After a successful season in 2023 the festival has once again gathered the three companies to present a variety of entertainment. It was St Jude’s Players that hosted the event this year and started by offering patrons pre-performance food and beverages, which were very well received and appreciated.

St Jude’s Players were first on stage with RED PEPPERS, which is about an ageing song and dance duo. This is a traditional Noel Coward play and director Geoff Brittain has brought together an experienced cast with Rhonda Grill as Lily Pepper and Kim Clark as George Pepper in the lead roles. They bounced off each other with much intensity, a small amount of humility, but much realism with all the action taking place in a dressing room. A comment by George about the smallness of the theatre manager, ‘his brain is too close to his bottom’, was typical of Noel Coward’s wit. Grill and Clark were well supported by Norm Caddick as Bert Bentley the orchestra leader, Liam James as Alf, Sam Wiseman as Mr Edwards the theatre owner, and Olivia Jane Parker as Mabel Grace the self opinionated actor. The realistic set added significantly to the overall effect of the play. To appreciate the plot you have to see the play, so no spoilers.

Dead Set Theatre Company gave us an interpretation of ROMEO AND JULIET adapted and directed by Chloe Zodrow. The young adult energetic cast performed with athleticism that made the fourth wall seemingly disappear, and the steps up to the stage were a mere formality to some who left and entered the stage in a single bound. The floor in front of the stage was regularly used and brought the performers onto audience level which enhanced the fight scenes. There was not a weak link in this cast, and included Lila Modra as Juliet, Callum Logan as Romeo, Finty McBain as Lady Capulet, Harri Wolff as Mercutio, Archie Rowe as Tybalt, Ben Proeve as Friar Lawrence, Toby Vincent as Benvolio, and Maise Hart as Nurse. All managed the Shakespearean lilt, and their timing, acting and vocals were superb. I believe there is little doubt these young adult performers are destined for great futures in the theatre and I cannot wait to see their next production.

Galleon Theatre Company completed the festival with their presentation of THE LAST ACT IS SOLO, written by Robert Anderson and directed by Andrew Clark. The small cast of three gives credibility to the story headed by Julie Quick as Laura Cunningham, an ageing movie star who is in the twilight of her very long career and her life. Her performance was outstanding as she tried to remember many things from her past and touched a nerve with many of the audience. She was very ably supported by Steve Marvanek as Ben Cunningham the nephew and only family member. The patience and tolerance he shows to his aunty is heartwarming. Out of the blue a theatre director Michael Jones played by Kym Clayton appears on the scene as a young man many years ago and has fond memories of Laura. It is not actually evident of what his intentions really are. The finale had some audience with tears in their eyes which was a tribute to Julie Quicks memorable performance.

All backstage personnel contributed in making this festival successful. Based on what was seen today this event should become a regular annual occurrence.

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