Festival format proves tried and trusted

Now in its 13th year, the Arundel Festival Theatre trail will once again be one of the highlights of this year’s Arundel Festival.

It will repeat its tried-and-tested format: eight different plays at eight different locations at eight different times over eight days, all worked out so that it is perfectly possible to collect the whole set in just the one day.

The trail is an off-shoot of Arundel’s Drip Action theatre company and was the brainwave of Drip Action artistic director Bill Brennan.

“It is modelled on the gallery trail in the festival,” says Bill, “where people can wander around and see lots of different art in different places. With this, you see plays.”

This year the eight were whittled down from 172 submissions which, remarkably, isn’t the highest the trail has ever had. There was a time when they tied in with the BBC Writersroom and hit 200 submissions.

“But 172 is getting near our best. It means quite a lot of reading to do! The closing date is in January and we try to get the decisions by the end of March.

“A play generally takes about 50 minutes to read, but it is not just me. There are three of us doing it.”

Inevitably, you tend to get impressions fairly quickly, as Bill explains. The pieces need to grab you promptly: “There is not much point being brilliant on the last page if you have lost your audience after five minutes!

“You have to bear in mind how the audience is going to respond, without being too dogmatic about it. But you have also got to give each piece a chance to grab its audience.”

Each play is judged on its own merits, but when it comes down to a choice between a couple, how the piece might sit on the day could well be an extra factor.

Certainly the ordering of the plays is important throughout the day. As Bill says, you might want to follow something rather dark with something rather lighter.

All in all, it adds up to a monumental jigsaw puzzle which it is Bill’s job to put together on a daily basis: “We have to look for more than 20 actors. One or two actors will do maybe more than one play.

“People have to hurry up the road, but that doesn’t happen too often. It is still quite a lot of actors to find among people that might have day jobs. You need a number of people who are on holiday or perhaps are retired.”

The trail runs from August 17-24 as follows:

11am, Arundel Town Hall. Stake-Out by Simon Brett. A game of cat and mouse, but who’s the cat and who’s the mouse?

Midday, Arundel Football Club. Lions of England, by David Weir ‘... as we reveal the truth behind that heroic rescue’.

1pm, The Norfolk Hotel. Frozen Fish Fingers, by Rosemary Frisino Toohey. Market research gets personal.

2pm, The Victoria Institute. Triptych, by Edwin Preece.

A famous artist, three of his subjects: three different perspectives.

3pm, India Gate Restaurant. Face to Face with the Enemy, by Judy Klass. Love and hate over a Ladies’ Lunch. It’s high noon.

4pm, 57 Maltravers Street. Marion Allen’s Number 1 Hobby by Bea Roberts. Entering competitions can be fun, but when it comes to the crunch...

5pm, The Cathedral Centre. The Smoke from Far Shutt, by Martin Alcock. A school history project reveals a secret past.

6pm, The Jailhouse. The Walloper, by Paddy Campbell. A feisty 16-year-old tells her story – from the walloping cart her grandad made her, and onwards.