Amateur Drama in Ireland is in a very healthy state. The innate ability of Irish people to act has always been a terrific foundation and, over the years, has enabled amateur companies to achieve very acceptable and popular productions of plays, which had previously been produced professionally in Ireland or overseas.
But things have moved forward spectacularly from a simple reliance on acting talent. It is quite evident that higher levels of education, plus greater exposure to professional theatre in Ireland and worldwide has increased the knowledge and ambition of amateur companies. As a result, the quality of their work has grown correspondingly. To take one example, the quality of set design, lighting, sound, costumes – all the elements and skills in what we call presentation – has taken a quantum leap forward. It is no longer acceptable to have the same box set for everything and to throw a few lamps up to light it. Things are much more sophisticated these days And there is nothing unusual nowadays in finding a group doing a play that has been written by one of their own members.
More importantly, we are seeing directors of plays with an educated and coherent vision of what they want to achieve in directing and presenting the chosen play. These directors do far more than simply move people around the stage; they create an artistic and visual interpretation which communicates powerfully with their audience.
Side by side with this increasing expertise in groups, we have audiences who have much wider experience of good theatre and who bring more discriminating judgment and higher expectations to what they see on amateur stages.
This, of course, brings me to the role of adjudicators. Since so much of the best of amateur theatre is seen at the competitive festivals, it is vitally important that the quality of adjudication measures up to the new challenges. Festival directors, audiences and the groups who have invested huge endeavour, organisation and imagination in their work are entitled to be met by adjudicators with the necessary experience and professional judgment: people whose knowledge is up to date, people who can articulate and explain the judgments they have made in a manner which gives advice and encouragement, and not criticism for its own sake and people who can help audiences to greater insight in a pleasant and entertaining manner.
I am delighted to have been elected to lead a group of adjudicators in ADA who are experienced professionals, fully aware of evolving demands and totally committed to continual enhancement of their own skills and knowledge. You will find these individuals on this web site with details of their experience and where they can be contacted. If you are involved in choosing a festival adjudicator, I can assure you that you will do no better.