British All Winners Festival

What a lot of fun we had!!

Phoenix won the Lighthorne Festival of One-Act Plays last month (June 2017), earning the right to enter the All-Winners Finals. We are the fifth group to go forward to the national championships from the South Warwickshire Festival since it was founded in 2013, but the first to win it.

The week-long Finals, at the Lamproom Theatre in Barnsley, South Yorkshire and organised by the National Drama Festivals Association, featured nine one-act and three full-length plays.

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A team of actors, crew members, and loyal supporters packed up their cars and headed up North to South Yorkshire on Sunday 16th July - camping just outside Barnsley in a fantastic little campsite in Peniston -
Orchard Camping which we took over completely. The owner of the campsite, Jane, made us feel very welcome and cooked us breakfast every morning.

On Monday morning the cast and crew set off to the
Lamproom Theatre, Barnsley for the tech rehearsal. It’s a fantastic little theatre, converted from an old Methodist church - and the staff were absolutely brilliant and made us feel very welcome and at ease. Once the Tech was over, we all headed back to the campsite to bask in the sun for a couple of hours and to run through the lines, before putting on our posh frocks and heading to the Civic Reception, hosted by the Mayor, Cllr Jeff Ennis in the Town Hall - a stunning building - and enjoyed an afternoon tea with many other of the performing teams and members of the National Drama Festival Association (NDFA) members, before heading back to the Theatre for the evenings performance.


We were second on during the evening, following an extremely talented Youth Group from the Isle of Man. It would be fair to say that the cast (and director) were extremely nervous - this is probably the most prestigious event we have ever done and we really wanted to get it right. Having never competed outside of Oxfordshire before - we really didn’t know what to expect, although we knew that the standard was going to be high and we were incredibly proud just to have made it to the festival and perform amongst the best of the best in the country.

(Very nervous cast!!)

The cast acted their socks off while the director chewed her nails nervously - they were fantastic! “The Lesson” by Eugene Ionesco is a very difficult play from the Theatre of the Absurd. But the cast nailed it - bringing out all the comedy, all the horror and all the intensity of the piece.

Once the performances were finished it was over to Veteran adjudicator Russell Whitely, or the Guild of Drama Adjudicators, for the adjudication. After advising the audience not to try and work out what the hell was going on(!), he praised the team for their “powerful” performance and commented on the pace, excellent cueing, use of stage, consistency, attention to detail and keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. He concluded with “It was a production that for me explored the highs and the lows in variety with great skill. The build up of tension and horror in the piece, and the fluctuations in it’s emotional level were outlined with sensitivity and great attention to detail – this didn’t happen by accident they really worked at it – it was a theatrical tour de force that had us riveted all the way through. ”

We were euphoric and even more so when he came back stage to thank us for our performance and tell us how much he enjoyed it.

After a few well earned drinks in the bar, we headed back to camp. We woke to another sunny morning in Yorkshire (and full English breakfast courtesy of Jane!) before packing up and heading home after what was a really terrific couple of days spent doing something we all enjoy and camping with friends in a very beautiful setting.

A few of us came back up for the awards ceremony and to see the remaining 3 plays on the final day of the festival - including the incredible TACT (Total Arts Community Theatre, from Tamworth) who had just recently won the British final of the All England Theatre Festival with their mesmerising production of “Lear’s Daughters”. There was so much talent in the theatre and I’m sure that Russell had his work cut out - we were all winners at this festival so it was really going to be about splitting hairs and probably down to which production he connected to the most.

There were many awards for Full length plays, Youth plays and One Act plays Both Daisy and Corin were eligible for the most promising Youth award (both being under 21) and both were nominated. However, Corin pipped Daisy to the post with Russell saying that her portrayal of the pupil, at first coquettish, then confused and, finally, terrified, was “absolute, total perfection”.

Then the biggest shock of the night was when Russell announced us as the winner saying that we got it ’spot on’. He told us afterwards that he had never seen an amateur group perform the Ionesco work better - and he’s seen a few productions of the play in his time!

Lighthorne Festival chairman Rod Chaytor, who came along to support us on the Monday and was there at the awards ceremony, said:”We are proud and delighted to share Didcot’s triumph. It is a huge achievement to win at this level. They gave a stunning interpretation of a classic theatrical piece.”

We had such and amazing time and we would like to thank all those who came along and supported us, Rod Chaytor and the Lighthorne Festival committee for inviting us to their festival (and allowing us to win against the home Lighthorne group!), the National Drama Festival Association for inviting us to the British All Winners and the wonderful Lamproom Theatre staff who looked after us so well.