FEATS Newsletter

June 1999

 

 

FEATS’99

21 - 24 May 1999

Forum Theatre, Meyrin, Geneva

 

List of Prize Winners

 

Phillips Cup for 1st Place Stockholm Players, Sweden

The Ghost Sonata by August Strindberg

 

Mervyn Briscoe Award for 2nd Place Tagora, Strasbourg

Three More Sleepless Nights by Caryl Churchill

 

Wedgwood Trophy for 3rd Place Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre,

Interior Designs by Jimmie Chinn

 

Anthony Cornish Discretionary Award Nigel Harvey, Stockholm Players

for The Servants in The Ghost Sonata

 

Verulam Award for Brian Hughes, Village Players Lausanne

Best Original Script Waltz Time

 

Best Actor Martin Wright, Tagora for Frank in

Three More Sleepless Nights by Caryl Churchill

 

Best Actress Christine Schnell, Tagora for Margaret in

Three More Sleepless Nights by Caryl Churchill

 

The Grand Duchy Award Little Theatre Geneva

for Best Stage Presentation The Bear by Anton Chekhov

 

The Marcel Huhn-Bruno Boeye Award ESOC Theatre Group, Darmstadt

for Stage Management Epitaph for a Hard Man by Evelyn Hood

and The Bonn Players, for lighting & sound in

Agnes of God by John Pielmeier

 

A Review of FEATS’99

21 - 24 May 1999 at Forum Theatre, Meyrin, Geneva

Congratulations, GEDS ! After all the concerns about whether Geneva would be too far or too expensive for the regular FEATS participants to take part, FEATS’99 turned out to be an outstanding success. The audience was one of the largest ever seen at FEATS - over 1700 seats were sold over the four nights and there was hardly a free seat in the house. The Box Office ran out of season tickets and had to have more printed. The Movenpick Hotel was full - 137 bedrooms booked for the weekend by FEATS supporters. 250 people all demanding eggs and bacon for breakfast put a severe strain on the hotel’s resources, but the staff coped brilliantly.

Theatrically, it was also a very successful festival. Of the 12 plays presented in the main festival, more than half were in the "very good" or "excellent" category (scoring in excess of 75 points). Scott Marshall, the GODA adjudicator, added to the enjoyment through his entertaining and constructive critiques of each evenings performances. There was also an impressive entry in the Fringe festival, with number of very dramatic performances (including a production by the Maidenhead Drama Guild) attracting a large and enthusiastic audience, in spite of the warm sunshine and the many other attractions being offered by the lake and the city of Geneva.

And then there were the usual social activities - a large foyer and a well manned bar in the intervals providing plenty of room to mingle and discuss the plays; a comfortable hotel within a short walking distance of the theatre; and a very well attended Saturday Night party, held in the theatre, complete with excellent food and a lively "one-man band". What more can a FEATS audience desire.

Even the Gods were on our side. After a damp and chilly start, the sun came out and the second half of the weekend was hot and sunny - someone even reported that Mont Blanc was visible for a few seconds. Patches of snow on the Jura, shining in the bright sunshine, provided the perfect panoramic backdrop to the Meyrin Forum Theatre complex and to FEATS’99 in Geneva.

Thank you again to the GEDS Organising Committee and every else who was involved in hosting a wonderful festival.

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

The Bear by Anton Chekhov Little Theatre of Geneva

A huge portrait of the deceased husband dominated the simple but dramatic setting for this Russian play. The servant Luka played a fine comedy role, the Bear blustered magnificently and Elena gave a spirited performance. The costumes were perfect and Elena’s costume particularly beautiful. Ultimately the portrait fell to reveal a silhouette tableaux of the new couple embracing. A fun ending to a well thought out and amusing Bear.

Waltz Time by Brian Hughes Village Players, Lausanne

This original script about the empathy between a new resident and an old incumbent of an old people’s home, was presented with excellent timing by the actress playing Mirabelle and nice feeling from James. I felt the other three members of the cast could have got much more out of their roles, but never-the-less the play worked well with a good twist in the tail.

