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New Plays Festival

19 March 2018

Page Goes to Stage

New Plays Festival

Arts Richmond, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, 18th March

Review by Mary Stoakes

The Arts Richmond New Plays Festival is a biennial event, originally conceived by Edie Purdue in memory of her husband Roy, an enthusiast for local amateur drama especially for young people, to encourage the writing of short one-act plays. The unique feature of this Festival is that all the plays submitted are read by a distinguished and experienced panel, who then shortlist four, whose authors have the opportunity of seeing their work in live performance in the round by a local amateur group at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond.
Eighteen one-act plays were read by Hannah de Ville, Vivien Heilbron, Grace Vaughan and David and Jane Whitworth, who selected four very differing entries:

The Open Window by Miranda Barrett
Mr Stripeytail by Katie Abbott
Tia and the Falcon by Loz Keal
Matrexit by Andrew Lawston

The Open Window, presented by the Richmond Shakespeare Society, was a tense, dark, psychological thriller which kept the audience guessing right up to the violent ending. Difficult moral choices had to be made and these were translated into good theatre by the taut plotting and economic dialogue. Excellent acting by members of RSS and good use of lighting and sound effects added value to this production.

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And now for something different! Mr Stripeytail was a verse play, written by Katie Abbot for her Performing Arts group of young people and presented by them. The action describes an animal who finds a human voice and his involvement and subsequent difficulties in crossing the line between the animal kingdom and man. In verse throughout, with many changes of rhythm and metre, and with passages for solo speakers and groups, this was exceptionally well written. Music and sound effects were very appropriate. This play will make an excellent addition to the repertoire of young people’s drama and deserves a wider audience.

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The mysteriously named Tia and the Falcon was presented by two members of Teddington Theatre Club. This two-hander told of two friends reunited after several years and their subsequent exploration of what had gone wrong. The depiction of the characters was very credible, understandable and at times funny and the final resolution was brave and unexpected. Again excellent business, props and music enhanced this play.

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Matrexit, presented by Barnes Community Players, another thought-provoking, surreal, sci-fi drama. Humanity’s minds have been uploaded to a virtual reality Digiscape to build a utopian society but this is questioned by the newly-arrived Sukky. She leads a campaign to return to the physical world but voting doesn’t necessarily lead to the desired outcome (? – Brexit parallels). This was an interesting play, full of imaginative ideas but with dialogue which could possibly have been written more succinctly for maximum theatrical effect.

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The judges were Sara Burn Edwards, Kate Edwards, Jerry Gunn and Vivien Heilbron. After an interval for deliberation, Vivian Heilbron, speaking for the judges, praised the high standard of all the works which had presented the judges with some hard choices. Plays must be good in performance as well as on the written page and she announced that the winner was The Open Window, written by Miranda Barrett, which had given the best theatrical experience of the afternoon. The Deputy Mayor of Richmond, Cllr. Benedict Dias presented the Roy Purdue trophy to Miranda, who is 18 years of age and studying for A-levels at College: obviously a talent to watch!

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Arts Richmond  expressed its appreciation of the Reading Panel and the Judges for their hard work which made this event such a success. Special thanks must also be given to Keith Wait and Johanna Chambers (Production Manager and Assistant Stage Manager), The Orange Tree Theatre and Stuart Burgess (Technical Manager), and Gillian Thorpe who co-ordinated the Festival on behalf of Arts Richmond Drama.

Mary Stoakes
March 2018

Photography by James Bell

More images at James Bell Photography

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