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A day at FEATS 2014

By NWTC member Julie FRASER

On Saturday 7 June 2014 I had the pleasure of being able to watch pieces during both the fringe and main FEATS festival.

The two FRINGE entries I saw were directed and played by local groups:

How he lied to her husband by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Bjorn Clasen.  This is such a wonderful script which depicts the love triangle between Aurora (Tara Donnell), her young lover, Henry (Victor Bonanno) and husband (Andy McKell).  Having lost the love poems written by Henry, Aurora proceeds to cover her tracks by asking Henry to lie. The cast brought out the humour of the piece and it was so very warmly received by the audience that I left hoping that audiences in Luxembourg be given the opportunity to see this again, maybe as one half of a double bill evening?...

Not a morning person: a whacky radio comedy written and directed by our own NWTC and Pirates’ member Rachel Parker.  She (Jacqueline Milne) comes across an unexpected – not of this world – Beatles’- inspired visitor 1 (Mike West) in her bathroom. This results in quite a bizarre yet wonderful conversation - even encompassing the meaning of visitor 1’s existence.  Briefly visited by an exuberant visitor 2 (Alex Teligadas), the group clearly enjoyed putting on this highly original production.  Maybe one of visitor 1’s roles was to introduce “She” to her next door neighbour and thus starting a new conversation... Confused?! Perhaps. Does it matter? No! Funny? Yes.  

A third offering in the fringe that day was the “Body Language” workshop given by the InPayers from Amsterdam. I had hoped to participate but I somehow missed the call and felt it inappropriate to go in after it had started.  This turned out not to be such a problem as NWTC had created a space for people to wait: hats off to Beverley Atkinson for having both the foresight (and compassion) to create a lovely Café FEATS for participants to wait in between the set up of each Fringe and Feats entry – enabling many new and old acquaintances to relax. Just sitting there it was clear people were enjoying the festival and were passionate in their exchanges of opinions about the various plays they were watching.

As for the main FEATS festival,  there were three plays/part of plays lasting a maximum of 45 minutes, all of which received feedback at the end of the evening as is the tradition.

The Ribbon by Guy Las played by the Entity Theatre e.V. (Munich) and directed by Colleen Burke: In a world where, somewhat disturbingly, an age limit applies, various characters try to persuade the Minister of Unilateral Disengagement to give them an extension. Receipt of your birthday present signified that your time had come.  Each character was believable, with different energies being presented throughout. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between the couple (played by Kate Scholes and Ciara Hendrickson).  We were drawn in to each person’s reason and belief as to why they should/should not be awarded an extension of time and their individual responses to the realisation that extensions were no longer being given.  Lighting and silhouettes created a feeling of a different place and time and provided a powerful contrast amongst the otherwise ‘normally’ dressed cast.  Although I was a little confused by some of the story, overall I found this to be a stimulating play which was delivered with imagination and creativity. 

The Last Supper by Tom De Beckker, played the British American Theatrical Society (Antwerp) directed by Vivi Roche: Loosely based on the Last Supper, this play had Monty Python undertones being set in a burger bar with just five having supper, mobile phones in hand. So weird and wonderful did the write up appear to be that I wanted to feel compelled to watch this piece and find out what this alternative interpretation would bring. However, I found it to be a little awkward to watch and whilst there were moments, they seemed to lack an underlying force throughout. There were some funny one-liners but it just wasn’t my cup of tea at all: that’s not to say others share my opinion as there was laughter in the audience. 

A Night in November by Marie Jones, Irish Theatre Group (Brussels) directed by Csaba Bartos:  For me, and judging by the standing ovation that this entry received, this may prove to be the one to beat.  The observations shared by Kenneth McCallister (Caraigh McGregor) on his life as a protestant clerk in Northern Ireland and his ever-increasing awareness of his own character flaws took the audience through a range of contrasting emotions, each beautifully relayed and thought-provoking throughout. The lighting was used to great dramatic effect, seemingly simple, as was the set which consisted of just one chair.  Each character was brought to life with such conviction and clarity I was entranced by the change in physicality and voice of each and every person in McCallister’s life.  The only difficulty I had occasionally was with the speed at which this was delivered – particularly as the character had such a strong Northern Irish accent. This was especially the case at the very end when music was in the background – I really struggled to hear and understand him. However, for me this was a tiny fly in the ointment as overall I found this performance to be quite simply outstanding.  Added to this a wonderfully crafted script and it was one of those moments of theatre magic that will stay with me for a long time.

Adjudication: Our Adjudicator was award-winning actor and director Jan Palmer Sayer B.Ed. MA, GoDA. I think all the teams are very brave to put a piece of theatre under the spotlight in this way. Jan reflected on each group’s chosen piece, its delivery, the lighting, costumes and set decisions. I found her notes to be extremely interesting, highlighting each piece’s strengths and offering suggestions for improvement. Her favourite that night appeared to be “A night in November”.

FEATS party: Saturday evening ended with everyone being invited to celebrate at the Feats party, held in Capellen. A courtesy bus had been laid on and, in response to earlier years’ criticisms of the cost of previous parties, this year’s FEATS committee had made the decision to offer a simple and cheaper celebration: a disco with meat/vegetarian chilli for just EUR 12.50. Although it didn’t start until midnight, participants were clearly ready to party and party the night away they did. This was extremely well-attended and DJ Deb Anderson did a magnificent job: the dance floor was booming and it was good to see some members of the organising committee letting their hair down a little bit! Luckily the weather enabled anyone wanting to have a slightly quieter evening to do so outside!

A big thank you: Aside from all those NWTC members who had stepped up to that almost overwhelming task of being part of the extended organising team (Valerie Scott, Chris Albrecht, Simon Critchlow, Rose Flammant, Beverley Atkinson, Rachel Parker, Anthony McCarthy, Philip Dutton and John Brigg) it was just heart-warming to see so many local volunteers helping people with the numerous questions about the festival and/or their stay in Luxembourg, as backstage crew, cloak room assistants, people checking tickets, washing glasses, assisting with competition rules etc. etc.  I think it too easy to forget that when people offer to help in this way that they are also giving up the chance to see the plays they are so fervently supporting – so a big thank you on behalf of all of us who could watch the shows themselves.

Since Julie’s report was written, FEATS 2014 continued on its path of success, peaking with the play which was to be awarded Best Play by the adjudicator. Here are the winners of this remarkable festival:

  • First place: Hamburg Players with “Amateurs” by David Auburn
  • Second place: Semi-Circle (Basel) with “The Extraordinary Revelations of Orca the Goldfish” by David Tristram
  • Third place: The Irish Theatre Group (Brussels) with “A Night in November” by Marie Jones
  • Best presentation: LWTC (Lucerne) with “It’s on You, John” by Charlie Lucarotti
  • Stage management: AATG (The Hague) with “La Franco” by Anne-Marie Bellefroid
  • Original script: “The Ribbon” by Guy Las (Entity Theatre, Munich)
  • Best actor: Caraigh McGregor (Irish Theatre Group, Brussels) in “A Night in November” by Marie Jones
  • Best actress: Ellen Bergman (Hamburg Players) in “Amateurs” by David Auburn
  • Discretionary award: NEAT (Stuttgart) for the opening sequence in “Death” by Woody Allen

Chris (Chair)


New World Theatre Club Luxembourg