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

Tel: 01959 561811
Email: barntheatre


Southern Counties Drama Festival 2015


Theatre Info


Around the Barn



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Peter Calver (Chairman), Jan Palmer Sayer (Adjudicator), Nicholas Owen (Patron)
Jill Perry (Vice Patron)

23rd - 28th February 2015

A year in anticipation, mounting excitement as the Southern Counties Drama Festival took shape and a blissful week spent at the Barn Theatre, Oxted (my favourite) watching no less than 15 plays from 11 groups, life doesn't get any better than this. Particular excitement this year, in terms of the number of original plays and a new group or two, coupled with the exuberant talent of the youth productions. What a week in prospect.

Peter Calver (Chairman of the SCDF) introduced us to our Adjudicator for the week Jan Palmer Sayer, who was making her first professional appearance at the Barn, but who it transpired, had also "trod the boards" at the Barn (and the programme exists to prove it). It seemed we were in for an entertaining week featuring Sofas..............!!

And so to the first of the 15 plays...:

Monday 23rd February

Alternate Shadows present "Alas, Poor Geoffrey" by Alistair Faulkner
This is a comedy, set predominantly in a well-proportioned room of a large house with french doors leading to the garden. The set suggested that large room, with sufficient furniture to make it visually credible; however, the furniture positioning may have required a little more thought, as there were some sight line issues during the course of the production. The play is a comedy which must be played with sincerity and pace, sadly the pace flagged at times and the early promise of quickfire entertainment slumped, with a lack of pace causing the humour to ebb and flow.

The action centred around the catering arrangements for the recently departed Geoffrey's funeral, to which is added a compote of dotty, sullen, vacuous, grasping and murderous characters. There were some fine comedy opportunities which the audience thoroughly enjoyed, but which may have been made even more of had the pace been sustained throughout. The play contains many "revelations" as the family come to blows (both physical and psychological), all of which were handled well. The costumes had been well thought through and adequately portrayed some of the quirks of the characters with some success.

Tonbridge Theatre and Arts Club present "Remember" by Marilyn Apps
A play is described as a modern Tragic-Comedy. This three-hander portrays a family trying to deal with the tragic loss of a son 17 years before, which the Mother especially seems unable to come to terms with as the impending anniversary nears. Their daughter returns from work and reveals that she intends to leave home. This is the catalyst for a succession of fast moving plot twists where we see the family unravel and the part each played inadvertently in the unfortunate son's death. The play is a complex and difficult piece (especially the ending), which requires a strong and experienced cast. Without doubt, this team hit the mark and delivered an excellent result.

Tuesday 24th February

The Oxted Players present "Aunt Matilda Comes for Christmas Dinner" by Richard Hills
Described as a comedy, it is a comedy more in the performance of "the business" rather than the content of the dialogue, which at times can seem quite contrived. The said Matilda is the aunt of Gordon (and his wife Margaret) who over the preceding ten years has contrived to avail herself of their hospitality for Christmas Dinner. This year she is not coming - or is she? Matilda is a domineering "old baggage" who wants the Christmas Dinner but only on her terms. Enter stage left the Andrews Liver Salts, apply liberally to her cup of tea and hey presto she leaves and sanity returns!!

A solid presentation of a visual comedy with the said Matilda getting most - if not all - of the laughs.

Epsom Players present "A Dangerous Game" by Geoff Rose-Michael
The first appearance at SCDF for this group, a cast of four presented this play which had been written and directed by a member of the group. The play was presented against a very striking red, white and black set and similarly colour-coordinated costumes. This was a very thought-provoking play with a very simple plot, namely the use of an ex-husband (without his consent) as a means to produce a baby for a newly formed lesbian relationship (rather than the more usual IVF route) without the ex-husband realising. An interesting and thought-provoking plot and very topical by coincidence.

The cast were very competent and assured, working well together and developing all the complexities of the relationships between them. Perhaps a slightly weak ending for the spurned new wife as the ex-husband and wife were re-united in time for the birth of the baby.

Barfield Players present "The Flounder Complex" by Anthony Dmato
The group were blessed with an ideally matched cast of two, the older of the two (Lily) being convincingly blind and neurotic, whilst the younger, Nan, had come to apply for a live-in helper position with her.

The play is the interview, during the course of which Lily's paranoia overwhelms them both, with Lily murdering Nan (very convincingly). It has been said that everyone in the world is neurotic to one extent or another, this disturbing psycho-drama would seem to confirm this!

Wednesday 25th February

Off The Cuff present "What Shall We Do With The Body" by Rae Shirley
This comedy centres around a crime writer of doubtful talent but who retains a giddy sense of self importance. Her long suffering PA has heard all the plot lines before, but knows her place. The arrival (at night) of a man in his pyjamas purporting to be from Special Branch seemed to me to be too preposterous a notion to believe in, yet the actresses both seemed fairly calm! In general the plot line seemed implausible and both actresses started out at too high a pitch leaving themselves (vocally) with nowhere to go.

Sevenoaks Players present "Outrageous Fortune" by Rod Henderson
Two of Shakespeare's most powerful women arrive in purgatory, where their "Outrageous Fortunes" are forensically dissected by each other (and the audience). This was a winner of a concept, with all credit to the Author and two fine actresses. The twists and turns of dialogue were followed avidly by the audience in almost complete silence. Lady Macbeth, a spent force and Gertrude, imperious as the wife of the King of Denmark could perhaps have shown glimpses of their alter egos, but for all that, a scintillating and at times deeply moving piece.