Interior Designs by Jimmie Chinn Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre

I found the vast, black empty stage with three evenly spaced chairs and one step ladder very bleak. Stewart Booth playing the two-timing con man Him was brilliantly cast, his three temporary women were given no chance to use each other’s stage space (resulting in a cramped feeling on a huge stage) but each delivered their diverse roles very well. The costumes were well chosen.

The Froegle Dictum by Mark Medoff Copenhagen Theatre Circle

This was an absurdist comedy about a shared bed-sitting-room with neat Mandy and Ronald in one half and Al, a suicidal slob, in the other. Barbie Doll Mandy tries to introduce Harriet into Al’s life, Harriet is willing but Al is infatuated with Mandy. The cast threw themselves wholeheartedly into absurd suicide attempts and sexual high jinks and life governed by a Guru’s manual. Ronald and Mandy end up dead, Al, of course, lives and Harriet remains one of life’s rejects. Much more fun could have been had with the set to underline the contrasting lifestyles. The actors could have played to each other more, rather then to the audience.

The Horation by Heiner Muller Anglo-American Theatre Group, The Hague

The enactment of this epic poem of a Roman battle and the aftermath, made a welcome contrast to the festival. Three huge draped banners one white, one red and one purple formed a sweeping backdrop to the piece. On stage the cast used mime and group movement to enliven the poem, with added emphasis from atmospheric on-stage sound effects and well placed spot lighting.

An Englishman Abroad by Alan Bennett The Semi-Circle, Basel

The actress, Coral Browne, on tour in Moscow, goes to see Guy Burgess who is living out his life in exile. I thought the play was very well cast and the atmosphere of the Burgess flat, with its faded furniture and a rose decorated green screen, excellent. The Bennett script was very well handled and the leading man’s rendition of G&S’s For He is an Englishman made a poignant ending.

Leonardo’s Last Supper by Peter Barnes English Comedy Club, Brussels

The elegant medieval set with soft lighting and a reverent tone of processing, candle carrying nuns round Leonardo’s coffin was rudely shattered by the bawdiness of this raucous play. Leonardo’s corpse comes to life to his intrigued delight but the three members of the nauseatingly vulgar family of Undertakers decide to drown him in a bucket of vomit to satisfy their own avarice. The cast clearly enjoyed their roles, but really filthy costumes for the crooks would have made it more convincing.

Act II of Broken Glass by Arthur Miller Geneva English Drama Society

It was truly difficult to see the characters in the low level of lighting used in this play. Leaping straight into the final act of this emotional play of failed marriage, failed job and failed health was handled well by the cast, especially in the role of Phillip Gellburg. The set seemed to overwhelm the play but the actors interacted believably with each other and were not afraid to turn their backs to the audience.

Act II of Agnes of God by John Pielmeier The Bonn Players

It was hard to enter this play at the height of tension when we are to find out how the nun Agnes conceived her child and whether she was the one to murder the new born baby. Agnes sat in a spot-lit Master Mind chair to undergo hypnotism with an over-involved psychiatrist, while a similarly over-involved Mother Superior stood by. All three roles were well handled and Dr Livingstone and Mother Miriam’s disappointment in the obvious revelation and subsequent guilt at Agnes’ suicide really depressed.

Epitaph for a Hard Man by Evelyn Hood ESOC Theatre Group, Darmstadt

We were taken right into the working class world, inhabited by an elderly ex-con widower, by a perfect box set with its mismatched furniture, ornaments and pictures. The widower, the ghost of his wife and their successful yet resentful and revengeful daughter were convincing true to type and had nice energy, even if the opportunity for a great on-stage fight (over an ornament) was missed.

