It opened with two youth productions by teams from Catstrand and Newton Stewart. Widely experienced adjudicator, Alan Haslett, from Northern Ireland, described the first night as being an excellent start to the Festival with two very secure plays.
The first play, ‘The Terezine Promise,’ by Celeste Raspanti was performed by by Catstrand Youth A. The play tells the story of Raja who survives the Terezine concentration camp and wants to keep her promise of not leaving behind the drawings and poems which were written in the camp. The adjudicator highlighted the presentation as being well-defined with atmospheric lighting, particularly at the poignant ending backlit with candles. The director had made good use of contrasting levels and groups which, with more physicality, could enhance the production further. Acting was strong across the whole cast particularly, Raja (Zoe Kirkpatrick), Irena (Eilidh Thomson), Eva (Janey Fulton) and Hanus (Arthur Hadfield). Summing up, the adjudicator felt that this group rose to the challenge of this difficult subject in a production which was very well done.
The second play,’Pretty Hurts’ performed by Newton Stewart Juniors was written by pupils studying Drama at Douglas Ewart High School. It tells the story of Lilly-Ann who dies of a drug dependency teaching the others in her support group a lesson. The adjudicator commented on the very practical staging with props cleverly hidden and effective use of black costumes which were accessorised throughout. The direction was strong with slick changes between the 41 scenes and, with the whole cast on stage throughout, the stage was used extremely well. Acting was very strong with Maya (Emily Harrison) commended for her excellent diction and projection. As in the first play, more physicality could have enhanced the production further. The adjudicator summed up by saying that this Newton Stewart Juniors had illustrated what a talented group they are having written, directed and acted at a consistently high standard.
The second night opened with 88 Theatre’s production of ‘Primrose Way’ written by Ron Nicol who had travelled from Fife to see the first of two of his plays being performed in this year’s festival. A poignant and comedic drama, it tells the life story of Primrose, an actress who has fallen on hard times. The adjudicator described the set as excellent, going beyond what was asked for in the script with superb lighting and excellent costumes even commenting that, ‘he could almost smell the bag lady.’ The direction was in a ‘very sure hand’, never pushed into melodrama, always totally believable and with a very fine ending using two spotlights. The cast were described as being three very talented actors, with particular mention of Primrose (Anne McIntyre) as having a beautifully modulated voice, young Primrose (Rowan McDougall) giving a very assured performance and Mother (Jill Williams) skilfully bringing all the other characters together. Summing up, the adjudicator said that this was a very fine production and, to the cast, his message was ‘Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!’
Next, was Newton Stewart Juniors second team with their production of ‘Can You See it From Here?’ - a tongue in cheek space fantasy by Geoff Bamber. The adjudicator described the set as being exactly what was asked for with an excellent spacecraft. Presentation was enhanced by the changing colours of the great costumes and bright lighting. The performance was very well directed with dialogue spoken very clearly and good entrances. Acting showed good characterisation particularly from Eric (Thomas Munro), Jenny (Cailey Dorrans) and Lord Velcro (Max Williams). With a cast of 15, the adjudicator highlighted that every member of the cast matters and how important it is for everyone to stay in focus at all times. Summing up, the adjudicator described the performance as ‘a job very well done’ with an ensemble of young actors whose performance was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.
The final play of the evening was ‘Fireflies’ by Scottish playwright, Harry Glass, performed by Kirkcudbright Primary School. Set in a playground in the Ukraine, it tells the story of two children who have been evacuated from Chernobyl, the thoughtless name of ‘fireflies’ given to them and the terrible consequences of the disaster for future generations. The adjudicator felt that the presentation showed the ingenuity of the director with very good use of slatted furniture and with unscripted ‘totally natural’ games being performed by different groups. The director had shown that she knows how to get the best out of this young age group with great innovation and excellent reactions throughout. The acting of the this wonderful ensemble was very strong particularly from Katya (Ella Neary) and Peter (Ben Durham). In conclusion, the performance was described as being very well done and a brilliant exhibition of what can be achieved.
