The Norbury Theatre
Droitwich, Worcestershire WR9 8ED
8 April, 2018
The story began on a dismal, grey Sunday night in Droitwich. The eighteen trophies for the Worcestershire Theatre Festival had been duly awarded by Mike Kaiser and were now off to live on someone’s sideboard for the next twelve months. Stourbridge Theatre Company and Wordsley ADS were ecstatic with their reward of moving on into the First round of the All England Theatre Festival.
But what happened next? Read on and find out……..
A short trip down the road to Worcester and the Swan Theatre is the answer !
Joining battle with teams from Herefordshire and Birmingham, both of our entries, ‘Bookends’ and ‘From Five-to Five Thirty’ performed brilliantly and in my humble opinion deserved to go further. But this competition is nothing if not totally frustrating in that you never agree with the Adjudicator – at least I never seem to – so it was to be Off Centre Theatre from Hereford with their production of ‘Plaza Suite(Act III) that advanced to the semi-final round of the AETF
Ever been to Stoke-on-Trent? Well neither had I. It’s a strange place in that it’s five small towns in one and none of them seem to be Stoke! The theatre was in Hanley and what a gem it turned out to be. The Mitchell Arts Centre – named after Robert Joseph Mitchell, inventor of the Spitfire plane, born in Hanley. Chris Jaeger, the Adjudicator for this round and always a delight to hear, had a tough job. As you can imagine it gets pretty good at this stage and we weren’t disappointed. I particularly enjoyed a spirited version of Pinter’s ‘The Dumb Waiter’ performed by two very young actors, but it was to be those perpetual favourites Total Arts Community Theatre (TACT) from Tamworth who stole the prize of a place in the English Final. Topically, they performed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Comedy of Errors’ with their usual colour, superb stage design and committed acting style.
A month later saw me heading south down the M40 to the Norden Farm Centre for the Arts on the outskirts of Maidenhead. A new adjudicator to me, Charles Evans, ex-Royal Navy and a Russian expert (all good qualities to judge plays) caused a major uproar by having the temerity to choose a play that few others there did – the nerve ! (I’m being at bit facetious now). I totally agreed with his choice of the St Alban’s Players masterly performance of ‘Interior Designs’ by Jimmy Chinn. What a breath of fresh air this was. Simple, stylish, compulsive viewing with a brilliant cast – a winner!
The last leg of this epic journey took me over the border to Cardiff for the British Final. A mad dash from work, into the Friday traffic, jams all the way down, a swift taxi from the Hotel to the Festival venue the Sherman Theatre in the centre of town –and then ….. relax and enjoy the great vibe of this wonderful city. Adding to the excitement were the Welsh football team beating Belgium in the Euros – the place was buzzing, with the excited compere giving us updates on the score. The Festival matched this excitement. A Welsh Choir opened the Festival as only Welsh choirs can and the dramas over the two evenings were excellent.
Competing were; from Wales – ‘Contractions’ by Mark Bartell, performed by The Unknown Outcasts. From Scotland – ‘A Bench on the Edge’ by Luigi Jamuzzi. From Northern Ireland – ‘Martha Syndrome’ by our old friend Scott Marshall who adjudicated our festival last year and of course the entry from England. Fittingly Wales won !
What a journey I had. All the Festivals were excellent. The people I met were friendly and like-minded and the plays were all……..outstanding! Give it a try!