News The Phoebe Rees Competition
By Sam Allen
For anyone who is anyone in the world of amateur theatre in Somerset, the place to be on Saturday night was the Shrubbery Hotel in Ilminster where the Somerset Fellowship of Drama was holding its annual awards ceremony for plays: The Phoebe Rees Trophy. Competition coordinator Philip de Glanville opened proceedings with a warm welcome to the gathered ensemble and then, after dinner moderator Clive Wooldridge took to the stage to lead the rest of the evening’s proceedings. This was Clive’s swansong; he told us that in the four years he has been moderator he has clocked up nearly 10,000 miles travelling all across Somerset to venues large and small to witness the very best the county has to offer in terms of amateur plays.
The hall was packed. In the 2017/18 season a total of 34 plays were entered into the competition representing 16 different societies, 14 of which were represented in the room on Saturday night. The hall was so crowded, in fact, that winners had trouble making their way through the melee to receive their trophies and certificates from SFD Chairman Sam Allen who was on hand throughout the evening to present the awards. But get through they did, with a determination befitting the accolade that is undoubtedly deserved in winning one of these prestigious awards.
Indeed, in the face of some stiff competition even being nominated in any category is a recognition of excellent work. Clive Wooldridge put it simply: “If you are nominated, that means you are really good.” And there was a veritable cornucopia of nominations this year with up to nine nominations in some categories reflecting the hard job the adjudicating team had in identifying the crème de la crème.
There were two new awards this year in a category designed to recognise outstanding performances in roles that do not readily fit the existing categories. These were for Best Featured Female Actor and Best Featured Male Actor. Clive Wooldridge explained that these were for roles that were not quite as substantive as the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor roles, but were more than a cameo. The inaugural winners were Martine Davies as Sylvia in Taunton Thespians’ Two Gentlemen of Verona and Michal Jurkowski as Andrea in Ilminster Entertainment Society’s Ladies in Lavender.
In an evening of superlatives, celebrating outstanding success, a few moments stood out. The so-called champagne moment – that one thing that makes the audience collectively gasp in wonderment and delight – went to Barnstormers for the Argentine Tango in Ring Round the Moon. As Clive explained the performers had to perform a perfect Argentine tango at the same time as perfectly delivery their lines and maintaining their characters throughout. That is even more than is asked of the contestants in Strictly! Perhaps even more thrilling was the winner of the George Crocker Challenge Trophy, awarded for a production or a person who punches above their weight. This year’s recipient was Jess Payne who, at only 18 years of age directed Swan Theatre’s Bronte. That truly is some achievement and augurs well for the future. It was also poignant to see Jo Neagle present the Gordon Neagle Memorial Cup for Best Production in a non-theatre venue. This cup is presented in memory of Jo’s late husband Gordon who did so much for the SFD. And Jo’s own talents were rewarded when she picked up the award for Best Supporting Actress as Mercy Lott in Ilminster Entertainment Society’s Humble Boy.
It was great to see young people’s enormous talent and contributions acknowledged as Seb Lowe won the award for Best Youth under 16 for his performance as William Beech in Somerton Dramatic Society’s Goodnight Mister Tom and Lydia Stobie-Owen took the accolade for Best Youth under 21 for her portrayal of Mary Warren in The Crucible at Wells Little Theatre.
It was interesting to see that both the nominations and the awards were spread over a large number of societies reflecting the great wealth of talent we have in the county. Competition coordinator Philip de Glanville was named Best Director for Frome Drama Club’s The Lady in the Van and the top trophy went to Swan Theatre Company for their marvellous production of Arcadia.
It truly was a splendid evening reflecting the tremendous season of plays there has been, a fitting finale to live Wooldridge’s time as moderator. Lynn Lockyer has taken over for the 2018/19 season and we wish her well.
All this year’s results are set out below.
Best Effects: Frome Drama Club – The Lady in the Van
Best Sound: Ilminster Entertainment Society – Ladies in Lavender
Best Lighting: Swan Theatre – Arcadia
Best Props: Frome Drama Club – The Lady in the Van
Best Costumes: Taunton Thespians – Two Gentlemen of Verona
Best Stage Management: Street Theatre – One Man, Two Guvnors
Best Set Construction: Ilminster Entertainment Society – Humble
Best Creative Set Design: Swan Theatre – Bronte
Artistic Impression: Swan Theatre – Arcadia
Best Youth U16: Seb Lowe as William Beech – Somerton Dramatic Society – Goodnight Mister Tom
Best Youth U 21: Lydia Stobie-Owen as Mary Warren – Wells Little Theatre – The Crucible
Best Female Cameo: Jane Edwards as Emily Brent – Taunton Thespians – And Then There Were None
Best Male Cameo: Alastair Murray as Alfie – West Huntspill Players – One Man Two Guvnors
Best Featured Actress: Martine Davies as Sylvia – Taunton Thespians – Two Gentlemen of Verona
Best Featured Actor: Michal Jurkowski as Andrea – Ilminster Entertainment Society – Ladies in Lavender
Best Supporting Actress: Jo Neagle as Mercy Lott – Ilminster Entertainment Society – Humble Boy
Best Supporting Actor: Patrick Knox as Dada – Swan Theatre – Entertaining Mr Sloane
Best Actress: Sarah Easterbrook as Charlotte Bronte – Swan Theatre – Bronte
Best Actor: Chris Williamson as Felix Humble – Ilminster Entertainment Society – Humble Boy
George Crocker Challenge Trophy: Jess Payne, 18 yr old Director of Swan Theatre’s Bronte
Marie Gannicott (Champagne Moment) won by Barnstormers for the Argentine Tango in Ring Round the Moon
Gordon Neagle Cup: West Huntspill Players – One Man Two Guvnors
Best Direction: Philip de Glanville – Frome Drama Club – The Lady in the Van
The Phoebe Rees Trophy for Best Production: Swan Theatre – Arcadia