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Arts / Drama festival prepares to host ‘fringe’ event

Taking the curtain call are Iain Souter and Caroline Leask in a performance of 'The Orchestra' written by Kevin Briggs and performed by Scalloway Players.

THE SHETLAND County Drama Festival will be taking a somewhat different form this year due to the Covid situation – with events dotted around the isles and no competition.

In what is being called a ‘festival fringe’, drama groups will be performing in their own village halls instead of activity being centred in Lerwick.

“We felt it was the prospect of groups from all over Shetland gathering backstage in the Garrison Theatre which might be an issue,” festival president Izzy Swanson said.

The event will take place between 15 and 19 March in several community halls, including Gulberwick, Walls, Bigton and the Carnegie Hall in Sandwick.

The last drama festival took place in 2020, with last year’s event cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.

Unlike previous festivals, there will be no competitive element this year, so there will be no prizes awarded.

It is hoped that there will be a return to “normal” in 2023 and the committee has already approached an independent adjudicator who is looking forward to return to Shetland to host the event.

It is hoped that the event could once again be hosted at the Garrison Theatre once conditions allow multiple groups at the same time in a single venue.

Brenna Players will present two plays – It’ll Be Fine (a comedy written by Lesley Leslie) and The Auld Cock Crows (a Shetland farce originally performed by the Valley Players in the 90s written by Peter Garrick).

Performances will take place at the Carnegie Hall in Sandwick on Friday 18 March and at the Bigton Hall the day after, with both shows beginning at 7.30pm. Tickets are £8 and there will be refreshments.

Open Door will also undertake two performances. The junior group will offer up The Snow Queen followed by Open Door Adults presenting Magic Mobile Moments by Michael Frayn, a series of comic monologues.

The plays will take place at Gulberwick Hall on Tuesday 15 March. Doors will open at 7pm and donations will be taken on the door.

Westside Players offers two adult productions of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Doug Forrest’s Benjamin’s Birthday. The shows will take place at the Walls Hall on Saturday 19 March at 7.30pm, and on Sunday 20 March at 2.30pm. Donations will again be taken on the door.

Some groups such as Ronas Drama and Scalloway Players have decided not to present any productions this year as the restrictions and uncertainties have caused difficulties with casting plays and committing to a performance.

This has also impacted the many school and youth groups who regularly perform at the festival.

The festival committee has also welcomed news of Islesburgh Drama Group taking to the Garrison Theatre stage in the coming weeks.

The group is busy working on its production of Calendar Girls, directed by Stephenie Pagulayan, which will be performed between 29 March and 1 April. Tickets are still available via the Shetland Arts Box Office.

Kevin Briggs, vice-chairman of Shetland County Drama Festival, said: “It’s so exciting to see the Garrison Theatre opening its doors again and we can’t wait to get back to performing to a live audience.”