Island playwrights take centre stage

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  • Previous success: Owain Johnston Barnes winner of the 2016 Famous for 15 Minutes

    Previous success: Owain Johnston Barnes winner of the 2016 Famous for 15 Minutes

  • Singer Joy Barnum. (Photograph by Becky Spencer)

    Singer Joy Barnum. (Photograph by Becky Spencer)


Famous for 15 Minutes, the annual competition put on by the Bermuda Musical & Dramatic Society, is back. Now in its 15th year, it features six 15-minute plays by amateur writers. The winner will receive the Golden Inkwell at the gala performance on Saturday night. Last week’s show, before a packed audience at Daylesford Theatre, was a thoroughly enjoyable, diverse evening of drama. We would all be hard-pressed to name the winning play.

Intermission in Bermuda by Jonathan Land Evans, directed by Deborah Joell

Over-the-top British playwright Sir Paschal Dastard — an amalgam of Noel Coward and Terence Rattigan — is played by a dressing-gowned, cocktail-swilling Charles Doyle who is struggling to conceive of a new play with his martini-befuddled secretary, Miss Limburger (Heather Conyers).

Mrs Butterfield, the housemaid (Atasha Jacobs), ably supplies them with drink and cassava pie and their detested neighbour Lady Trott (Nancy Smith) drops in clutching her loathsome cat. The veiled insults and literary puns fly thick and fast until we realise that Sir Paschal, Miss Limburger and Lady Trott are all, in fact, at separate tables.

S-D. I. R: Like Biblical Esther by Joy Barnum, Catherine Hay, Jessica Lightbourne, Amy Murray and Rachel York, directed by Adam Gauntlett

This is a sort of dramatic realisation of Carly Simon’s song, You’re So Vain.

The utterly narcissistic Daveed Bean (Makeem Bartley), is worshipped by girlfriend M.J. Thompson (Emily Ross), who has invited girlfriends Maria Pacheco (Alba Garcia) and Kale Smith (Peyton Raynor) to meet her beau and share her new pregnancy and plans for marriage.

Daveed turns out to be completely incapable of thinking of anything but himself. The girls make up a vicious acronym for him, which of course he fails to understand — to the audience’s delight.

Bycatch by Helen Zoellner, directed by Liz Knight

The story of a Boer prisoner of war’s escape from Bermuda.

Adolphus de Wet (Jacob Dey) hijacks a rowing boat belonging to Louise (Kelly Gilmour) whose sister Clemmie (Isabella Zuill McKenzie) has landed on Port’s Island while fishing, to party with the prisoners there.

Louise and Adolphus row back to the mainland. On the way we find out about their characters and background, the war itself and the moral quagmire it represented, and indeed still does. There is a poignancy to this relationship which is understated and therefore highly effective.

This is an authentic and moving historical drama. My only niggle is that the multiplicity of stage blackouts to indicate passing time in the rowing boat were not necessary.

Parabola by Owain Johnston Barnes, directed by Laura Bardgett and Debbie Correia

Writer Claude (Stephen Notman) is beset by gnawing doubt about his literary originality while his long-suffering partner Marcy, (Gillian Henderson), is no help at all. She stokes his fears by inadvertently ridiculing his latest novel as a remake of Barton Fink.

Added to the mix are two hapless stagehands (Connor Tumbridge and Sebastian Stirling) who are trapped on stage while arguing about the placement of the props for the play in the blackout after Bycatch, and who try to remain invisible by hiding on set.

This was a very funny dramatic idea. Claude delivers some wonderful phrases as the play slowly spins out of control into a Flann O’Brien style self-referential alternate reality: “There are only seven plots in literature … Shakespeare stole everything that wasn’t nailed down … You are the person my character talks to …” The illusion all falls away at the end with everyone discarding their character roles and heading off to the bar for a drink.

Oranges and Lemons by Andrew Whalley, directed by Jim Brier

The BMDS programme describes the play as: “A festive cocktail of murder, drugs and deception with a hint of citrus.” Fredrich (Reuben Flood) pads around what is obviously a lunatic asylum in tartan Santa slippers offset with a blood-spattered surgical coat; nurse Ava (Lara Comber) dementedly trims a Christmas tree and makes dark, hinting, hysterical remarks meanwhile Doktor Eugene (Owain Johnston Barnes, who brings an excellent Shtetl accent) plays a surreal board game with cruets and small gifts while popping psychoactive drugs and offering reality theories. The nurse ultimately kills him, using a pistol disguised as an orange — she was the code, you see. Incomprehensible, offbeat, disconnected and a fun part of the evening’s mix.

All Good Things by Jenn Campbell, directed by Janice McLean

Two sisters, Jess (Deborah Pharoah-Williams) and Patti (Nicola Flood) have arrived for their mother Myrtle’s funeral. They have just begun to come to terms with her death when she (Christine Whitestone) suddenly reappears — her dead companion was left in her bed and the body subsequently mistaken for hers.

In the end we don’t really know whether we have inhabited Jess’ dream about the return, or whether the ashes in the urn were Myrtle’s all along. Excellent acting made the play moving, genuinely felt and fast-paced.

August 17-19 at 8pm at the Daylesford Theatre. Tickets $30. Saturday’s gala performance begins with a reception at 6.30pm. Admission is $85. Tickets on sale at www.ptix.bm and at the box office an hour before the show

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Published Aug 14, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 14, 2017 at 8:10 am)

Island playwrights take centre stage

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