Tuesday, 23 October 2018

One-act play winner to debut at fringe

A HARD-HITTING play centred on a supposed war crime will be brought to the stage by

A HARD-HITTING play centred on a supposed war crime will be brought to the stage by the Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, writes David White.

Bethlehem Lights by Michael Ashton won the group’s one-act play competition.

Entrants had to write a play of just one act with a running time of at least 25 minutes but no more than 40, while the number of characters had to be at least two but no more than four.

The winning entry will be performed at the HAODS studio in New Street as part of its fringe season this summer.

Mr Ashton, 62, of Durham Close, Reading, said the award was his 15th win since 2009.

He learnt the art of scriptwriting courtesy of the Synergy Theatre Project while serving time in prison in 2008 for deception, and was delighted with his latest award, saying: “It’s absolutely fantastic. I enjoy all aspects of theatre, whether it’s Henley or the BBC.”

He described his winning play as “Blood Diamond in the heart of the Congo”, adding: “Two victims of the genocide want to take revenge upon a Congolese army colonel. During the course of one night, truth becomes the victim and innocence is compromised.”

The central character, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, is the colonel in question, and Mr Ashton said: “He’s a real character — he was in The Hague.”

Mr Ashton’s award-winning stage play The Archbishop and the Antichrist is currently in development as a feature film with Killing Fields director Roland Joffe at the helm and Forest Whitaker in the lead as Desmond Tutu.

The runner-up in the HAODS one-act play competititon was Bridget Foster, whose entry Vintage Luggage will also be performed.

Highly commended awards went to Lorraine Forest Turner, 58, from Marlow, Kenneth Mann, 62, from Reading, and Colin Muirhead for their entries. Their plays will be the subject of rehearsed readings.

HAODS chairwoman Julie Huntington said: “The entries were varied and diverse. The winner is very hard-hitting.

“We’re not going to pull any punches — we’ll go with exactly how it’s written because that’s what got it all the marks in the first place.

“What Henley wants to see, we’re only too happy to do. We’re always searching for new plays.”

The 27 entries were judged by five adjudicators.

It was the first time the group had run the competition and Mrs Huntington hopes to repeat it next year.

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