Fourteen plays over five sessions in the Fullarton Theatre in Castle Douglas gave adjudicator Bruce Adam plenty of choice as he handed out the prizes on Saturday night at the Stewartry Festival of Drama.
“I’ve been impressed with the ambition of the local clubs. They have set themselves some difficult challenges – and brought them off,” he told the full house.
This is the local round of a national contest and an atmospheric Tennessee Williams play called “Talk to me like the rain and let me listen” from Crossmichael Drama Club will represent the Stewartry in the next round of the adult festival at the end of March. It is being held this year in Castle Douglas for clubs from all over the west of Scotland.
“The Edge” by Ron Nicol from Birchvale Youth Players won the Youth Festival and they will perform in Campbeltown on March 15 in the western divisional final. Director Susan Black dedicated the win to Liz Rae, who chose the play and had cast it before her sudden death in December.
A second club will also go forward in the adult section. This will be “Solstice” by Angela Ness and Glen Davies from 88 Theatre who took third place, best stage presentation and best Scottish play. Crossmichael Dee took second place but each club can only take forward one play.
Bruce Adams said of the various performances:
Catstrand Youth A, Bar and Ger by Geraldine Aron
The team interacted well to deliver the comedy and the pathos in this tale of a brother and sister growing up. The final stage picture also got the prize for “best moment of theatre”. The two young players managed the ageing process very effectively through voice and body language. Good pace and cueing and they showed mature comic timing and managed the changes from light to the much darker ending well. Skilful direction and effective music, lights, costume and set.
88 Theatre, “Solstice” by Angela Ness and Glen Davies.
The team delivered the humour and suspense of the play with skill and subtlety. They took the stage presentation prize and best Scottish play as well as third place. Two strong acting performances built some powerful moments and strong characterisations. Skilful direction to build the tension and the twist at the end. A bigger gun next time!
Crossmichael Drama Club – Williams, “Lord Byron’s Love Letter” by Tennessee Williams
This was a well-paced performance that managed to realise the playwright’s intention and convey the lonely and desperate lives invested in the scam at the heart of the play. Strong performances from the characters, good accents, well maintained throughout. The director had introduced some lovely extra touches and created good movement throughout building to a powerful final scene.
Crossmichael Drama Club – Dee, “Drunk enough to say I love you?” by Caryl Churchill
This play came second overall and took the trophy for most points in production. The two characters – Sam (Uncle) and Jack (Tar) – are a metaphor for the foreign policy relationship between Britain and America. The actors created a touching and varied relationship when playing against the sense of the lines. Direction was excellent. A good deal of dramatic impact.
Kirkcudbright Academy A, “I Don’t Want to Talk About it” by Bradley Hayward.
This delivered relaxed and confident performances that touched on some serious issues surrounding teenage lives. Four actors performed multiple roles and conveyed the humour and the angst. There was much versatility in the creation of the characters and good comic timing and a nice transition to the darker ending. The director had created generally good movement and tone. The music,lights, and costume were good.
Newton Stewart A, Brenton v Brenton by David Tristram.
This is a send up of US soap and although the cast realised some of the comic moments, the advice was to go for even bigger characterisations and “over the top” acting. There was some good characterisation and the play worked best where the pacing and timing was tight. Some good comic invention for the director with Foxy’s multiple limps and the Groucho Marx walk and a great ending.
Newton Stewart Players – Junior B, “A Dragon for Dinner” by Helen Murdoch.
This was a large cast with some very young players but the director had done a good job and created charming moments. All principals had good pace and cueing and there were good reactions among them. The humour came through well and the chorus were well drilled and created some lovely pictures. Good stage presentation and costumes. Some actors first time on a stage, but won’t be their last.
Birchvale Youth Players, “The Edge” by Ron Nicol
This production won the Youth Festival and goes forward to Campbeltown. The two young actors interacted very effectively and got both the dark humour and the serious themes. The pacing and timing from both players was mature and the light and shade in the difficult monologues impressive, particularly from “She”. Good physical playing and use of the front of the stage and direction that pointed up all the climaxes.
Newton Stewart Players B, “Z is for Zombie” by Michael Starr
Another large ensemble cast who worked well together. The initial zombie attack was well choreographed and there were good characterisations. The change to zombies at the end was good and the final stage picture had the right amount of menace. The director handled the tone well and pointed the humour but a bit more danger and menace was suggested. Good sound effects and music and great props and make-up.
Catstrand Youth Players B, “Sing when you’re winning” by Mark Rees
This young cast got the basics right with clear voices, good reactions and cueing in this football play. Punchlines were well timed and the pace was good. A big cast is always a challenge but there was good grouping and characterisation. The mime of watching the game built excitement well but the bad girls were too nice.
Newton Stewart Junior A, “Round the world with class 6” by Nick Warburton
A good piece of ensemble acting that delivered on the play’s themes of the power of a child’s imagination and its role in education. There was good synchronisation among the young actors and strong voices from principals. Comic timing evident and the transformation from classroom to ship back to classroom well achieved. More work needed on the detail of the mime. Singing and stage set were good.
Kirkcudbright Academy B, “Teen People” by Mark Rees
This play was second in the Youth Festival. The key to its success was the effective ensemble pacing and timing together with some fine performances. The staging was very imaginative and the director had created a very powerful and sinister opening and an ending – not in the script – that worked really well. Lighting and good sound effects all played their part to deliver the play’s distopian vision of conformity.
Fullarton Drama Group, “Slim Chance” by Peter Gordon
Confident comedy that delivered lots of laughs. This play about a slimming club took the audience choice trophy. Some stand-out performances with excellent timing and good physical comedy. Good characterisation and comic business with all punchlines punched. Director played to the actors’ comedy strengths but this may have been to the detriment of the underlying battle of the sexes theme. Staging, costume and lighting good. Mastermind tune at weigh-in was very inventive and the addition of the fish suppers at the end!
Crossmichael Drama Club – Tennessee, “Talk to me like the rain and let me listen” by Tennessee Williams.
Two very strong confident performances in this play won the adult festival. This is a delicate piece that can be powerful or flat, but two lovely performances delivered the poetic sense of melancholy. The man’s self-disgust coming round from a bender, the woman’s despair and enervation were skilfully built. Good movement, lighting, set and sound effects.
Stewartry Festival of Drama
1. Crossmichael Drama Club, 2. Crossmichael Drama Club – Dee, 3. 88 Theatre
1. Birchvale Youth Players, 2. Kirkcudbright Academy B
Best moment of theatre: Catstrand Youth A
Best Scottish play: 88 Theatre
Best stage presentation: 88 Theatre
Highest production marks: Crossmichael Drama Club – Dee
Audience choice: Fullarton Drama Group