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

Tel: 01959 561811
Email: barntheatre


Southern Counties Drama Festival 2019


Theatre Info


Around the Barn



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26th February - 2nd March

Paul Hyde (Host for the SCDF) introduced us to our Adjudicator for the week, Nick Wilkes 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 salient 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...:

Tuesday 26th February

"Jesus My Boy"
by John Dowie performed by Tiger Productions

The first night of the SCDF opened with the Tiger Productions presentation of "Jesus My Boy". This performance set the bar high for the rest of the week and Adam Dryer's portrait of Joseph the carpenter was a tour de force. He reminisced about the life of Christ from the time of Mary's conception until the crucifixion, from the point of view of Jesus' 'father'. The genre is mainly one of a well sustained monologue, interspersed with one other actor playing various characters. This combination worked well and it gradually became obvious that the second player, Belinda Gee, was the personification of Joseph's memories. Skilfully directed and played, this ghost / memory / angel persona dressed in neutral white was the perfect foil to Joseph's earthiness. Adam Dryer was the embodiment of a simple Jewish carpenter, caught up in a web beyond his understanding. He played with pathos and clearly demonstrated the angst and frustration of a man coming to terms with his wife's infidelity and subsequently of a father having to cope with his growing son's divine aspirations. The play was well put together with lighting, sound, set design and costumes all combining to create a cohesive piece of drama, much appreciated by the audience.
Nomination for Best Director - Belinda Gee
Best Adult Actor - Adam Dryer (Joseph)

"Two Sisters" by Caroline Harding performed by Oast Theatre

This poignant tale of two sisters in love with the same man, was sensitively performed by two players from Oast Theatre. Set in Russia, it had the undertones of a Chekhov play with family relationships both past and present at its core. The actors were convincing, switching between affection and jealously as siblings do. They made the most of the comedic lines, yet retained the pathos of the situation. Lizzie Goodall portrayed Anya's slide into inebriation subtly. Sonia, played by Maggie Weaver, provided a good counterbalance with animation. Pamela Murphy directed this play with empathy and used the stage well. The simple set evoked a sense of period and much thought had gone into the choice of furniture. Lighting, sound and costume enhanced the production and it was well received by the audience.

Wednesday 27th February

"My Second Best Bed" by Barry Syder performed by Sevenoaks Shakespeare Society

I have seen this play before and again enjoyed its well resourced mix of fact and fiction. Barry Syder fleshes out our knowledge of Shakespeare's family in an endearing and plausible way. He has created a time capsule which was brought to life by excellent direction, acting and staging. The simple set of a timbered back wall and sturdy furniture brought an authentic realism to the piece and this was enhanced by the costumes and props. Lighting and sound effects added to the general ambience, culminating in a very touching final scene. Natalie Smith and Helena Simpson both gave convincing performances as Shakespeare's two daughters and acted with sincerity. Their combined banter and reminiscences confused the poor curate and their sense of timing added to their enjoyment. The curate, played by Iain Drennan, was a perfect foil for the sisters quick wittedness. The cameo role of Anne Hathaway, played by Eileen Warner, was a touching reminder of how grief and aging memory loss can affect a family. The whole company of actors and technicians came together and gave us a memorable piece of drama.
Nominations for Best Adult Actor - Iain Drennan (Curate Dunstan), Best Stage Presentation and ICB Festival Winners Award
Best Adult Actress - Natalie Smith (Susanna Hall)
Best Adult Production

"Snakeskin and Fur" by Phillip Bingham performed by Mole Valley Players

I asked the author Phillip Bingham, what had made him choose the title. Apparently he wanted to convey the animalistic characteristics of the two protagonists. This allegory was evident in the performances of Dan Webb as Oscar and Emma Smith as Liberty. As the plot developed we were subjected to a see-saw of control between these two actors, each of whom gave very credible performances. This was especially evident in the opening monologue, skilfully executed by Dan Webb. The supporting cast of John Griffin, Sue Hawksfield, Tony Dumpleton, John Duggan and Pam Lievesley, added realism to what was a fast moving and humorous piece of theatre. Each of these cameo roles was well drawn and appeared to have been thoroughly researched. The Director, Joy Ridley, used the bare stage cleverly. Simple items of furniture and props were brought on to denote the many scene changes and lighting and sound were used imaginatively to create different scenarios. The company is to be congratulated on producing an ensemble piece which was slick, amusing and believable.
Nominations for Best Adult Actor - Dan Webb (Oscar), Best Adult Actress - Emma Smith (Liberty) and Best Adult Production

