BROMLEY DRAMA FESTIVAL.


CONTESTS FOR PLAYERS AND AUTHORS.


“Admiralty” Regain Shield.


“ We so want to make this Drama Festival a really big thing, a festival which will last, as they do in may places, for a whole week.”

So said Miss Hilda Vincent, secretary of the Drama Section of the Bromley Musical Festival, at the close of the final session of this year’s festival at St Mary’s Hall, Farwig-lane, on saturday night. This is a worthy aspiration, but if it is to be attained, one fears there will have to be a somewhat higher standard on the part of all taking part, players, producer and—it must be said—adjudicator.

Miss Eileen Thorndike
Miss Eileen Thorndike,
The Adjudicator.

Miss Eileen Thorndike, sister of the famous Sybill, and herself a teacher of acting and production, proved a charming and entertaining adjudicator, but one could not help feeling that her critical criteria on this occasion accepted a lower standard than those of Mr. Tyrone Guthrie, who filled the position last year. For him nothing but the best was good enough, and he hit out strongly at faults of every kind—strongly, but constructively, for every bit of pungent criticism held vauable hints for those who were taking their jobs seriously. Miss Thorndike also had much to say that will prove of use to the best of the teams taking part this year, but the feeling that she was too kind to the merely mediocre could not be repressed.

Miss Hilda Vincent
Miss Hilda Vincent,
The Hon. Secretary.

The aim of the drama festival should, surely, be to encourage and help those who take their drama seriously, not to provide a mutual admiration society for amateur theatricals. In this respect this, the fourth Bromley festival, was something of a disappointment, for there was much that was not up to the standard one expects of a competitive drama festival, yet which received official congratulation. Practically every competitor was allowed to go away with a warm and comfortable sense of his or her own well-being instead of with tingling ears and a deep desire to eradicate all those faults which they had never before realised.

If Miss Vincent’s hopes for the festival are to be realised, it must be by aiming high; once the standard has been fully established the entries will come.

There were three sessions, on Friday evening and on Saturday afteroon and evening, and despite the bad weather and the lack of proper heating in the hall, there were quite large audiences, particularly on the final night. The general arrangements were admirable and Miss Vincent and her co-workers are to be congratulated on having carried on so well the tradition started by Captain O. T. Tuck, who founded the drama section of the festival. Mr. E. M. Turnbull again acted as general stage manager and it was with feelings of regret that we learned from Miss Vincent that he would be unable to carry out that duty again. He was warmly thanked for all he had done, and Mr. A. Strudwick, his assistant this year, was welcomed as his successor. mr. Hulk was in charge of the stewards and Miss J. Beer of the programme sellers, while Mrs. King did splendid work with refreshments and Mr. Burgess looked after the box office department.

DEBT TO AMATEURS.

Before commencing her final adjudication, Miss Thorndike stated that all through the festial she had found a very migh higher standard than she expected. She felt that amateur acting was getting much more “experienced,” and there was some very, very sincere work going on all over the country and the professional stage owed a deep debt of gratitude to the amateur movement for the very good work that had been going on. The theatre was to-day in a terribly bad way, but the amateur movement was helping to keep it alive.

There were seven entries for the challenge shield class for one-act plays, including West Wickham Dramatic Soiety, the holders of the shield and winners in 1933 and 1935, and the Admiralty Dramatic Society, who won it in 1934. THis year the latter society regained the shield with a splendid production of J. M. Barrie’s “The Twelve-Pound Look,” which was awarded 98 marks out of a possible 100.

The cast were: Roy Turner (Sir Harry Sims), Dorothy Henderson (Lady Sims), Nancy Reeves (Kate) and Bernard Buck (Toombes). It was produced by Madeleine Elliott, and the stage manager was Harold Campbell.

Miss M. Elliott
Miss M. Elliott,
Producer for Challenge
Shield winners.

Of this play, Miss Thorndike said she found it absolutely excellent from start to finish. It was an example not of what not to do but of what to do. Individual performances struck her as exactly right. She praised “the quiet dignity and crushed simplicity” which Lady Sims got into every line and she chould not imagine the Kate being better played—and she had seen Irene Vanbrugh play the part, so that was very high praise. Sir Harry was exactly right and the butler, small as the part was gave just he right help in the right place. The speaking was clear and shewed variety of pace. The producer knew when to make the characters stand still and move, and there was not a movement one felt was stagey. The set was good and there was just the right sense of stage naturalness.

Mr. Stuart Ready
Mr. Stuart Ready,
Producer and Author.

She gave second place to the Ready Players in “The Senior Partner,” by Stuart Ready, in which the players were: Stuart Ready (Samuel Whale), Vernon Jones (Joe Crimp), Ernest F. Hill (Jennings), and Winifred Dennis (Julia Tracey), She awarded them 96 marks. The winners, to her mind, shewed a slightly more real and professional flavour, slightly more experience and lightness of touch but the Ready Players made original and sparkling a play which might have been dull and undistinguished.

“Heaven on Earth” (Philip Johnson) by the West Wickham Dramatic Society, came third, with 93 marks. The players were: Rita Yates (Laura Hubbard), Margaret Neale (Jull Hubbard), Winifred Dennis (Ellen), F. D. L. Burge (Adrian Illidge) and Leonard Tully (Ernest Hubbard), with F. D. L. Burge as producer. Next she placed “In Our Stars” (Dorothy Coates) by Bromley Congregational Church Young People’s Fellowship Musical and Dramatic Society, with 90 marks, “Dividends, Ltd.” (Lal Norris) by Beckenham Players, with 84 marks, “Episode in War” (B. C. Tucker and D. C. Corder) by Bromley Municipal Players with 80 marks, and “Mrs. Ogboddy Obliges” (M. Constanduros) by the Cottage Players with 76 marks.

