Judge ‘blown away’ by Lorn Drama Festival

A member of Taynuilt Juniors in Bye Baby Bunting. Photograph: Kevin McGlynn.

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Covid hit  the week before Lorn Drama Festival was due to be staged in March 2020, and the tension had been building as to whether it could be held in Oban’s Corran Halls last week – but (spoiler alert) it all went off brilliantly.

‘It went very well,’ said Mike Rowell, chairman of the Lorn Drama Festival. ‘There is obviously a fair bit of trepidation with Covid. It does add a level of uncertainty. But it all went according to plan. All the teams from far away turned up.

The winners of Junior Trophy: Taynuilt and District Dramatic Society Juniors with Carol Thomson.

‘The big shift has been the change from March to May, which I think has been a success. It used to be sustainable with local drama clubs, but as we lost Lochgilphead, Dalmally, and Appin, we had to look further afield for participants.

‘The Scottish Community Drama Association have their own system of festivals, and that cycle takes place from February to April. A lot of clubs are caught up in that. But, come May, they have a lot of plays that have been on stage already.

‘This year we had clubs come from Aberdeen, Aberdour and Arran. We had 11 teams over four days. We had plays ready to perform in March 2020. The lockdown happened the week before the festival.

‘We had some good audiences this year – more than we expected – on a par with previous years. We have quite a loyal following.

”The standard was very high. That has been on an upward trend over the last few years. People are upping their game. They are certainly not afraid to do more challenging work.

‘The Fife team made a demanding, brave choice (Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone, performed by the Aberdour Players). The children’s play (Mark Green’s Bye Baby Bunting, performed by Taynuilt and District Drama Society Youth Team) was quite affecting, about Victorian children down a mine.

‘We do get that variety of hard-hitting stuff, and it ranges to lighter comedies. There is nothing quite like it on stage, especially when you get a laugh,’ concluded Mike, who played Søndergaard opposite Sophie Caruana’s Bunning, in the winning comedy Penguin Diplomacy by John Finnemore.

Mike Rowell as Søndergaard, and Sophie Caruana as Bunning, in John Fiinemore’s comedy Penguin Diplomacy, which won highest marks overall for the Benderloch and North Connel Drama Club.

The judge, Ilona Munro, said: ‘I was blown away by the standard. It was incredibly high. The acting was fantastic and I could see it was a team effort. They were working on these for months beforehand.

‘The children were absolutely fantastic. It was the real emotional piece of the festival. I was not expecting it to be as emotive as it was: children down the mines, losing their childhood. They were so clever with their set, but heartbreaking. The audience were drying their eyes.

‘The winner was absolutely outstanding. Although comedy is a difficult skill, it had such a sweetness and warmth to it. A beautiful and perfect production.’

The award winners, left to right: a representative from Shiskine Drama Club, Arran, whose performance of Jilted Lover’s Helpline came third, winning The Oban Times Salver; Carol Thomson collected two trophies on behalf of the Taynuilt and District Dramatic Society Juniors, The Lorn Drama Festival Trophy for highest marks and the Ian MacKay Memorial Trophy for A Moment In Theatre; John Colston, Seil Drama Club, winner of Drama Festival Quill for original script; Ilona Munro, adjudicator; Mike Rowell, Benderloch and North Connel Drama Club, winners of the adult section with Penguin Diplomacy, and winner of best set and best dramatic production; Linda Robb of Benderloch & North Connel Drama Club, which won second place for The Rebel Alliance; Nicole O’Brien, winner of Moment in Comedy for The Rebel Alliance. Photograph: Kevin McGlynn.

She said local drama festivals were especially important in the Highlands, where there are not so many touring plays, and people have to make their own theatre. ‘Without people making these opportunities there would be a bigger hole in live performances. Oban is very lucky to have so many communities that are so passionate and generous.’

Mike Rowell encouraged more people to get involved, saying: ‘If people came along and enjoyed it, and thought “I can do that”, all the clubs would be grateful for that contact.

‘Generally speaking, the number of active people is dwindling and getting older. We are trying to get together a panto, but if we cannot get people interested, it cannot be done. We need people to put it on. All the clubs would love someone to come up and say: “I will do that.”‘

Prizewinners

Highest Marks overall The Robin Banks Trophy
Benderloch & North Connel Drama Club – Penguin Diplomacy

2nd Highest Marks The Chalmers of Oban Quaich
Benderloch & North Connel Drama Club – Rebel Alliance

3rd Highest Marks The Oban Times Salver
Shiskine Drama Club – Jilted Lovers’ Helpline

Highest Marks for Stage Set The J R Smith Trophy
Benderloch & North Connel Drama Club – Penguin Diplomacy

Stage Management Award Lorn Drama Festival Trophy
Not awarded

Highest Marks for Dramatic Production Dan Cleland Trophy
Benderloch & North Connel Drama Club – Penguin Diplomacy

Adjudicator’s Award The Ardentallan Trophy
Vivienne Price and the festival stage crew

A Moment in Theatre Ian MacKay Memorial Trophy
Taynuilt & District Drama Society Juniors – Bye Baby Bunting

A Moment in Comedy Anne Broughton Memorial Trophy
Nicole O’Brien, Benderloch & North Connel Drama Club – Rebel Alliance

Original script Award The Drama Festival Quill
John Colston, Seil Drama Group – Fork in the Road

Highest marks for juniors The Lorn Drama Festival Trophy
Taynuilt & District Drama Society Juniors- Bye Baby Bunting

2nd Highest marks for juniors Junior Quaich
Not awarded