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YOUR NEWSNationwide TakeTen New Writing Festival Winners Announced

Nationwide TakeTen New Writing Festival Winners Announced

Above: Chesil Theatre, Winchester, home of Winchester Dramatic Society

by Flavia Bateson

Chesil Theatre, the leading Winchester community theatre company, is pleased to announce the top ten winners of TakeTen, a national competition and festival of new writing.
Entries were invited from writers in the format of a ten-minute play based on the theme The Road Not Taken. An independent panel of judges from the world of professional theatre and drama had the task of selecting the winners from over four hundred entries submitted from across the UK.

The winners are:

1. A Desert Place by Rosemary Evans, London
2. A Grande Day Out by Ian Fraser, Winchester
3. All Our Lives by Christina Pye, Winchester
4. Along Any Minute by William Patterson, London
5. Careful by Karla Ptacek, London
6. Pufferfish Over the Carpathians by Neil Walden, Gloucester
7. The Belgians by Ross Bateson, London
8. Tremble by Rob Johnston, Manchester
9. Tunnel by Cate Sweeney, Cardiff
10. Waiting For a Fare by John-Paul Jones, Poole

The plays cover every genre of theatre from absurdist to tragedy, satire to black comedy. Many writers explored topics of particular relevance to 2020: loneliness, family relationships, retrospection. The ten plays are now cast with twenty-four actors and ten directors.

Chesil Theatre Chairman David Small said: “We have been delighted that TakeTen has been well received with so many participants from all across the UK. Chesil Theatre is pleased to play its small part in giving writers the challenge of creating a unique work within a prescribed format and theme, with the opportunity to see their work premiered onstage.”

The ongoing pandemic means that Chesil Theatre will need to adapt its approach to producing the festival. As Hampshire is currently in national lockdown, rehearsals are being held online. There is a possibility of initial streamed performances. The company is determined to see this special festival brought to the stage once government guidance allows.

In previous festivals an intense weekend of four performances has taken place when writers, judges, actors, directors and audiences could all meet and share thoughts. Chesil Theatre will work towards once again making this aspect an essential element of the event.

Chesil Theatre has been running new writing festivals biennially since 2008 and has received positive encouragement from the professional theatre including a visit from Sir Ian McKellen who watched a performance in 2014.

Most recently, when the new TakeTen Festival was announced in May 2020 Sir Kenneth Branagh said: “Three cheers for Winchester’s Chesil Theatre! At a time of challenge for all, they have bravely looked to creativity and imagination. Their new writing competition can lead the way to new ideas and new and entertaining ways to look at our changed and changing world.

“I hope these exciting writers will help herald the return of live amateur theatre, a vital part of Britain’s creative ecosystem.”

Chesil Theatre has also announced that plans for a much-needed annexe to their historic premises have been given the green light, in conjunction with neighbouring landowners, St John’s Winchester.

Contracts have been exchanged for the society’s purchase of a freehold parcel of land adjoining the Chesil Theatre, allowing their development scheme to go ahead.

David Small added: “The Society established the Chesil Theatre in 1966, though we have been entertaining the people of Winchester since 1863. In addition to our annual programme of six main productions, we have increased our activities with sessions for two youth groups, drama workshops and training, student performances and regular use of our intimate auditorium for small-scale professional productions. However, over the years our building has begun to bulge at the seams, putting pressure on our ability to carry out all the arts-related objectives we’d like.

“Working alongside St John’s, it is now possible for us to create a new annexe. This will provide disabled amenities, adequate dressing-room facilities, a new foyer/rehearsal space and a performance/community room. It’s a wonderful opportunity and one which will benefit the city well into the future.”

Roger Bright, Chair of St John’s Winchester commented: “St John’s is delighted to be facilitating this expansion of the Chesil’s facilities through the sale of part of its Chesil Site. The Theatre has a proud history and we look forward to seeing the Annexe completed and all the community benefits that will bring.”

The wardrobe and props team at the Chesil Theatre will be particularly pleased with the news as storage space has been severely limited to the upper floors of the tower, via a near-vertical staircase. The new scheme will provide a purpose-built section, easily accessed for the Society and other local groups looking for costumes and props.

For this improved larger area of land Chesil Theatre will now need to prepare a fresh planning application. Winchester City Council and the Town Forum have been very supportive of the society’s plans over many years. Cllr. Kathleen Becker, Chairman of Town Forum said: “We are pleased to hear that this long-hoped-for development can now be realised and the theatre can continue to offer its wonderful benefits to the city.”