Alternate Shadows present "War Room" by Chris Brake
Set in a nuclear bunker, "War Room" is described as a satirical comedy by the Author who is also the Director and Chancellor of the Exchequer (no mean feat).

Within the first minute I was starting to cringe in my seat as I watched rule after theatrical rule being broken or swept aside. By the end of the second minute I was gathered up in what I can only describe as one of the funniest productions I have ever seen. The cast of four were disciplined and had been choreographed exuberantly, the pace was phenomenal with every known theatrical convention discarded, heresy indeed but how brave.....!! The ending was reminiscent of Blackadder Goes Forth as all four characters faced their end stoically yet with great poignancy.
Best Actress - Christina Betts (Prime Minister)
Best Actor - Richard Harding (Field Marshall)
Martin Patrick Award for Best Director - Chris Brake
Best Adult Production

Thursday 26th February

Heathfield Youth Drama present "Bang Out Of Order" by Johnny Carrington
Set in a ubiquitous urban estate somewhere in the UK. A cast of eight presented a play which focuses upon the issues surrounding anti-social behaviour. Two sisters find their lives changing when "new kid on the block" Ollie arrives, together with his secret! The play explores the many facets of modern life but is intrinsically a play about relationships and manipulation. A good ensemble piece confidently and at times menacingly delivered.

Glow Theatre Group present "Living With Lady Macbeth" by Rob John
Refreshingly, not a play about gangs, drugs, ASBO's or pre-marital sex, but an exploration of a girls transition into young womanhood. Presented as a play within a play, it follows "Lily" (Emma Starbuck) as she auditions for the role of Lady Macbeth against a coterie of girls who consider themselves superior choices for the role. Lily is a fighter and against all the odds and amidst the doubts of those who know her, she triumphs and gains the respect and admiration from her peers for her portrayal of the woman she aspires to be. Who would have thought it possible?

A first rate junior production which won well deserved accolades from the Adjudicator.
Best Young Actress - Emma Starbuck (Lily)

Friday 27th February

Young Oxted Players present “Safe” by David Rowan
Set in the context of the current political and religious strife, this topical play sets out to portray the difficulties faced by two desperate young asylum seekers.

The concept behind this piece was well researched and clearly thought through. The character types were easily recognisable and for the most part singularly unpleasant. The young couple faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles at every turn, meeting bigotry and outright hostility head on. This young cast managed to capture and convey a palpable sense of despair, leaving the audience to consider their own moral compass.

Heathfield Youth Drama present “The Boy With a Cart” by Christopher Fry
This 1938 play is based upon the story of the founding of a church in Stenning in Sussex c.685AD.

A principal cast of around 20 with considerable doubling of parts requires a huge amount of discipline to accomplish smooth transitions between scenes. In addition, the piece is written in a highly stylised format (part verse, part prose) of itself difficult to master. That this young cast managed this complex delivery whilst maintaining the action was a tribute to the perseverance of all concerned. The difficulty for this group (and the audience) was a lack of projection, which meant many lines were lost and some thought could perhaps have been given to accents, in order to establish the length of the journey across Southern England. Given the incredible complexity of the writing, this was nevertheless a good and well-disciplined ensemble piece.

Glow Theatre group present “A Midsummer Nights' Dream” by Julian Chenery, Matt Gimblett and William Shakespeare
Find a cast of 24 young performers, to include six fine Mechanicals a Fairy King and Queen, four young lovers, a host of fairies and a sprinkling of wood sprites and elves and what have you got? A simply glorious version of “the Dream”, stunningly beautiful and with a "Puck" and a "Bottom" to die for! Many bravura performances too numerous to mention and such fun, with some wonderful Directorial touches ... Puck on a scooter....Bottom with tin foil armour....!!!! Thoroughly enjoyable!
Adjudicator's Award

Saturday 28th February

Glow Theatre Group present "DNA" by Dennis Kelly
A very powerful drama indeed, inside the world of a gang controlled by a menacingly silent leader (Jamie Patterson) and his cohort of lieutenants. A joke goes wrong, a boy lies dead and the Leaders attempt to "cover up" as the deed spirals out of control. A simple set but visually stunning, against a backdrop of trees in silhouette in the woods - a place where plots were hatched. The twists were fast and furious, relationships came and went. From an audience perspective, a chilling insight into a world, (thankfully), rarely seen.
Best Young Actor - Jamie Patterson (Phil)
Best Stage Presentation
Best Youth Production

Mole Valley Players present "Little Brother" by Tony Earnshaw
The final play of the week from the undisputed winners of last year's festival round held out much promise. This story of sibling rivalries fuelled by failed relationships, alcohol dependency, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and overbearing personalities contains a potent and explosive mix of emotions. This strong cast of three managed to bring all these complex facets to life briskly and with compassion. In the end we were left uncertain as to how effective or long-lasting the remedies forged in this piece would prove to be.

In summary, a wonderful week with some truly gifted Adult and Junior productions, imaginative and diverse subject matter and TALENT..........!!

Chris & Lee Butler