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  • Writer's pictureCaleb Estes

The competition play off

A full house for the Competition Play-off on Monday 5 February. It started well with Matthew Partridge’s EXPERT ADVICE and Anthea Courtenay’s late-night visit to her overworked neighbour, Detective Inspector Silas Hawkins. She is writing an Agatha Christie type of play about a serial killer and is grateful for his earlier advice on how to stun someone with a cattle-prod. She now wants his experience-based advice on body disposal. He mentions waste disposal on a farm but is so worn out by his fruitless investigation of recent local murders that he doesn’t hear her driving a well-laden car to the local piggery…

Michael Barry’s NOW CLASS! FOCUS! was also about writing drama and took us to an idyllic Mediterranean island where all but one of the members of a writing course were engaged in deep breathing, positive mantras, humming in a circle and yoga on a private beach, everything in fact but writing. Not exactly Monday night at the NLT but very funny. What about the missing member? He was up in his room working on a play: boo!

Matthew’s NO MARRIAGE IN HEAVEN raised some interesting theological issues. It was about a couple who so hated each other that when they died the worst punishment that ‘Luci’ (Fiona McKinnon) could devise was to put them back on earth. A lot of good lines put it in the top three.

Mary Kenny had two plays EXILE REDEEMED and THE SERMON. The first was about the unhappy demise of the Countess from the west of Ireland who could not face returning to their castle after the establishment of the Irish Free State. Not many laughs there but more than enough in the other play in which Father Phil Philmar preaches to a congregation of one (Anthea again). As he starts on his reminiscences of a journey long ago, she keeps wishing he would get on with it. And then the story takes an unexpected turn and she finds herself hooked and, eventually, uplifted by the outcome, as we all were. Second place.

So the winner had to be Erica Litten’s A BUNDLE OF RAGS about the British businessman on a trip to the Middle East whose wife embarrasses him by providing refreshment and comfort to a peasant mother who is cradling her dead baby. Strong stuff and a worthy new name on the prestigious Guy MacKay shield.

In a brief discussion at the end, the consensus was that the writing had been of a very high quality – and the acting too of course – and that the very different styles and situations chosen by the authors made for an extremely enjoyable evening. Many thanks to all who took part not least Giles Armstrong who set it all up. PT

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