A Review of the Arran Drama Festival 2019

A Report from Alice Maxwell

Arran’s 2019 drama festival had an impressive mix of plays from Lamlash, Shiskine and Whiting Bay drama clubs, including two comedies written by Arran’s very own Rory Morrison, and Andy McNamara. The Arran Drama Association was delighted to welcome Ronnie Mackie as adjudicator who trained at the RSAMD and a freelance director and a frequent adjudicator at festivals across Scotland. His comments were insightful and helpful to the performers. The following plays delighted audiences over three days.

A Dog’s Life by Pam Valentine, Lamlash Junior Drama Club

Set in an animal shelter, four destitute dogs wait in hope for a new home. The poodle, Fifi, was brilliantly characterised by Zara Wilson as vain and languorous while the German shepherd, played by Lewis Campbell was witty, and street wise. Freya Campbell took the role of Ben the battered mongrel. Dressed simply with a cap and scarf, Freya naturally conveyed Ben’s loyalty and kindness. Alyssa brilliantly evoked the anxiety of the pup, her obsession with food and lack of understanding of the outside world.
The warden was played by Jemma Totty. Wearing an oversized mac, Jemma portrayed a tired, brusque character who wanted the best for the dogs.The visitor was played by Heather McLintock, who comes to find a dog as a companion.

Marigold Mews by Peter Rolls, Shiskine SWI

This is a farce set in a back street full of rubbish, home to two travellers, Bo (Deborah Robertson) and Clo (Sheila Gilmore). They are joined by passing poet – Esme (Alice Anderson). The three are street wise, wiley and warm hearted. Clo’s ballet dancing was hilarious, and Bo put on a marvellous posh accent when speaking to a stock broker. Contrasted to these earthy characters the playwright pokes fun at those working for the system. Fiona Henderson delightfully portrays the officious Councillor, Mrs Froggart and Joan Stewart multi tasks by appearing as a road sweeper, a traffic warden and police man. Ruth Betley’s appearance as dippy Community Arts Consultant (with red tights and hair in bunches) sparks off a farcical spree of artwork by the travellers, when paint is splashed everywhere in the name of “street art”. When Mrs Froggart comes across Bo’s wonderful “Stuff Your System” painted on a wall, she is furious and decides to paint over it, just at the moment when the policeman enters and books her for painting unlawful graffiti.

Councillor Froggart gets booked. Image Mairi Simpson.

Numquam Non Paratus by Andy McNamara, Whiting Bay Music and Drama

A wonderful comedy, written by Andy McNamara from Whiting Bay. Produced by David Simpkin, the play had the audience roaring with laughter. Bev Scott set the scene as a lone piper on a stage portraying a Scottish hillside. Enter two warriors having a fierce sword fight – Abernethy the clan chief (Alan Nicol) and Hamish (Andy McNamara). The rest of the clan gradually arrive – the hapless Jock (Patrick Scott) faces the derision of his clan leaders for missing the last battle, and oddly speaks with a South African accent. Rory (Zoe McGovern) and Angus (Val Waite) are the newest members of the clan, and disrupt Hamish’s grand ideas. The play abounds with comic moments. Angus complains that the war cry – Numquam Non Paratus, meaning “never be unprepared” is too long. Why can’t they just say Non Paratus? she asks, meaning “Unprepared”! The play ends with a wonderful twist, but I won’t spoil it – let’s hope Whiting Bay puts it on again this summer.

The hapless clan. Image Mairi Simpson.

Home at Last by Eileen Brandon, Whting Bay Youth Group

Whiting Bay Youth Group excelled with this macabre comedy. A group of three ladies (Rosie McNamara, Gretta and Tilda Litton) on a coach tour miss their bus and find themselves seeking shelter in a Transylvanian castle. The ladies are greeted by the cold and calculating Countess (Daisy McNamara), sophisticated and composed in her long black dress. Her servant Vampry was played by Alec Fraser and a crowd of young vampires, dressed in white sheets, entered from time to time crying for blood. They were played by Jamie Worthington, Kitty Townsend, Nina Szwalec, Torren Litton and Laura, Katherine and Aisling Coyle. When the servant Vampry announces to the Countess that the bus has appeared to collect the ladies Mrs Adams refuses to leave. She looks at her hands which she notes are growing hair. With the words “Home At Last” she announces herself as a werewolf.

Rest in Pieces by James Cooke, Whiting Bay Music and Drama

This was set in a care home, home of Betty (Bev Scott). Her two grown up children come to visit her. Tilly Armstrong plays her daughter San who has come on a mission to persuade (or rather force) her mother to leave the home so her inheritance will not be used up. Tilly’s facial expressions wonderfully portrayed San’s impatient and cold personality. Her brother Frank (Andy McNamara) was more laid back and liable to be bullied by his sister. Unlike his sister he has a sense of fun, which Andy conveyed well. In a humorous scene he copies the care assistant Yvonne (Val Waite) in her aerobics moves. Yvonne describes some of Betty’s antics, such as escaping, which are completely at odds with San’s description of her mother as a “frail old woman”. Betty bursts in, singing “it’s raining men” and her first line is “bloody arsehole!”. Bev plays this feisty lady with great gusto and energy, marvellously conveying her cutting humour. San persuades Frank that Betty has to leave the home, (and look after their mother). When Yvonne asks “are you sure this is in her best interests?” the two actors convey sheepish guilt before re-asserting their spurious reasons.

