So Much Heart
Posted on Thu 22 Dec 2011 by Ciaran McConville
Last weekend, the senior students of Rose Youth Theatre performed Scenes from Childhood in our intimate Studio.
The play, if you can call it that, came out of work beginning last June, when we tried to address the question, “What does it mean to be fifteen today?” A whole series of issues came out of our discussions and these were scripted into ten-minute scenes, some comic, some serious.
I was really impressed with the final product, acting-wise. There were many lovely moments, and what was so great to see was that the students were really ‘contacting’ each other. I have often seen young actors become preoccupied with ‘self’ in performance, delivering lines with a rehearsed intonation, misguidedly putting all their effort into showy stage-craft. It’s easy to forget that character comes from action, and action is determined by the relationship and the need to connect on-stage. Well, I think our guys really found that. They were grounded, dynamic and they dug deep.
Madeleine Hutchins, the RYT tutor for the Sunday groups, summed it up beautifully when she said after one performance, “There was so much heart.”
So much heart. To me that accounts for every one of our students.
It was the first public showing for our Sunday seniors, whose groups were formed in September. I don’t know if they were fully prepared for what they’d let themselves in for, but they really found it on the day, and I hope it’s given them the confidence and drive to aim just as high for their next showings.
I suppose it’s unfair to mention individuals. Everyone did a great job. Over the last six months, however, there have been some real transformations. Pippa James, for example, took on a solo piece and a two-hander, and I don’t think she would necessarily have had the confidence last summer. Congratulations, Pippa.
Similarly, Thomy Lawson, in the same group, seems to have discovered a wealth of inventiveness and creativity since she and I stood on the main-stage in May and tried to fill the auditorium with her ‘barbaric yop’. Her double-act partnership with the very talented Isabel Wyatt has become a regular feature at our Rose Plus Poetry Parties.
Lizzie Annis and Skye Hallam-Hankin delivered an extraordinarily mature and sensitive rendition of a scene about unrequited love. It was bruising to watch.
Of the Sunday groups, Eve Archer found incredible sensitivity as a teenage mum who comes knocking on the door of her baby’s adopted family. Billy Rashbrook and Amelia Brown moved me to tears with their treatment of a young woman who puts herself in hospital, and the friend who comes to rescue her.
I have to mention Tom Rouvray and Rob Hayes, who ducked out of the queue in HMV on Sunday after a frantic phone-call from me, and revisited the parts they’d played the day before, this time with a different cast. They stepped into the breach with enormous generosity and courage. Strong young men can really be the making of a youth theatre. It’s difficult to find boys of that age willing to commit to regular acting classes. I never take our RYT lads for granted.
Scenes from Childhood marked the end of term for Rose Youth Theatre. Our two junior groups (aged 11-13) are, as we speak, learning their lines for an adaptation of Oliver Twist, which will be on the main-stage on 14th January. It’s a great way to celebrate Dickens’ 200th birthday, as well as introducing our younger students to the delights of his characters and the complexities of his narrative.
Sian Thomas, a very experienced and energetic theatre director, will be taking over my Saturday classes from mid-January onwards. My focus will shift to broadening and diversifying our Rose Plus courses with several exciting new projects. And, of course, I will be working on The Crucible for our annual production in the spring.
In addition to RYT, I wanted to mention last night’s Christmas Poetry Party.
I try not to brag, but I was quite proud of my impromptu stage set in the Studio. What normally looks like a breeze-block warehouse was, last night at least, as pretty as a picture, even if I was sweaty, covered in dust, and running fifteen minutes late for curtain-up.
The performances by Versophiles, Rose Players and Rose Youth Theatre were typically lively and generous. Angela Lim, of Rose Playwriting, contributed a lovely poem of her own called An Autumn Journey, which I took the opportunity to perform, along with my favourite seasonal story by O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi.
I have to mention Erin Hyland, the most fearless eleven year-old I’ve ever met, who kicked off the evening with a sparkling rendition of Santa Baby. Alesha Nejad, also RYT, arrived breathless at the last minute to share a Christmas poem of her own, which, to my mind, was a fair match to the T.S. Eliot and Carol Ann Duffy poems that were equally well-performed.
Most special of all for me was Liz Salaman’s reading Song of the Saw, a short story by her late husband, Geoff Moss, who died earlier this year. Liz has been kind enough to share much of his writing with me. He had a real talent with language and narrative, and it was spine-tingling to hear her read a piece of his last night. Her grandchildren came along. I hope they felt suitably proud of both their grandparents.
I feel a bit emotional re-reading this. It’s the end of the year, the end of my first full year at the Rose. I have met so many amazing people, who have inspired me to write, direct and discover anew.
I hope that next year the theatre will be able to support even more of their work and welcome many more students to our classes and courses, and many more friends to watch their performances and readings.
Have a great Christmas. Please come and say hello in the New Year.