IT'S NOT WHAT YOU DO...

It's not all about Shakespeare, although Dartmouth Shakespeare Week does take up a huge amount of the time we have available. No, we do other things too.

On the left you can see three posters from other plays we have produced, some specially wriiten for the company and others in which we have found something that we felt warranted a wider public view.

We have also produced pieces specifically for the Dart Drama Festival and other festivals in the area, most notably Exmouth and Teignmouth. But more of those later.


Our first foray into 'other' theatrical endeavours was in 2008, when we took a play by George Macewan Green, entitled 'Ritual for Dolls', to the Teignmouth Festival and on to Exmouth. 

It tells the sotry of a golliwog, a toy soldier, a doll and a monkey with a drum, that lie forgotten in an a attic.  Each night they enact the story of the brother and sister who owned them long ago. It is a damning indictment of the casual racism of Victorian society and Empire as a whole. Powerful and, for some, unpalatable. The monkey, who has no lines and 'speaks' through his drum, was nominated for a Best Actor at Exmouth. We also presented the paly at the Dart Drama Festival in its first year and we have been presenting at that festival every year since.

So we scouted around for some other plays to produce. Unfortunately, as is the case with many non-professional companies, the cost of putting a play on can be prohibitive; and when you decide to do three short plays together and add in the cost of hiring a venue etc, it becomes pretty expensive! Our first full production of other people's work was put under the collective title of 'Revealing Briefs', which included a short play by David Tristram called 'The Extraordinary Revelations of Orca the Goldfish.' (We've since produced two other's of David Tristrams short plays 'What's for Pudding?' and 'Joining the Club', both for the Dart Drama Festival). We also resurrected 'Ritual' for Revealing Briefs and included a very short, silent piece about air-travel. It worked and we dcecided that, when time, and people's availability, allowed, we would continue to produce other pieces.

Orca

Jane Windsor-Smith & Max Brandt in 'Orca' - it's all a bit fishy!

But what do you do when the plays you read just don't hit the spot? Doing comedy is fine, but, in all honesty, some of the 'funny' plays out there...well, they just ain't that funny!

It has to be said that, as a company, we have a huge amount of talent in so many different fields that if we don't utilise them then more fool us! Our first foray into the self-penned arena was with a group of short plays that went under the colective title of 'Threesome'. All written by Max Brandt, they were 'Clowns', 'Hacks' and 'Buying Back the Past', the last one being developed from an idea that Gil Garland had and was eventually developed and written by Max.

It's a delicate balancing act. You have to get the audiences in to the theatre but if the plays on offer don't grab their interest or engage them in any discernable way, then the production is on a hiding to nothing. So 'Threesome' was a deliberate attempt to combine comedy, slightly more serious, yet still comedic, material and a serious piece about a second world war veteran of the Burma campaign. The theme that ran through all three pieces was secrets kept that effect everyone around the keeper of those secrets. 

 

'Hacks', directed by Lynne Deller, was set in the offices of a women's magazine that, for want of a better phrase, wasn't doing so well. Many shennanigans, much plotting and bitching and more than a few secrets were all part of the mix. Written originally to address the perceived problem of there being far too few plays, short or long, that had women in the lead roles.

So here we had five very diiferent characters and one solitary male.

It all worked rather well and, as an opening for the whole piece, won the audience over with the actors' lightness of touch and comedic timing. Tinah O'Reilly, Jane Windsor-Smith, Lucy Saad, June Pockett and Lesley Ash were the ladies. The 'lucky' fella was Sam Crosby.

Hacks
Hacks again

June Pockett & Lucy Saad in 'Hacks' - indifference lives!

On the left can be seen Sam Crosby and Tinah O'Reilly in a shot from the Dress Rehearsal. Tinah had the unenviable task of playing a part that not only had to slot into the action on stage but also acted as a sort of Shakespearean prologue and spent a great deal of of time interacting with audience, even to the extent of havng to learn different lines to speak that were dependant upon the audience's reaction. She was absolutely brilliant and pulled it off in spectacular fashion - much to the audience's and her relief!

'Clowns', on the other hand, although apparently the more comedy-driven of the three plays, was actually, at its heart, quite a melancholy and mysterious piece. Whilst not a black comedy, it certainly teetered on the edge of dark in many respects.

All the clowns had their secrets and their foibles and their stories to tell. 

