40 years of Durham Drama Festival

From the 4th-7th February 2015, the 40th anniversary of Durham Drama Festival (DDF) took place. The week involved ten shows, four industry professional judges, a special guest of honour, six professionally led workshops, a launch party and an awards ceremony. The week was an enormous success, and as this year’s Festival Director I can say I am so proud of everyone involved (over 60 students, from all years) and what we have achieved.

DDF Image 7 - Killing TimeThe plays featured every genre of theatre you can possibly think of. There was naturalistic comedy, black comedy, period drama, verbatim theatre, physical theatre, immersive theatre and even a one-man show. The venues we used utilised as many areas of Durham as possible. We did of course make use of our very own Assembly Rooms Theatre for three of the shows, and for another three we constructed our very own black box theatre (an intimate space with black walls and a black floor). The remaining four took place in Durham Cathedral, the Norman Chapel, St John’s College and Empty Shop.

This year we were incredibly honoured as the four judges not only watched and offered feedback on every show but led workshops focusing on their own particular area of expertise. This year we had Charlie Covell (TV writer and actress – currently writing for the new Channel 4 series Banana Tofu Cucumber, and has previously written for the BBC and acted in the Inbetweeners), who lead a workshops on Writing for Screen and Acting for Screen; Jethro Compton (a theatre producer and head of the incredibly successful company Jethro Compton Ltd., who created the stunning and internationally famous Bunker Trilogies) who lead a workshop on How to Create a Theatre Company; Hector Macpherson-Brown (a theatre producer who works specifically on international theatre festivals) who lead a workshop on Theatre Producing; and finally Tinuke Craig (a theatre director who has worked at LAMDA and the Young Vic, and who was also our National Student Drama Festival selector), who led a workshop on Auditioning for Drama School.

DDF Image 13 - StrikeThis year’s inaugural guest of honour was film producer Pippa Cross (Summer in February, Chalet Girl, Shooting Dogs) who kindly came up on the last day of the festival to lead a workshop on How to Make it into the British Film Industry. Despite it being “summative season,” all the workshops were attended by at least 20 students which just goes to show the interest and passion Durham students have for the creative industry.

At the end of the week the judges presented awards at our black tie awards ceremony held at Hatfield College. Congratulations to the winners of Best Show (“Ozymandias” by Hugh Train – the one man show), Best Writing (“Winston” by Durham alumni Caitlin McEwan – a naturalistic comedy) and all the other successful winners.

Finally, we are delighted with the national recognition our plays received. This is largely due to our NSDF recognition from Tinuke. “Congestion” (the verbatim play) has been selected to be DDF Image 3 - Awards Ceremony 4performed at NSDF 2015 – bearing in mind they have hundreds of applications every year, and only 11-16 shows get selected, this is an incredible achievement not only for Durham Student Theatre but for the University as a whole. A further ten individuals were selected from the various performance areas of the Festival to attend as members of the company, in recognition of their outstanding work. Finally, two of our plays “The Night Watch” and “Swing by Around 8” will be going to the Edinburgh Fringe later on in the year. At the Fringe, “The Night Watch” will be mentored by Jethro Compton and performed in his venue which is an incredible opportunity for a student production.

Once again I would like to say how proud I am of this year’s enormous success, and I’m sure that Durham Drama Festival will only continue to go from strength to strength each year.

Izzie is an undergraduate student studying Theology at St Chad’s College.  

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