The players in these plays were: “In Our Stars,” Irene Towersey (Emma), Gwen Grist (Anne Bellamy), Joan Aby (Judith Hunt), Leslie Hunt (Andrew Hunt), Geoffrey Bowe (Miles Elliot) and Geoffrey Rose (Philip Stanmore), with Geoffrey S. Bowe as producer; “Dividends, Ltd.,” Geoffrey Classey (Baurmann), Norman Pearson (Cambridge), Victor Sterling (Grant), Jack Bryon (Charles), Ronald Wood (Iniskuli), Alan Brent (Osaki), Reginald Sterling (the Jew), Dick Rogers, Edith Exell, Doris Shorter, Mary Sutton and Ayleen Pearson (the shadows); “Episode in War,” G. C. Dickinson (Alan Carter), B. C. Tucker (Patricia Newcombe), E. A. Andrews (John Ferguson), John Clapp (radio announcer), A. S. Hamilton (Wilfred Spenser) and E. A. Wells (Major Cameron), with Mr. Wells as producer; “Mrs. Ogboddy Obliges,” Elinor Collier (Mrs. Ogboddy), Maurice Jell (Mr. Gerald Omerod), Becky Collier (Miss Phyllis Challoner), with Phoebe Rees as producer.

The possible marks in this class were 40 for acting, 25 for diction and audibility, 25 for production and 10 for choice of play. The winning play lost two makrs for acting and had full marks for all the other sections.

ORIGINAL PLAYS.

Mrs. Lal Norris
Mrs. Lal Norris,
Producer and Author

There were three original plays entered in this class, of which two, “Episode in War” and “The Senior Partner” also competed in the Challenge Shield class. The other was “Some Person Unknown” (Lal Norris) byt the Beckenham Players. In this the players were: Winnie Studdey (Miss Barlow), May Waters (Mrs. Weeks), Miss Kaul (Miss Mitchell), Ayleen Pearson (Miss Croft), Edith Howe (Miss Oliver), Gwen Chapman (Mrs. Beauvis), Phyllis Serling (Margod Beavis), Audrey Pullen (Delia Arran) and Norman Pearson (policeman). The play was produced by the author.

First prize was awarded to “The Senior Partner,” with 48 marks out of 50 for the play, 23 out of 25 for acting and 25 out of 25 for production, a total of 96. This was, said Miss Thorndike, a fresh and delightful play, in which the author was very well served by his cast. It was difficult to dissociate the play from the cast and imagine it played by a feeble set of players but she felt it would “come off” even if poorly acted. The dialogye was very good with some very funny lines and good characterisation. The part of Samuel Whale was very well acted, though one could not always catch all he said; the Joe Crimp was really excellent and she had no criticism at all of his acting. The setting was excellent and the moving of the characters was very well done. The admirable Mrs. Tracey was very, very good indeed, looking exactly like a John Bateman drawing. The play was quite worth being published, and she would like to see it played professionally.

The other two plays were very close runners-up, with “Some Person Unkown” only just ahead of “Episode in War.” The former play was awarded 87 marks (45 for the play, 22 for acting and 20 for production) and the latter 80 marks (40, 20 and 20).

In the class for scenes or sketches for all-male or all-female casts there were four entries: Bromley High-street Methodist Church Junior Dramatic Club in “A Perfect Holiday” (a scene form “Little Women,” by Louisa M. Alcott); Bromley Common Women’s Institute Players in “The Falcon” (Tennyson); Marvels-lane Women’s Institute in “Followers” (from “Cranford,” by Mrs. Gaskell), and the Beckenham Players in “Possessions” (Lal Norris).

Miss Marjorie Low
Miss Marjorie Low,
Producer.

Here the winner was “The Falcon,” played by E. Driscoll (Elizabetta), E. Mills (Count Frederigo), E. Low (Filippo) and V. Fennemore (Lady Giovanna), with Miss Marjorie Low as producer. The costumes were made by the players and a song air in the play was written by a member. This was awarded 69 marks (22 out of 40 for acting, 20 out of 25 for diction and audibility, 20 out of 25 for production, and seven out of 10 for choice of play).

Of this the adjudicator said it was a very ambitious play to choose, becaue Tennyson gave his plot away very early and because it belonged to a very sentimental age of poetry writing. Anyone producing the play should strive to cut out as much of the sentimentality as possible. She felt an attempt had been made to set a period; the costumes were tastefl and there was a certain sense of production. She thought the men’s parts were, on the whole, carried out very well in deed. She like the serving man and the old woman (Filippo and Elizabetta) very much, though she would havel iekd a little more comedy from the latter. Lady Giovanna had a very sweet voice, but was a little monotonous. The action was too slow but it was a very tasteful production all round and a very noble effort because the producer must have realised what a big task she was taking on.

Mr. F. D. L. Burge
Mr. F. D. L. Burge,
Producer and mention
for outstanding
performance.

“Followers,” played by Mrs. M. Palmer (Miss Lucinda), Mrs. Jackson (Colonel Redfern), Miss D. Scullard (Miss Lucinda’s maid), and Miss J. Arkle (Miss Lucinda’s niece), gained second place with 65 marks (20 for acting, 18 for diction, 18 for production and nine for choice of play); “Posessions” played by Jack Bryon (Henry Penton), Geoffrey Classey (John Penton) and Reginald Sterling (Martin) was third with 54 marks (15, 15, 15 and nine) and “A Perfect Holiday,” played by Winifred Minty (Mrs. March and Miss Crocker), Dora Brown (Jo), Thelma Savager (Meg), Betty Hearn (Amy), Peggy Stewart (Hannah) and Joan Muzelle (Lawrie) was fourth with 50 marks (15, 15, 15 and five).