Three More Sleepless Nights by Caryl Churchill Tagora, Strasbourg

We saw a double bed featuring Margaret and Frank’s explosive marriage, then Dawn and Pete’s quiet incompatibility and finally Margaret and Pete’s hopeless cohabitation. Margaret and Frank were played with great energy in Scene I and Dawn’s suicide attempt in Scene 2 was perfectly understandable but I felt Scene 3 didn’t work as well. The set changes were unnecessarily complicated, muddled and lengthy but the costumes were just right.

The Ghost Sonata by August Strindberg Stockholm Players

You likes Strindberg or you loathes him but surely it is rare to see a production where every single moment has been so carefully, yet entertainingly thought out. From the opening moment of the black cowled figures carrying flaming torches, then a house formed by a white rope held aloft by a broom and then an interior with a rope doorway and a human clock with rope pendulum, the Strindberg characters were built up and destroyed. Fine on-stage cello playing added to the completeness of the piece. Costuming and make-up were superb - mainly black and white, but with a touch of iceblue and also gold frogging, both significant. Hummel and The Servants were strikingly portrayed - the whole production was on a very high plain indeed. A lot of hard work from a dedicated, supportive drama group. Thank you Stockholm.

by AB

FEATS FRINGE

(Thank you, Anne Minter, for the review of Sunday’s Fringe programme, with apologies for my severe editing)

The Fringe took place in the foyer area of the Forum Meyrin Theatre complex on Sunday and Monday afternoons. In spite of the marvellous weather, a large audience was entertained by a full and varied Fringe programme.

PRATS in Space by Vic Farrer performed by CATS, Rheindahlen There is a mistaken impression in many drama groups that the backstage crew cannot act ……they are however cunning beings and let others make prats of themselves whilst they plot their escape route. This was the story of such a journey when, suitably dressed in blacks, silver wellies and silver half footballs on their heads, the space-crew headed off for SCRAM …..sorry, MARS - the directions were upside down. You can tell the tone of a play by the opening sound, and a flushing toilet set the scene. This original piece had the audience in stitches with references to the Navy Lark (left hand down a bit); Apollo 13 (we have a problem) and many others. I loved the summary of the shuttle hostess abandoned on the launch pad as ‘Toasted Crumpet’

Sure Thing by David Ives performed by FEST, Frankfurt Most of us have encountered the situation where we spoil a good moment by saying the wrong thing and have little chance to recover. This play featured a boy and girl at a café and a silent benevolent spirit helping them to recover from their false starts by sounding a gong and backtracking their dialogue. It was highly realistic with the audience all laughing and squirming at the totally inappropriate phrases. The expressions on the face of the spirit and multiple ways in which he struck the bong were a joy to watch. The rest of our stay in Geneva was prompted by conversations punctuated by ‘Bong!’ when one of us said something out of turn !

A Poster of the Cosmos by Lanford Wilson performed by GEDS This poignant monologue started off aggressive and hostile as a statement given to police in New York after a death. As time progressed, we got to the breakdown of the individual, with the hidden feelings excellently portrayed by changes in body posture and the wringing of delicate hands. His emotions moved through anger to sorrow and to pain as we heard of the gradual decline and death of his lover from AIDS and the desperation from the survivor to catch the disease and die too. A very moving and powerful performance by Neil-Jon Murphy.

Playground Fever by Oliver Snowball performed by Jane Hoskisson and Danielle Butler The contrast between lessons and life portrayed over a school break-time when two girls are playing general knowledge questions for cigarettes. The fact that one of the girls is heavily pregnant and does not appear to know why, or what happens next, is brought into sharp relief when she starts labour. From beneath a grey woollen skirt a newborn baby appears – all red and sticky. Her friend uses a Swiss Army penknife to cut the cord and then they stand hopeless and helpless until the bell for French rings. The girls then tie the baby up debating whether to say "au revoir" or "a bientot" to the child and leaving with a "Fresh air’s good for them". This strong indictment of the current education system was very cleverly and touchingly performed carefully avoiding melodrama and bad taste.

