The Barn Theatre,
25 Bluehouse Lane, Oxted, Surrey
RH8 0AA.

Tel: 01959 561811
Email: barntheatre
@btinternet.com

 



Southern Counties Drama Festival 2020


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24th - 29th February

Tony Goddard, (Host for the SCDF) introduced us to our Adjudicator for the week, Keith Phillips who was making his first appearance at the Barn as Festival Adjudicator.

The plays in this year's festival were all of an extremely high standard. They benefitted from excellent feedback from the adjudicator who also took time to informally chat with Directors and actors after the shows which was greatly appreciated.

And so to the first of the plays...:

Monday 24th February

"The Friday Night Radio Play"
by Damian Trasler performed by The Sevenoaks Players

The Sevenoaks Players opened this year's SCDF with a 'play within a play' which was well received by an appreciative audience. A family is gathered round the radio but due to a technical glitch the radio is broken. Geoff, the playwright, is determined that his almost blind mother should not be disappointed and so pressures his family into reading the scripts. The farce develops as each member of the family assumes a role in Geoff's play. Other characters are brought in which adds to the comedy. Grandma, beautifully played by Kathy Gelbart is blissfully unaware of the ensuing chaos and sits centre stage listening attentively to the story. Darren Higgins plays an exasperated Geoff. Ruth Makepeace plays his wife Sue and shows good facial reaction and sense of timing. Sarah Ward gives a strong performance as Connie. Dan Dunmore and Laura Connor create a well crafted double act as boy and girlfriend. Claire Tilley (doctor), Andrew Warnes (Vicar), Nick Bower (delivery man) and Maddie O'Donnell (political candidate) all bring individual attributes which enhances the enjoyment of the audience. The set, lighting and sound contributed to produce an entertaining piece although it was somewhat difficult to remember that Grandma was listening to the radio.
Nomination for Best Actor - Darren Higgins

"Ball Boys" by David Edgar performed by No Frills Theatre Company

This timeless play by the well known David Edgar is as relevant in today's political climate as when it was written in the '70's. Although heavily influenced by Marxist doctrine, it presents a satirical comment on humanity. Jonathan Smeed and Logan Mersh were well matched in their roles as Rupert and One-Eye. They were a good counterpoint for each other and had clearly worked hard in rehearsal to produce such polished performances. They both maintained their characters throughout and provided the audience with a slick piece of theatre. The play was sensitively directed by Andrew Hogarth and Logan Mersh. Scott Terry's lighting and sound enhanced the experience. The cameo role of Sven played by Kieran Williams brought the play to its macabre climax. It was a good example of disciplined teamwork.
Best Actor (Joint) - Jonathan Smeed (Rupert) & Logan Mersh (One-Eye)

"Virginia's Memoirs" by Andy Taylor performed by Oast Theatre

Andy Taylor wrote and directed this drama demonstrating the underlying tensions which often occur between mothers and daughters. The elderly protagonist Virginia, was beautifully played by Annie Young. She had good stage presence, clear diction and excellent timing. Elizabeth Taylor Moon, as her neurotic daughter Charlotte, gave a very sensitive and realistic performance as a woman who is caught between the demands of her mother Virginia, and daughter Jane. Jane was the archetypical business woman, always being superseded by a male colleague. Rachel Kelly created a very controlled and believable character. Sophie Rose Jackson as the young Emily provided a counterbalance, delivering her denouement speech with clarity and pathos. The play was sensitively directed. The set gave the impression of an old woman's room and benefitted from empathetic lighting and sound.
Nominations for Best Actress - Sophie Rose Jackson (Emily) & Best Adult Production

