Live theatre, in English, in Strasbourg

Our special correspondent reports from Antwerp

It had been a long journey. Not just the 470-plus kilometres that separate Antwerp from Strasbourg – a distance traversed by the Tagora team over the last few days, whether by car, train or, for the more courageous, Flixbus – but also the evolutionary path that had started some six months earlier with the discovery in a New York shop of a slim booklet containing an obscure play. The Poorly-Written Play Festival. The ideal piece to round off FEATS, the Festival of European Anglophone Theatrical Societies, held this year in Antwerp from 17 to 20 May 2024.

The festival organisers had been of the same opinion; and so, at the end of the last evening, our actors, supported by their able crew, were taking to the stage with this short play by Carolyn Gage that gently satirises the very concept of play festivals. Would the six characters – Artistic Director Loman, Technical Director Eugene, Literary Manager Hedda, rich benefactress Mrs Bracknell, Costumer Stella and the mysterious, moustachioed Stranger – be capable of tickling the funny-bones and eliciting the sympathy of the hardened audience that is the FEATS community?

And the answer, happily, was yes! The first titters arose with the entry of “Eugene”, and thereafter the room was rarely silent as the rapt audience followed the comic progress of “this admittedly deserving, but habitually impecunious theatre company” in its quest to find the best – or worst – dramatic creations to include in their first festival of poorly-written plays.

Forty minutes later, it was all over. There remained the summary of the evening’s entertainment by the adjudicator; the awarding of prizes; the loading of costumes, set items and props into diverse vehicles; the celebratory drinks; and the return the next day to Strasbourg and everyday life. But for the Director, the end of the adventure was the final exit of the last character, the enthusiastic applause of the audience, and the immense satisfaction of having seen his dream brought to life.

The Poorly-Written Play Festival” by Carolyn Gage was performed at the Zuiderperhuis, Antwerp, on 20 May 2024, with the following participants:

LomanRichard Thayer
EugeneBenedict Francis
HeddaHarriet Curzon
Mrs BracknellElena Malagoni
StellaNikki Lynn Michaelson
StrangerLuther Weathers III
Stage managerChristelle Colson
Stage staff (special effects)Paul Tucker
LightingAndrew Wright
SoundJonah Wright
DirectorDavid Crowe

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