Preview: Durham Drama Festival 2011

The thirty-sixth annual Durham Drama Festival begins this Wednesday, with an expansive showcase of Durham student talent, and, for the first time, some talent from outside of Durham. This is the biggest DDF the university has ever seen, as the festival has expanded both in quantity of plays and in range of writers, as well as incorporating a great number of workshops for actors and writers alike. The scope of the performances is wide and there is certainly something for every viewer.

The appeal of the Durham Drama Festival is in its exhibition of new talent and the sheer number of performances. Festival Director Callum Cheatle says the festival is like getting several shows for the price of one. Unlike the shows that take place throughout the rest of the year, DDF is not about established writing, but about exploring the writing of talented students. This year the festival is also using a venue other than the Assembly Rooms. Several comedy performances on Friday will take place in Empty Shop, the art gallery on Framwellgate Bridge.

To a much greater extent than previous festivals, this year’s DDF is hoping to expand its audience beyond the realm of the student world with a heavy emphasis on advertising to a potential local audience. Some of the collaborators were interviewed on BBC Radio Newcastle, and articles on DDF have been published in various local publications. Last week, the infamously vague promotional event 12:21 took place, with many people who are involved in DDF being given a mysterious set of instructions including slow-motion movement through town, kangaroo impressions and balloon fighting, culminating in their parading through Durham and dancing around at Palace Green. The festival organisers are hoping to increase awareness in these ways.

There are many workshops being offered at DDF, the widest range the festival has ever presented. A highlight for any aspiring theatre critic is the workshop by Matt Wolf, an eminent American critic on “Reviewing Theatre Effectively”. Other workshops for the theatrically inclined include “Moving from University into a Professional Theatre Career”, “Producing Theatre”, and “Musical Theatre Production and Performance”.

As for the performances themselves, a fascinating variety of shows are on offer during the four days of the DDF. In addition to plays, the festival offers various comedy performances, musical productions, and an intriguing looking dance show in which “dance replaces dialogue”. The 24 Hour Plays likewise promise to be entertaining, and don’t let the title scare you off, for the plays are created in twenty-four hours, not performed over twenty-four hours. In fact, most of the productions are under an hour, so the festival is perfect for any student lacking in attention span. For those who prefer established writers, Harold Pinter’s Betrayal is also being performed at the festival.

Original and fresh, the performances of the Durham Drama Festival look like a wonderful few evenings of entertainment provided by impressively accomplished students, and the workshops are guaranteed to be exceptionally informative.

The Durham Drama Festival commences on Wednesday, February 23rd at 7:00 with Suicide Letter Love Note at the Assembly Rooms Theatre. For more information and ticket purchasing visit http://dramafest.co.uk/2011/index.html.

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