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

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All-England Theatre Festival
Eastern Area Final 2017


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A report on the All-England Theatre Festival Eastern Area Final by Tricia Whyte

Saturday, 27th May 2017 saw the Eastern Area Final of the All-England Drama Festival, held this year at the Barn Theatre Oxted.

BAWDS representing Cambridge Drama Festival
"Anyone Can Dance" by Sean Baker

This two hander play sought to develop the long term relationship between a man and a woman. The action took place in Samantha's bedroom and the simple set comprised of a bed centre stage, a small table covered with a gold drape and a wrought iron bench. The set was dressed with what appeared to be a chaotic mass of discarded clothing. Lighting and sound were used very effectively. In particular they enhanced the many flashbacks which expanded the audience's understanding of the developing relationship. James Inman and Lisa Wight played the characters of Joe and Sam very convincingly, shifting emotions and moods as the play progressed. They fed off each other; there was a unity and cohesion in their acting and we could really believe in their love affair. There was tenderness and familiarity demonstrated as the couple metaphorically danced their way through the script. Richard McNally as director produced a slick example of drama. The use of clothes from the scattered piles was very effective in denoting the various vignettes. The play was originally written by the stage manager Sean Baker but it felt as though the whole company had been involved in creating this poignant and very watchable play.

The adjudicator, Arthur Rochester awarded BAWDs the Winner's Trophy for the Eastern Area Final. It was a fitting accolade to an obviously very talent company.

Woking College Theatre Company representing Maidenhead Drama Festival
"BED" by Jim Cartwright

At first I found this play difficult to follow and I feel I missed many of the nuances and humour within the text. Had I had the benefit of seeing it twice I am sure I would have picked up many more of the subtleties. The set was effective with an oversize bed taking up much of the stage. The bedhead was draped with a Union Jack and European flag which set the period and brought the play up to date. Effective use was made of various levels including a cleverly constructed trap door. The action and text were full of energy. The poetic language and humour came across in a vibrant and forceful manner. The group work was very well choreographed and there was good cue-biting and interpretation. Great atmosphere was created by the use of light and sound. The directors Claire Nevers and Gina Marshall produced a well-disciplined drama with plenty of variation in pace. Each character was clearly defined and costumes enhanced the different personalities. The long soliloquies were sensitively executed and each held the audience's attention. The company produced a very credible ensemble piece. They should be congratulated on their stamina and energy as they produced an entertaining and thought provoking piece of drama.

Woodhouse Players representing Waltham Forest Drama Festival
"Mutatis Mutandis" by David Campton

This play comes from the genre of Theatre of the Absurd. Throughout, the audience is led to reflect on their acceptance of the abnormal. The set was stark and clinical exactly fitting the sanitised atmosphere of a hospital waiting room. Matthew Pert and Emily Carmichael as the husband and wife were ideally suited in their roles and so perfectly "normal" which made the disingenuous element of the play even more thought provoking. Their timing, articulation and pace see-sawed between them to give an exciting and dynamic piece of theatre and emotional angst. The excellent cue-biting and sensitivity towards each other added to the sense of impending doom. The character of the nurse, played by Cathy Love deftly set the scene at the beginning of the play and was an excellent pre-cursor to the rest of the action. Elizabeth Braithwaite as Director, imposed a high standard of performance which was complemented by sound and lighting. Particularly effective was the use of green spotlights on the couple and the projected image on the backcloth at the end. This production successfully entertained yet disturbed the audience.

Runnymede Drama Group representing Elmbridge Drama Festival
Pvt. Wars by James McLure

This was a compassionate play depicting the emotional instability of three GIs. The set was simple yet realistic and evoked the necessary atmosphere. Lighting and sound were well used to depict different times of day but unfortunately the tannoy system was a little muffled. The direction, by Mark Humble was concise and empathetic. The three soldiers played by Josh Smith, Maxfield Usher and Troy Chessman had clearly defined characters. They maintained their American accents throughout, each one depicting a different dialect as befitted their roles. Each of the actors portrayed the soldiers with a depth of understanding and interpretation which held the audience's attention throughout. The interaction and diversity between the three men was slick, pacey and believable. They brought out the humour and provided excellent entertainment.

Arthur Rochester awarded his Adjudicator's Trophy to the company. It was much deserved.

Glow Theatre Group representing Southern Counties Drama Festival
Everyman adapted by Carol Ann Duffy

This is the second time I have been privileged to watch Glow's production of Everyman and I found it just as enjoyable when I reviewed it in February. It is often difficult to revive a successful show but Glow coped admirably. The play had lost nothing of its bite. Duffy's interpretation of the medieval play is as relevant today as it was 500 years ago. Director Jackie Driscoll used Duffy's script and infused it with enthusiasm, pace, humour and poignancy. The entire company worked well in unison both in movement and speech. The cast were a well drilled team who acted with discipline and authority. The standard of technical expertise matched the dedication of the acting team to produce a fast moving and eloquent piece of theatre.

Arthur Rochester awarded Glow with the Christine Britton Technical Merit Trophy.

Reviewed by Tricia Whyte May 2017