Girl power shines at festival

Alice Bell 15 year old Playwright
Alice Bell 15 year old Playwright

FEMALE playwrights achieving fame in the spotlight are few and far between...

Shelagh Delaney, who penned A Taste Of Honey, and Lucy Prebble, who adapted Secret Diary Of A Call Girl for television, are among the notables.

At grassroots level, a north Derbyshire theatre’s tenth annual playwriting festival is giving a platform to new writers – and nearly half of them are women.

Schoolgirl Alice Bell has struck lucky with her first play, being selected as one of nine semi-finalists for next week’s festival at the Pomegranate, Chesterfield.

Alice, of Wellington Street, Chesterfield, who celebrates her 16th birthday on Sunday, said: “I was shocked to hear that I had been chosen but am excited about seeing my play on stage.”

Her composition, entitled Monsters, is about schizophrenia. She said: “I decided to write something that would make me stand out. The play is inspired by one of my favourite songs – Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence by Dream Theater, which is 45 minutes long.”

Alice, a GCSE student at Eckington School who hopes to study drama at university, spent her summer holidays writing the play. She said: “Studying drama at school made it easier to write it,” she said.

Her play will be staged as a rehearsed reading at the Pomegranate on Friday, March 18, as part of the four-day festival in which audiences vote their favourite play through to the final where a £500 prize is at stake.

She will be up against the following:

George Gumby, from Belper, who runs a company specialising in publishing books and products with a nostalgic leaning. His first play The Royal Doulton Figurine is a comedy covering subjects that older people discuss.

Jeff Tullin, an IT consultant who lives in Derbyshire, and has experience in all aspects of theatre. His play Unspoken Words is about a family with secrets.

Thelma Knowlson, from Ripley, a grandmother who has been writing for over 30 years and has had work performed by Ripley Amateur Drama Group, of which she is a member, Ashover Players and the Wild Orchid Theatre Group. Thelma’s play is entitled Me and My Shadow and is about an ordinary couple who have been married for more than 50 years.

Drew Biggin from Sheffield who is a self-taught stage and screenwriter. His play, The Balance, centres on two men trapped inside a waiting room with a cryptic receptionist and a belligerent warden.

Jenny O’Mahoney from Chesterfield who is an undergraduate at Birmingham studying creative writing. Her play is entitled Damaged Goods and focuses on a daughter’s confusion when her father leaves home and her mother gets a new partner.

Tina Jay, a drama teacher at an independent school near Nottingham, whose play Heaven Must Have Sent You is about a teenager winning a competition to meet her pop idol.

Michael Stewart, from Buxton, a former actor at Edinburgh Theatre Arts and latterly a performer and writer for the Pomegranate Playwrights Group and the Manchester Royal Exchange’s Writer Exchange. His entry is entitled Carole At Christmas and is a tragi-comic tale of a teacher haunted by a troubled past.

Jeremy Duffield, of Heanor, who has been writing plays for seven years. His contribution to the festival is Portrait of a Lady which is about a husband’s frantic bid to keep secret his wife’s birthday surprise.