Tuesday 25th February

"Equal Terms" by Jill Hyem performed by Oast Theatre

A prolific writer for radio and television, the late Jill Hyem has written this poignant duologue which is as pertinent today as it was in the '70's. It deals with the ever present difficulties associated with mental heath and loneliness. The set, lighting and sound sensitively provided the mood for this production. Both actors were symbiotic and complemented each other most successfully. They were sensitive to their characters. Natalie Smith who played the mentally depressed Imogen had a stillness about her and gave a beautifully controlled performance. Elizabeth McCreadie, playing the do-gooder Mary, displayed the tightness of a brittle woman who disintegrates slowly as the plot evolves. Directed by Sandra Barfield, there was an integrity and depth of feeling as the power swung between the two protagonists. This was an accomplished piece of theatre on every level.
Nomination for Best Actress - Natalie Smith (Imogen)
Best Actress - Elizabeth McCreadie (Mary)
Best Adult Production

"Dead Inside. Maybe" by Lisa Whitbread performed by Written Voice Theatre Company

This two-hander, sensitively directed by Lisa Harris dwelt on the relationship of an estranged brother and sister. Seated together at a wedding reception, they awkwardly explore their past amongst much anger and retribution. Paul Harris as the brother, gave a very controlled performance as a disillusioned man. He had excellent facial expression and gave well timed delivery. The sister played by Gaynor Griffin was a volatile foil for her brother's lassitude. The two actors worked well together providing a see-saw of emotions which often builds up between siblings. The simple set of a table and two chairs was sufficient for the plot. A subtle touch was the overlaid black table cloth which maybe symbolized the funeral of their recently departed father. Lighting and music created the wedding reception atmosphere.

"Mallets" by Rex Fisher performed by Woldingham Players

This debut play by Rex Fisher explores the association between husband and wife and their friends. Set in a sunny suburban garden, this black comedy demonstrated the degeneration of relationships and the sinister fact that nastiness is often present just below the surface. Civilised behaviour is only a thin crust. The set was bright and cheerful depicting a summer's day. Sound and lighting complimented the atmosphere. Well directed by Colin Brown, the actors gave assured performances using all the playing area to advantage. David Martin fitted well into the role of Sam, alternating between bombast and insecurity as he explored his relationship with his long term friend Howard. Sarah Greenwood as Philippa created a very believable character of a long suffering wife who is abruptly brought out of her comfort zone. Carol Moss as Kate created a scheming and manipulative persona and delivered a sustained and well developed performance. This production was supported by a good backstage team and the company obviously worked well together.
Nominations for Best Adult Production & Best Stage Presentation

Wednesday 26th February

"Verdict" by David Hughes performed by Heathfield Youth Drama

This stylised production of Verdict was a strong manifestation reviewing a girl's past crimes. The set was simple - 4 black blocks and a central white chair against a black backdrop emphasised the sinister element. The atmosphere was enhanced by the 4 actors wrapped in black cloaks standing like statues on the plinths. Their stillness was very effective as was their beautifully clear diction and controlled stage presence. The directors Kyle Brown and Kate Issit created a memorable play which held the audience spellbound. They combined all the elements of lighting, sound and costume to produce a thought provoking piece of theatre. The protagonist Alice, played by Caitlin Whalley used both facial expressions and body language to portray her fear in a very realistic manner. Her four accusers, Ellie Goldsmith, Holly Christian, Amy Low and Jamie Blake were equally adept, each displaying strong dramatic characteristics especially during their individual monologues. Altogether this was a very well thought out and executed piece of drama. All those concerned should feel justly proud of their endeavours.
Nominations for Best Young Actress - Caitlin Whalley (Alice)

"The Trench" by Oliver Lansley performed by Glow Theatre Group

What an exciting piece of theatre this was. Based on the true story of a group of miners trapped underground in the trenches, this group of young people brought the horrors of WWI to life. The Directors, Jo Morrison and Talia Selby created a visual masterpiece, incorporating set, lighting, costume, sound and movement. The clever construction of the tunnel, using planks and people, was exceptionally well choreographed. The demon (Amy Lloyd) and the guide (Zach Miller) expertly assisted by their puppeteers created a fantasy element which added a mystical layer to the composite drama. The entire cast worked with precision and fluidity which can only be achieved by disciplined rehearsal. They remained in character throughout and gave the audience a night to remember.
Nominations for Best Youth Production, The Adjudicator's Award (the puppeteers) & Best Director (Jo Morrison & Talia Selby)
Best Stage Presentation

