Duns hosts successful Playfest

A Different Tune by Ellis Shotton. A theatre company from Kendal perform a new comedy about the formation of a dementia embracing community orchestra.
A Different Tune by Ellis Shotton. A theatre company from Kendal perform a new comedy about the formation of a dementia embracing community orchestra.

The ambitious eight day festival of new dramatic writing that has just finished in Duns has been a great success and DunsPlayFest is now very much on the map.

The Duns Volunteer Hall was transformed for the occasion by Allanbank Arts who created an informal, cosy atmosphere where people watched plays, cabaret, film, listened to a story, had a go at improvisation comedy, learned how to write a play, discussed acting with actors and directors, enjoyed a meal with friends, had a drink, or simply soaked up the atmosphere from the comfort of a sofa or chair.

John McEwen, festival director and Duns Players stalwart, Taff Thomas, discuss with an audience What's the Point of Drama.

John McEwen, festival director and Duns Players stalwart, Taff Thomas, discuss with an audience What's the Point of Drama.

Behind the scenes Borders writer and poet Tom Murray worked with Duns Primary School pupils to write and perform several small plays, and Rona Munro, one of Scotland’s foremost playwrights and script writers, worked with students from the Berwickshire High School on her adaptation of the novel Frankenstein for the stage.

The festival audience was wide and various - from young children to senior citizens, and they came from all over the Borders, the Lake District, Edinburgh and London. For many it was their first experience of live theatre.

John McEwen, festival director, said: “There were over 30 events, 20 plays were performed, and 25 organisations, local and national, were involved. The support we received from the various organisations was amazing and we owe them our thanks.

“We also need to say a special thanks to all those individuals who helped make this festival a success by devoting their time, talent and energy. They are too numerous to list here but you know who you are. A big thank you to everyone, especially to the people and local businesses of Duns, and we look forward to seeing you all next year!”

A Gathering of Storytellers - professional storytellers Lea Taylor and Majorie Leithead laugh with the audience as children and adults play the characters from one of their many stories.

A Gathering of Storytellers - professional storytellers Lea Taylor and Majorie Leithead laugh with the audience as children and adults play the characters from one of their many stories.

Scottish playwright David Shirreff’s play Colonel Anne was premiered at the DunsPlayFest and afterwards he said: “I love the atmosphere of the Volunteer Hall, because as you walk in, you see not only chairs and the auditorium, but also a sitting room with sofas and even a skeleton and very interesting décor, and you think you’ve walked into some kind of a club.

“Between performances, I could happily sit here with a drink and talk to my friends and from there you get drawn into the fact that there are things going on. You could spend your entire afternoon here from 2pm until the last show ends at around 9 or 10pm.

“You feel that you’re in a friendly family atmosphere which is an interesting concept, and it works!

“Another thing that surprised me is that Duns is quite a small town and yet there was a full house here last night. It was bums on seats and it was fantastic and most people I heard from had good things to say about the play, the atmosphere, the production and the acting, and I think it helped in a way to put DunsPlayFest on the map.”

A scene from David Shirreff's play colonel Anne.

A scene from David Shirreff's play colonel Anne.

Organisations who helped make the festival a success include: A Heart For Duns; Allanbank Arts; Creative Scotland; Lammermuir Community Fund; Blackhill Windfarm Community Fund; Face PR; Live Borders; Borders Young Creatives; Playwrights Studio Scotland; Borders Pub Theatre; Berwickshire High School; Duns Primary School; University of the Third Age; Alzheimers Scotland; Dignity in Dementia; Writers in the Library (Creative Writing for Mindfulness and Wellbeing); Community Lunch Club; Blackhill Community Fund; The Open University; Treading the Borders; Alchemy Film Festival; Moving Image Makers’ Collective; Berwickshire Wheels; Borders Mental Health Awareness Week.