BritishTheatre.Com)
Mountains of the Moon (A Water Story):
Being developed in conjunction with the Yvonne Arnaud Youth Theatre in Guildford, Surrey.
Written by Thomas Forbes Briscombe and Martin Coslett
A drought is causing the water level in a tributary of the Nile in North Africa to drop.
Whenever there is a full moon, the animals gather near a sacred Carob Tree under a magic blanket of safety.
Owl,Camel, Gecko, (Hairy-Nosed) Bat and Monkey discuss the loss of water and possible solutions to their problem.
Can they find the Rain God to save them from dying of thirst
And previously....we created...
by Martin Coslett/David Lewis/Ross Clark
Please contact us if you want to get involved or find out more: email@example.com