Simply the fest

Waltham Forest Festival of Theatre is part of a nationwide competition, writes Basil Clarke

What makes an actor connect with the audience? How do theatrical directors give their plays impact?

To discover some of the secrets behind great theatre you don’t need to sign up for an acting course – though I would certainly recommend it – or travel to the West End.

Waltham Forest Festival of Theatre
Emilia Ashton picked up two awards at last year’s festival

Without leaving the borough, over three evenings you can see nine one-act plays – some old, others freshly written, some conventional, others cutting-edge and radical – and then hear an expert adjudicator talk about the acting, direction, props, costumes, and everything else that adds up to the theatrical experience, and share some tips of the trade.

The Waltham Forest Festival of Theatre is now in its 38th year and is one of a series of competitive events which make up the All-England Theatre Festival (AETF). The winning production from each festival goes through to higher rounds, culminating in a grand final, for the title of English champion.

This year’s festival takes place between Thursday 28th and Saturday 30th March at Forest Community Centre in Walthamstow, close to where Hale End Road crosses the North Circular. This cosy venue is the home of two theatre groups; Wadham Players and Drama Workshop.

Festival secretary Elaine Elliott has been involved from the outset. She said: “When the festival started, in 1982, it was one of four in London, but it’s the only one still active.

“Several generations of local people will remember our former chairman Dick Williams, who ran the Modern College of Music and Drama in Orford Road, Walthamstow, from the 1930s right up to when he died in 2007.

“Over the years, people who have appeared in the festival have gone on to play parts in Eastenders and to write for television and films. And we have a famous actor as our president – Derek Jacobi!”

Only one play can win the coveted ‘best team’ title and go on to the next round, but there are plenty of other awards that are handed out on the final night of the festival – for the best actors, best supporting actors, best new play etc. – not forgetting the backstage crews, the invisible people that actors depend on.

Nor does the festival overlook theatre’s future. There’s a special youth category, with four awards. Last year two of the honours went to ASD Theatre – pictured is Emilia Ashton showing off the shields for best team and best stage presentation.

For more information on Waltham Forest Festival of Theatre: