STEP reflects on the latest Youth Theatre Showcase

After another successful Youth Theatre Showcase, this time held on the Weston Stage at the Unicorn Theatre, STEP has a look back at what the event entailed.

Months of preparation went into organising every detail of the Showcase - the venue, the workshops, the budgeting - not to mention contacting Southwark's youth theatres to get them involved!

For the young people, the day started with a technical rehearsal from 1.00pm - a chance for the youth theatre to adapt to this new space, and for any lighting or sound to be worked into their performance. Also a chance for the Unicorn theatre technicians to get their heads around a completely new set of performances.

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When all the groups had rehearsed, they were ready for the workshops organised by STEP. First was a Vocal Session, run by Theatre Peckham, demonstrating warm-up techniques, methods of increasing projection as well as several vocal games and tongue twisters. This was followed by two different workshops: one on Auditioning for Drama School, run by the Central School of Speech and Drama, and a workshop on digital theatre run by Digital Theatre Sustain.

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The highlight of the afternoon however was the panel discussion - although it quickly turned into a full group discussion, with young people having as much input as their facilitators on the subject of 'Why Does Youth Theatre Matter?' Responses such as "To enable young people to get their point across" and "The resulting performance of a youth theatre doesn't matter as much as a professional show. It's the process." from the young people give an insight into what it is they consider important in within their youth theatre. Facilitators talked about their own methods of working with and creating youth theatre, giving everyone a chance to see how they vary from group to group, before describing how they measure success and achievement through youth theatre. For some, it was producing professional-standard work, for others, it was about feeling that the group was cohesive and trusting. Young people also shared what they felt was important, such as "If I can make the audience feel what I feel on stage, then mission accomplished" and "it is important to feel you have achieved something." What really encapsulated the entire discussion was that all the young people agreed that youth theatre has the power to change their lives.

After a dinner break (and devouring several huge platters of jerk chicken, potato curry and other delicious food!), the performers has just enough time to quickly cram in a last minute rehearsal, before taking their seats as the audience came in.

Following the introduction to the evening by the talented comperes, the show opened with Southwark Playhouse's YoCo, performing their piece 'Brigade de Cuisine: Recipe for a Revolution!!' which they were also performing as part of the Bastille Day celebrations in London. Their performance told the story of the down-trodden and underpaid kitchen workers in Le Chez Grande rising up against its owners, Marie and Louis - all told while maintaining various rhythms on their kitchen equipment in a performance reminiscent on Stomp!

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Then came the Blue Elephant Theatre Young Company performing extracts from their version of 'Much Ado About Nothing', drawing inspiration from Shakespeare's original. Their version however was much more contemporary, and provided just as much comedy (if not more!) as the Bard intended. Their extract focussed on the aftermath of when Hero is left at the altar by her fiance Claudio - and Hero's parents' reaction!

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LB+ (London Bubble +) then took to the stage to perform 'Under One Roof', a gritty yet lyrical tale of urban living. Young people talk about the universal characteristics of living on a London estate, before telling the story of the new girl on the block trying to call the estate 'home'.

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Theatre Peckham then presented their piece, 'Park Life', an ensemble piece about a school class and their various issues, from alcoholism to jealousy to self-harm. The play builds in tension until it reaches a conclusion in the local park.

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Dancers from Harris Academy Bermondsey then performed a dance to Beyonce's 'Move Your Body' - although during the dance they were spontaneously joined by many young people from the audience, an poignant example of how much the young people own the showcase.

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STEP young compere Rae Levine then performed a piece of spoken word, which she had written herself. This hard-hitting piece of writing about unwanted pregnancy was a perfect finale performance to the youth theatre showcase.

The evening was completed by each group received feedback on their performance from Bola Agbaje (STEP Patron and Southwark playwright - her play 'Belong' has recently been produced at Theatre Local by the Royal Court) and Sharon Duncan-Brewster (actor well-known for her roles in Eastenders, Top Boy and Doctor Who). Both Bola and Sharon concluded with a short acknowledgement of how vital it was that youth theatre, and of events like the youth theatre showcase, to continue to provide for young people in Southwark and beyond.

 

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