Sherman Cymru are hosting The National Theatre’s Connections Festival in Cardiff this weekend. This year Sherman Youth Theatre present Mark Ravenhill’s Citizenship, along with ten other productions from local schools, youth groups and drama groups. This years groups include; Caerleon Comprehensive, Everyman Youth Theatre, West Glamorgan Youth Theatre Company, Caerphilly Youth Theatre, Mark Jermin Stage School, Riverfront Youth Theatre, Found in The Forest and Bridgend College.
Connections inspires 13 – 19 year olds with high quality new playwriting, encourages young people to get involved in all aspects of theatre making and celebrates young people’s talent.
During the weekend of Connections we will be sharing productions reviews, feedback on the free workshops that we will be running on Saturday and Sunday and much more!
To begin please find some reviews of productions first performed in some of the local areas of the youth theatres performing this weekend.
Review It Snows, Bryony Lavery performed by Found in the Forest, review by Artgroupie
6 actors, 2 ladders, 2 rugs and a scaffold with a white canvas attached. A small theatre space in the Forest of Dean is transformed into a creative trampoline that springs the audience immediately into the world of teenage wildlife. Found in the Forest Youth Theatre presented It Snows at the Forest Theatre. A piece by Bryony Lavery, Steven Hoggett and Scott Graham.
No stock, stereotypical representations of snow in this work. The talented ensemble collectively represent snowfall in a highly theatrical way, exploiting a complete creative tool box. A mature piece of work with a underlying subplot of isolation and mental illness is explored, a subtle subtext that is never totally explained. With an inventive use of puppetry, these sequences were part of the plays overall charm. They permitted the audience to create their own interpretation. This is theatre as it should be, raising questions and letting the audience make up their own minds.
Classic storytelling always uses song and music and the piece is complete with repeated riffs that hook. There are many golden theatrical compositions in the piece, the modern selfie generation and ‘sassitude’ of adolescence is captured with a knowing theatricality that flows.
The performers energy and excitement is infectious throughout. A snow fight on stage, what could be a health and safety nightmare is captured with accuracy and imaginative staging. Perhaps my favourite moments were the party misdemeanours, complete with furniture damage, vomiting and bad music. I will never listen to the “Macarena ” song in the same way again!
This youth theatre perform in a style that is often lacking in professional companies, they create theatrical magic with an energy that is refreshing and inspiring. Ensure you book tickets for Cardiff!
Review Citizenship Mark Ravenhill Sherman Youth Theatre, review by Rhiannon Moriss
Citizenship explores the difficult discovery of sexual identity and the meaning of sex in the vivid and distorted world of a teenager. The story is navigated by Tom (played by Rhys Owen) who dreams of kissing a genderless figure, and desperately strives to determine his sexual orientation.
The play brilliantly captures the teenage environment. Provocation and crude judgements from peers intensify the pressure for Tom to look to sex as means of validation and pressures him to decide who he is. The ensemble cast of Sherman Youth Theatre young performers accurately conveyed this immaturity and emotional nonchalance, whilst the two leads deliver a contrasting emotional depth. The plot became slightly messy with the blend of surrealism and realism and I felt the introduction of a teenage pregnancy was too serious of an issue to be used casually against the main theme of sexuality and identity. Stylistically, images of objects relevant to the scenes, such as cigarettes and lipstick help to physically evoke key themes of the play such as sensuality and deceit. This encouraged the audience to really think about the nuanced effects assumptions and opinions on sexuality have on an individual and a group. However, on occasion these images could distract from the dialogue.
The two lead actors stood out, their portrayal of Amy (played by Megan Edwards) and Tom (Rhys Owen) using their body language superbly, to express insecurity (lowered heads and gazes, and fidgeting hands.) Both actors use the chair which is moved around the stage, which represents a sense of interrogation as Tom interrogates his teacher, but is also symbolically interrogated himself about his identity and choices as he attempts to physically transform himself, to display their inner thoughts and personality. Amy is often cross-legged depicting a sense of tranquillity and recovery as she goes through therapy, and more comfortable in herself than Tom who is often bowed forward, looking for self-assurance.
