A review of the Arran Drama Festival

By Alice Maxwell. Featured image shows all the prizewinners. Image credit Mairi Simpson.

Double Whammy as James goes off with a Bang

This year’s Arran drama festival thrilled audiences with a wonderful mix of plays. James Smith was clearly the star of the festival, winning two cups, and starring in two award winning plays – and all this on the eve of his eighteenth birthday! Adjudicated by Dave Bennet, the festival featured drama clubs from Shiskine, Whiting Bay and Lamlash.

Albert, by Richard Harris, was a farcical comedy, featuring a Finnish nanny, a Cecilian chancer (Nico) and a lovestruck Englishman, none of whom spoke the other’s language. They do have some words in common such as FOOTBALL, but mostly resort to fantastical mimes in order to try and communicate. However the mimes are disastrously misinterprated leading to Nico shooting the Englishman and then himself.

Whiting Bay Youths plunged the audience into the horrors of Victorian life, with a play about children working down the mines in Bye Baby Bunting, by Mark Green. A group of children find themselves trapped in a collapsed mine. At first, they are convinced they will be rescued, and discuss their hopes and dreams, but as help fails to materialize their hope turns to fear. Their gradual decline was excellently well-acted, their fear was palpable, and their breathing became labored as one by one their lights went out as they died of suffocation. Jake Early won the Jean Bannatyne Trophy for best supporting youth actor.

Children trapped in a mine

Prats was written by Arran’s very own Andy McNamara. Prats – (The Preparing Responsibly for Anarchy Tomorrow Society) is a top-secret organization, and we are lead to believe their meeting place scene is a secret bunker. The society is preparing for the possibility of alien attack, hoarding cans of baked beans in the process (which were generously donated by the co-op). Cracks soon appear within the organization as the play degenerates into farce. The bunker transpires to be a suburban living room, and the leader, Tom, appears disguised as an alien with an axe through his head, and cavorts around the stage making strange noises. He accidentally steps on a well-placed balloon, which somehow causes the release of a zombie trap from the ceiling and Tom is trapped. The adjudicator deemed this the best moment of theatre, for which the club won the Whiting Bay Club Golden Anniversary Trophy.

Murder Thricely by Colin MacDonald was a complicated murder mystery performed by Lamlash juniors. An impressively large cast, with a difficult to follow plot, the children did marvellously at remembering their lines, and picking up cues.

A scene from Murder Thricely

Mirror, Mirror by Bruce Kane (Shiskine drama club) combined elements of Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty to produce a well-timed comedy. A vain princess obsessively asks her mirror “who is the fairest of them all” and inevitably gets the eventual reply “your step-daughter is the fairest of them all”. The jealous princess pricks the finger of her step-daughter and sends her into a deep sleep that can only be broken by the kiss (yes, wait for it) of a loving prince. A strange assortment of “princes” arrive, but eventually Prince Charming breaks the spell. The narrator, Charlie Currie won the Mattie Gillies Trophy for best supporting actor.

The two princesses, Sheila Gilmore and Deborah Robertson, and the mirror (Rory Morrison) in Mirror Mirror

If you want a thoroughly bizarre and fantastical play, look no further than The Baby Machine by Michael Malone. Performed by Lamlash Drama the scene is set with a couple approaching retirement in an ordinary living room – but mysteriously the wife is heavily pregnant. Her husband has inadvertently placed a Chinese fertility prayer wheel in the garden, which, as he finds out, reverses pregnancy if it is run backwards. The wheel leads to all sorts of shenanigans, including a visiting nun becoming briefly pregnant and immediately fainting with shock. Well done to the ladies for managing to inconspicuously inflate their tummies!

Jump Off, by John Waterhouse, was a tense comedy set on a window ledge of a sixth-floor office block. Pauline is angry to find a young man, Aubrey, already on the ledge, when she climbs onto it with the intention of jumping to her death. There is much well-rehearsed banter between them and a brilliant priest, Pauline’s mother and a policeman appear at the window to try and dissuade Pauline from taking her life. When Pauline eventually returns inside, Aubrey takes a bucket and cloth from the safe side of the window and turns out to be a window cleaner! James Smith, as the young man, won the Douglas Sillars Trophy for best youth performance. Jump Off was awarded the Mary Stewart Orr Trophy for the best youth team.

Aubrey (James Smith) and Pauline (Zara Wilson) discuss the meaning of life and death from a window sill 6 stories high, while a policeman Euan Kinniburgh tries to persuade Pauline not to jump

Curses Foiled Again, by Evelyn Hood (Whiting Bay Club of Drama and Music) was a frenetic play within a play. An amateur drama group is rehearsing a Victorian melodrama which includes murder and large fortunes. Meanwhile the actors bicker, flirt with each other’s partners and forget their lines – making for a stressful rehearsal. This play won the Millhill Players Trophy.


Festival cup winners. Photo credits to Mairi Simpson.