Five Sussex theatre companies competed for prizes at the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Awards 2019 and winners were revealed last night at a glittering ceremony.
Actress Kate Dyson, this year’s adjudicator, said she was a great champion of amateur theatre and spoke of its important contribution to the arts.
She said: “What theatre is able to do is to bring local people together to share their laughter, their tears, their joys and their grief, and an appreciation of the arts at large.”
Southwick Players, Wick Theatre Company, Burgess Hill Theatre Club, Rottingdean Drama Society and Henfield Theatre Company all won awards on the night, with Wick Theatre Company, based at The Barn Theatre in Southwick, claiming the big prize, best overall production, for Taking Sides.
Kate praised the ‘marvellous’ set and ‘lovely lighting’ and said it was a very moving play, based on a true story.
Wick Theatre Company won the award for best publicity and Martin Oakley won best lighting design.
Also for Taking Sides, Sam Razavi, who played Major Steve Arnold, and David Creedon, in the role of Wilhelm Furtwangler, jointly won best actor and Graham Till, who played Helmuth Rode, won best supporting actor.
Southwick Players, also based at The Barn, was praised for the classy set design and lighting for its production of Dinner.
Kate said it was ‘hilariously funny and shocking’, with ‘one liners which are hard to top’.
For Dinner, Harry Atkinson won best director, Martin Oakley won best set design, Jeff Woodford won best sound design and Jenny Burtenshaw won best supporting actress for her performance as Wynne.
Henfield Theatre Company won the Arthur Churchill Award for most ambitious production with their play One Man, Two Guvnors, as well as best stage crew and best technical achievement.
Kate described the play as ‘complete slapstick’ and said the production was ‘wonderful’, with an ‘ambitious’ set involving a skilled crew.
She said: “I was so in awe of you pulling it off.”
The performances were excellent, she added, and Izzy Bishop won best actress for her role as Rachel Crabbe.
Burgess Hill Theatre Club won the BHAC Award for most heartwarming and empathetic production with their play Steel Magnolias.
Kate said: “It is a very, very moving play and it was beautifully executed. There were very strong performances and a wonderful energy.”
Rottingdean Drama Society performed The Anniversary and Heather Butler won best costume design.
Kate said: “The set was crammed full of 1950s furniture. It was so cramped that it really gave you the feeling of claustrophobia and I thought that was a lovely touch. Lighting and music added to the atmosphere.”
Brighton and Hove Arts Council is celebrating its 45th anniversary and the annual drama awards are open to amateur theatre companies in the area.