- Theatre review: RENT – 20th Anniversary – St James Theatre, London - 18 December, 2016
- Side Show: The Musical – Review – 4 Vada Stars - 13 November, 2016
- Theatre review: Murder Ballad @ Arts Theatre, London West End - 27 October, 2016
From July 6th to 28th, Kingston Upon Thames was thriving with the latest in new, original, and challenging theatre from across the globe and it was all thanks to The International Youth Arts Festival (IYAF). You may associate youth theatre with a cute line of kids trying their best to portray any emotion, whilst being persuaded not to wave at their family, but you’d be wrong. IYAF demonstrates that the future of theatre is in the minds of those who are young and ambitious, and creates an unbeatable platform, even drawing parallels with Camden and Edinburgh, to showcase their work.
As a young Director myself, IYAF provided me with my first platform to show off my Tim Burton-esque adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream last year. This year, with the cast and crew from The Untold Theatre Company (@UntoldTheatre) we presented The Daily Fail: The Musical! with a sell out run and laughter all round. There were equally some other success stories at IYAF that must be highlighted:
Bits and Box – ‘AndOnTheatre – ****
First up, Bits and Box from ‘AndOnTheatre (@AndOnTheatre). I was greatly pleased when it was announced that this little production had been given an extra night. Upon entering the room, we were presented with a slender, young looking man cellotaping together a cardboard box (think moving in/delivery box… Not shoebox!) The foundation for the play is essentially about recapturing your youth in the eyes of growing up – we all get those moments of nostalgia where we wish we could recapture what we once had as a kid. These two guys, Joshua and A, do it amazingly well. The only prop and set they have is the cardboard box but it transforms before our eyes into a ship, a war bunker, a television, a space rocket, a monster, a cave, and much more. The play requires total commitment from the actors to keep a high energy, a strong sense of character, quick wittedness, and to keep the pace from dropping. And they do not disappoint! This short piece of theatre captures your attention from the word go and leaves you brimming with nostalgia as you lend your heart to the two boys – cleverly crafted, sensationally sentimental, and tenderly true… You must see this.
Marshmallow – ***
Marshmallow lived up to its title – a sickeningly sweet look at the life of a wannabe princess. It was a cute piece of theatre following the life of a girl in the build up to a marriage that she isn’t really committed to. Essentially, the piece is a monologue for the lead actress, played wonderfully by Rosina Cochrane. The piece challenged the reliance of a young girl on a father figure and the development of this in future male relationships. I am not sure whether this was intentional, but Rosina really portrayed this well. The only part that was a little odd for me was that it wasn’t instantly clear that the hanging frame was a picture of her father and there was a bit of costume left hanging over it even later on when she addressed it in another scene. However, for a small piece, it was well directed, as monologues can be very difficult in a small space to make interesting, and well acted – congrats to the Marshmallow team.
Whistle Down The Wind – National Youth Music Theatre – **
When you’ve seen a company’s previous work, it becomes natural to compare them. However, I went to attend the performance of NYMT’s Whistle Down The Wind with an open mind. Unfortunately, after my expectations had been built up from last year’s performance, I have to say I found this production lacked formation as a musical. The musical numbers weren’t brilliantly designed for a big chorus with a lot of diction, precision and timing being lost in the singing of the chorus. However, some of the smaller ones such as one sang by ‘Jesus’ to the young children were very well done. The storyline was somewhat wishy-washy, and as much time was spent on the set changes as was the scenes themselves. It’s a shame as some great performances were lost in this production. I suppose that the benefit of a fifty strong cast is that it guarantees you an audience of family at the very least.
Cell – **** – Smoking Apples and Little Cauliflower
Cell is the story of Ted, a man struggling with facing the trials and tribulations of Motor Neurone Disease. What is fascinating about both these company’s work is that they tell their stories entirely through puppetry. Cell captured the hearts of the audience with some perfectly timed comical moments, whilst still bringing to light the realism of having to cope with the deterioration of the body caused by MND. Overall, the performance was cleverly structured with well played additional characters and perfectly directed choices for the characters. Although a puppet, your heart goes out to the unclothed man you accept as your lead. I believe the assumed nudity or lack of identity makes the character vulnerable and accessible to an audience as a whole, regardless of age, gender, and appearance. A very commendable performance from all at Smoking Apples (@smokingapplesth) and Little Cauliflower (@CauliTheatre).
And that’s the Hots and Nots from IYAF for this year! Keep your eye out for some of these companies in the future. Aside from my own production, I have to pinpoint Bis and Box as my IYAF ‘Best of the Fest’.