VIDEO: Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Awards

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DISTINGUISHED actress Kate Dyson has praised local amateur groups for their commitment to the arts.

She was speaking at the Brighton and Hove Arts Council (BHAC) Drama Awards presentation evening, held at BHASVIC in Brighton last Wednesday.

Southwick Players with the Bea Waters Challenge Cup for best overall production

Southwick Players with the Bea Waters Challenge Cup for best overall production

Kate Dyson, who has appeared on stage in the West End and on television in The Bill and Casualty, was this year’s adjudicator, viewing nine plays, including two at The Barn Theatre in Southwick.

She said she was astounded by the performances and the productions were excellent. The importance of the arts could not be overstated and amateur companies were helping to keep theatre alive, she added.

“It is absolutely vital the work that you do. We have to once and for all dispel this terrible myth that amateur is inferior. It is not true.”

Among the award performances were three big classical plays, including Southwick Players’ Far From the Madding Crowd and Wick Theatre Company’s The Cherry Orchard, and three comedies.

Best actor winner Chris Parke in The Cherry Orchard wL_mfGWAk4-EfBX5iV5Q

Best actor winner Chris Parke in The Cherry Orchard wL_mfGWAk4-EfBX5iV5Q

The top award, the Bea Waters Challenge Cup for best overall production, went to Southwick Players and Claire Lewis also won the Gabbus Denney Award for best director.

Speaking about Far From the Madding Crowd, Kate said she had initially been a bit daunted by the 39 scenes but said it was ‘absolutely wonderful’.

“Like Cherry Orchard, some fabulous dialect and also some wonderful ensemble, a very big ensemble in this.”

She gave musical director Michael James a special mention for his original music and he was later named by Vaughan Rees as the runner-up for the BHAC Chairman’s Award.

Kate said: “Apart from the two ballads, all the music was original music and it was absolutely wonderful. I thought also as a musical director, because the singing was lovely.”

Mr Rees, chairman of BHAC, added: “The way in which the whole score was performed was little short of sensational.”

Len Shipton won best stage set design for Far From the Madding Crowd, Margaret Skeet and Anita Jones won best costumes and new publicity officer Gary Cook picked up the team’s award for best publicity.

Two acting awards went to Wick Theatre for The Cherry Orchard. Adrian Kenward, who played Yepikodov, won best supporting actor, and Chris Parke, who played Yermolay Lopakhim in The Cherry Orchard and Mr Frank in Lewes Theatre Club’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank, picked up the best actor award.

The company was also nominated for best costumes.

Speaking about The Cherry Orchard, Kate said it ‘looked lovely’.

“Some very, very fine acting, really good,” she added. “I thought the ensemble work was absolutely lovely.

“It is so refreshing to see everybody having that commitment. It made a big difference to the play, because you see the impact on everybody. The demise of the cherry orchard and the estate affects everybody.”

The other award plays were Brighton Little Theatre’s Love Song, Lindfield Dramatic Club’s Life After Death, Rottingdean Drama Society’s Goodnight Desdemona, Burgess Hill Theatre Club’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and New Venture Theatre Club’s Amongst Barbarians.