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Saturday, 4 March 2017

Review: A Suitcase. A Toothbrush. A Ball at Newcastle Live Theatre


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The Future of Theatre is Bright

A Suitcase. A Toothbrush. A Ball
Newcastle Live Theatre
Saturday 4th March 2017

Tonight was the first of 2 nights of productions which have been devised by the Live’s Youth Theatre. Whereas some youth theatre programmes have already chosen the pre-written script that will be used, the young participants at Live have a role during each stage of the process. They select the theme for that year’s performances. With the help of professional drama facilitators, they devise the show and then they perform it. Each performer has had a chance to add their input into the show.  The result is that each of the 10 groups produces a brand new short play in the home of new writing.

It is time for a disclaimer. My son has been attending these sessions and performed tonight. This has given me an insight into the process behind each play. Having also experienced other youth drama schools he has said there is a much bigger focus in making the young people confident and in looking at the process of making a show rather than just how to read some lines.

The process has produced 5 very unique stories that were performed tonight. Each one had their merits and were worth watching in their own right. The young people clearly have developed and they did a good job of entertaining the audience. It is a shame that the names of each cast didn’t feature in the programme.

Truthpaste (11-13 Theatre East Group)
Director Stephen Durkin
Assistant director Hannah Parsonage

The opening piece involved an unruly class being asked to bring something suitable for a show and tell.  The teacher got a few laughs as he brought his class to attention whilst discussing his domestic arrangements. It is funny to see how students view their authority figures, do teachers really want their kids to fail? In order to fit in some students exaggerate about their lives and the play looks at why they might lie and the consequences. A fascinating look into whether you’d want beef or cheese flavoured toothpaste.

Unattended (14-16B Live Theatre Group)
Director Hannah Parsonage
Assistant director Bridget Ladyman

It is impressive how a short story can be layered up. Unattended considered 3 different ways an inanimate object, such as the suitcase, could be involved in different people’s lives. What stories could it tell? Again, we have a few laughs as the case found itself on the Bingo bus!

The Event (17-25B Live Theatre Group)
Director Ben Ayrton
Assistant director Sian Armstrong

The oldest group of the evening had a mature look at the nature of human relationships. A mutual friend of the cast had died a year ago and each member of the cast looks at how they feel about the deceased, the manner of their departure and the unfinished business with them. Always interesting.

Knowledge Is Power (11-13 Live Theatre Group)
Director JonLuke McKie
Assistant director Joanna Geronimo

Possibly the most topical of the evening’s 5 shows, the young people creating this show have clearly been watching the news. Zero hour contracts, working conditions in warehouses, workplace bullying and overly ambitious target setting all feature.  Another great cast gave the audience further chances to laugh, though should we be laughing at bad treatment of staff or a caricature of the USA’s president? Like the other plays, a number of scenes segue nicely in a well produced play with a number of strong performances.

The Girl (14-16A Live Theatre Group)
Director Toni McElhatton
Assistant director Isabelle Hutchinson

The final show was the most conceptualised. When her mothers suffer from a relationship breakdown, a girl seeks comfort from her books. Eventually new friendships are established. This tale shows that young people are capable of creating a piece that is not a traditional narrative.

All 5 shows tonight are a credit to the young people that devised and performed in them. Paul James and his team of creatives need to be congratulated at both giving the next generation of theatre makers a chance but also in the high quality of the end product. The crew and technical staff have also done a great job of supporting 5 different shows in one day. The shows are worth seeing and we look forward to tomorrow’s offering.

Review by Stephen Oliver.
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