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

Tel: 01959 561811
Email: barntheatre


Southern Counties Drama Festival 2016


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Nicholas Owen (Patron), Jackie Driscoll (Best Director and Winner - Glow Theatre Group), Peter Calver (Chairman)

22nd - 27th February 2016

Peter Calver (Chairman of the SCDF) introduced us to our Adjudicator for the week Arthur Rochester, who was making his third professional appearance at the Barn as Festival Adjudicator. With 15 plays, a mixture of adult and youth we were in for an entertaining week.

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

Monday 22rd February

Merstham Amateur Dramatic Society - "Flatmates" by Barry Lambert

This light, naturalistic comedy with a twist of the supernatural was specially written for MADS by Barry Lambert. Devra, a 'faerie', played with vivacity by Nicky Gill, twirls around the stage creating mischief. Only Ben can see her but the others are influenced by her presence and this interaction provides most of the comedy. Ben, played by Jack Smith, is believable in his predicament when talking to Devra, yet being answered by other members of the cast. His agitation grows as the play develops and it is easy to sympathise with his dilemma. Sanity is restored with the appearance of Jack's colleague, George. Bruce Christie gives a natural, down-to-earth portrayal which is exactly right for his character. The smaller parts of PC Pullen, Hilary and Ms Birchall expand the storyline. John Davies as the policeman brings stereotypical humour to his role. Melanie Biggs as Hilary portrays the bitterness of an estranged wife and then skilfully performs a volte-face when under the influence of Devra. Christina Usher gave a credible performance in what was a difficult cameo role. The simple set was conventional but I agree with the adjudicator that the sofa and chairs were too large and provided an impediment to the movement of the actors. However under the experienced directorship of Diana Drysdale, the ensemble came together and provided a benchmark for the rest of week.
Jack Smith as Ben was mentioned by the Adjudicator and Nicky Gill was awarded Best Adult Actress.
Best Actress - Nicky Gill (Devra)

Tiger Theatrical Productions - "Just a Straight Man" by Rob Smith and John Mawson
This two hander dark comedy portrays the steady decline of a professional double act. The play opens backstage as Trevor and Barney prepare for what may be one of their last performances, bickering with resentments and angst. Bob Thompson gives a powerful interpretation of a man sinking into instability. His body language demonstrates a neurotic state and his speech adds to the general disintegration of the character. He creates a mature, controlled performance of a man living with fanciful illusions. Barney - Trevor's alter ego is the perfect foil. Adam Dryer portrays an embittered, spiteful person with perfect timing and interpretation. Although he is static throughout the play he manages to infer movement through small gestures and facial expressions. The two actors complement each other and provide an insight into a world of disintegrating partnerships. The direction by John Smithee is sensitive yet disturbing. The juxtaposition of Barney's immobility and Trevor's incessant wandering is well thought through. There is a good balance of light and dark throughout the play. The stage set is simple and very effective, relying on blown-up posters advertising the double act, as scenery. The audio sequence at the beginning of the play sets the scene admirably. Lighting and props add to the ambience. Tiger Theatrical Productions has provided the audience with thought provoking ideas and an unexpected denouement.
The Adjudicator mentioned the Director John Smithee and Adam Dryer. He also commended the stage presentation. Bob Thompson was awarded Best Adult Actor.
Best Actor - Bob Thompson (Trevor)

Oast Theatre Tonbridge - "Another Life" by Ian Tucker-Bell
This is a charming love story delicately and sensitively portrayed by the three actors involved. Chris, a middle aged widower meets through the internet a younger man and their relationship grows throughout the play. The dialogue is cleverly structured and used several theatrical techniques which are melded together seamlessly. The author Ian Tucker-Bell plays the younger man who gently leads Chris through the initial stages of courtship. His portrayal of Alan builds into a strong and believable performance. The two actors are well matched and the tenderness that develops between them is tangible. Mike Hoiles as Chris has a demanding lengthy role but manages skilfully to flow between present action, flashbacks and breaking the fourth wall to talk to the audience. His anxiety at introducing his lover to his daughter is palpable. Elizabeth Portlock plays the daughter Alice and moves from righteous indignation to sympathy and understanding of the two men's needs. She shows her versatility as an actress by her ability to switch roles from waitress to shop girl to Angela and is very plausible in each of her interpretations. The play is perceptively directed by Simon Walters. Good use is made of props to denote the different scene settings. The choice and variety of music also helps to create atmosphere. The whole ensemble of script, actors, set and direction have combined to create a gentle and tender production.
All the cast were mentioned by the Adjudicator at the award ceremony.

