Owen (Patron), Jackie Driscoll (Best Director and Winner - Glow Theatre Group),
Peter Calver (Chairman)
- 27th February 2016
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
to the first of the 15 plays...:
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.
- Nicky Gill (Devra)
Theatrical Productions - "Just a Straight Man" by Rob Smith and John Mawson
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)
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.
Valley Players - "Precipice" by Phill Bingham
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.
Stewart was mentioned by the Adjudicator in the Best Adult Actor category.
Mitre Players - "Shakers" by John Godber and Jane Thornton
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.
Oxted Players - "Lions and Donkeys" by Steve Harper
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
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.
Players - "I Never Thought That It Would Be Like This" by Evelyn Hood
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.
Youth Drama - "Bouncers" by John Godber
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
Mary Pearson was mentioned in the Best Director category.
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.
Oxted Players - "Inspector Wicket and the Open and Shut Case" by David Rowan
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.
Adjudicator mentioned Fern Simmons and Teddy Stevenson in particular and also
David Rowan as Director.
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
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.
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
In the Award Ceremony, mention was made of Ivo Salwey, Georgia
Archer, the costumes, the singers and the music.
Theatre Group - "The Edelweiss Pirates" by Ayub Khan Din
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.
Young Actress - Charlotte Bridson (Petra Gleissner)
Young Actor - Sean Waring (Benjamin Dressler)
Best Stage Presentation
Airport Community Trust Award for Best Youth Production
Patrick Award for Best Director - Jackie Driscoll
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.
summary, a wonderful week with some truly gifted Adult and Youth productions,
imaginative and diverse subject matter and TALENT..........!!