Last weekend, DAG took their latest play on the road for the preliminary round of the All England Theatre Festival of one act plays, so I thought I’d give you a bit of a blog about it. I’m sure I’ll leave a lot of information out here, but I guess I can only write about the things I know, and my own experiences, so why not comment? I’d love to know your experiences?!
We have participated in this festival for many years and had mixed successes over the years reaching the English final on several occasions and winning at the British Final on one occasion. We’ve won a whole host of awards for our acting, direction, set design, lighting, and sound, and always attended the various rounds with a high level of organisation and professionalism.
In the past there was a preliminary round in our area – for many years we participated in the festival at Baildon just outside of Bradford, and then for a couple of years, the festival took place in Dewsbury at the little theatre on Upper Road in Batley Carr (where up until recently we performed the majority of our main house productions each year). The festival eventually closed, and we were forced to find a new preliminary festival who would have us if we were to continue entering the aetf each year…
Up stepped the North Ferriby festival (a lovely little village just outside of Hull) who welcomed us with open arms. so these days we travel to the East Riding each year for the first round, and every year we have a fantastic time.
My first involvement in a festival play was back in the Baildon days when we used to enter the third-year youth play into the competition. My group performed a David Foxton play – ‘No Smoke’ Although I dont recall whether we won the competition or not. I do however know that the adult’s entry that year was ‘The Last Yankee’, by Arthur Miller play, which my mum was playing a main part in. After the first round, the play went from strength to strength, and eventually went, via an English final in Welling Garden City, to the British Final in Weymouth, which we won! Not bad for my first experience of the competition!
Since that time, I’ve done lighting and sound, worked back stage, acted in and directed festival plays for DAG, and always thoroughly enjoyed each round. Traveling to exotic climbs such as Saltburn, Bridlington, and Street, and finishing every year by entering our play in the Sheffield SADATA theatre festival.
We’ve had elation, disappointment and surprise – and that’s just from the various restaurants and bars we’ve frequented; We’ve had controversy, uninformed comments and fainting from the adjudicators; But above all, we’ve had fun. Well organised, disciplined fun. The festival season is an interesting beast as it is the one opportunity for competition. It gives our Rugby League and Football loving members and patrons a chance to get behind our fantastic group and support us through thick and thin, and to feel a part of something really special.
The organisation that goes into the festival each year from our end alone is massive. We have to choose a play, acast, a director. We have to rehearse, build a set, assemble props, create lighting plot and sound. Then when we have a play that’s ready to go on the road, we haev to arrange transport, drivers, stage crew. There is literally loads to do… So imagine what a task it is to arrange a round of a festival like the guys do at North Ferriby each year, with numerous groups entering, including a youth section. Or how about co-ordinating the entire entire festival from the Preliminary rounds through to the British Final.
It’s vast. It’s frantic. It’s amazing.
As you may have already heard, we came second in the Preliminary round this year, so the festival season has ended early for us. We had a great time at north Ferriby, and picked up awards for our technical achievements – Best Set, Best Lighting and Best Sound. We also got nominations in every category we were eligible for for our well crafted play and excellent direction and performances, but this year it was not to be.
I would really like to wish our friends at the Hull Playgoers Society all the best as they move on to Saltburn with their play “Laughter in the Shadow of the Trees” They have been extremely supportive of us over the years, particularly when I took “A Dog’s Life” to the English final, and produced a really emotional and moving play this year.
So what’s next for us? Well the play isn’t quite over yet. On the 23rd of June, we’ll go for one last hurrah at the Sheffield Festival, and then it’s time to start crafting next year’s entry. Like everything else at DAG, we never stop. We continue to grow and learn and entertain.
Not a bad mantra that really, is it?!
ps if you want to learn more about the AETF, the schedule and rules, then visit their website.