Somerset Fellowship of Drama Youth Festival 2007. 6 Plays in a day at The Regal Theatre Minehead November 10th 2007. This year’s SFD Youth Festival was held in the 400 seat capacity theatre at Minehead. For some of the groups it must have been quite daunting to work on that large stage looking out at a sea of faces – all enthusiastically supporting the wonderful work which we were privileged to watch during the day. Janet Tuckett GODA was the adjudicator – Janet is vastly experienced and it was a great joy to have her with us and to hear her give us her excellent interpretation of how well the 6 groups had performed. The afternoon session was kicked off by Curry Amateur Theatrical Society directed by Tom Jeanes – some of their players had appeared in the festival before but for some it was their first time. The play they had chosen was Distracted Globe by N.J.Warburton . The story in this little play was set back stage at the after show party of a production of Hamlet - with ham rolls and more ham rolls in abundance. The plot told the story of how well the cast had performed in the play, what went wrong and most importantly how they were going to tell the person who had lent them a valuable prop – a precious Globe - that it had been broken and stuck back together with glue and a plastic cup!! The action flowed and there were some delightful performances from this gifted group of youngsters. I had the feeling that we fellow thespians have all been there, at this post play party - and the ending came as no shock as they started discussing – what shall we do next ? Guess what ----they opted for Starlight Express! Roller skates and all . WHAT!!! Great fun and a lovely lively start to the afternoon! Well done Curry Youth. Next we had a wonderful musical offering Greece! ‘The Musical’ from the recently formed Somerton Youth Drama Group. It was certainly hard to believe that they had only been together since April! With lovely piano accompaniment from Peter Selby and directed by Claire Campbell, this highly entertaining ensemble won the hearts of many of the audience – it was a delightful romp through myth and legend with central characters Zeus ,Heracles, Hermes, Prometheus and Icarus rubbing shoulders with very up to date mortals. There was something very exciting and highly enjoyable about this group – they were totally focussed, lovely to watch and they worked as a competent team! They sung with huge enthusiasm and their costumes which, in order to portray new characterisations, were flung on and off with gay abandon, were a great success. This was super entertainment and I shall really look forward to seeing this young group again! To complete the afternoon session we were taken into a completely different world by Strode College Performing Arts Students who had devised a wonderfully sculpted piece called Sunday Bloody Sunday. Set in Northern Ireland it focussed on the events in January 1972 when 14 people were shot during a demonstration. The play opened with all the bodies lying on stage and then as the narrator introduced the characters we were transported back through their stories, examining the detail of how events had spiralled out of control in such a way and how the British Army came to be in Ireland. The making of this highly original piece of theatre must have been tremendous learning curve for the students. It was frightening to witness the energy within the group as taunts and menacing action built up into full-scale terror. I loved watching the flowing movement around the stage. The fights were excellent and the Irish accents were really impressive. This was a very strong piece of drama, which held the audience and had great visual impact. Thank you and well done to these highly talented students. The evening session started with a young team from Bradford Playersd directed by Jane Dyer and assisted by Liz Waring who performed ‘A Dog’s Life’ by Pam Valentine. What a great start to the evening! Set in an Animal Shelter were four well-constructed individual cages, which housed four little dogs – all portraying their breed and characteristics. We had the French Poodle, with a great French accent, A German Shepherd called Fritz whose German accent was superb, a mongrel called Ben and puppy called Ginger. This was a delightful script and I was totally amazed by the ability of this young cast to maintain not only their characters throughout but also their ability to sit on their haunches for so long with out their feet going dead!! This little gem of a play certainly aroused our sympathy as the dogs described the actions and behaviour of their past human owners. Then the moment comes when a visitor arrives shown around by the warden, to chose a dog to take home. We were held in suspense as her decision was made and then the very sad little twist at the end left us feeling how very precious our pets are and how they deserve all the caring we can give. I loved this - a big thank you to Bradford Players. St Gregory Youth Theatre in the highly skilled hands of Liz Brown assisted by Penny Holmes have enjoyed enormous success in the past. I marvel at Liz’s imaginative productions. This year they performed a play originally written for 3 women and Liz had adapted it to the needs of this highly talented youth group. Sylvia Plath – a Dramatic Portrait, by Barry Kyle, follows the life of this poet
who travelled along a tormented path in life but her imaginative poetry remains with us as a lasting tribute to her . The group worked seamlessly and faultlessly to portray Sylvia’s journey speaking through poems and additional dialogue which was made all the more vivid by the use of fabulously timed musical interludes written especially for the piece by two of the cast. The use of projection of scenes and portraits of Sylvia made it all the more poignant. There was wonderfully imagery created using simple props, the cast were simply dressed in white and black, with red and white accessories and props giving splashes of colour – I loved the red headbands to denote which young person was carrying the role of Sylvia. There was so much to watch and so much to take in – it was mesmerising. The final moments with the single note on the double bass were magical. I could have watched it all over again! Congratulations to this fine young group for their huge contribution to the success of the festival. The final play came from St. Dunstan’s Community School who performed Twisted by Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters, and was directed by Lisa Keirle assisted by Hannah Moreland. This was the first time that the school had entered the festival and those of us who were fortunate enough to see them, we sincerely hope it is not the last. Their play dealt with very challenging issues – bullying, peer pressure, frustration, and a tragic accident which brings everyone to a halt and the twist in the plot is revealed. The play centres around Gretel - she is in a coma – what has happened ? The plot unfolds twisting and turning and the young cast performed with great stage presence and huge commitment using a variety of dramatic techniques. We witness Gretel within her unsupportive family, which leads to her increased frustration as she heads for academic success but is in danger of losing her chance as she tries to deal not only with the family but with a alternative life at school, the jealousies, the taunting, the menacing confrontations which damages not only her, but the relationships she has with her close friends. This was a wonderful team who moved beautifully around the stage and kept us totally involved. Introduced by SFD Chairman Ron Roberts , Janet Tuckett gave her adjudication at the end of both the afternoon and the evening session. Janet was wonderfully supportive of all the productions and I am sure that we all learnt so much from her objective and encouraging remarks. She complimented each production highlighting the strengths and giving ideas where she felt the young actors could improve in their performance skills. It was a great joy to listen to her. Janet gave certificates of Merit in many categories to the groups and the eventual winner of the Festival was St Gregory Youth for their very fine interpretation of the Sylvia Plath – a Dramatic Portrait. The group will take part and represent us in the 5 counties Youth Drama Festival . The day was inspirational – I loved it– and on behalf of SFD - thank you to everyone who took part and supported . We gained insight into just how much good work is going on and the day was a fine tribute to the Youth of our County. In conclusion may we say a big thank you to Minehead for hosting the day for us – to Lewis Lintern and all the volunteers who helped make the day so special for us all. Hilary May.