Friday, 14 August 2009

Epic Potential.

Lots of St Mary's graduates find there first work supporting the exciting youth arts work that's goes on across London during the summer.

Today I cycled (it nearly killed me) along the river into town to see the results of two projects. Firstly The Playhouse Theatre played host to The Ambassadors summer schools - over a hundred kids from Richmond, Bromley and Wimbledon, bringing together six stories from The Arabian Nights. Danielle, had helped Orode and Molly with the Richmond company

Logistically it was a triumph and it's great to offer the opportunity for all these young people to perform in a West End venue. Inevitably with this number of kids and theatre's own child protection chaperoning rules, control was absolute, right down to the rather formidable, radio miked front of house staff, patrolling the aisles, ready to take out anybody texting or taking photos during the show. There is no breath of anarchy here. Still the kids had a great time and bounced out to their parents filled with smiles and lots of pride. They'll be back.

Next across the river to see Oval House youth arts, directed by Nicholai and stage managed by Stef, perform The Illiad on a basket ball court in a Kennington primary school. This was wilder, the space and story allowing for procession, chants and a brilliantly choreographed capoeria battle with soldiers kitted out in American football body protectors.

It was great to see directors on both sides of the river, encouraging young practitioners to tackle big stories, rather than try and get down with self conscious themes of contemporary urban life, because of course, through the metaphor of the epic and the rigour of performance, we learnt a lot about the actors anyway.

However, the two experiences highlighted a difference in approach to teaching the next generation about theatre. The Ambassadors groups, fuelled by the glamour and palpation of the footlights will undoubtedly provide the audiences of the future - but I'm fairly sure the self-disciplined Vauxhall kids, laying siege to an assembly hall on a South London estate, will be the ones reinventing it.


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