Having the actors in full clown make-up also gave them an added freedom to bring the characters to life; and to have anger and vitriol gushing out of an apparently cheerful little chap was something of surprise to everyone. It worked really well.

The cast enjoyed working in 'Clowns' that much that we took it to Exmouth Festival, where Phil Scoble (Sparkles the Clown) won the Best Actor gong for his portrayal of this embittered man.

Phil Scoble (Sparkles), Mike Roope (Charlie Chico the Cheeky Chappy), Malcolm MacIntosh (Go-Spell, the UK's only Christian Clown), Xowie Brandt (Arabelle Antic) and Ben Hamilton (Gobee) still want to do more...'Clown's Too' is currently being written! On the right are Xowie and Mike in rehearsals.

Clowns
Rehearsal for BBTP

Gil Garland came up with a rough story one evening at a committee meeting and talked to Max...who was reminded of an elderly man that he used to come across in his local, many years before. Thus the seeds were sown for the third play in the trilogy, 'Buying Back the Past'.

The Forgotten Army they are known as; the soldiers who fought and, in may cases died, in Burma and the Far East during WWII. Then there were those who survived, having endured years of torture and hardship in places such as Changee, the notorious Japanese prisoner of war camp.

This play tells the story of Albert, one such survivor, and how he is still surviving. Told in flashback, intertwined with events in the present, when the play finished, you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre.

Directed by Gil with another splendid cast: Sam Crosby, Rich Wigley, Max Brandt, Jill Brock and Phil Scoble, it was an experience that stayed with everyone who saw it.


On the left Rich Wigley & Max Brandt in rehearsal for 

'Buying Back the Past'

Hacks again.

Above is Lucy Saad as Deidra in 'Hacks' . 


    To the top right is Ben Hamilton as 

Gobee the Clown and

 Phil Scoble as Sparkles 

in 'Clowns'


On the right Max Brandt as Albert and

Jill Brock as Miss Julie

in 'Buying Back the Past'.

More clowns
BBTP

Bolstered by the success of 'Threesome', Max started work on a full-length drama - which we'll get to later - but in the meantime, the company agreed to produce a short piece he'd written (originally entitled 'Haven't We Been Here Before?' but now called 'Echoes') and put it in the forthcoming Dart Drama Festival. 

Played against the backdrop of continuously rolling photographs (some of which are displayed below) and with live singing towards the end of the piece, it highlights six stories of very different people, all caught up in the horror of war. Three female and three male characters all tell their tales to an imagined interviewer for a television programme. An elderly woman recalling the Blitz; a male Vietnam veteran who has lost his son and grandson in Iraq 1 and Afghanistan respectively; an Afghani woman; a Falklands veteran; a woman who suffered in the Balkans conflict in the '90's and an Afghani man. Another production of the pin-drop variety that, to be honest, caused a bit of stir in festival. Max played the male characters and Jane Windsor-Smith the female protagonists. The piece is currently being updated and adapted for another presentation in the not-too-distant future. 

Vietnam
Afghanistan
Serbia

It's always a challenge bringing any piece to the stage, but when something has been specifically written with the company in mind, it somehow adds an extra frisson to that challenge. It matters not whether it's a complex drama, like 'Dominion', or a slightly less serious piece, like the short play we did recently for the Dart Drama Festival.

We had a short space of time in which to decide and rather hurried our selection (a one-act play called 'Split Ends'), which, as we read more, came to realise it was...well, decided not to bother eventually. BUT! We had still committed to appearing at the festival, and we now had no play. The Artistic Director telephoned Max and...Max took the title and wrote a short comedy. Ernie Wise would have been proud!

Split ends

Ben Hamilton as Rob McGeddon and 

Gil Garland as Vidor Monsoon in D.A.Mullett's play

'Split Ends' - there's a joke in there somewhere!

Image description

We have produced several plays for the Dart Drama Festival (pictured is a scene from 'Haven't We Been Here Before?'), mostly comedy but a couple of serious pieces. In 2012 we 'went abroad' as it were, and presented a two-hander by Ferenc Molnar called 'A Matter of Husbands', with Jill Brock and Sally Feetenby. A lovely little comedy of manners from the 1920's.

And before too long, we shall no doubt be thinking about what to do for 2013's Festival and, if things go to plan, we may even be producing another full-length drama in the spring of '14.

There are plans a-foot for Shakespeare's anniversary in 2016, so keep your eyes peeled, and there will be plenty of pictures and news on the site. Keep coming back and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask...