Woolstore Theatre One Act Play Festival

FIVE very different plays were performed over two nights at Codford as part of the Woolstore Theatre One Act Play Festival, adjudicated by Sonia Woolley.

The first night's offering included the Woolstore Theatre's own Lizzy's Ghost by Alan Williams, directed by Hilary Armstrong. The set, built by Alec Thomson, was a very realistic bar in an old pub, where behind the bar a bored barmaid (Mel Williams) plays host to Jack (Alan Biggs), a world-weary blacksmith out for a quiet pint, Billy Mackay (Alastair Mackay), a cheeky farm labourer who seems to be worried about someone, and a stranger, Joanne (Ruth Phillips), a writer researching a novel.

She wants to know about a young girl who drowned herself and is said to haunt the village about 100 years. The locals are reticent and it is the anniversary of the suicide. Suddenly a voice calls and the locals run outside and disappear.

Enter a villager (Angus Bramwell) and we learn the pub has been closed for many years and the occupants of the bar were part of Lizzy's story. Alan Biggs' performance was subtle, with imperceptible mood shifts totally immersing himself in his character. He won The Woolstore Committee award for the Best Supporting Actor.

At the totally opposite total end of the spectrum was Pewsey Vale Amateur Dramatics Youth Society's original play Pond Life, written and directed by Nellie Baskcomb-Brown, a tale of a pond and its inhabitants, plants, amphibians and insects

The play is an allegory that looks at an ecosystem with established creatures possibly under threat from an influx of new creatures. This was a charming play, 12 very confident young people with lovely costumes, effective use of music, strobe lighting and smoke. The adjudicator praised the lovely presentation, teamwork and enthusiasm portrayed by the youngsters.

I loved the gung-ho Mr Frog (Ted Golding) with his blond curls, his dropped grenades and his exuberant and joyous persona. Milo Davison as Snail was the winner of the George Hotel Trophy for best junior actor for his understated performance, and the adjudicator commented on his clear voice and gorgeous death. The play also won the Marshall award for the Best Original Play and the Sonia Woolley Award for best team performance.

Also on stage was one of Alan Bennett's monologues, Bed Among the Lentils, directed by Sirene Cleife and Christine Powell. The latter gave a tour de force performance as Susan, the alcoholic and unhappy the vicars wife, in a carefully judged layered performance that was funny, poignant and witty.,

On the second night the Studio Theatre from Salisbury offered two contrasting plays. A little-known play by J.M.Barrie, The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, directed by Lesley Bates, opens with four old char ladies sitting around a table discussing the war and their sons who are fighting. The twist is that Mrs Dowey (Sue Bale) feels left out with no one to worry about so when she reads Private Dowey’s name in the paper she pretends he is her son. The confrontation with a belligerent Scot alone in the world and the way the relationship develops on his five days’ leave is beautifully played out and put both actors in the running for Best Actor or Actress. The final scene with Mrs Dowey quietly and lovingly placing her ‘son’s' last effects was a real tear jerker.

Director Lesley Bates had chosen a complete change of pace for the second play, Alan Bennett's An Englishman Abroad, the story of actress Coral Browne’s brief encounter with the traitor Guy Burgess in Moscow while she was on tour with Hamlet in 1958. From the moment, the curtain opened on the set, Guy Burgess’s rather squalid flat, and Rachel Fletcher as Coral Browne walked on stage it was obvious that this was a production that had class. This play won the Woolstore Chairman’s Bowl for Best Play, Rachel Fletcher rightly won the accolade of the Davis and Latcham Award for Best Actor/Actress.

Romy Wyeth