Adjudicator Q & A: Your questions answered


We had a fantastic response to our recent ‘Ask the Adjudicator’ feature with some great questions from our readers. We can now bring you the answers to those questions, straight from the man himself! Our 2016 adjudicator Mike Kaiser has kindly taken time out of his busy schedule to respond so it’s over to you Mike!

RWB asked:  What do you enjoy most about being an adjudicator?

RWB – the most enjoyable aspect of adjudicating is that you never know what to expect. You can be in a 1,000 seat theatre one week and a small village hall the next and it’s impossible to guess how a team is going to interpret the texts you have received. I have learnt never to anticipate that I will love/ hate any particular entry.

Peter asked:  What would you say makes a winning play stand out from the rest?

Peter – stated fairly simply, the winning play has to be the one I most believe in. It has to convince the audience that the beings we see before us really ARE what they claim to be with complete assurance so that it draws us into that world, however fantastical that may be. Of course, the same is true of a completely naturalistic play.

Percy asked:  Do adjudicators give preference to companies who are brave enough to enter their own work as opposed to published plays?

Percy – Adjudicators should not really give preference to anybody. It’s all about who delivers on the night. As far as original plays are concerned, that is not so unusual nowadays and festivals frequently have more than 50% new work.

Leslie asked:  If a company has really strong actors but their set design and costumes are less impressive, can they rely on their acting to carry the day?

Leslie – Strong actors obviously take you a long way because they receive 40% of the marks whereas set/ costume/ lighting etc. only have 15%. Yet it is true that sometimes when there are two or three really strong productions, the final choice can be influenced by a mark here or there in Presentation. I think it’s a shame not to be precise over details and waste marks in that way. It’s not always a case of expense but of thought. Don’t just say ‘We need a chair, a settee and a rug’ but try and create a harmonious complete world. There are some dazzling but simple ways of creating a theatrical space.

Nigel asked:  We’re not familiar with the Swindon’s Arts Centre or their technical staff. Do you take this in to consideration if there is a technical hiccup that is not our fault?

Nigel – if your company are not familiar with the Tech staff I wouldn’t worry too much. My experience of Festival Crews is that they are terrific at giving you what you need and they know their own theatre. One of my first jobs is always to tour backstage and meet them when I arrive and wish them well. We are part of the same team. If there ever is a technical hiccup which is not your fault, I will be informed of that immediately after the performance by the Stage Manager and no marks will be deducted – that is common practice.

Paula asked:  As you know we have several awards to be won at hj1act. The last night is like the Oscars! I see from your bio that you have won several awards yourself. Which do you feel is your greatest achievement in winning and why?

Paula – we started our own theatre company in our small town (6,000) in 1980 and had no proper base so entering festivals was a great way for us to go into proper theatres, meet other groups and learn what the standards were. Most of my awards were for directing but some are for acting. I once even won Highly Commended in the NDFA Geoffrey Whitworth play writing competition. However, the proudest of all without doubt was to direct our version of ‘Waiting For Godot’ which won the English Final in 1997.

Paula asked:  I see that you once taught drama in Swindon. Where did you teach and what is your happiest memory from that time?

Paula – I taught in Park South in Swindon (now closed ) and then it was a bustling Senior High School of about 1600 pupils. There was plenty of drama and an exciting studio facility. Somewhere in my files I have a glowing review from The Swindon Advertiser of an evening of experimental type entertainment beginning with the newly published and quite daring ‘Ritual For Dolls’ , followed by original scenes and readings. The happiest memory though has to be the birth of our first-born Duncan in the brand-new, state of the art Princess Margaret Hospital, also gone I believe. All of this was from 1969 – 73.


Huge thanks to Mike for taking part in our Q&A. It’s such a great way to get the inside skinny on an adjudicator’s eye-view as well as allowing us to get to know Mike a little bit before we meet him in person in April.


COMING SOON: News of our 2016 entry line-up, our reigning champions tell their story and more ‘Meet the Team’ profiles.


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If you have a story you’d like us to include here in our blog, or if there’s something you’d like us to write about, let us know at  So long as it’s festival/drama/local theatre centred, we’ll definitely give it a look!

The Harold Jolliffe One-Act Play Festival supports  SWINDON 175
Celebrating 175 years since the birth of Swindon as a railway town        
Find out more HERE and HERE
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