February Competition Winners 2014

‘Write the first four pages of the opening of a stage play – any period. ’

Cecily O’Neill Artistic Director of the Chesil Theatre was the adjudicator for the February competition. This served as a preliminary to the one that the Chesil Theatre is launching with a deadline of April 30. (Chesil 10 x10 Drama Festival).

A renowned authority in Drama in Education, Cecily works with students, teachers, directors, and actors throughout the world; leading drama workshops, speaking at conferences, and carrying out research.

Cecily’s Adjudication:

1st Prize: Anne Eckersley, A Family Affair

Anne Eckersley skillfully sets up the opening of a very funny piece of theatre. Within the first four lines of dialogue she establishes the situation, clearly indicates the tone and the relationships of the characters and makes a joke. She rapidly sketches in an increasingly bizarre past and has the audience anticipating equally intriguing future events. I look forward to reading the rest of the play.

A one act play in three scenes. Setting is Gran’s house: Small sitting room, still decorated in 1960s style. There are flying geese on the wall. Old fashioned large television occupies corner of the room. Net curtains at the windows. Furniture is dark and heavy, with white anti-macassars on all chairs. There is a large knitting bag by the fireplace and the floor is covered with a heavily patterned rug or carpet. In the centre of the room is a table covered with plates of sandwiches and cake.

Scene One

A telephone can be heard ringing in another room which is answered and on the television is a news bulletin that sets the scene as very much in present day.

Father enters, looks at the television, turns it off, then wipes his hands on his trousers and helps himself to sandwiches, picks up one in each hand.

Mother comes in carrying another plate of food, looks for somewhere to put it down, tutts, tries to pass it to him to hold. He thinks she is offering him more food, stuffs the

rest of a sandwich into his mouth and reaches out for another sandwich.

Mother Just take the bloody thing.

(Pause. Father holds tray while mother makes space for it on the table.)

Mother And where have you been all morning?

Father Garden with George from next door. He’s quite upset.

Mother {Taking the tray} Don’t sound so surprised.

Father He said he’ll miss her and I don’t think he was joking. Wanted to know whether we were having her buried or cremated. I said we weren’t taking any chances, we were doing both. {He picks up a piece of cake)

Mother You don’t think she’ll mind being cremated?

Father When it comes to your mother, I stopped thinking a long time ago.

Mother I did ask her once what she wanted us to do.

Father What did she say?

Mother I don’t know dear. Why don’t you surprise me?

 

2nd Prize: Mike Rawlins, Happy Families

Effective and witty dialogue in this piece by Mike Rawlins presents the family conflict very subtly and economically. The characterization is clear and having raised our expectations he subverts them in the final lines.

Cast:

Anne – 33, wife of Colin

Belinda – 58, mother of Colin

Colin – 35, himself

A KITCHEN. A TABLE IS CS AT WHICH ANNE IS SEATED FACING DS. SHE IS READING A NEWSPAPER. BELINDA ENTERS SR. SHE IS CARRYING FRESHLY CUT FLOWERS IN A BASKET. SHE PLACES THE FLOWERS ON THE TABLE, RETRIEVES A VASE FROM A CUPBOARD AND SEATS HERSELF TO ANNE’S LEFT.

Belinda: (She begins to arrange the flowers in the vase) Are you fond of Peonies, Anne?

Anne: Between you and me, I think they’re pretentious; a bit overdone and blousy. They try too hard.

Belinda: Colin has always liked them (beat) ever since he was a boy. He used to call them Mummy’s Flowers.

Anne: Such insight in one so young.

Belinda: Indeed. Where has it gone, I wonder?

THERE IS A SHORT SILENCE

Belinda: Did you not enjoy the salmon? I couldn’t help but notice that you’d hardly touched your lunch.

Anne: The salmon was fine, really.

Belinda: Are you sure. It can be a bit rich for some tastes. Perhaps I should have laid on something a little less (beat) refined.

Anne: Thanks for your concern but it’s ok; I’m just not eating much lately.

Belinda: You’re not unwell are you?

Anne: No. I’m fine, (pause) thanks.

THERE IS THE SOUND OF A DOOR SLAMMING AND COLIN IS HEARD OFFSTAGE

Colin: For goodness sake, Ziggy! Will you please sit … good boy. Now, stay. Ziggy, stay.

COLIN ENTERS SL. HE IS REMOVING HIS COAT AND APPEARS HOT AND FLUSTERED.

 

3rd Prize: Niki Wakefield, PTA

This play begins very promisingly, and the characters of the likeable but disorganized Hailey and the kind but rather pompous head teacher are effectively established. I enjoyed the amusing dialogue, but the lack of any real forward momentum makes me wonder if this is meant to be a one-act play.

Act One, Scene One

Lights up. The stage is set up as a headteacher’s office, with a desk and three chairs.

There’s a small bin and various items on the desk, including a phone and an ugly trophy.

Mr. Sharpe, a Headteacher in his mid-fifties, writes at his desk. There’s a knock at the door.

Mr. Sharpe: Come in.

Enter Hailey Reeves, early thirties, wearing a coat, loud pyjamas and novelty animal slippers. She looks nervous, like a naughty school girl.

Hailey: Good morning, Mr. Sharpe.

Mr. Sharpe: Bad morning, Mrs. Reeves?

Hailey: Huh?

He points at her pyjamas. She looks down. Horror! She quickly covers them up with her coat and sits down.

Hailey: Headmaster, if it’s about the pet Ed brought in for animal week… we didn’t know it was an alligator.

Mr. Sharpe: Seven children and a teacher had to see the school nurse, don’t you know?

Hailey: I’m really sorry. The guy at the car boot said it was a newt.

Mr. Sharpe: Don’t you know the difference? An alligator’s a brutal animal, part of the reptile family, native to China and the U.S. The Newt’s a member of the salamandridae family. We have several endangered natives here in the UK.

Hailey: So the difference is one’s a protected species and the other you need protecting from?

Mr. Sharpe: Well, yes… I suppose you could say that.

Hailey: We thought something was up when it ate all the goldfish.

Mr. Sharpe: Alligators are fascinating creatures. Fascinating. Their ancestry dates all the way back to the dinosaurs. They’ve been found in fossils, don’t you know? But they don’t belong in an infant school. (Pause) Anyway, I didn’t ask you here about that. I asked you here because… well…

He picks up the phone.

Mr. Sharpe (cont.): You can let them in now. I’m sorry about what’s going to happen next.

Feb 14 Nikki Wakefield Mike Rawlins Anne Eckersley
The Winners

Highly Commended: Karin Groves (pseudonym Georgie Jensen), Trench Truce

Georgie Jensen has set her play in the trenches of WW1 where two wounded soldiers from opposing sides encounter each other. Our sympathies are engaged by these likeable characters, although Heine’s perfect English is not explained. The challenge for the playwright will be to keep these two characters connected in spite of wounds and wartime.

Highly Commended: Sally Russell, (pseudonym Erin Clay), The Visitors

There is some lively dialogue in Erin Clay’s play and a growing sense of menace as one couple plan to take over the home and lives of the other older pair. Although the exposition could be clearer, this is an ambitious attempt to handle quite a complicated plot.

 

The prizes were journals, together with a signed Certificate of Adjudication by Cecily O’Neill. The opening page of the first, second, and third competition winners is shown as follows:

In Conclusion:

Cecily O’Neill said that she very much enjoyed reading the entries, and that the standard of work was so high, she wished she could have given everyone an award.

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