Tuesday 23rd February

Mole Valley Players - "Precipice" by Phill Bingham
"Precipice" written by Mole Valley's Stage Manager Phill Bingham was an ambitious choice of play. The script covered a wide range of soul searching themes of war, religion and death. In so doing, it taxed the audience's ability to focus their thoughts on the relevant issue before being thrown into the next controversy. The play is essentially an extended dialogue between the ex-soldier Charlie played by Cameron Stewart and God, in this case portrayed by a young woman Jackie, acted by Nikky Kirkup. It is about a man on the brink of suicide wrestling with his conscience. The setting was simple, two park benches by the side of a river parapet and the idea worked well. However the lighting did not give any indication that the action was taking place in the early hours of the morning. Given that it was an outdoor space, perhaps more of the stage could have been used to advantage by the Director. Pace and action would have helped Charlie to develop the agitation a potential suicide is experiencing. As any student of Stanislafski knows, the most difficult thing to do on stage is to be still but Lew Lievesley as the tramp achieved this throughout most of the play. His later involvement in the plot was both poignant and sincere. Penny Rodikk as Sarah had the unenviable task of a very small cameo role right at the end and she successfully brought the storyline to a conclusion.
Cameron Stewart was mentioned by the Adjudicator in the Best Adult Actor category.

The Mitre Players - "Shakers" by John Godber and Jane Thornton
"Shakers" is an old favourite with festival participants. Written by the husband and wife team of John Godber and Jane Thornton it portrays the lives of four girls in the eighties. The content and dialogue are very much of its time. The Mitre Players approached the challenge with verve, speed and energy. The director Morven Rae created an ensemble piece which filled the stage with action and interest throughout the performance. The set was minimalist and evocative of the period which added to the ambience. Lighting helped to create areas for different locations and music enhanced the atmosphere. All four girls, Joanna Sheldon, Megan McMahon, Sarah Block and Tonia Porter gave vivacious performances and it would be unfair to single any one out. They worked in harmony to produce a very fast moving show. The accuracy of the mime was a joy to watch. The interplay of different voices when they assumed diverse roles added another dimension to the performance. This was another indication of tight directorship and good ensemble playing. Individuality was evident in the monologues which were spoken with sensitivity and poignancy.
In the award ceremony the Adjudicator mentioned the stage presentation and the Director Morven Rae. The Adjudicator's Award went jointly to all four actors.
Adjudicator's Award

Wednesday 24th February

The Oxted Players - "Lions and Donkeys" by Steve Harper
An almost charming story, set to a dire background of unimaginable death and destruction, it follows a relatively unused storyline of Allies and Germans during the end of the First World War working together to save extra unnecessary losses on either side. For such an emotive and dramatic subject, it deals with it in a very understated and human way and this production completely understood that. Attention to detail had definitely been the watchword, from the beautifully authentic looking dugout that filled the stage, to the equally authentic uniforms, props and firearms. Then there was the dialogue - precise, slick and with excellent cue-bite. And the humour, written in for a specific purpose, was perfectly understood and executed. The acting was assured throughout from the chipper but with just enough chip-on-his-shoulder Corporal (James Thurbin) to the earnest but green behind the ears Officer (James Atkinson). Chris Bassett skilfully walked the path between order-bawling Sergeant and comrade-in-arms, and showed a lovely lightness of touch in handling the humour, combined with a suitable dead-pan delivery. And Tom Stiles, as the friendly German Lieutenant, gave a relaxed but controlling, beautifully weighted performance while managing to keep a strong but not intrusive accent up and was a joy to watch. My only criticism and the Adjudicator's, was that the English Lieutenant was written to be a young man in his late teens, but they did their utmost to work around this.
The Adjudicator strongly mentioned Patrick Tricker and Martin Beatty for Stage Presentation, Ghislaine Bowden for Direction and Tom Stiles for Best Adult Actor in his nominations and although winning none of these, the production was awarded the overall prize for the Best Adult Production.
Best Adult Production

