Didcot Phoenix Drama Group took the top prize in the One-Act section with their entry, Eugene Ionesco’s The Lesson, as well as the Youth Section trophy, won by 20-year-old Didcot actress Corin Lawfull.
Veteran adjudicator Russell Whitely, GoDA, praised Didcot for their “powerful” performance and said he had never seen an amateur group perform the Ionesco work better. He also said that Corin Lawfull’s portrayal of the pupil, at first coquettish, then confused and, finally, terrified, was “absolute, total perfection”.
Fellow Didcot actress Daisy Norton, 16, was among the nominees for the youth prize.
Winning Director Karen Carey said:” We have performed in local festivals around Oxfordshire for over 30 years but this is the first time that the group has performed on the national circuit, so to win at this level is a fantastic achievement for the group and certainly one of the high points in its 34-year history.
“I’m extremely proud of the team, both on-stage and off, and very grateful for the support from members and their families. Being surrounded by science and technology industries, the arts in Didcot has often taken a back seat – but I think this proves there’s a lot of talent in Didcot.”
The group won the Lighthorne Festival of One-Act Plays last month, earning the right to enter the All-Winners Finals. They are the fifth group to go forward to the national championships from the Lighthorne Festival since it was founded in 2013, but the first to win it.
The week-long Finals, at the Lamproom Theatre in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and organised by the National Drama Festivals Association, featured nine one-act and three full-length plays and represented a triple triumph for Lighthorne.
Playwright Nick Marsh, from Rugby Theatre, was handed the George Taylor Memorial Trophy for the best new play featured at a NDFA-associated Festival during the previous year.
Nick’s presentation was made by David Waters, managing director of publishers Stagescripts, whose award also includes a £250 cheque and a publishing deal.
His play, A Frank Exchange, was the Rugby Theatre entry in the Lighthorne Festival of One Act Plays in June 2016.
The judging panel, comprised of an established playwright and two GoDA adjudicators, said:”It is very well constructed, with several twists and climaxes, building to a strong, telling, harrowing conclusion.”
Lighthorne Festival chairman Rod Chaytor said:”We were aware that standards are building year on year, but this is empirical proof.
”We are proud and delighted to share Didcot’s triumph. It is a huge achievement to win at this level. They gave a stunning interpretation of a classic theatrical piece.
“Equally, the Lighthorne Festival has always encouraged new work within a balanced programme and we offer our warmest congratulations to Nick Marsh.”
Next year’s Lighthorne Festival will be held between June 5 – 9, 2018. Preliminary expressions of interest are invited from would-be entrants between now and October 31 this year, with confirmed entries by January 31, 2018.