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25 Bluehouse Lane, Oxted, Surrey
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All-England Theatre Festival
Eastern Area Final 2015


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A report on the All-England Theatre Festival Eastern Area Final by Chris Butler

Saturday, 23 May 2015 saw the Eastern Area Final of the All-England Drama Festival, held this year at the Barn Theatre Oxted.

The four plays in the programme (two in the afternoon two in the evening) held out considerable promise, with the evening plays both being original pieces.

Afternoon Session
"The Underground Lovers" by Jean Tardieu presented by Woking College

This was a translation of the play by Colin Duckworth.

The play is described as an exploration of love and communication and draws upon allegory and semantics, some of which do not translate easily for the benefit of the audience. The Underground Lovers was an extremely courageous undertaking for this youth group (under 21) and it has to be said that Woking College achieved everything and more that was expected of them. From the opening lines, the play was delivered at an amazing pace. The transitions between scenes were faultless and within minutes the audience were in thrall.

The set was minimalistic but the cast created visual images which helped the audience to follow the progress of the play. Of particular note must be the representation of the underground escalator which in the first five minutes was a triumph of choreography. Clever use was made of this strong cast, with two parts being split across several actors. The allegory of Hero and Lysander held the piece together very well, however I found the semantics surrounding "advocate and advocacy" somewhat more complicated to follow.

In summary, a play which was at times humorous, at times thought-provoking. I have to say it left me with a real sense of the loneliness and separation experienced by the Underground Lovers!!

Woking College were worthy Festival Winners

"Interview" by Jean-Claude van Itallie presented by Woodhouse Players

This play was originally part of a trilogy and was written at a time in the history of the United States when America was embroiled in all-out war in Vietnam and in the opinion of the playwright and others, the so called "American Dream" diverged from the reality of the experience of its citizens. The Interview portrays the feeling of disenfranchisement experienced throughout the social strata of the country.

In the beginning, masked interviewers set about destroying the applicant's belief in themselves by asking a series of questions, designed it seems, to demean and confuse the applicants.

The latter stage of the play depicts a series of vignettes in which the applicants (through monologue) display their moral and physical disintegration to a point where each finally implodes. I am not certain the play holds out the promise that redemption is even possible.

A confident cast delivered this complex piece at a pace which at times the audience felt was hard to follow and variations in pace of delivery and the occasional pause would have helped.

Evening Session
"Macbeth 2015" by Troy Chessman after William Shakespeare presented by Runnymede Drama Group

This was a highly stylised modern interpretation of Macbeth, which with clever editing had managed to sustain the prose style of the original.

The three witches had become homeless strangers, with the men becoming Captains of Industry, albeit thoroughly unpleasant. Creative use of lighting (especially in the use of red light to depict murder scenes), enabled the pace to be maintained throughout.

A bravura performance by Macbeth, who had also written and directed Macbeth 2015 was rightly recognised by the award of the Adjudicator's Trophy.

"War Room" by Chris Brake presented by Alternate Shadows

An original play in which the author played a lead character and also directed the production.

I was fortunate enough to review this play when it appeared in the Southern Counties Drama Festival. It is described as a grotesque satirical comedy about the politics behind going to war, that said, it is a multi layered comedy played entirely inside a nuclear bunker, at a pace which almost leaves the audience breathless. The gags are non stop, the action is continuous, the visual humour is there throughout. A very clever and very funny play, which leaves you wanting more (or less of politicians)!!

A worthy winner of the Christine Britton Technical Merit Trophy