The Killing of Sister George

Written by Frank Marcus

Thurs 1st October - Sat 3rd October & Thurs 8th October - Sat 10th October 1981

Directed by Les Cummings

Sister George is a fictional character in a popular radio serial about a supposedly typical slice of English village life. In order to boost the popularity of the series this particular character is to be killed off - 'not because she was hated but because she was loved.' This play concerns the effect of this decision on the actress, June Buckridge who has played the part for some 2,000 performances, the problems she faces in relinquishing her artificial character and recovering her own and the differences it makes to her home life.

AuthorFrank Marcus

Frank Marcus (1928 - 1996)

Born into a Jewish family in Germany, Marcus and his family came to England as refugees in 1939. Until 1943 he was schooled at Lenham, near Faversham, then spent a year at Saint Martin's School of Art.

He started as an actor and playwright with the International Theatre Group and the Unity Theatre. In 1951 he married actress Jacqueline Sylvester, who collaborated with him on some of his plays which were noted for their strong parts for female actors. This was especially true of his one big success, 'The Killing of Sister George' a play which first starred Beryl Reid at its premiere and which was later made into a film. As well as his own plays he made several translations and adaptations from his native German. He worked as Theatre Critic for The Sunday Telegraph between 1968 and 1978.

PlayThe Killing of Sister George

Sister George is a beloved character in the popular radio series Applehurst, a nurse who ministers to the medical needs and personal problems of the local villagers. She is played by June Buckridge, who in real life is a gin-guzzling, cigar-chomping, slightly sadistic, masculine woman, the antithesis of the sweet character she plays. June lives with Alice "Childie" McNaught, a younger dim-witted woman she often verbally and sometimes physically abuses. When June discovers her character is scheduled to be killed, she becomes increasingly impossible to work and live with. Mercy Croft, an executive at the radio station, intercedes in her professional and personal lives supposedly to help, but she actually has an agenda of her own.

'The Killing of Sister George' was clearly a parody of the killing of Grace Archer in 'The Archers' (an episode much better known at the time the play was written than it would be in the 21st century) and has sometimes been compared with 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?' Written in 1964 it was adapted in to a film in 1968 directed by Robert Aldrich.

The Bench Production

The Killing of Sister George poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


June Buckridge (Sister George)Janet Simpson
Alice 'Childie' McNaughtJane Cummings
Mrs Mercy CroftRuth Prior
Madame XeniaEve Moore


Director Les Cummings
Stage Manager Robbie Cattermole
Assistant Stage Manager Lezley Picton
Lighting Fred Jeffries
Sound Effects Ray Osborne


The News Anon

Bench meets demands

With its small cast, Frank Marcus's Play 'The Killing of Sister George' makes many demands on actors, but the Bench Theatre proved equal to the task with its production at Havant Arts Centre. Janet Simpson is superb as the actress June Buckridge who plays Sister George, the district nurse in a popular radio serial about typical village life. Sister George has a huge following among listeners and programmers hope to capitalize on her popularity by killing her off and so boost sagging ratings

But the manner of her death is laughable. She is knocked off her moped by a ten-ton truck - an accident which just happens to coincide with road safety week. The actress watches the series degenerate. Her exit from the show is followed by the deaths of other much-lived characters. The fictional village of Applehurst is soon alive with gossip about the doubtful escapades of one of the younger female characters. "Applehurst mustn't fall behind the times," June is told.

This sequence of events is parallelled by the actress's struggle to relinquish her artificial character and cope with the break-up of her lesbian friendship with Alice McNaught, nicknamed Childie. Jane Cummings as Childie, makes the most of a rather superficial character. Tired of her companion's constant cajoling, she runs off with June's boss at the BBC Mercy Croft. To Jane's credit, Childie remains a sympathetic figure. The two principal characters receive wonderful support from Ruth Prior, as the immaculate, back-stabbing BBC executive, and Eve Moore with a lively portrayal of the flamboyant fortune teller Madame Xenia. Though it deals with the tragic and occasionally unpalatable side of life, the play remains humorous to the bitter end. It is thoroughly enjoyable entertainment representing something of a triumph for husband and wife duo, Jane and Les Cummings, the director, with his first production for the Bench. The play continues tonight and there will be further performances on Thursday and Friday next week. Curtain up is at 7.30 p.m.

The News, 3rd October 1981

Production Photographs