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Hungerford And District Community Arts Festival.

5th to 7th July 2002, in the Croft Hall, Hungerford.

Friday 5th July

Box Theatre Company

For One Night Only

Saturday 6th July

Lisa Harrington School of Drama

Road (Extracts) by Jim Cartwright

New Era Theatre Company

The Donahue Sisters by Geraldine Aron

Two's Company

The Pursuit of Love- an anthology

Sunday 7th July

St Bartholomew's School Students

Retribution - a devised piece

Newbury Dramatic Society

Sganarelle by Moliere

Kintbury Players

Between Mouthfuls by Alan Ayckbourn

Here are the reviews from the NWN.

Up for the challenge

HADCAF FESTIVAL OF THEATRE 1: For One Night Only, performed by The Box Theatre Company at the Croft Hall, Hungerford on Friday 5th July

The Box Theatre Company, regulars at HADCAF, started the festival with four very different pieces, played in the round on a bare stage. The first was an excerpt from The Skriker by Caryl Churchill - not an easy playwright, and this is one of her more obscure works, so a challenging piece. Louise-Marie Morris played the Skriker ('a shape-shifter and death portent, ancient and damaged') in a short scene from the start of the play. Her facial expressions and movements were excellent, setting the scene with a hunted, haunted look. The complexity of the words made it difficult to follow, and she should consider how to improve the clarity of the speech, perhaps by slowing down.

The second piece was a short story about a train journey, by Saki: The Story Teller, and it was read by Edward Roberts. He had a strong, expressive voice; he brought out the humour well and made good use of the open stage.

Third was a Max Boyce sketch, Schooldays, performed by Rhys Swinburne. It showed a negative view of school days in a humorous style; his delivery and timing were very good, and he has all the makings of a stand-up comic.

After the interval came a devised piece, Queen Elizabeth, similar in style to the Reduced Shakespeare Company. This was performed by Duncan Mack, Paul Isherwood as the narrator, Matt Goodridge, Rhys Swinburne and Ian Pocock. It covered the life of Elizabeth I (with an all-male cast!), and had some truly awful puns and some great acting, with some imaginative touches in the direction - I loved the balloons in the trousers. It’'s a difficult style to do well, and the production needed a bit more zip and pace, but it gave us a very funny end to an interesting evening.


Evening of contrasts

HADCAF FESTIVAL OF THEATRE 2, at the Croft Hall, Hungerford, on Saturday, July 6

On Saturday there were three pieces, the first of which was extracts from 'Road' by Jim Cartwright, performed by students of Lisa Harrington's School of Drama. The play took an evening's tour of a depressed Lancashire Road and the excellent cast (Paul German, Sam Hall, Emma Hawkins, Zoe Iles, David Knight and Suzie Prince) pulled no punches in a series of gritty and realistic scenes where the characters were brought vividly to life, dealing with controversial themes with strong language.

The young cast were well-rehearsed and directed - convincing, dramatic and funny, and always compelling. It was a powerful and challenging piece for the cast and the audience alike, but I wondered about the suitability of the play, given the profile of the audience. I am not a prude, and perhaps the play is supposed to make us feel uncomfortable but there were members of the audience who looked quite ill at ease.

The second act brought us 'The Donahue Sisters' performed by New Era Players. This play has previously been reviewed in the NWN2, but I must commend the superb cast; Marie Jacobs, Sue Keer, Brenda Agutter and director Kathleen Sharrett for an outstanding, riveting and hugely enjoyable piece of theatre.

Finally, in complete contrast, Two's Company presented 'The Pursuit of Love'. This was an anthology with a common theme, as the name suggests, with pieces ranging from William Shakespeare to Pam Ayres, and a whole lot in between. The readers Sheila McKean and Freddie Madden used their considerable acting experience and many different accents and characterisations to bring the diverse readings to life. This was a thought provoking, humorous, cosy and charming end to the second night of the Festival of Theatre.


Farce and frolics

HADCAF FESTIVAL OF THEATRE 3, at the Croft Hall, Hungerford, on Sunday, July 7

The final day of HADCAF's Festival of Theatre saw three diverse plays by three equally diverse groups.

'Retribution', written and performed by four St. Bart's lower-sixthform pupils, explored the theories of Antonin Attaud, creator of the Theatre of Cruelty. It was not macabre, but told the story of a young girl's deprivations in prison. The cast of two girls and two boys (Liz Hoskins, Becky Thomas, Davis Swan and Tom Jones) managed to bring fear, humour and concern to the 20-minute performance. The girls mimed teeth cleaning and dishing up the food with superb timing and although the plot was a little muddled and needed more time to unravel, the actors held us captive.

Newbury Dramatic Society performed a translation of 'Sganarelle', brought up to date by an ingenious set and modern costume. This farce centres around a young girl in love with an absentee boyfriend and her father's attempt to marry her off to another, for money. She faints and is assisted by Sganarelle whose wife misinterprets his attempts to resuscitate her. This was better than a Brian Rix farce, relying on wit rather than rushing about in chaos. All the cast were excellent, however credit must go to Richard Tripp as Sganarelle, who had by far the most dialogue, which he delivered without falter and to Zandra Foster and Sid Marshall as the wronged parties who console each other with wine and kisses.

Finally, Kintbury Players performed Ayckbourn's 'Between Mouthfuls' and I felt that they saved the best till last. The set was clever - a restaurant with a waiter (Tony Hillit) whose expressionable face spoke more than a thousand words. Two couples enter; a boss and his assistant with their respective wives, unaware that the other will be there. The boss, in a brilliant portrayal by Chris Trigwell, has taken his wife (Judith Nye) for a meal after returning from 'business' in Italy. They interact beautifully - he is bossy, she is sharp. The assistant and his wife (Graeme Coulham and Carol Moss) are there because she has been away on holiday - yes, you've guessed it, with the boss. The deed is discovered by each party during the meal as the conversations of both tables interplay with split second timing and the intervention of the implacable waiter. The performance was as polished as any on the West End stage. Well-rehearsed and produced.