The Command Performers flying the RAF flag in Guernsey

The Command Performers, RAF High Wycombe’s Drama Club, has had an exciting few months. We performed some one- act plays at High Wycombe and then took 2 of them to the RAF Theatrical Association’s One-Act Festival at Cranwell in May.

We swept the board and brought back 5 awards. We won the festival with “10,000 Cigarettes” by Alex Broun. This was despite one of our cast – playing Gloria 4 – dropping out 10 days before the Festival. Fortunately, the author, in Australia, agreed that we could share Gloria 4’s lines among the remaining 3 Glorias and perform with only 3 characters with no lines being cut!

Most of the play extols the wonders of cigarettes and smoking. The dialogue is not realistic – the 3 Glorias all contribute to most of the sentences in the script. This is done in many quick-fire scenes, which, by using imaginative staging, we tried to make particularly entertaining. However, towards the end, the consequences of smoking are forcefully brought home with a moving scene about the death of their father/husband at 47.

The Glorias at Medmenham
As Festival winners we were now eligible to be selected by the National Drama Festivals Association to compete at the British All Winners Festival (BAWF). Despite having won the RAFTA festival before, we had never been selected. In fact, over the years, the RAFTA winner has very rarely been selected (they have 42 Festivals to choose from). The RAFTA Committee lobbied hard for us and on 18th June we were told we had been selected! We had to make a very quick decision about participating – and we decided to go and compete against the best of the rest.

This year the BAWF was in Guernsey in July and coincided with the start of the school holidays when travel and accommodation are more expensive and also scarce. We had hoped that as we were representing the RAF at a national event, we would get some official sponsorship. But this did not happen. We raised some money by performing at Medmenham and selling stuff on Ebay. The RAF Lyneham Stage Club also kindly contributed to our cause. Then the RAFTA Committee came to our rescue with a substantial grant. So, together with the significant personal contributions from the team themselves, we managed to fund the enterprise.

It was an enormous honour and great opportunity to represent the RAF at the BAWF. There were 6 evenings of theatre – 3 of 3 one acts and 3 full length plays. For winners of festivals they were a mixed bunch – some were excellent but others were rather poor. We modestly felt that we were at the upper end of the scale and we got a good oral adjudication on the night we performed.

As well as 6 evenings of theatre to enjoy, the Royal Shakespeare Company held workshops as part of their Open Stages project. So we had 2 afternoons being put through our paces by professionals. It was fun and enlightening. The Festival was very well organised by the resident Guernsey club. And being held in a holiday destination in Summer was a delightful bonus.

We were competing against 8 other companies for 5 awards and we won the Sydney Fisher Trophy (refered to as the “Backstage Trophy” but it was for the best stage presentation and technical excellence) – we got the maximum marks for our set!

So we did not win, but we certainly put RAF Drama on the map and a lot more people appreciate that the RAF has a thriving theatrical scene, even in these difficult times. If you are interested in joinig us, contact us on 01844 347818.

By Ellis Artus