AMATEUR actress Donna Evans' stage experience was limited to a single pantomime - before she was asked to star in a new play about the Titanic.

But the talented newcomer made such an impression she scooped the adjudicator's special award for her performance in Blackwood Little Theatre's entry to the Gwent one-act play festival.

Adjudicator Chris Moore said Donna had a 'wonderful stage presence' and a beautifully modulated voice.

Donna, who is 29, was asked to take the title role in the play called simply Girl after director Peter Musto saw her in Blackwood Little Theatre's pantomime Mother Goose at Christmas.

She had agreed to take the part of Jack in the panto as a favour to her father Graham J Evans, who wrote it.

"I saw two of the rehearsals for the pantomime and knew straight away that she was the one I wanted for Girl," said Mr Musto, who won best director award in the festival.

"Donna was a director's dream to work with - she does exactly what she is told! When the adjudicator was announcing the awards, she asked Donna if she'd ever had drama lessons.

"Donna said that she hadn't - and the adjudicator just said 'well don't!'. She is a natural."

Donna - a receptionist at an optician - says she won't be giving up the day job to tread the boards, but admits she would be happy to take the stage again.

"I was very, very pleased with the award, though I was extremely nervous," she says. "I'd been in school plays before the panto but not in anything like this.

"But when I was offered the opportunity to be in a play by Vic with Peter directing, I couldn't turn it down."

Mr Musto was asked to direct Girl by the play's author Vic Mills, who also acts and directs with Blackwood Little Theatre.

Girl is based on a telegram sent from the Titanic, reading simply 'Hello Boy, missing you, Girl' and weaves a fictional tale around the young woman who may have sent it.

The play also won best production in the Gwent competition and in the overall festival. It will now go forward to the Welsh finals in Colwyn Bay in June.

Colin McCorkindale, of Torfaen Theatre Club, won the award for best individual performance.