YORK Settlement Community Players open their second Direct Approach of new short plays and new directing opportunities on the top floor at the Eagle and Child pub in High Petergate, York, tomorrow night.

Mick Taylor's Slip Sliding Away will be performed by Jennifer Etherington's cast of Glyn Morrow, as Dennis; Wilma Edwards as Celia; Erin Wheeler as Davina; Anna Kedge as Scarlett and Frances Adams as Alanna at 8pm nightly until Thursday.

A second work, York actress Sophie Buckley's Shed, will be premiered from July 3 to 5 at a new starting time of 7.30pm with Victoria Delaney in the lead role of Jennifer, joined in Sally Mitcham's cast by Matt Simpson as Danny; Mike Hickman as Tom; Tanika Meachun as Rachel and Jess Murray as Emma.

Under The Direct Approach banner, the Settlement Players pair an experienced director, Mark Smith, with two first-time directors, Jennifer Etherington and Sally Mitcham. Jennifer is new to York, having moved from Doncaster after studying theatre at Nottingham University; Sally is a regular Settlement actress, and each has been working on a play no longer than 40 minutes in length in five to six weeks of rehearsals at Southlands.

"The difficulty for a first-time director is that if you've never directed anything, it's a big step to do a full-length play, whereas this is a little step, with a lot of support on hand, and in this pub location they'll have a nicely intimate feeling, where I hope it feels like a family drama is unfolding in your living room," says Sally, whose past stage roles have included Thackeray's anti-heroine Becky Sharp in Settlement's Vanity Fair "many moons ago" and "lots of York Shakespeare Project things", most recently in Fletcher and Shakespeare's Henry VIII.

"I was interested in directing last year, but it wasn't feasible for me, so I took part in a play instead, but this time, even before they announced they were going to do a second season, I was saying 'please pick me'."

That wish has come to fruition. "The nice thing about this project is that because it's a short play and a limited run, you don't have to dedicate more time to it, which makes it practical for me," says Sally.

Glyn Morrow will be appearing in the first of the "sitting-room dramas", Slip Sliding Away, named after the 1977 Paul Simon song Slip Slidin' Away. "Paul Simon songs play quite a large part in it, in fact an absurdly large part!" he says. "I'm playing Dennis, a man in his late-sixties, like me, and we see him over the course of a few days as he is visited each day by different people with those encounters being both positive and negative.

"He's getting very forgetful, though whether it's dementia is never mentioned, but there's a lovely interplay between Dennis and his wife, recalling their shared life and their shared love of Simon and Garfunkel."

Glyn acted professionally for 20 years before teaching English in Eastern Europe for five years and has since returned to the stage in York, latterly as a guitar-playing Telegin in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. Creating the character of Dennis has been stimulating. "Though there are darker parts to it as you can really feel his deteriorating mental state by the end, it's not too downbeat as there's a lot of comedy in there, some throwaway lines, and warmth too," he says.

Sally is delighted to be directing Shed. "We were sent scripts for five plays to read as part of the interview process, and then I talked about the one I was most interested in directing and why, and how I saw the piece coming together, and Shed was the one that did it for me, partly because I would have loved to have played Jennifer myself," she says.

"She's been married to Danny for 20-odd years, with two daughters who now live away, and when their house on Yorkshire coastline is threatened by erosion, the surveyor who turns up happens to be someone from Jennifer's past, so the play depicts how that affects the whole family.

"The dialogue flows and the play is very character driven, with lots of good emotional development, and the challenge as a director is to help the actors bring that out. It's darker than Slip Sliding Away, but there are moments of humour and that's something I have to consider in my directing to ensure there are highs and lows."

Tickets are available only on the door at £5. "Seating is very limited, so arrive in good time to avoid disappointment," advises Settlement Players' Matt Pattison. "World Cup fever will no doubt be gripping the nation when the performances are on, so if football isn't your thing, then do please come along to escape it. But hopefully you'll come along anyway, regardless of sporting mayhem!"

York Press:

Victoria Delaney

LITTLE did director Sally Mitcham know when she cast Victoria Delaney in the lead role of Jennifer in Sophie Buckley's Shed that they shared a past.

"I was very pleased when Victoria auditioned because it was immediately apparent she could handle everything about the role...and would you believe it, it turned out we'd been at the same school, Ponteland High, and we were actually in the same year, which is an extraordinary coincidence!" says Sally.