Thursday 27th February

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare (abridged by Julia Ascott) performed by Glow Theatre Group (Juniors aged 10 - 12)

This was magical piece of theatre. From the moment the curtain went up the audience was transported into fairyland. The music, lighting and costumes were delightful and cleverly enhanced the movement of the actors. It was an astute piece of direction. The play began with a mime and dance sequence which in effect was a prologue. As the play progressed, the music subtly underscored the speech but never overpowered it. The same can be said of the lighting which altered to denote scene change. The costumes delineated the different characters and were inspirational in design. The whole stage was used to great effect by all the cast and gave scope for the delightful fairy dances and the fantastic gymnastics of Puck (Emmylou Davison). Each one of these young actors performed with commitment and understanding. The script was cleverly adapted by the director Julia Ascott and retained much of the original language which was beautifully spoken with clear diction from everyone. It was a pleasure to see youngsters of this age being introduced to Shakespeare in such a fun and exciting way. The Mechanicals were comical and earthy, the fairies were beautiful and ethereal and the humans poised and elegant.
Nominations for Best Youth Production, Adjudicator's Award (Chris Chambers for the musical score) & Best Director (Julia Ascott)
Best Young Actress EmmyLou Davison (Puck)
Best Young Actor Linus Davison (Nick Bottom)

"Act 3, Scene 5 " by Terry Ortwein performed by Heathfield Youth Drama

This was an interesting take on the Romeo and Juliet theme. Five students are rehearsing Shakespeare's play and the plot is intertwined with their own embryo romance. The set of a rehearsal room provided the required atmosphere and the emphasis was very much on the actor's personal characterisation. Olivia Russell who played Patty / Juliet gave an assured portrayal of a potential diva. Oscar Tarbx as Chris / Romeo gave a realistic performance of awakening love. Georgia Archer acting as Maggie / Assistant Director was very sensitive in her approach to the subtle flirting between Juliet and Romeo. There was comic characterisation by Madison Umney as Jennifer / Nurse. Maisie Bell as Lisa / Prompter maintained her character throughout most diligently. The actors made a good ensemble team well directed by Christine McNeice and Mary Pearson. It was a confident and assured performance and a pleasure to watch. Christine McNeice and Mary Pearson were nominated for Best Director, the play was nominated for Best Stage Presentation and Best Youth Production. Oscar Tarbx was nominated for Best Young Actor and Georgia Archer was nominated for Best Young Actress
Nominations for Best Young Actress - Georgia Archer (Maggie/Assistant Director), Best Young Actor - Oscar Tarbx (Chris/Romeo), Best Director (Christine MeNeice & Mary Pearson), Best Stage Presentation & Best Youth Production

Friday 28th February

"The Peace Child" by Mark & Helen Johnson & Sue Langwade (adapted by Rhiannon Bullen performed by Glow Theatre Group

This was a very brave production directed by Rhiannon Bullen and Jack Palmer. It was their first foray into directing and shows that they have a great future in this field. The story is of two tribes at war with each other, who are eventually brought together through the birth of a baby. The set was simple with the two halves of the stage dissected diagonally by a river composed of blue lighted boxes. Space was then made in the middle to denote the bridge between the two groups. Good clear sound and lighting added to the atmosphere. The stylised costumes where well chosen, all were wearing the same trousers which produced a sense of uniformity, however one tribe wore black tops and the other white. Both the Sotongis and the Wannakeekees spoke clearly and their movement was fluid. They were well choreographed and demonstrated good miming skills. This was particularly evident in the sequence when the tribes crossed the river and intermingled. The narrators, Maisy Taylor and Alice Bennett gave strong performances and were well supported by the cameo roles of the other actors. For many of these primary aged children this was their introduction to a public performance. They all exceeded expectations and in their hands the future of the theatre looks promising.
Adjudicator's Award for costumes

