Last Friday night saw the culmination of months of hard work with the Awards Night to celebrate the achievements of the RNTA Festival during which four different theatre groups competed against each other to secure, amongst others, the accolades of Best Production, Best Director and Best Actor and Actress. During the evening awards were handed out, cheering was heard, speeches were made, photos were taken and glasses were clinked. There was dancing, there was karaoke…these groups know how to celebrate!
I was thrilled to be involved with this year’s Festival as the official adjudicator. This involved seeing the Admirals’ Players perform Murder by the Book, a comic murder mystery by Craig Sodaro during which a figure dressed as Shakespeare gets wantonly seduced by Mary Shelley, Louisa May Alcott and Charlotte Bronte; whilst Agatha Christie gets hot under the collar reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I saw Sultan Theatre Group stage the musical Honk! in which grown men and women variously play ducks, swans, cats, a turkey and a bullfrog in a heart-warming retelling of the Ugly Duckling fairy-tale with catchy musical numbers.
At Collingwood RSC I saw Sir Terry Pratchett’s fantasy adventure Lords and Ladies where the inimitable witches fight the sneaky elves for supremacy amidst a cast of bumbling wizards, would-be witches and largely stupid or drunk (or both) villagers. Lastly, despite the RNTA’s Chairman and Festival Secretary’s best efforts to kill me off with a combination of 3-hours sleep and steep (very steep) yomps up and through the rock of Gibraltar, I saw the Trafalgar Theatre Group perform Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy Improbable Fiction, which lulls the audience into a false sense of security in the first Act with a character driven naturalistic narrative about a local writers' self-help group for the creatively challenged before exploding in the second Act into a crazy acting out of various literary forms such as melodrama, crime fiction, children’s fiction and science fiction style alien investigators complete with a squirrel costume, Victorian dresses and resplendent silver suits with shocking pink wigs.
There was lots of dressing up during this Festival!
Each production - although very different in genre - had its own sense of joy and exuberance. In all the shows, but especially in the large scale productions of Honk! and Lords and Ladies, which both had casts in excess of thirty, I was struck by what a mammoth task it is to marshall that many people, from young tots to those of more mature years, all working together towards a common goal. In fact, the inter-generational nature of these groups is one of the many joys.
What I’ve taken away from the RNTA Festival is the huge amount of time, energy and commitment shown by all the people involved from the people who design the programmes, to those who run box office, stage manage, make costumes and props, produce, tech shows, design and construct sets, direct and perform. There was a great deal of skill in evidence – the standard of acting, stage craft and production values were very high across the board and made my job as adjudicator less than easy. So, although only a handful of the participants walked away with an award at the end of the evening, the whole Festival and the Awards Evening was testament to the seriousness with which these Royal Navy groups approach their amateur theatre, but also to the fact that creativity, team-work and fun remains at the heart of what they do.