Festival fans will be very familiar with Pewsey Vale Amateur Dramatics Youth Society, or as they are better known, PVADYS. They’ve been hj1act regulars for many years achieving great success with their superb mix of inventiveness and creativity, talent and youthful energy. Read more HERE and HERE.
At the helm is the lady who personifies all of these qualities and more, Nettie Brown. Award winning playwright, director and actor, Nettie has blazed a trail in local youth theatre for so many years we’ve lost count! Last year saw PVADYS take a break from hj1act and during that time Nettie achieved success as a published playwright following the first international performance of her play ‘Blood’ at a school in California. This year Nettie and PVADYS make their welcome return and we can’t wait to see them grace our stage again.
hjHQ: Welcome Nettie! It’s great to have you back again this year. Tell us about what you’ve been up to and your latest play success.
NETTIE: I can’t really talk about my plays without them being a part of the greater picture of Pewsey Vale Amateur Dramatics Society’s amazing Youth Theatre. For without them, I would not have been able to write, rehearse and develop my plays for public consumption. In addition – without the encouragement, comments and constructive criticism from the Harold Jolliffe adjudicators over the years I may well never have plucked up the courage to send my scripts off to the publishers!
hjHQ: You’ve been on the festival scene for quite a while now – where did it all start for you with hj1act?
NETTIE: We started our hj1act journey in 2005 with the well known play, ‘A Dog’s Life’ by Pam Valentine. It was brilliant! We won lots of trophies (although of course it is the taking part not the winning that counts!) including for Best Youth play, Best Youth Actress, Best Technical and nominations for other ‘adult’ awards too. What a confidence boost for an untested team! We then went on to the Five Counties Final with our little dog cages and our six very young actors and pitted ourselves against mega school/semi professional drama schools in a huge theatre in Frome and came away with our tails between our legs (excuse the pun!) but with a sense of how explosive, emotive, exciting youth theatre could be!
For the following four years we entered the hj1act festival and won the Brenda Lilley Loving cup for best youth performance and numerous others along the way. In 2008 we won the Five Counties with ‘Fall of the House of Usher’.
hjHQ: Tell us about your writing and how that came about?
NETTIE: In 2009 we entered my first original play ‘I remember Pewsey at War’ – an historical comedy based around local WW2 anecdotes inspired by the 70th anniversary of the start of the war. We again won through to the Five Counties but were a little hampered in our performance after a large table squashed the director (yours truly) just as we were about to perform. I think the kids were slightly distracted by my groaning from the wings!
After a couple of great plays, during the following two years – again with a raft of awards (by which time the adult groups at hj1act were getting slightly bemused by ..and deafened by… the predominance of a ‘mere’ youth group at the awards ceremony!) I began to struggle to find scripts for my wide age group of young actors – 10-16 year olds – that weren’t issue based and didn’t involve ‘teenage issues’. So then I began writing my own!
hjHQ: What would you say is the secret to your success?
NETTIE: I wouldn’t say we ‘workshopped’ our way to success – more raced around my house with pretending to be blood cells bursting, using egg boxes as video game controllers, looking up the most awful songs ever on Youtube and using my staircase as a multi level performance space – but out of our PVADYS ‘head banging get-togethers’ we concocted four further festival winning youth plays.
hjHQ: As serial winners, what stands out as your greatest achievement?
NETTIE: Our greatest achievement has been winning twenty-one trophies on the way to the Semi Finals of the All England Theatre Festival with ‘Call to Duty’ in 2014, (including the Mercia final, Five Counties Final, technical, adjudicator and directorial awards.) That was some journey which ended with memorable Remembrance Day performances with not a dry eye in the house.
hjHQ: You took some time out from hj1act last year. Tell us a bit more about that.
NETTIE: Last year we left our comfort zone to perform in the All England Festival at Codford – a beautiful little theatre struggling to survive. We hope in some way we helped. ‘We are All Individuals’, a play about manipulation by the powers that be – from a group of cloned sheep’s perspective, brought the house down – as well as a persistent resident butterfly who wouldn’t leave Lucy the Lamb alone!
hjHQ: We’re very happy to welcome you back again this year! What have you got planned for us?
NETTIE: This year we aim to entertain, or maybe even scare the pants off, the audience with another original play based on true facts, set in the workhouse in Pewsey. ‘Laundry Room’ will star several new actors plus a couple of old hands, aged ten and eleven and a tech team and assistant director who have all come through our youth theatre.
hjHQ: We’re really looking forward to seeing this brand new play which will make a fantastic opener on Friday 15th April. Thank you Nettie for taking the time to chat with us and for your long association with the Harold Jolliffe One-Act Play Festival – long may it continue!
NETTIE: Long live PVADYS!
Coming soon: RWB Productions return to hj1act with a brand new play!
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