The final evening opened with ‘Melody’ by award-winning Irish playwright, Deirdre Kinahan performed by 88 Theatre. A heart-warming play, it tells the story of a bachelor and widow in their eventful journey as they fall in love. The adjudicator praised the presentation with a very practical set, use of different levels and an ingenious way of changing the scene titles. The Director was commended for the slick ‘top and tail’ dialogue and the tender and touching characterisation. The actors’ hesitant beginning was particularly effective and the portrayal of the middle-aged characters by the two cast members was endearing showing the tenuous blossoming of a new relationship. Summing up, the adjudicator praised the director’s delicate touch with this fast paced play.
The second performance was ‘Pig Tales,’ an updated re-telling of the tale of the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs who are thrown out to seek their fortunes written by Ron Nicol and performed by Birchvale Youth Theatre. The adjudicator praised the presentation with well sourced props and costumes – Mummy Pig’s being particularly good. The young director was commended for working with such a wide age range and achieving excellent physicality and characterisation. The cast all performed very well particularly the narrator (Milly Arnold) and the prompter (Molly McVinnie) who were excellent actors. The Sheep (Millie Hird) was also highlighted as having been particularly appealing to the audience. In summing up, the adjudicator congratulated the cast and crew for its lovely, funny, romp of a play.
The final play of the festival was ‘Round the World with Class 6’ by Nick Burton performed by Catstrand Youth (Kells). The play is a re-enactment of Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the world by a group of school pupils. The set was described as excellent with good use of blue light for the transition to and from the ship. The director was praised for the choreographed song which gave the play a very strong start as well as the ensemble routines which were a highlight of the production. The actors were commended for their loud, clear voices and for bringing so much energy to the production. Summing up, the adjudicator said that this was ‘a lovely ensemble piece’ which came across very well indeed with the potential to be a real festival winner.
Describing his experience at the Festival, Mr Haslett said that it had been a great privilege to come to Castle Douglas and that it was wonderful to see full houses showing the enthusiasm and support from the local community. He also commended the high standard of youth productions which had surpassed his expectations.
Adult Trophy List:
1st Place: Martin Cup: 88 Theatre ‘Primrose Way’
2nd Place: Gourlay Memorial Salver: 88 Theatre ‘Melody’
Highest Production Marks: Bill McKinnon Trophy: 88 Theatre ‘Primrose Way’
Best Stage Presentation: Robin McCoskrie Trophy: 88 Theatre ‘Primrose Way’
Best Moment in Theatre: Lillias Thomson Memorial Trophy: 88 Theatre ‘Melody’ (Kathleen answering the phone). Also nominated: 88 Theatre ‘Primrose Way’ (The father scene)
Audience Choice: Meg Imrie Memorial Trophy: 88 Theatre ‘Primrose Way’
Youth Trophy List:
1st Place: Lochside Youth Theatre Trophy: Kirkcudbright Primary School ‘Fireflies’
2nd Place: Stewartry Youth Trophy: Newton Stewart Juniors: ‘Pretty Hurts’
3rd Place: The Aitchison Trophy: Catstrand Youth A: ‘The Terezine Promise’
Stage Presentation: The Fullarton Trophy: Kirkcudbright Primary School ‘Fireflies’ Also nominated: Catstrand Youth A: ‘The Terezine Promise’ and Catstrand Youth Kells ‘Round the World with Class 6’.
Audience Choice: The Glenkens Trophy in Memory of Tommy Edgar: Kirkcudbright Primary School ‘Fireflies’
Best Moment in Theatre: The Tom Clement Memorial Trophy: Catstrand Youth A: ‘The Terezine Promise’ (Final candlelit scene). Also nominated: Newton Stewart Juniors: ‘Pretty Hurts’ (magazine scene) and Catstrand Youth Kells: ‘Round the World with Class 6’ (ensemble work).
The first play in the adult section will go forward to the Divisional Final in Eastwood Theatre, Giffnock on 24-25 March.
The first and second plays in the youth section will go forward to the Divisional Final in the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock on 18 March.