A DIDCOT theatre group has commanded a national stage as it becomes the overall winners of a drama festival.

Didcot Phoenix Drama Group scored the Lighthorne Festival's highest-ever marks with its production of 'The Lesson'.

Adjudicator Paul Fowler said it was: "A fiercely intelligent production, directed with confident brio and acted with thrilling pace, wonderful physicality and great attention to the details of this strange and difficult text.

"David Cooke as the twitching and ranting professor whose murderous meltdown helped to make Didcot Phoenix’s The Lesson such a powerful experience."

They were among 12 one-acters performed over the four-night festival.

Lighthorne Festival chairman Rod Chaytor added: "Didcot achieved the highest mark ever awarded at Lighthorne and the next three groups were all marked at a level which would win many festivals outright.

"It is tangible proof that the festival is attracting more and more top-quality groups, encouraging our longer-standing entrants significantly to raise their games, to the benefit of all."

The group was awarded a £500 prize, the biggest in British amateur theatre, and chose Restore to receive a further £500.

As the winners, the group have been invited to the British All Winners Festival, which will be held from Monday, July 17 to Sunday, July 23.

But they will not just be sitting pretty in their seats as they have been one of only 12 groups selected to perform as well.

Director of 'The Lesson' Karen Carey said: "The standard is going to be extremely high so this is a huge honour for us - we've been doing drama festivals for 32 years now but this is very exciting."

One of the group's youngest members, Tasha Moar, 17, scooped the award for best new director at the Oxfordshire Drama Network Festival at the Unicorn Theatre, in Abingdon, for her one act play 'Pathway'.

Mrs Carey added: " This is fantastic news as it shows that our youth section is really gaining in confidence and ability."

For more information about the all winners festival visit: ndfa.co.uk/british-all-winners-festival/