Preview: SCDA One Act Play Competition

SCDA One-Act Festiva l- 'Mercator. Pic: Comp
SCDA One-Act Festiva l- 'Mercator. Pic: Comp
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IT’S a highlight of the city’s amateur theatre calendar and this year the Capital’s oldest arts festival, the SCDA One-Act Play Competition returns to its spiritual home, the Church Hill Theatre, for the first time since 2009.

The national competition to find the best performed one-act play has been staged every year since 1926, apart from the war years. From Thursday, the district rounds begin across Scotland.

The ‘Edinburgh District’ rounds run from Thursday to Saturday, during which time the city’s amateur drama groups will battle it out for one of three places in the Eastern Division Round, which pitches them against clubs from Tayside down to the Borders.

Don Arnott, chair of the Scottish Community Drama Association (SCDA), Edinburgh, explains the return to Morningside’s Church Hill Theatre. “2004 was the last time we held the District Round at the Church Hill, and we hosted the Scottish Final there in 2009.

“When the Church Hill closed for refurbishment in 2005 we moved to St Serf’s and stayed there until 2014. We have had a great time at St Serf’s, which has the best facilities of any of the amateur venues, but we had no choice but to leave when they announced plans to be closed for the 2015 round.”

This year’s Divisional Round will also be held at Church Hill Theatre, from 2-4 April, with those in first and second positions going on to appear at the Scottish Final in Kirkwall three weeks later.

Arnott adds, “We are delighted to be back at Church Hill despite being happy at St Serf’s, because it gives our smaller clubs the opportunity to appear in a real theatre.”

In the past, local clubs have fared well in the competition with The Mercators winning the District and Divisional rounds in 2004, with the play The Café, by Neville Watchhurst.

Two years later, Edinburgh People’s Theatre won through to Scottish Final with Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, and in 2013, Livingston Players and Leitheatre both went through to the Scottish Final with The Donahue Sisters, by Geraldine Aron,and Still Life, by Noel Coward, respectively - all feats that the current contenders will be hoping to replicate this week.

On Thursday, Penicuik Community Theatre kick things off with the World Premiere of Lynsey Cullen’s The Unmentionables. A piece which tells of four homeless women’s struggle with society, it’s described as poignant, funny, filthy and disgusting but very true.

Next, Leitheatre (Sunnyside), present The Long Shadow by Christine Hardy, which charts the experiences of a young soldier in the trenches in 1915, and the long-term ramifications on him and his future family. Finally, St Serf’s Players (Bangholm) travel back to the Sixties in Neil Robertson’s Please Release Me, a play about love, letting go and the lure of leaving home in small town Scotland in favour of swinging London and the delights of running with the pack.

Friday’s round opens with a second entry from St Serf’s Players (Afton). Old Folk, by Archie Wilson, is the story of Leonard, newly arrived at an old people’s home and the only man there. The ladies nearly come to blows over him while he tries to fathom the mysteries of bingo, random medicine assignment and teatime wrangles.

That’s followed by another returning group as Leitheatre (Kirkgate) turn their attention to Playing With Daisy, by Eleanor Fossey. A taut, funny and dark two-hander about the use and abuse of an imaginary friend in childhood and then suddenly as an adult.

Last play of the evening finds Edinburgh People’s Theatre tackling Yellow Moon, by David Greig. The ballad of teenagers Leila and Lee, teenage misfits in the mould of Bonnie and Clyde via Inverkeithing, who head off to the Highlands in search of Lee’s dad.

On Saturday, Dramateurs present Waiting For The Whale, by Ron Nicol. A dark tale of a man pushed to the edge. Seeking to highlight his plight, he acquires a gun and decides to make a stand in his local job centre.

Mercators then showcase their talents in Last Post, by Jean McConnell. The widow of a much-respected army colonel discovers he was paying maintenance for a secret child. She is determined to protect his reputation and retain her own dignity – not so easy when the mother of the child in question turns up on her doorstep.

Bringing the curtain down on the entries for 2015 are Evening News Drama Award winners Edinburgh Theatre Arts in Blind Date, by Peter Quilter. Jonathon and Wendy are on a blind date and hoping to get it right this time even though they’ve never got it right before.

Arnott, says, “The One-Act Festival is a great showcase for local clubs, in addition to providing them with the opportunity to give new directors a chance to flex their wings and perhaps to attempt more challenging plays.”

SCDA One Act Play Competition, Church Hill Theatre, Morningside Road, Thursday-Sunday, 7pm, £10 (£24 for a three night season ticket), 0131-225 5952