Winchester Dramatic Society was founded in 1863, and the organisation has come a long way since their first production of Macbeth. 

In the 1960s, the company moved to its current home, the former St Peter’s Church in Winchester. Since then, there have been some 350 productions by the 200-strong company, mainly at the Chesil Theatre, but also at Winchester’s Theatre Royal as well as other places around the city.

This month’s production was the result of a competition which has its roots in 2008 when 10 playwriters had their short plays performed at the Chesil Theatre on February 25. This has now grown into a national competition, but the format remains the same.

Hampshire Chronicle: TakeTen Chesil Theatre New Writing Festival

The plays were very loosely linked by the title of the production: “Snakes and Ladders”. The link was sometimes tenuous, but each short play certainly touched on different aspects of the human condition. Romance, ageing, loss, disjointed families, revenge, misconceptions and, of course, humour.

The humour was superbly embodied by the cast of “Alan Has Left The Chat”. The comic timing and the interaction between the two main characters, played by Tez Cook and Peter Andrews, was certainly a highlight. 

Another link between the plays was that each one was delivered beautifully and with the passion that the emotion of the subject matter evoked. 

Hampshire Chronicle: TakeTen Chesil Theatre New Writing Festival

The acting was excellent, in what might be for many actors, an intimate and possibly intimidating venue. Many theatres create a cocoon of light and sound for those on stage, but in this intimate room with no microphones, it was not a luxury that was afforded to the cast.

When Mary Mitchell broke the fourth wall and described the life of her character, she did so with skill and empathy. She walked that fine line and portrayed both humour and sadness with equal skill, all in only ten minutes. 

Geoff Dodsworth played his part so skilfully in “Moksha Patam”, that I, and several other audience members around me, were genuinely concerned for his well-being, and wondered if the actor himself had taken ill on stage when his part required his character to slowly react to a poisonous cucumber sandwich!

Hampshire Chronicle: TakeTen Chesil Theatre New Writing Festival

It was also a joy to see actors of all ages in the cast. The beauty of the format of numerous short plays. The superb performances from young Ben Tyler and Arthur Wood prove that the future of the company is in safe hands. 

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening at this sell-out performance.

This review was written by Peter Nicholson. Click the top image to see pictures of the show taken by Tony Rogers.