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Festival 2018

This year's All-England Theatre Festival Northern Semi Final was held over a swelteringly sunny early May Bank Holiday weekend at Saltburn-by--the-Sea. Saltburn '53 Drama Group, under Sheenah Taylor, hosted the event magnificently over three sessions at their Community Theatre. Audience support was hearteningly good (there was a packed house for the final night). The event featured six of the seven AETF first round festivals in the North (the Leverhulme winners were unable to travel). Four out of the six productions featured brand new writing. Robert Meadows, the excellent adjudicator, provided astute feedback.

The participants were as follows:

HOG THE LIMELIGHT (Isle of Man) who performed THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN by Sharon Mitchell - a moving play based on the real life letters home of a First World War Officer who did not survive the conflict. Sharon Mitchell directed (and performed in) her own play.

THE ROYALTY THEATRE, SUNDERLAND who performed TOO FAITHED by Lee Stewart - a very witty, vignette about a young married couple no longer starry eyed, but 'not quite yet at the stage where they want to kill each other'. Lee Stewart directed (and performed in) his own play.

WEIGHTON YOUNG PLAYERS (Market Weighton) who performed HIGH STAKES by the US playwright Alan Haehnel - set in a school classroom during an exam, the play focuses on the reaction of one student to escalating abuse aimed at her during the exam by her fellow pupils. Is she hallucinating, or is she really being targeted, and why?

SEDGEFIELD PLAYERS who performed THE JEWISH WIFE by Bertolt Brecht. Part of a larger play, 'Fear and Misery of the Third Reich' this stark and challenging play looks at the impact on a relationship in which the wife is Jewish and the husband is not and the sacrifices that have to be made in order to stay alive.

PATELEY BRIDGE DRAMATIC SOCIETY who performed ON FALSE PREMISES by Keith Burton. This finely crafted and imaginative farce is set in a plush New York apartment which Jake, pretending to be a city slicker, is showing off to his new girlfriend to impress her but which he has simply borrowed from a friend at Vacation Swappers.com. His plan is rudely interrupted by the arrival of another couple and hilarious consequences ensue.

SALTBURN '53 DRAMA GROUP who performed A TIDING OF MAGPIES by Susan Pierce. This multi-cast piece of total theatre (complete with musicians and singers) narrates the real life story of a brilliant cipher clerk of humble Welsh origins employed at GCHQ, Cheltenham in the early 50s who is 'turned' by the Soviets and disappears.

Trophy Winners

The Harry Mellor Cup (Best Décor) went to Saltburn '53

The Paul Dyson Trophy (Adjudicator's Discretionary Award) went to Sedgefield Players

The TSB Silver Salver (Best Actress) went to Olivia Bowarn of The Royalty, Sunderland

The Elma Trophy (Best Actor) went to John Walker of Hog The Limelight.

For the second year running the recipients of the Silver Stag - winners trophy - were Saltburn '53 for their brilliantly choreographed and imaginatively staged production, once more under the direction of Sue Pierce. The well-drilled cast of around 30 (spread right across the age ranges) gave us community theatre at its best. Although they garnered no silverware, Pateley Bridge Dramatic Society were worthy runners-up.

Congratulations to Saltburn '53 who go on to contest the AET Grand Final at the Mitchell Arts Centre, Hanley, on 2 June.