Murder in the Classroom performed by New World Theatre Company, Luxembourg Murder and death in a variety of guises and shapes from Shakespeare to Shiller, from Mary Queen of Scots to the Belgrano, all chillingly and superbly acted by six individuals. Using few props and in black the actors moved through the crowd to play their games – the message being that we are all murderers either by intention or by omission, by not stopping violence or protesting against it. The speed and violence of the sword-fighting in Hamlet; the poems of death by parcel bombs; the woes of mothers of soldiers returned from the war in coffins and the imaginative use of a simple device - a scarf - left me stunned with tear tracks down my cheeks. Each of the sixty characters was believable; that only six people were involved was incredible: this was theatre par excellence!

The first offering on Monday was The Holy Ground by Dermot Bolger. Maria Knott (Irish Theatre Group, Brussels) presented us with a well sustained, emotional and deeply-affecting performance as the widow O’Muirthile, disposing of her late husband’s papers and disclosing a very different side of their private life at home to that of his public life.

This was followed by The Village Players, Lausanne, performing Monkey Business, a new play written by local playwright Brian Hughes (another of his plays was presented in the main festival). An amazing amount of furniture and properties were crammed onto the small stage, but the cast coped very well and the congestion added to the trapped helplessness as David was put under increasing pressure by the scheming females in his life.

Another husband and wife relationship was presented by The Bonn Players in Silver Wedding by John Bowen. The initial unwillingness to speak the truth, developing into a destructive openness and then back to ignoring the reality, was dramatically presented by Sue Ferrow and Alasdair Seth.

Finally, a visiting group from the Maidenhead Drama Guild bought the 1999 FEATS Fringe to an end with their entertaining production of Play for Yesterday or The Little Hut of Emnity by James Saunders. This was presented as a spoof 1940’s radio play, complete with evening dress and old fashioned BBC radio microphones. It took a few moments to realise that the action away from the microphone was often more entertaining than the words being spoken. Great fun for both cast and audience.

Thank you to everyone who took part and special thanks to Ann Oakley and her team of helpers, for putting together such an interesting Fringe programme

Future FEATS

 

FEATS 2000 9 to 12 June 2000

Host group: NWTC, Luxembourg.

Mike Tilbury (GODA) adjudicator.

This is the fifth time since the inception of the festival that Luxembourg will have the pleasure of playing host. On the four previous occasions - in 1980, 1985, 1989 and 1994 - the festival took place at the Municipal Theatre in Luxembourg-City. As this currently undergoing renovation, the beautiful (and recently refurbished) theatre in Esch-sur-Alzette, second city in the Grand Duchy, has been reserved for the 2000 event.

Many of you will have noticed that Luxembourg is not the largest of the EU Member States. One of the main advantages of this geographical fact is that nowhere is far away in the Grand Duchy. Esch-sur-Alzette is just 17 kms (20 minutes by motorway) from Luxembourg City, and is well served by a regular train service from the capital, the theatre being a mere five minute walk from the train station.

The theatre is situated at the end of the pedestrian precinct, the town’s main shopping area, with easy access to excellent parking facilities. The staff of the theatre are friendly and accommodating, the theatre’s own bar eagerly looking forward to staying open late especially for festival-goers.

A wide choice of accommodation is available in the numerous hotels of the town and in the surrounding area. The town includes lots of restaurants offering a wide choice of varying cuisines, many in close proximity to the theatre, including a Michelin-rated one right next door.

Esch-sur-Alzette (it is important to say the whole mouthful as the Grand Duchy also boasts Esch-sur-Sure!) - is situated right on the French border, in the south-eastern corner of Luxembourg.

(More details about the town and the surrounding area will be published in future newsletters - ed)

 

Letters will shortly be sent to all groups on the FEATS Selection table asking whether or not they would like to participate in FEATS 2000. The selection meeting will take place in Luxembourg on 9 October 1999. If you have any questions, please contact a member of the FEATS 2000 Organising Committee.