"The Twits" by Roald Dahl (adapted by David Wood) performed by Heathfield Youth Drama

This adaptation of Roald Dahl's famous tale is a manifestation of everything revolting and grotesque and the production certainly lived up to expectations. Produced and directed by Mary Jane Stevens and Keren Keller Moore, the audience was presented with a vivacious, well staged performance which was enhanced by live music. The simple set of a tree and caravan was supplemented by an inventive use of props. The narrators carried sticks which formed the bars of the Muggle-Wumps cage and the birds were manipulated by puppeteers. A clever use was made of cast members being the stools and table. The cut-out figures of the Twits used at the end was a novel idea. Mr and Mrs Twit played by Charley Swan and Libby Thomas had good use of body language and facial expression. The Roly Poly birds, Ella Slinnhawkins and Connor Howard had good stage presence and used the stage space well. The tumbling Muggle-Wumps proved to be agile gymnasts and the families worked as a cohesive team with well voiced sound effects. This was a clever production with audience participation which enhanced the experience of all.


"Do What You Gotta Do" by Joel Wall performed by LCA Stage Academy

This new play by up and coming playwright Joel Wall, gave us a strong contemporary message. This production opened with the voiceover of Greta Thunberg which set the mood. The story was about the conflict between environmentalists and authority and demonstrated the corruptness in both camps. Clever use was made of chairs on a bare stage. The actors moved these chairs to denote change of scene. Sound and lighting enhanced the atmosphere. The costumes were uniformly black, with coloured shirts or jackets used to denote the principals. The author directed and stage managed the play and therefore portrayed a clear image of his intent. All the cast gave believable and strong performances and they stayed in character throughout. Of particular note was the coordinated mime of the factory and office workers, who worked in unison with deadpan expressions. The general stillness was used to great effect and showed a well disciplined cast. The audience was appreciative of the message that Joel put across.

Saturday 29th February

"The Heights" by Lisa McGee performed by Glow Theatre Group

Lisa McGee who wrote The Heights wanted the play to be funny, creative and lively. Her wish was certainly fulfilled by this production from the older members of Glow Theatre Group. From the very beginning the stage erupted into a melange of vitality. The well designed set immediately gave the audience a sense of place. The sound and lighting effects increased the drama and from the moment the curtains opened, the audience was immersed in the fast but often brutal world of adolescence. Director Jackie Driscoll is used to working with this age and choreographed the group using every inch of stage space. She brought out the best from the cast, displaying sharp timing, variety of pace, cue-biting techniques and deep character analysis. Each actor developed an individual identity, which when put together on stage created an energetic ensemble piece of theatre. There was good rapport between the actors who were clearly enjoying their roles. Their energy was infectious, resulting in the audience's exuberant applause at the end.
Nominations for Best Young Actress - Carrie Charles (Lillie Lee), Best Young Actor - Evan Moynihan (Jacob) & Best Stage Presentation

Best Director (Jackie Driscoll)
Best Youth Production
VERLINGUE FESTIVAL WINNERS AWARD

"All Washed Up" by Robin Wilson performed by Merstham Amateur Dramatic Society

This drama was an imaginative account of three people stranded on a desert island. The set gave a sunny impression of a tropical beach. The opening soundtrack of a plane in distress immediately established the situation. Lighting, costume and sound enhanced the atmosphere. The director Virginia King encouraged the actors to move around the set and created some interesting tableaux. The two women, Susan (Nicky Gill) and Lucy (Jackie Curran) were good foils for each other, demonstrating very different characters. Their facial expressions and body language were particularly good. Julian Edney who read in the part of Walter managed to convey the placating doctor with conviction. Bruce Christie took the cameo role of Harry and was instrumental in the denouement, a twist in the plot which the audience did not expect. Despite the last minute substitutions, the whole of this company worked hard to produce a credible piece of theatre.

Reviews by Tricia Whyte and photos by Mike Sutton