Stage finally set for returning Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival at the Barn

Company of Teens are among the entries in this year's Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival.

Company of Teens are among the entries in this year's Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival. - Credit: Company of Teens

Following a highly successful week of lockdown-imposed online theatre in 2021, the Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival returns to its home on the stage at the Barn Theatre on Monday.

Hazel Halliday has undertaken the role of WGC YDF secretary since 2015 and she said that this has proved to be a challenging year for the team that make up the voluntary committee.  

The 78th Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival takes place at the Barn Theatre in WGC.

The 78th Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival takes place at the Barn Theatre in WGC. - Credit: WGC YDF

Initially faced with too many entries to fit into the time available during the festival’s venue hire, the team were forced to be selective about which entries to accept and which must regrettably be turned away or asked to stand as reserves. 

“Generally, after taking account of availability specified by teams on their entry forms, the programme tends to fall into place without too much hassle or room for manoeuvre. This year was a little different!” Hazel explained.

“But by early January, the week was set, flyers were printed and tickets were on sale,” she said.  

“However, almost within hours the ‘fun’ began.”

As schools returned for the start of the new term, they found themselves coping with absenteeism of both students and staff due to coronavirus.  

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Trying to get their casts together to rehearse on top of normal school work proved impossible for some.  

Two entries fell by the wayside and the programme had to be quickly juggled to try to fill the holes.  

Another couple of weeks passed and one team found that they were unable to secure performing rights to adapt their full-length play in order to fit within the 50 minutes permitted by festival rules, and another hole had to be filled. 

Mimic Theatre Company

Mimic Theatre Company presents The Boy Preference at this year's Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival. - Credit: Mimic Theatre Company

Hazel says that she’s relieved that things at last appear to have stabilised and she hasn’t lost too much hair!

The current week will see each team arriving at the theatre for an hour-long session to familiarise themselves with the Barn stage and to program light and sound cues for their performances.

There are entries from schools, theatres and performing arts groups from across the county, including St Albans, Royston and Welwyn Garden City. 

They will receive fantastic support from the festival’s highly experienced stage manager, Derek Palmer, sound operator Jim Rowles and lighting operator Brenda Onyon.

Adjudicator Tristan Marshall

Adjudicator Tristan Marshall - Credit: Robert Vass

Tristan Marshall returns to the festival in the role of GoDA Adjudicator.

Last year, he attended the online festival as an observer, and this will be his first time fully in charge of proceedings.  

Tristan has an impressive pedigree, coming from a theatrical family.  

He spent his youth accompanying his father, adjudicator Scott Marshall, to festivals around the UK and Ireland.

Tristan became artistic director of Questors Theatre, London, in 2014 and set up the theatre’s annual Overnight Plays event in 2012 and he continues to run it every year.  

In his professional life he was awarded his doctorate in Jacobean theatre history from the University of Cambridge in 1995 and was made a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2020 for his contribution to the study of early modern theatre.

He currently lectures at Shakespeare’s Globe and at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and teaches at Cambridge.  

Hazel added: “We very much look forward to hearing his thoughts on each entry during the week.”

Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival's Tiger Award for 2022

Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival's Tiger Award for 2022 - Credit: WGC YDF

The 78th WGC YDF runs from Monday, March 7 to Saturday, March 12.  

Despite those early teething problems, it looks set to be another superb week.

Tickets are available through the theatre box office at barntheatre.co.uk or telephone 01707 324300.

The ticket price is £10 each session.

Season tickets for the week – or as many performances as are available when booking – are still a bargain at £30, despite the fact that at the time of writing there are waiting lists for seats on the Thursday and Saturday nights, as these dates have already sold out.

Mimic Theatre Company rehearsing The Boy Preference

Mimic Theatre Company presents The Boy Preference at this year's Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival. - Credit: Mimic Theatre Company


78th WELWYN GARDEN CITY YOUTH DRAMA FESTIVAL PROGRAMME

MONDAY, MARCH 7 – 7.30pm

  • Beaumont School Junior Drama Company (J): When This is Over – devised
  • Guy Crossland (S): Macbeth (monologues: Act V, scenes III & V) by William Shakespeare
  • Mimic Youth Theatre Company (S): The Boy Preference by Elinor Cook *

TUESDAY, MARCH 8 – 7.30pm

  • Stagecoach Bishop’s Stortford & Harlow (J): Me, Me, Me, Me, Me, Me, Me by John Pritchard
  • Barn Hermes (S): Antigone Now by Melissa Cooper
  • Limitless Academy of Performing Arts (S): Scaramouche Jones by Justin Butcher *

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9 – 7.30pm

  • Barn Errol (J): Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales (adapted by Philip Wilson) *
  • St Albans High School for Girls (S): Milady by Beth Flintoff *

THURSDAY, MARCH 10 – 7.30pm

  • Archer Players (J): Oedipus the King by Sophocles (translated Ian Johnston)
  • St Albans Middle School Drama Club (J): Lord of the Flies by William Golding (adapted by Nigel Williams) *
  • Company of Teens (S): When This is Over – devised.

FRIDAY, MARCH 11 – 7.30pm

  • Freman College (S): Be A Lady They Said – devised
  • Limitless Academy of Performing Arts (S): Brook for Nothing by Paul Adam Levy
  • St Christopher School (S): Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (adapted by Laura Eason) *

SATURDAY, MARCH 12 – 2pm

  • Hampton Gardens School (S): Macbeth by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Schools abridged by Martin Lamb)
  • Pump House CYT (S): Zero for the Young Dudes by Alistair McDowall.

SATURDAY, MARCH 12 – 7pm

  • Limitless Academy of Performing Arts (J): Life is Like a Box of Chocolates by Ruth Burton
  • St George’s School (S): A Fishy Business by Margaret Wood
  • Award ceremony.

Caution: some entries may contain strong language or themes unsuitable for young children.

* These, and possibly other entries, will be abridged versions of longer plays.

The Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival line-up flyer

The Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival line-up flyer - Credit: WGC YDF