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March 6 2020, County Drama Festival News
By Philip de Glanville

We have a bumper programme of plays again in this year’s County Drama Festival, scheduled for the weekend 21st/22nd of March. As usual there will be three sessions at the Warehouse Theatre in Ilminster – Saturday afternoon at 2pm, Sunday afternoon at 2pm and Sunday evening at 7pm – and all will be publicly adjudicated by the highly entertaining Nick Wilkes, a professional actor/writer/director from Malvern Theatres.

Nick Wilkes, Adjudicator

Saturday afternoon kicks off with a spooky thriller from the pen of Michael Starr, the multi-award winning director of The Fringe Files, from Churchill in the NE of the county. Blackhaven tells the story of a late-night radio show and the mysterious fate of a succession of regular listeners. Scary. Then, in slightly lighter mood, Clevedon School hopes to repeat last year’s success, which saw them winning the Eyris Jones Memorial Trophy for the best youth production, with another of Mark Wheeller’s plays – the thought-provoking Chicken! Following this we have Axbridge Community Theatre (ACT), entering County Drama for the first time, with Steven Berkhoff’s hard-hitting but rather charmingly funny Purgatory, and lastly IES are back with the first of three contributions this year – the tragicomic Tone Clusters. It is directed by Valda Dagnell and features Mick and Irene Glynn, who have enjoyed considerable success in recent County Drama Festivals.

Sunday afternoon sees Dave Goodall as the lugubrious Rev Morpeth in Three Brothers, a new comedy by Paul Toolan, which was short-listed in the SFD’s 2019 Original Playwriting Festival, with Maggy Goodall as the vicar’s industrious housekeeper and Helen Rose as the dotty spinster neighbour, and then another IES entry: Dark Stairway by local author Peter Nixon. Directed by Lucy Driver, and employing a very large cast of adults and youngsters, this play tells the story of the Bethnal Green underground disaster in 1943, when 173 died tragically in a crush on the stairs during an air-raid. The afternoon session ends with 100, by Christopher Heimann, presented by CDF faithfuls Taunton Thespians, which explores the question – if, at the moment of death, you could take just one significant memory with you into the afterlife, which would it be? You have just 100 seconds to decide…

Sunday evening starts with a nod to Brief Encounter in Jonathan Holloway’s supernatural The Railway Siding, the third entry from IES, this one directed by Sally Carrington. In it Jack Webb, played by Jonathan Peckover, takes the otherwise deserted overnight train from rural Wales back to London and meets the mysterious Hope Cairns, who bears a passing resemblance to Celia Johnson… It is followed by another thriller – Blood on Canvas by Richard James, a two-hander from Echoes, directed by Pam Hillier, in which the twists and turns will keep you riveted to the edge of your seat! It will be followed by the final adjudication by Nick Wilkes and then the prize-giving.

Tickets at £8 per session are available from the teams themselves or online from The Warehouse Theatre, or alternatively on the door, where you can also get a ticket for all three sessions for £20. We shall hope to see you there!