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

Tel: 01959 561811
Email: barntheatre


Southern Counties Drama Festival 2011


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The annual Southern Counties Drama Festival once again had a very successful week at the Barn Theatre, Oxted. The result was in the balance until the final evening on Saturday, which yet again made this year's festival a nail biting finish.

The first Betchworth Festival had been held sixty years to the day making this Diamond Anniversary a cause for celebration. We were delighted to have in the audience Jill Perry who had performed in The Student Players production of The Red Velvet Goat back in 1951.

Prior to the awards being presented, the Chairman, Martin Patrick and special guest, newsreader Nicholas Owen cut a celebration cake. Nicholas then reminisced about the time he won the Best Actor Award in the Betchworth Festival with Two Gentlemen of Soho performed by Reigate Amateur Theatrical Society in 1977.

Before announcing the results, the Adjudicator, Jill Colby, summed up the week and praised the festival organisers for the superb and buoyant festival in a theatre so different to when she last adjudicated at the Barn in 2001. She praised all the teams for their contribution towards some memorable performances. She also congratulated all of the youth entries for rising to the challenge of entering a competitive festival and hoped that they took on board her comments and found them constructive.

Thanks to the continued support from the Gatwick Airport Community Trust, the festival was able to present a cheque for £100 to the team St Paul's Drama Group who now progress to the semi-finals of the All-England Theatre Festival.

Festival Winner
Best Actress Award - Sara Watkins
Best Actor Award - Brian Aris
St Paul's Drama Group - The Long Road by Shelagh Stephenson

When eighteen year old Danny is fatally stabbed in a random attack, his family struggles to find meaning and forgiveness. His mother's determination to understand the atrocity brings her face to face with his killer and forces the family to confront the bitter senselessness of their loss. Congratulating the Director, Sheila Carr, the Adjudicator said this was a relentless and unflinching play which examined the mindless stabbing of a young man and the family's efforts to come to terms with it. The mother, played by Sara Watkins was awarded Best Actress and Brian Aris as the elder son, received the award for Best Actor.

The play evolved from a period of research with prisoners by Synergy Theatre Project, in collaboration with The Forgiveness Project and award-winning playwright, Shelagh Stephenson. It premiered at London's Soho Theatre in 2008 and returned later that year, after a sell-out run. Described in the "Daily Telegraph as "rare and remarkable.... this is a drama that cries out for attention - and richly rewards it". The playwright has dedicated the play to 'all those prisoners taking their first faltering steps towards redemption and understanding, and all those victims who choose to meet them on the road'.

St Paul's Drama Group will now represent the Southern Counties Drama Festival at the Semi-Finals of the All-England Theatre Festival of One-act Plays at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead on Sunday May 8th.

Festival Runner Up
Gatwick Airport Community Trust Award for Best Youth Production
Best Young Actor - James Broad, Matthew Martin, Oliver Rowlatt and James Williams
Heathfield Drama Group - Bouncers by John Godber

Eric, Judd, Ralph and Les are Night Club bouncers. They reflect on the drunken youths who frequent this and the other night clubs of the City. In summing up this well known play, the Adjudicator felt that this youth group displayed exceptional ensemble acting and awarded the Best Young Actor Award to the whole cast, namely James Broad, Matthew Martin, Oliver Rowlatt and James Williams. The play also won the award for Best Youth Production which was given by the Gatwick Airport Community Trust the festival sponsor.

Best Young Actress - Ebony Wong
Heathfield Drama Club - The Colour of Compassion by Ellen Dryden

Mary Secole a Jamaican Creole wants to be a Doctress and practises her healing powers in the Caribbean and South America (Panama) before travelling to England to try to become one of Florence Nightingale's nurses in the Crimea. She is spurned as she has been before because she is coloured. Eventually she makes her own way to the Crimea where she meets a Dr Barry who hides an even deeper secret. Ebony Wong was awarded the Best Young Actress Award for her portrayal of Mary Secole.

Best Stage Presentation The Oxted Players - Mantrap by Paul Reakes

Mantrap by Paul Reakes, directed for The Oxted Players by Tricia Whyte tells the story of Trevor Wyatt whose seemingly peaceful evening is shattered by the sudden arrival of a hysterical young girl begging to be let in. Her alarming account of attack and near murder by the lorry driver she foolishly accepted a lift from is dramatic, but nothing compared to the situation that develops within the next few hours. Petty larceny, manslaughter, policemen and a devilishly elaborate form of blackmail are all ingredients in this taut thriller. The Adjudicator complimented the group on the richness of the set and the display of silver which suggested the wealth the author required. She felt that this was a remarkable achievement in view of the 10 minute time limit for scenery setting.

