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March 25 2019, County Drama Festival News

The winning team from Ilminster Entertainment Society

Ilminster Entertainment Society repeated last year’s success by once again winning the County Shield for their performance of A Resounding Tinkle, a play written by N F Simpson. As competition adjudicator Nancy Heath explained, this is a play that typifies Simpson’s aversion to plot and establishes his talent for memorable one-liners and non-sequiturs. As with all of his subsequent work, the play demands absolutely straight delivery from actors. Such an approach fosters a conviction within the audience that the characters are living in a form of reality, where the formation of a government can be arranged via door-to-door enquiries! The extraordinary and impossible are treated as perfectly rational everyday events.

And that is exactly what the director and cast brought to this engaging play that both closed the competition and took the top accolade. Directed by Richard Tingley and starring Mick Glynn and Ann Cook as the main protagonists with Veronica Horman playing Uncle Ted. He had changed sex. Don’t ask!

IES have been entertaining audiences in Ilminster for over seventy years. Their home for over thirty years has been the Warehouse Theatre, where the County Drama Festival was held this year. With nine entries this year, and with an admirable diversity in the plays on offer, the general consensus was that this year’s festival was a huge success. The competition took place over three sessions (Saturday and Sunday afternoons and Sunday evening) and included two youth entries and five original plays.

Ron Roberts from the All-England Theatre Festival who presented the trophies and Festival Adjudicator Nancy Heath

The Festival Adjudicator, Nancy A Heath, is an associate member of the Guild of Drama Adjudicators with over thirty years’ experience working in both amateur and professional drama. She has been an actress and director on the festival field for over twenty years winning several awards including Best Supporting Actress and Best Director. And that experience showed as she gave apposite and insightful feedback on each of the nine plays she saw. With such high standards she had an unenviable task selecting the best for each category. But she was more than up to the task in this vintage Festival year.

The Eyris Jones Memorial Trophy for Best Production by a Youth Group was won by Clevedon Youth Theatre in its debut year. The group runs in Clevedon school as an extra curricular option for students who love to perform straight plays. This was the first such play they have put on. Directed by Victoria Wright the play Kill Jill was a new play by Mark Wheeler in which Big Brother meets Jack (of Beanstalk Fame) meets Tony Martin… Mix these three together to create Kill Jill which explores the topical issue of homeowners defending themselves and asks how far reality TV can be allowed to go. It proved to be extremely popular with the audience and adjudicator alike! Lewis Bradbury, who played George Jhiyonne amongst other things, took the Edward Grey Memorial Trophy for Best Performer under the age of thirty. Unfortunately the troupe were not at the evening session to pick up their awards but they will be presented to them on a future occasion.

The cast and directors of Wells Little Theatre’s Counting Your Chickens

The awards were presented by SFD Life Member and Chair of the West Division of the All-England Theatre Festival, Ron Roberts. A long-standing member of the Taunton Thespians, he was thrilled to present that society with The Hope Cup for the best all-round presentation with their performance of Noel Coward’s Red Peppers.

Wells Little Theatre picked up two awards for their entry, Counting Your Chickens by Mark Wall who also performed in this unusual and very funny play that was directed by the cast themselves. They won the Brian Edwards Trophy for Overall Technical Achievement and the Lydia Durston Trophy for Greatest Endeavour.

Best Actress award went to Keely Beresford of Troupers who played a young teacher whose attitude threatened the school’s stability and Best Actor was won by Dean Harris for his portrayal of Squire Harding, the estate owner in Bleadon Players’ The Weatherman’s Harvest.

Writer Neil Walden is presented with his trophy by Original Playwriting Competition Coordinator Pam Hillier

At the Sunday afternoon session Neil Walden was presented with his award for Best Original Script, a separate competition run by the SFD. His winning play, The Flag, was performed at the festival by Troupers.

The Festival Stage Manager was the indefatigable Dave Goodall with Brian Perkins providing excellent support to the teams as Festival Technician. The timekeeper was Alan Jarvis and the whole weekend was put together by the Festival Coordinator Philip de Glanville. The Warehouse and IES members provided wonderful front-of-house support and ran the refreshments outlets with SFD committee members and friends helping with stewarding. The host for the event was SFD Chair Sam Allen.



All photos by Roger Price