It rolls along every year and only once in all my time in Jersey have I bothered with it. The autumn Eisteddfod is the Island’s festival of the arts and, when my daughter Emma, was about 10, she was entered in one of the dance classes. She rehearsed diligently, did her piece to perfection, and watched while a load of little Scottish dancers trotted off with the prizes by performing a few basic jigs.
I’m not bitter so, many years later I rocked up to the Opera House tonight to see some of the action. Top of my agenda was the debut performance of my poor effort Maggie & Helen, a Jersey period piece featuring my work colleague Barbara and another Art Centre Theatre (ACT) actress Yvonne. But before that I settled down to watch some other stuff.
First up this evening was Prepared Reading. Hmm, some interesting work but I couldn’t get excited about people reading from a text. The class was won by practiced performer Jane Wakeham. However the best piece by far was a polished monologue by ACTs Anna Kurenkova. Unfortunately it didn’t adhere to the criteria of the class (an amazing slip up really not to enter the monologue class) so Anna’s moment had to wait.
Next was duologues by 13-17 year-olds. It must have been a close call between the two top pieces but in the end a spirited effort by Susannah Humphrey and Isabelle Bougeard (the first a former young Spartan athlete, the latter a present-day sprinter) took the top prize.
It’s difficult not to praise the efforts of the young ones even when their best efforts fall short. But there’s no hiding place for the grown-ups who finished off the evening with their duologues. The Big Cheese visiting judge would knock marks off liberally for things like forgotten lines and lack of things like modulation, interpretation, connection between the duo etc. But I was highly delighted with how my little piece was acted out. The ladies had clearly put a load of work in since the early rehearsals I watched and it came across beautifully. They had also made a big effort with period dress and hairstyles (curly fringe for Barbara, close to the head for Yvonne) and really I don’t think it could have been improved upon. A Silver certificate for ‘A convincing interpretation showing understanding of meaning, shape and style’.
The winning trophy (but still a Silver certificate) went to two consummate ACT actors Stefan and (again) Anna who put together an excellent show of repartee in their extract from The Taming of the Shrew. Indeed this class was dominated by ACT duos and the standard was high, to my inexpert eye anyway. Director Jason Kenyon was never going to let anyone up there that was not fully prepared and rehearsed. He must have been well pleased with his troupe’s efforts. Some of the comedy in particular was first class.
All of the ACT acts will be performed again in gala shows next week on their home turf – not to be missed. But my last word goes to the very last (non-ACT) piece of the evening by two young ladies Jessica Myhill and Joelle Agathangelou. These two self-produced a powerful piece of dance-drama that both intrigued and disturbed.
A pity that there weren’t prizes for all at the end of an excellent evening. And also a pity that there were few to support other than family, friends and fellow actors.