Between a Writer’s Block and a Hard Place, written and directed Rory Morrison, The Young Ones

This imaginative play was superbly acted by James Smith as Monty, Shannon Galbraith as Diana, Innes Thorburn as The Writer and Iona Summers as The Writer’s Wife. The writer is at a desk typing a play. Monty and Diana are the protagonists in the play, their speech and moves are directed by the writer. However occasionally they break free and become “themselves”. Their change in body language and diction made the difference very clear, and was skillfully done. The writer is having obvious difficulties with his play, (wine bottles and screwed up papers surround him). His efforts are frustrated all the more by the entrance of his wife, dressed in black, who gives him an earful for ignoring her in favour of his writing. As Monty is about to draw his last breath (from accidentally shooting himself) the writer rips the last page from his typewriter and hurls it across the room. All that has been written is abandoned, and suddenly we find ourselves back to the beginning of the play, as the writer starts all over again.

We’ll go no more a’reivin by James Scotland, Shiskine Junior Drama

This play was written in old Scots language, which the drama group did sterling work in remembering and delivering. Three ladies (Rachel Brown, Ellie Ewing and Erin McNiven) discuss how to stop their menfolk from reiving. They costumes were bright, and the set skilfully painted. They decide to withdraw their favours from their men unless their reiving stops. The wonderfully flirtatious maid, Allie (Amelia Robertson) is not so keen on this idea. She has already managed to seduce Duncan – Man at Arms to the Laird, (Rory Morrison). The other menfolk arrive, Rynion (Euan Kinniburgh), Hector Wauchope (James Smith) and Sam Liddell (Innes Thorburn). Non-plussed by the women’s distant behaviour, Rynion chases his lady around the stage to no avail. The scheming Sam Liddell whispers his plans to Hector. The English Greencoats are attacking, but the men refuse to go out and fight unless the women surrender. When the women unconditionally do so, the green coats are removed to reveal members of their own clan. The trick has worked!

Girl on an Empty Swing by Allana Knight, Lamlash Junior Drama Club

Jemma Totty as girl on a swing. Image Mairi Simpson.

This unsettling ghost story was brilliantly acted by Zara Wilson as Janet, Jemma Totty as Fenelia (Janet’s daughter) and Freya Campbell as Aunt Rose. It was a wordy play, lacking action, yet the actors did a marvellous job at keeping the audience’s interest. Janet is practical, while Fenelia is a strange child with a vivid imagination – even houses have souls – and Jemma made her character wonderfully believable. Aunt Rose remembers a strange girl who used to come to her garden and sit on her swing. She turns to see Fenelia sitting on the swing, exactly fitting the description of the girl from the past. She is so shocked and frightened that she has a heart attack, which Freya conveyed very well. The actors did well to leave the audience disturbed and confused – who was Fenelia?


Chips with Vinegar by Harry Glass, Lamlash Drama Club

A Scottish play, set in a 1938 Clydeside Tenement. The actors had a natural style of acting, well suited to the play. There is well acted interaction between father, Neil Macrae (Colin MacDonald), his son Alex (Ryan Wilson) and his sister Maisie (Stacey Gordon). There is a clear warmth between them, and when Maisie goes out to get chips for them, Alex reveals that his girlfriend is pregnant. Colin plays Neil’s reaction wonderfully – with a humorous explosion of frustration and anger. His wife Maggie is played by Kelly Henberry and her sister Liz by Nickey Summers – who sports a wonderful wig. Neil reveals to his wife that she is soon to be a grandmother as the music gradually rises to disguise his words. The lights focus on Maggie’s face to reveal her look of horror.

Lamlash Drama group in Chips with Vinegar. Image Mairi Simpson.

Awards for the 2019 Drama Festival

  • Jean Bannatyne Trophy – Best supporting acting youth performance Daisy McNamara
  • Douglas Sillars Trophy – Best acting youth performance – Shannon Galbraith
  • Mattie Gillies Trophy – Best supporting adult performance – Andy McNamara
  • Monie Kelso Trophy – Best adult performance – Alan Nichol
  • Whiting Bay Club of Drama and Music Golden Anniversary Trophy – Best moment of Theatre – The Young Ones (Between a Writer’s block and a hard place)
  • The Mary Stewart Orr Trophy – Best youth team – The Young Ones
  • The Jane McBride Brown Bowl – Best WRI team – Shiskine WRI.
  • The Millhill Players Trophy – Contrasting play to the Archie Kerr Trophy – Lamlash Junior Drama Club (Girl on an Empty Swing)
  • The Archie Kerr Wooley Trophy – Team with highest mark in the festival – Whiting Bay Music and Drama (Numquam Non Paratus)
Whiting Bay Drama Club takes best play award. Image Mairi Simpson.

To view more photos from the Drama Festival see the slideshow in this issue of the Voice. If anyone would like to get copies of any of the images, please contact us at info@voiceforarran.com