Best Director Award - Mary Pearson Heathfield Drama Club - Bouncers by John Godber and The Colour of Compassion by Ellen Dryden

The Adjudicator awarded this award for the two plays directed by Mary Pearson, both of which had received individual awards.

Adjudicator's Award - Ashley Gillard The NOMADS - Has Anyone Seen Freddie Drennan? by Stuart Tompkins
This award can be given to anyone in the festival at the discretion of the Adjudicator. The NOMADS, a youth group lost one of their main characters due to illness and Ashley Gillard took the part at 2pm on the day of the performance. He appeared on stage without a script and fully in command of his part.

Other groups taking part
The Woldingham Players production One Season's King by George MacEwan Green was a most unusual and evocative play with a simple stage setting of almost mystical symbolism and shifting images with a remarkable and unexpected dance sequence in a country graveyard in the season of mellow fruitfulness.

Oast Theatre TTAC presented Permission to Cry by David Campton in which Julia Gibbon is an up and coming government Junior Minister whose life is thrown into turmoil by the conflict between private and public morality. She has to come to terms with personal grief when her turmoil is made public and she has to admit to herself that she was in love and allow her public façade to give way, revealing a very intense and private grief. This is highlighted by a series of dreamlike flashbacks depicting her relationship.

Sevenoaks Players presented The Donahue Sisters by Geraldine Aron in which three sisters find themselves back in the old attic where they played as children. They have come home because their father is in hospital. What starts out as pleasant reminiscing takes on a more sinister turn as they re-enact a terrible shared secret of their childhood.

Byfleet Players performed May we?... Oui, Mais an original play by Wilf Hashimi in which Dolly and Walter share some moments in a space on the journey through. At times, the bonds are taut, and at others, they trail. Sometimes it is summer, and another cycle begins; at other times, in spite of the resources available to them, both Dolly and Walter are hampered.

The NOMADS performed Has Anyone Seen Freddie Drennan? by Stuart Tompkins. This was a play for anyone who has suffered from the stress of directing. Dennis arrives full of high hopes to rehearse his amazing "Play in A Day" about Sir Francis Drake. However, Dennis quickly loses his cool and is overcome by panic and anguish as he is bombarded with incompetent assistants, an arrogant backstage crew and flying cups of tea! Hilarity ensues as Dennis struggles for control while learning the true meaning behind assistant directors, the Spanish Armadillo and embarrassment. By the way, has anybody seen Freddie Drennan?!

Merstham Amateur Dramatic Society presented Interior Designs by Jimmie Chinn in which Him, a brash, arrogant odd-job man, is offering his 'services' to three women: Holly, a successful TV newsreader; Irene, a solitary schoolteacher; and Amy, a frustrated housewife. Although of very different backgrounds, the three women share a common fate of loneliness and frustration. Interior Designs follows their yearning to fill the emptiness of their lives and their various attempts to trap the eligible Him.

The Young Oxted Players performed The Press Gang by Ellen Dryden which was set in the reprographics room of a large modern school in the 1990's.

Glow Theatre Group, a youth group based in Caterham presented What's On Your Mind by Ashley Montgomery in which five different characters bring their problems to a counsellor, each believing they are alone, that their problems are unique and they are truly and untreatably crazy.

Heathfield Drama Club's The Little Nut Tree by T B Moms was based on the well-known nursery rhyme and set in early 16th Century Spain. Genadio has found a rare tree that everyone wants. His mother wants to sell it as she can see financial security. The nosey neighbours can't believe their eyes when a merchant and then the Infanta (said to be a young Katherine of Aragon) come to the humble cottage to obtain the tree. But Genadio will not let it go for money, even to Royalty, only as a gift of his love and respect for the Infanta. However, he is spurned by the Infant who says she cannot accept a gift from a peasant.

Applause Youth Theatre Company presented The Miracle by Lin Coghlan. When the canal bursts its banks and a holy statue crashes through her bedroom floor, 12 year old Veronica takes it that she's somehow been invested with a special gift to minister to the ailments and anxieties of her local community. With best friend Zelda in tow, Ron sets about using her new-found skills. Thwarted by cynicism and jealousy, she doesn't find it easy - but soon the entire population of the town finds itself yearning for something magical to come into their lives. Ultimately, in the play's dramatic conclusion, only Ron is able to make the difference which changes things for the better.

The Saturday evening concluded with everyone enjoying a glass of bubbly and a cup-cake in a 'Buns 'n' Bubbles' celebration of 60 years of local drama festival.