When I was asked, in August of last year, if I would write something to celebrate the 650th anniversary of the founding of the magistracy by King Edward 111, my initial reaction was, ‘…?’.
However, a challenge is a challenge. And, after a few weeks of in-depth research - Which chiefly consisted of badgering friends, relations and (as time moved on and I became increasingly desperate) total strangers, to pass on any information they might have about life in South-East Wales in 1361. There were some sensible and printable answers and some not so sensible and definitely not printable. With one member of the BLT executive committee, who shall remain nameless (Huw Rosser), actually suggesting that 1361 might be shorthand for one-minute-past-two!
“How’s the new play coming on?” asked Neil Maidman one day in mid September. “Fine” I said (not a word written!).
“Good”, he said. “We have a two free dates the 14th and 15th of next month. We’ll put it on then and we’ll enter it in next year’s One-act Festival. What’s it called?”
“Haven’t thought of a title yet,” I managed to gulp.
“Well you’d better think of one hadn’t you?” he said; suspicion written all over his face. “Bring the script next week ”.
And so Biscuits was born: in three days and nights of desperation and sleepless panic.
The first reading went well - I’m told. I was in an exhausted stupor and in no state to judge. A small amount of judicious cutting brought the running time down to within the 50-minute deadline required for competition (though I personally saw nothing wrong with the original 2 hours and ten minutes!) and we were away.
Rehearsals with Neil in charge are always a fairly easy-going and highly enjoyable affair and Biscuits proved to be no different. His choice of cast proved to be inspired. Apart from the fact that he does have a disconcerting habit of casting a certain young, talented and still-rather-good-looking-in-a-certain-light poet, actor and playwright as a disgusting old man! But with the rest of the cast including such BLT stalwarts as Vic Mills; Huw Rosser; Gareth Baskerville; Trevor Howlett and Yve Price there was always a feeling that the play was in safe hands.
Our two October performances went down a treat with both an audience of magistrates and with our regular patrons.
“Great!” We thought. “We’re all set for the Gwent One-Acts.” Not so! The lovely Rhiannon Rees, who had worked so hard and had played the part of Gwen so remarkably well, was forced, by work and family commitments, to pull out. Disaster? It could have been, but not with the wonderfully talented Gwen Livingstone ready to step into the breach!
The lines were learnt and the moves perfected in double quick time. Her cooking scenes in particular quickly became the talk of the theatre: the things that woman can do with a bowl of cake mixture and a wooden spoon could make your eyes water!
And so to the Gwent One-Acts: Best Actor: Vic Mills; Best director: Neil Maidman: Best Play: Biscuits; Festival Winner: Biscuits; Adjudicator’s award: Gwen Livingstone (That spoon again!). Biscuits through to the Wales Final.
And the Icing on the cake? The wonderful Godfather Death by Vic Mills was also placed in the final. Two plays in the Wales Final for BLT. Well, if that doesn’t take the biscuit!