Sevenoaks Players - "I Never Thought That It Would Be Like This" by Evelyn Hood
This fanciful comedy is set on a desert island where two strangers find that they are sole survivors of a shipwreck. Initially Arthur, played by David Waller and Doreen, played by Claire Tilley have nothing in common, but as the plot unfolds they become more involved with each other. Both are accomplished actors and have created well rounded characters. Claire Tilley has very good body language and facial expression while David Waller uses the stage well. They both have good stage presence and clear voice production. The direction by Keith Neville is confident and he develops the actor's gradual dependence on each other. The sudden revelation of mum and Norman were pure stage craft and their appearance added to the fantasy. Although Sandy Hume has a sedentary role as mum, she creates an authoritative stillness which was central to her character. Harry Wells was plausible as the young Norman - it is always more demanding to play a child.
The Adjudicator mentioned the Stage Presentation and the Direction of Keith Neville. David Waller was a contender for Best Adult Actor.

Thursday 25th February

Heathfield Youth Drama - "Bouncers" by John Godber
This play, familiar to festival audiences is a snapshot of youth in the eighties. Written by prolific playwrite John Godber it is a melange of episodes seen through the eyes of four bouncers as they explore the local nightlife. These parts were well played by Stanley Chapman, Jarod Hardcastle, Thomas Scrivener and Chris Evans. It is of necessity fast moving and is a social commentary of the time. This production has a simple set of four beer barrels which were used in a versatile way to provide the actors with sufficient stage furniture. Colour was introduced in backlighting which helped to set the scene as did the disco glitterball. The contemporary music was well chosen but masked the opening dialogue. The Director, Mary Pearson managed to create an ensemble piece where all four boys worked in harmony. They were well matched as a group, yet demonstrated their individuality in the monologues and miming skills. The impersonations were finely drawn and they supported each other throughout. This is not the sort of play where one actor stands out but is more of a team effort. This was evident in the production which was vigorous, articulate and funny.
Mary Pearson was mentioned in the Best Director category.

Oast Youth Theatre - "Late Entry" by David Tristram
David Tristram has written many plays for am dram and in this two hander he gently pokes fun at both actors and adjudicators. The play consists of two lengthy monologues followed by a spirited conversation between the protagonists. Both Millie Smith and Robbie Rickard created credible characters which evolved throughout the length of this satirical comedy. The direction by Jason Lower is clear cut and he manoeuvres the action using the stage effectively. The basic set of table chair and lamp are pre-requisite to the script and fulfil their function. Both actors moved well, spoke clearly and demonstrated easy stage presence. Millie managed the change in dialect smoothly and, as the play progressed, imbued a sense of pathos into the role of actress. She kept the audience guessing as to whether she was speaking fantasy or reality. Robbie Rickard was comfortable in his part of the adjudicator. He delivered his lines with confidence and a touch of wry humour. He too managed the switch between accents but tended to shout during his rant.
Both actors were mentioned by the Adjudicator in the Best Young Actor category.

Friday 26th February

Young Oxted Players - "Inspector Wicket and the Open and Shut Case" by David Rowan
This workshop production by David Rowan was a last minute entry to this year's festival. Originally planned as a half term short course, the company decided to submit it, even though it had had less than a week of rehearsal. A polished performance ensued to the great credit and effort of all those concerned. David Rowan, director and playwrite, has long been associated with youth theatre and has run the Young Oxted Players holiday workshops for many years. His talent and expertise was evident in the final performance. The young people on stage demonstrated confidence, liveliness and an awareness of theatrical presence. Voice production was clear and characterisation was sound. The curtains opened to reveal a well-balanced tableau of all the company. The set was minimal but enough to suggest style and period. It would be unfair to single out any particular members of the cast but it was obvious that there is some embryo talent here. Each character had been well thought out and developed through the diligence of the director and actor. The plot was a parody of the Agatha Christie genre. It gave scope for a variety of roles and each was clearly defined with its own personality and humour. Sound, lighting, costumes and props all added to the ambiance which was very well received by the audience.
The Adjudicator mentioned Fern Simmons and Teddy Stevenson in particular and also David Rowan as Director.

