Banbury Charities benefit from theatrical success

Actors Nicola Dixon (The Manager), Almira Brion (Emma), director Chrissie Garrett, and adjudicator Mike Kaiser, GoDA. (courtesy Peter Weston)
Actors Nicola Dixon (The Manager), Almira Brion (Emma), director Chrissie Garrett, and adjudicator Mike Kaiser, GoDA. (courtesy Peter Weston)

A Banbury theatre group has come first place during a festival of plays enabling it to donate money to a Banbury charity.

Banbury Cross Players (BCP) performance of Mike Bartlett’s Contractions at the Lighthorne Festival of One-Act Plays was deemed the best overall and enabled the group to donate £500 to Banbury Young Homelessness Project (BYHP).

BCP's Contractions (courtesy Peter Weston)

BCP's Contractions (courtesy Peter Weston)

The Prize at the Lighthorne Festival is the largest in amateur competition and is shared between the winning group and a charity of their choice.

Director Chrissie Garrett said: “I had no hesitation in choosing BYHP. Our decision to support this local charity was quickly and easily made as both director and actors have worked alongside the staff and young people that BYHP support.

"We are so impressed with the dedication and work of this local charity that we want to enable it to reach even more vulnerable local young people.”

BCP have taken part in the Festival since its inception in 2013.

BCP's Contractions (courtesy Peter Weston)

BCP's Contractions (courtesy Peter Weston)

Director of the festival, Rod Chaytor, said: “Banbury Cross Players were the very first group to sign up to the idea of a Lighthorne Festival when we first began to canvass quality local theatre groups back in 2012, and we will always be grateful for that initial support.

"They are one of only three teams to have entered every year since its inception in 2013. It was an absolute delight to see them take the Trophy this year and with a production which merited it, one hundred percent.

"The two actors performed their roles brilliantly. It was a great show. We are thrilled BCP have been selected for the National Drama Festival Association’s British All-Winners Finals and will be there to support them.”

Contractions started life as a radio play and was then transposed for stage, Chrissie , said: “It’s a dystopian piece, taking the audience through a roller coaster of a ride. It asks what lengths people will go to in order to conform.

"It demonstrates how big business could take over your life and, ultimately, be responsible for all decisions you make. I was convinced the first time I read the play it would a winner. I am delighted to have finally taken top honours at Lighthorne for BCP."

As a pre-cursor to the performance at Lighthorne (and also the Oxford Drama Network Festival in Abingdon), the cast and crew went to Adderbury library where they performed a preview.

“The play was very well received,” saidChrissie, “and the audience engaged in a question and answer session afterwards.

"This proved very useful for the cast who were able to refine their performances in readiness for the two festivals."

Profits from the Preview performance were donated to FOCAL (Friends of the Community of Adderbury Library).

Liz Wingrove, Chair of FOCAL said “Contractions was fantastic. With around 30 guests watching the two female actors unravel their extremely dark story-line, we were all mesmerised, not knowing which way this extraordinary drama would play out.

"45 minutes of suspense with the added bonus of being able to discuss with the cast and director what we had just witnessed. Brilliantly performed by the actors.”

This wasn’t quite the end of the story for BCP and their production of Contractions. As a result of the win at Lighthorne, they were invited to perform at the National Drama Festivals Association All-Winners Final on a much-larger professional stage at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre in Woking, Surrey in July.

Competing alongside 14 other winning companies from drama festivals nationally, BCP were delighted to come home with The Sydney Fisher Trophy – chosen by the backstage crew for the company they most enjoyed working with - as well as The Amateur Theatre Trophy Adjudicator’s Award for cast members Nicola Dixon and Almira Brion.

Adjudicator Jill Colby, a member of the Guild of Drama Adjudicators, said: “They both had to be so different, but also a team, working off each other, which they did brilliantly. It was impossible to separate the two actors. It had to be a joint award.”

Chrissie added: “This has been a fabulous team production. I am so proud of what members of BCP have achieved. We are delighted to have been able to support the work of BYHP as well as Adderbury Library. We hope these contributions will help.”

You will have the chance to see this award-winning production at Banbury Cross Players’ season preview event at The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury on September 24 .

The evening will also include presentations from the directors of shows for what will be Banbury Cross Players 75th Anniversary Season.

For more details of Banbury Cross Players visit their website at