Organising Committee

Cliodhna Demsey (Chair) [removed]

John Brigg (Stage Manager) [removed]

Ann Overstall (Steering comm.rep.) +352-339 671 overstal@pt.lu

 

 

FEATS 2001 1 to 4 June 2001

Host group: AATG, The Hague.

Dympna Donnelly (Chair) +31-70.352 4999 [Dympna Donnelly: e-mail address withdrawn]

 

Contact Addresses

One of the perennial problems for the FEATS Organising Committee is maintaining contact with all the various groups that make up the FEATS community.

If your contact address has changed, please make sure that you keep the Organising Committee informed. Please send any changes of address, telephone/fax numbers and e-mail addresses to Cliodhna Demsey (see above).

FEATS FORUM

As usual, a lively discussion forum took place one beautiful sunny morning during FEATS’99. This year the Technical and the Open Forums were combined, which did not seem to detract from the quality of the discussion.

Two main points were discussed:

Firstly, the maximum running time at FEATS. This year, as an experiment, the allowed running time had been extended from 45 to 55 mins, in line with most festivals now running in UK. This longer running time should permit a greater choice of good modern plays.

Seven (out of 12) plays presented at FEATS’99 ran between 45 and 55 minutes. The majority of people at the Forum felt that a greater variety had been achieved and that the experiment was worthwhile. There was some concern about the overall length of the evening, particularly when two or three long plays are presented on the same night. This had been tolerable at Geneva where the hotel was only a short walk from the theatre, but it could be unacceptable in other locations where the logistics are not as favourable.

It was agreed to leave the final decision to the Organising Committee of FEATS-2000 in Luxembourg, but with a clear majority being in favour of extending the time if local circumstances allow.

The second topic was the establishment of a FEATS Website. David Jayne thanked Ann Oakley for all the work she had done in the past to create and co-ordinate the FEATS Webpage on the University of Geneva computer. He then explained the need for and cost implications of setting up our own Website, WWW.FEATS.ORG.

A discussion took place regarding the various ways in which such a site could be funded. There was support for the suggestion that all the FEATS community (currently 24 groups) should share the costs by paying an annual affiliation fee. This would cover not only the Website but also the cost of the FEATS Newsletter, membership of the NDFA and other general Festival expenses. Currently all these costs are paid for by the hosting groups.

"Free" websites do exist, but most of them carry obtrusive banner advertising over which FEATS would have little or no control. It was pointed out however that there are some sites which permit the user to control the subject matter of the advertising, in which case there would be no objection. David Jayne was requested to continue his search for a suitable host location for the FEATS Website.

If anyone has any comments or further information to offer on the establishment of a FEATS Website, please contact David,

 

Summer Schools, Workshops etc.

If you are looking for something constructive yet recreational to do this summer, Anne Everett has compiled a list of theatrical summer schools and training courses. Most are in UK (one in Luxembourg of course and one on the Greek island of Skyros) and very varied, covering all aspects of theatre, both backstage and on stage, and there’s even a course at Edinburgh University to help you get the most out of the Edinburgh International Festival, with theatre tickets included.

If you would like more information, please contact

Anne Everett, [removed]

Please let Anne have any information about summer schools, so that she can include the information in her list, which will be updated every year.

 

 

All Winners Festival

The winners of FEATS are eligible to be invited to the National Drama Festivals Association (NDFA) "All Winners" Festival. Sadly, the Stockholm Players, winners of FEATS’99, do not have the funds to represent FEATS at this year’s Festival.

Since 1988, the Stockholm Players have been dedicated supporters of FEATS, be it in competition, fringe or as enthusiastic audience members. They are not and never have been commercially sponsored. From the beginning, members of the group have all helped to raise money to support their participation in the festival. This year, the group performed in cabaret and organised workshops to raise money to subsidise the FEATS project. As a result, the 17 members who took part in The Ghost Sonata each received a small subsidy toward the weekend. Flights and all other costs were paid for by the individual members themselves.