Oast Youth Theatre - "Teenage Wasteland" by Andy Taylor

This is a social comment of its time, set in the seventies it tells the story of Paul in his journey towards independent life. His understanding father does not approve but realises the necessity of Paul leaving home. There follows a sequence of events where Paul encounters the outside world. For those of us who remember the seventies, it is a nostalgic trip down memory lane when teenagers were beginning to shake off the shackles of home and venture into the unknown. The sparse set created the atmosphere of a dingy room and the costumes, props, lighting and sound evoked the mood of the period. Each character was clearly defined and his or her influence on Paul was evident. Lewi Card who played the central role did so with dignity and composure. All the cast played with natural realism and were entirely believable. They spoke clearly and showed theatrical discipline in the way they used the stage. They interacted well and produced a cohesive drama which reflected the atmosphere of the time.
In the Best Young Actor category the Adjudicator mentioned Lewi Card and Ben Knight and in the Best Young Actress category, Phoebe Smyth and Lucy Brittin.

Heathfield Youth Drama - "Arabian Nights" by Dominic Cooke
This production of an adaptation of "Arabian Nights" was an exercise in how many children and young people could legitimately appear on the stage at any one time! It worked well and the Director should be commended for the overall composition of the piece. Two of "The Thousand and One Tales" were told in detail. In Ali Barber and the forty thieves, there was inventive choreography with coloured capes to depict the cave. The Envious Sisters sequence was a fine example of dramatic story telling. In fact, the expertise of narration was evident throughout the production. All the cast spoke clearly and were skilled in voice projection. The crowd scenes had a sense of style and were particularly effective. The cast continued to act even when they were not in the limelight. Particularly impressive was the way Shahrazad, Dinazard and Shahrayar maintained concentration and involvement while the stories were being enacted. The stage setting was simple and the crescent moon projected onto the backcloth evoked the time and place of the play. Colourful costumes added to the eastern theme. The sound and music, particularly the girls' song, added to the atmosphere.
In the Award Ceremony, mention was made of Ivo Salwey, Georgia Archer, the costumes, the singers and the music.

Saturday 27th February

Glow Theatre Group - "The Edelweiss Pirates" by Ayub Khan Din
This production managed to convey the wartime period right from the start. The sinister threat of the Nazis was evident in the soldiers' uniforms and the swastika flags. The red lighting enhanced the atmosphere and was subtlety changed throughout the performance. Especially noticeable was the writing on the gauze towards the end of the play. The scene in the derelict house reminded us of how much damage was done by the bombs in Cologne. This true story was both powerful and frightening. All the cast of talented youngsters gave energy and authenticity to their roles and the chorus added a dimension of Greek tragedy. The costumes were accurate and the sound effects enhanced the ambience. The Director used all the technical devices at her disposal to create an atmosphere which stimulated the actors and provided the audience with a truly memorable piece of theatre. The fight scene was particularly memorable, the chorus work at the railway station was poignant and there was a good meld of present time and flashback. It was a sophisticated production of which the whole company should be proud.
The Adjudicator mentioned Tom Gardner, Jamie Patterson, Tom Slade and the chorus. Charlotte Bridson was awarded Best Young Actress, Sean Wareing was awarded Best Young Actor, Jackie Driscoll received The Martin Patrick Award for Best Director, Malcolm Le Croissette received the Stage Presentation Award and Glow received The Gatwick Airport Community Trust Award for Best Youth Production.
Best Young Actress - Charlotte Bridson (Petra Gleissner)
Best Young Actor - Sean Waring (Benjamin Dressler)
Best Stage Presentation
Gatwick Airport Community Trust Award for Best Youth Production

Martin Patrick Award for Best Director - Jackie Driscoll

Alternate Shadows - "Survive" by Steve Perrin

"Survive" written, directed and acted in by Steve Perrin was an enigmatic production with sinister undertones. The setting was deliberately simple and timeless. The set consisted of four beds and a brightly coloured door above which a clock face counted down the seconds. The hard white, bright lighting enhanced the atmosphere and throughout the performance the actors were well grouped on the stage. They had pace and energy in their speaking and the Director had a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve. Jayne Friend, playing Deborah gave a realistic performance of a distraught woman. Her husband Jason, played by the author was suitably arrogant and bombastic. A sinister stillness emanated from Michael as the actor Chris Brake managed to convey inscrutable quietness in his body language. Nina Minhard as Katie was both neurotic and naive as befitted the role. Adam Pickering as Peter created a sympathetic character and Cordelia Harding in a cameo role as Helen was realistic with her stillness throughout the play and her choking at the end.
The Adjudicator commented that dramatic interest was maintained by an air of mystery.

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

Tricia Whyte