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Slovenia Times

30th March 2007

There is but a Step from Murder to Education

Fear not, this isn't a story about a serial killer or a comment on the Slovenian educational system. It explores a far more interesting subject - the British English-Speaking Theatre of Slovenia (BEST), which is busy converting Slovenian students into lovers of English drama and turning corporate executives into Agatha Christie's.

BESTheatre was established in 2005 by its artistic director, English actor David Hampshire. When he first came to Slovenia 18 months ago David discovered that, unlike many other European countries, Slovenia did not benefit from the existence of a professional English-speaking theatre company, so having forty years of acting experience, managerial skills, and a positive attitude David established the British English-Speaking Theatre of Slovenia (BEST) - the countrys only professional English-speaking theatre company.

One of BEST's objectives is to collaborate with native performers and directors to provide productions for English-speaking nationals and expatriates - focusing on commercial, accessible plays and musical theatre.

BEST also present Murder Mysteries, which is a very English concept. These are not traditional scripted theatre plays but a staged event with interactive audience participation. Over dinner the actors mingle with the guests, dropping clues and revealing information as they act out various scenarios. By the end of the evening at least two of the characters have been 'murdered' and the guests, working as detectives, have to determine who has done what, to whom, and why. Prizes are awarded to the top three teams making Murder Mysteries fun, entertaining evenings and highly suitable for corporate team-building.

“We perform at private and corporate functions and can theme the event so, if desired, a company can have a storyline related to their business. Our clients have included Nokia, Novo Nordisk, Peugeot, Sanolabor, IATEFL, Unicredit Bank, Sava Group, Raiffeisen Bank and Ericsson. Every mystery is different because the audiences are different. What makes it work is the actors inter-action with the guests. '' I've found that Slovenes can be reserved, but once they grasp the concept (and after a couple of drinks) people relax and enter into the spirit of it all.''

Educating students through drama

To assist secondary school students in their Matura study of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, BEST offer an abridged adaptation of the classic play. This is the first time English drama will be performed in its native tongue by professional English actors at Slovene schools. It's also worth noting that one of the company, Gregory Cox (playing Colonel Redfern), worked with John Osborne in the 1960’s. BEST’s actors are highly experienced in Theatre in Education (TIE), having performed at schools and universities in the UK and the USA.

''Our objective is to help students improve their spoken English comprehension through accessible drama. As added value the performances are followed by a feedback session where the audience are encouraged to ask the actors about and the play and its background so that students can gain as much as possible from the experience. This informal conversation with native speakers also helps improve students confidence in spoken English. David says that BEST have received terrific feedback everywhere they've performed.”

Helena Marko


Slovenia Times, October 2005

Double Murder At Grand Hotel Toplice!!

A shocking crime took place recently at Slovenia's famous tourist resort, Lake Bled ; two people were murdered! Our investigation revealed that the killers were none other than the notorious XXXX motivated by a desire to lay their hands on the victims fortune. Dark forces are at work and further 'dirty deeds' are forecast for the near future!

Despite the mysterious circumstances surrounding the double homicide, over dinner the puzzle was solved by sixty guests who were challenged to discover the perpetrator and their dastardly motive. With the help of visual, verbal, and written clues (and the odd dropped hint) the murderers identity was finally revealed!

Perhaps equally as intriguing was the fact this was the first time such an event had happened in Bled, or for that matter in Slovenia, and the villains are likely to strike again - if The British English-Speaking Theatre have their way.

BEST, the company that staged the Murder Mystery, was established by David Hampshire, a professional English actor. David's concept is for British and Slovene performers to collaborate in presenting the 'best' of British theatre.

A large percentage of Slovenia's population understands English and many Slovene actors can perform in the language. Murder Mysteries are just one of BEST's projects ; they also plan a Theatre in Education tour; bringing classic plays to Slovene schools, and they have the drama/comedy A State of Affairs and the musical Blood Brothers under development.

BEST features several well known artistes — including Simon Fisher-Becker, who has appeared in the Harry Potter films, and Violeta Tomic, an innovative actress and host of the Slovenian Weakest Link TV quiz show. Both actors performed in the inaugural Murder Mystery in Bled, which was a tremendous success.

BEST's Murder Mystery clients have included Nokia, Novo Nordisk, Peugeot, Sanolabor, IATEFL, Unicredit Bank, Sava Group, Raiffeisen Bank and Ericsson.

Murder Mysteries are available for private or corporate functions and can be performed in Slovene or English. They are great team-building events which can be adapted to fit any brief. "If you wish we can even make your CEO the murderer," David says.

                                                                                                          Jaka Terpinc



Nedelo, September 2005

You take time for each other, which is wonderful!

David Hampshire, aged 51, an English actor with 40 years professional experience, has visited Ljubljana forty three times in the past two years establishing The British English-Speaking Theatre of Slovenia (BEST).

Slovenia has a rich cultural heritage and much excellent theatre”, but unlike most other European countries does not benefit from a professional English-speaking theatre company, so I intend to fill that gap.” David is very fond of Slovenia and its people and the way they have time for each other particularly impresses him. He also likes the Slovene willingness to approach new challenges.

One of BEST's principal objectives is to collaborate with Slovene actors and directors. This would, David feels, enrich cultural ties between the two nations. Their programme will focus on presenting the 'best' of British comedies and musicals as David considers there is a demand for these. He also intends to work with younger generations in schools to help raise the standard of spoken English through accessible English drama.

“Europe is a village,” says David. “I am proudly English, but we are an island race with an island mentality with a tendency to isolate ourselves from our European neighbours, while I believe we should embrace our partners. Living here has definitely made me feel more European”.

David views BEST as a long term project. ''I’m realistic. Any new initiative, especially in a foreign country, takes time to establish. But creating employment and helping students improve their language skills gives me great satisfaction".

David spoke particularly warmly about his first Slovenian presentation, a Murder Mystery dinner held at the Grand Hotel Toplice in Bled. These events will be produced regularly due to such an enthusiastic response. David, who writes, directs, and appears in the Mysteries explains it is not a traditional theatre play, but a staged event, with inter-active audience participation. The well known Slovenian actress, Violeta Tomic, showed keen interest in the concept and performed in the show with David's English colleague Simon Fisher-Becker. David expressed admiration for his cast. The experience is arduous for the actors as it requires constant improvisation in English. ''There's no way I could do it in Slovene,'' he says.

The Bled Murder Mystery was adapted for a Slovenian audience. David says these events offer something different as you don't just wine and dine but enjoy an evening’s entertainment at the same time. Over dinner the actors mingle with the guests dropping clues and revealing information as they act out a murder scenario. By the end of the evening the guests, working as detectives, have to determine who has done what, to whom, and why! Prizes are awarded to the top teams.

The Murder Mystery concept has attracted keen interest from Slovenian companies wanting to try something different for their function. BEST's corporate clients have included Nokia, Novo Nordisk, Peugeot, Sanolabor, IATEFL, Unicredit Bank, Sava Group, Raiffeisen Bank and Ericsson.

Vilma Prezelj

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