The dedication and the quality of work that Stockholm Players produce is an example for us all. I am sure we all hope that they will be able to take part and represent FEATS in the British Finals in Wales in July 2000.

FEATS Steering Committee

David Jayne has left Frankfurt and is now working on the shores of Lake Constance. His place as the FEST representative on the FEATS Steering Committee has been taken by Wendy Jane Jones.

The next meeting of the Steering Committee will take place in Luxembourg on Saturday 9 October 1999. This will be the selection meeting for FEATS-2000.

The members of the FEATS Steering Committee are:

EEC (Brussels): Sarah Scheele (chair 1999/2000)

AATG (The Hague): Dympna Donnelly

BATS (Antwerp): Pat Arn

NWTC (Luxembourg): Ann Overstall

FEST (Frankfurt): Wendy Jane-Jones

GEDS (Geneva) Jane Easton (for FEATS’99)

 

Any matters that you would like to address to the Steering Committee should be sent to the secretary:

Angela Dodds,

Lostraat 46, Tel (h): +32 3 475 0414

B-2520 Broechem, Tel (w): +32 2 533 5969

Belgium Fax (h): +32 3 475 0414

E-mail: Secretary@feats.org

 

from the editor

Please let me know if you change your address - and please continue to send me newsletters and other information about theatrical activities in your area and any other comments or ideas about FEATS for inclusion in this Newsletter.

Information for the Newsletter should be sent to:

Tony Broscomb

Bramleys tel: +44-1799-584920

Main Street fax: +44-1799-584921

Shudy Camps

Cambridge CB1 6RA email: editor {at} feats.org

UK

What’s On in Europe

 

Date Event Venue Contact for further details

 

19- 24 July All Winners Festival Thameside Theatre NDFA

Grays, Essex Tony Broscomb +44-1799-584920

 

20-25 July Dr Hairy, a musical revue Stadsschouwburg In Players, Amsterdam

by Mike Williams Amsterdam Henry Botha hrbotha@yahoo.com

tickets +31-20-6242311

 

31 July - 8 Aug Summer School Château de Munsbach NWTC

Luxembourg Chris Bearne +352-358 977

Website: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/khyatt/munsbach/index.htm

 

28-30 Oct Arsenic and Old Lace Le 23, 23 rue du Lazaret Tagora, Strasbourg

by Joseph Kesselring Strasbourg-Neudorf David Crowe +33-388-413871

 

28-30 Oct Death and the Maiden Theater aan het Spui AATG The Hague

by Ariel Dorfman The Hague Kathy Searcy +31-2522-14791

 

Autumn Bouncers & Shakers FEST, Frankfurt

by John Godber Frankfurt John Howard [removed]

 

9-13 Nov Annie Get Your Gun Auderghem Cult.Centre ATC, Brussels

by Irving Berlin Brussels Heidi Reed +32-2-734 3353

 

10-20 Nov The Importance of Being Th. an der Marschnerstrasse Hamburg Players

Earnest by Oscar Wilde Hamburg Peter Bigglestone +49-4174 650153

 

8 - 12 Dec Agnes of God Theatre du Centaure NWTC, Luxembourg

by John Pielmeier Luxembourg-Ville Fran Potasnik +352-79 00 46

 

Please let me know about your productions, workshops and other events

 

 

 

NATIONAL DRAMA FESTIVALS ASSOCIATION

 

present

 

1999 BRITISH ALL WINNERS FESTIVAL

 

at

 

THAMESIDE THEATRE, GRAYS, ESSEX

 

Adjudicator: Mr Rex Walford GODA

 

ONE ACT FESTIVAL 19, 20 & 21 JULY 1999

FULL LENGTH FESTIVAL 22, 23 & 24 JULY 1999

 

 

For additional information, contact the Festival Director Mr John Scowen,

97 Woodview, Grays, Essex RM16 2GP e-mail: JSCOWEN.DSO@havering.gov.uk