New Apollo is taking a different direction with its latest production, Blossom Alley. Working with Cop The Needle Productions (comprising Stuart Olesker and John Stanton), the professional acting group isn’t just performing it as a play, but have added various music hall songs from the period.
Blossom Alley is based on a real-life murder that took place in Portsea 90 years ago. Mary Pelham, a prostitute, was murdered at her home where the surrounding area was notorious for crime and poor living conditions, with many houses sharing toilets and drinking water.
One of the writers of the piece, Stuart Olesker, says: ‘Mary was respected by the residents of the alley and she was regarded as a woman who entertained in certain ways. The possible story behind it really intrigued me and John.
‘In Cop The Needle Productions we like to dramatise some of the lesser known parts of Portsmouth and its past, particularly the more colourful and neglected areas.’
He adds: ‘I thought Mary Pelham’s story was interesting because she was a prostitute, she lived in Blossom Alley, where the name seemed to run counter to what it was actually like because it wasn’t particularly nice, and the murderer was never found.
‘A neighbour thought she saw a sailor leaving her house, so it ended up being the biggest identity parade in history with some 3,500 sailors being lined up too.’
Stuart and John presented their script to Steve Pitt, who runs The Cellars at Eastney, who agreed to put it on with New Apollo. Included in the production are several music hall numbers (Mary Pelham was partial to singing) and it’s split into three sections.
Stuart explains: ‘Part of it is a monologue by Mary, so she talks to the audience like they are her next client.
‘The second part is when the two inspectors arrive and the third is another person, but I won’t give it away.’
Featuring Angie Lily, Tim Lowe, Patric Howe, Peter and Francesca McCrohon, the play is first being staged at The Cellars, Eastney, which was refurbished over Christmas to allow for more seats facing the stage: ‘Part of what we do is put on plays in spaces that aren’t theatres, and we thought The Cellars and The Square Tower would have that intimate atmosphere we need.’
Blossom Alley will be at The Cellars,Eastney from tonight until Thursday, and at The Square Tower, Old Portsmouth, from Friday until Saturday.
Tickets cost £12 on (023) 9273 6288 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can send a cheque payable to New Apollo, 127 Devonshire Avenue, Southsea, PO4 9ED. The ticket price includes an after-show supper.