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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Watermill - Raising Voices

31st March to 5th April 2003.
31st March: Glass Eels by Nell Leyshon, directed by Euan Smith
1st April: That Good Night by R.O. Williams, directed by Chris Myles
2nd April: Chasing Dreams by Josephine Carter, directed by Jonathan McGuinness
3rd April: Land of the Midday Night by Brian Evans, directed by Simon Scardifield
4th April: Last Summer by Andrew Beattie, directed by Matt Flynn
5th April The Fourth Fold by Gavin Rogers, directed by Tony Bell
Six writers, selected from over 80 submissions by a team of professional practitioners, will have had the opportunity of working with a professional director and actors to present their play as a rehearsed reading in the theatre in front of an audience. Writers of all cultures and backgrounds have been encouraged to explore the richness of the English language and the visual and emotional dynamics that theatre can offer. This week of plays is the result. A different play will be presented each evening and there will be a discussion after each reading.

This review was from the Newbury Weekly News.

New voices

Raising Voices, a celebration of new writing for the stage, at The Watermill, from Monday, March 31 to Saturday, April 5

New writing for the stage is the very lifeblood of theatre, so congratulations to Jill Fraser and her team at The Watermill for bringing a week of wonderfully diverse exciting theatre to Newbury. The six plays presented were selected from more than 80 submissions and each author had the opportunity to work on the text with a dramaturge before working with a director and actors to present their plays as a rehearsed reading. This was a precious opportunity to hear their words come to life.

There were two local playwrights; R.O.Williams' That Good Night was an endearing drama set in Wales, with keenly-observed characters. Idwal and Gladwys have been married for 49 years but it is the night that Gladwys dies and we are soon sharing the bitter-sweet tale of life and death with resonances that every family can relate to as they cope with death.

Williams' play is a delicious slice of Welsh life exploring the harshness and closeness of coal mining villages where the solution to all problems is 'putting the kettle on for a cuppa tea'. You can't help but feel for Idwal as he implores "who is going to finish all my sentences or listen to The Archers, what am I going to do without her?" This was a sensitive moving play and totally captivating. A Welsh gem!

By contrast, Land of the Midday Night by Brian Evans, the second of the two Newbury writers, was a much more complex and ambitious piece which proved more difficult to realise theatrically. Set in Trondheim, Norway, during the Nazi occupation the country's leading theatrical company are preparing for the opening night of the new season. Influenced by Ibsen, they hope that their play will help to explore the occupation by the Nazis within the context of their play. This was a brave attempt at mixing rehearsals within the theatre to cope with real life outside, a device that the author overused and consequently resulted in a play that was over-wordy, hard to follow and less successful in achieving its intention.

Saturday evening's The Fourth Fold by Gavin Rogers was an excellent piece of writing set in a small coastal town in Wildwood New Jersey. The play has a clear structure and cleverly explores the relationship between three generations as they reflect their life in America in a 'variety store' in the late summer of 2000. Rogers' characters are rich, rounded and full of emotion. All are trying to escape the horrors in their life - Benjamin the horrors of the holocaust, James a murder in England and Vinny a gang contract. This was a powerful moving play that deserves to be taken up by producers for future staging.

Full credit must be given to the actors and directors who, having only the day to work on each play, presented quality theatre which must have pleased the playwrights.

The award for the writer who will benefit most from the £750 grant went to R.O. Williams. Well deserved! And bravo to the Watermill.