Most of the sound effects were produced on stage with a drum kit, which created a strong sound representative of heartbeats, emphasising the hormonal and very human aspect of the theme and increased the intensity and suspense of the events, dramatizing the emotional impact. The minimalistic stage setting is given an added presence by the use of lighting which highlights the main actors performing in the scene, particularly in moments where the bounds of reality in the play are tested.
Citizenship does a good job drawing attention to the lack of acceptance and information for young people struggling with their understanding of their sexuality and sex. Tom has no one to discuss his feelings with who fully understands and gives him advice and this leads him to make decisions that seriously affect both his life and Amy’s. He discovers what he wants in life, mutual love and affection, only at the very end of the play. This play shows us that it isn’t always possible to get it right, particularly when experience and understanding is hard to come by, but slowly through our own actions and decisions we find our identity. This play and its young cast clearly illustrate that it’s a momentous, exciting and vivid journey that combines mistakes and inexperience to achieve a sexual self-confidence and identity.
Review Citizenship Mark Ravenhill Sherman Youth Theatre review by Eve Limbrick
‘Citizenship’ is a play written by Mark Ravenhill in 2005 about the struggles and problems that may arise when a teenager is discovering their sexuality. The play also represents many problems faced by many adolescents such as mental health, drugs and rebellion.
I enjoyed the play of because the way the script communicates the struggles of teenage angst and sexual frustration in a way that appeals to teenagers and attracts their attention. The use of humour quite prominently throughout the play kept people interested. The impulse of sex and intimacy is a key part of growing up and the first sexual encounters are important to many teenagers. But to some people this sexual impulse can be terrifying if you don’t know whether you like men or women. And that was the problem for the male lead Tom. He talks to his Citizenship teacher during a detention and is quite persistent with his questions. Tom suspects that his teacher is gay so feels he can talk to him.
There is an accurate representation of teenage rebellion and the consequences that come with things like drug use and teenage sex. The play delivered messages. Though these messages were informative, I feel that it took away from the story they were the kind of messages that would be given to teenagers in school, not performed in a theatre.
The colour red was used heavily throughout the whole of the play, red uniform, red lipstick, red lighting etc, red is the colour of seduction, a sexy colour. I found this a great way of symbolising sex throughout the play because this was one of the main themes.
I believe the play communicates the complexities and struggles that come with teenage angst and sexual frustration.The play focused a lot more on the loss of virginity and sexual status among the kids than the discovery of Tom’s sexuality and the struggles that come with such a battle of emotions. I enjoyed the play but overall I believe it didn’t portray Toms battle with his sexuality in a way that would speak on an emotional or empathetic level to someone like myself, who is out in the LGBT community as a bisexual. The playwright has focused on sex, not sexuality.
Review Citizenship Mark Ravenhill Sherman Youth Theatre review by Helen Joy.
Well, perhaps it didn’t help that I had the big 5-0 birthday this week but even so, has school changed so much since the ‘80s?
The younger critics around me assured me that they were as surprised by this sinister portrayal of life in a contemporary school as I was – all those public service messages and swearing teachers… not in my day, we agreed.
How does a young man, a school boy, choose his sexual route in such a crude and unrelenting place? His best friend is self-harming , his pals are cock-sure of their heterosexuality, his stressed-out teacher is unhelpful to say the least.
Why does he have to choose? It is a play about the pressures put upon young people by their friends, their schools and by implication, their families. It didn’t sit well with me – I worried for them.
Rhys Owen playing Tom is strong in his role; Megan Edwards playing Amy is outstanding. Black, white, grey, red uniforms in a simple set with a teasing video backdrop; all trips along pretty well until the delusive teacher stands at the microphone with caustic red lips speaking who knows what whilst red painted male lips dance on screen behind him and where a red lipstick rises n falls in its case – I felt this was a dream sequence crow-barred into a credibly real and visceral performance from this strong young company.
Neither a parent nor a school friend, I wondered what Citizenship could offer me. But let me say this: at my school, we were all talk and no action; here, all action and misunderstandings and ignorance of consequence. I considered their opportunities over mine, their broader education; their ability to act it all out in public.
We could not have done that. Those young actors made me wish we had been less afraid at their age and they have left me wondering what their futures hold.
“If you were born with the ability to change someone’s perspective or emotions, never waste that gift. It is one of the most powerful gifts God can give—the ability to influence.”
― Shannon L. Alder