Thursday 28th February

"Open Garden" by James Muirden performed by Woldingham Players

The curtains opened to reveal a colourful garden, complete with a bench, parasol, waste bin and portaloo (essential to the plot). There was a profusion of plants and the set was basked in sunshine, courtesy of the lighting department. The actors were skilfully directed by Colin Brown and moved around the stage effortlessly producing some good tableaux. Joanna, played by Catherine Elliott had many on-stage costume changes and adapted her persona to suit each outfit. Joe Crisfield as Harold and Allison Blair as Victoria were the harassed garden owners. The visitors Hugh and Henrietta played by Rick Morris and Sarah Greenwood completed the company. All five actors formed humorous and lively relationships clearly denoting their various characters with accuracy and style. The sound and lighting deserve special mention for the staging of the thunderstorm. This was a fast moving and lively production, jointly enjoyed by both the audience and the Woldingham Players.
Nominations for Best Adult Actress - Catherine Elliott (Joanna) and Best Adult Production

"Last Tango in Little Grimley" by David Tristram performed by Oast Theatre

Oast Theatre gave us a delightful surprise with their rehearsed reading of "Last Tango in Little Grimley" which was a last minute substitution due to illness of the cast for "Effie's Burning". The actors had only a day to prepare for their performance and should be commended for their sterling effort. Mel Paszkowski, Tim Hansell, Lynn Short and Sylvia Thorpe are to be applauded for the speed in which they developed their characters. Sandra Barfield again showed her experience and skill by directing such a show at short notice. The sound effects and lighting flashes added to the humour and were much appreciated by the audience. Well done Oast Theatre.
Adjudicator's Award

Friday 1st March

Glow Theatre Group

As has happened in the past, Glow took the Barn by storm with its four productions in this year's SCDF first round. Although all the plays were very different, enthusiasm and energy were evident throughout. As we have come to expect from this youth theatre company, there was a high level of professionalism both in acting and technical aspects. The sets were simple with a play of lighting on the cyc to denote mood. In the first three plays, black blocks were imaginatively manoeuvred by the cast to denote various scenes. In DNA there was the added visual aid of bare branched trees silhouetted against the ever changing backlight. Battered wooden crates used as benches and scattered leaves added to the atmosphere. The technical team implemented the Director's visions with the efficiency we have come to expect from these talented tutors. What stands out in Glow's productions is the choral work. To manage a large number of young people on the stage at any one time requires strict discipline and the ability to inspire. Both of these attributes were clearly evident as was the voice production and craft skills of the actors. Pace and cue biting added energy and vitality to all four plays.

"Hamlet" abridged by Julia Ascott

Julia Ascott's abridged version of Hamlet managed to incorporate all the salient and memorable lines. Difficult soliloquies were brought to life through excellent choral techniques.
Nominations for Best Young Actor - Linus Davidson (Polonius), Best Young Actress - Connie McMillan (Hamlet 1), Best Stage Presentation, Best Youth Production and ICB Festival Winners Award
Martin Patrick Award for Best Director - Julia Ascott

"Extracts of Roald Dahl's Matilda"

The younger members of the company performed extracts from the musical Matilda with verve and enjoyment which were well appreciated by the audience.

"Us and Them" by David Campton

"Us and Them" is as relevant today as it was when written in the seventies. Innovative creation of the building of the wall was a masterstroke of direction. This was truly an ensemble piece, fast moving and pithy.
Nomination for Best Youth Production.

Saturday 2nd March

"DNA" by Dennis Kelly

The young people performing in DNA took the audience on an uncomfortable journey into the psyche of teenagers. Each character was well crafted and the ensuing result let to a memorable piece of theatre.
Nominations for Best Young Actor Evan Moynihan (Mark), Best Young Actress Katie Palmer (Cathy), Martin Patrick Best Director Award Jackie Driscoll & Natasha Palmer
Best Young Actress Molly Cook (Danny)
Best Young Actor Jack Palmer (Phil)
Best Stage Presentation
Best Youth Production

"Brighton Beat" by Keith Neville, Mike Lewis and Simon Pergande performed by Sevenoaks Players

It is not often we are treated to a musical in festival week but this production added an extra dimension for the audience's enjoyment. This brand new musical drama took us back to the gang culture of the sixties. Tensions and rivalry abounded as the theme of star crossed lovers was enacted. The actors performed with passion and commitment. They clearly enjoyed their roles and were particularly good in the dance routines and the fighting sequences. There were some delightful cameos. Stage direction and chorography by Keith Neville were cleverly executed. The technical team were involved at the inception of the play and this gave the whole production authenticity and warmth. The stage setting was versatile and true to the piece. Lighting, props and costume all contributed to an ambitious piece of musical theatre which was well received by an appreciative audience.

Reviews by Tricia Whyte and photos by Mike Sutton