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Youth Theatre Review

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Margaret Watkins attended Haddenham Youth Theatre's performance of two of the plays, 'Our Day Out' and 'The Writer', from their repertoire of three plays presented on 31st January and 1st February and has submitted this review:

It seems hard to believe that the young actors of Haddenham had their first moment of glory in 2003 when they presented their debut play, directed and produced by Margaret Watkins and Lynne Colley. From that time on several generations of young people have delighted their audiences.

When Lynne Colley stepped down last year from leading the Youth Theatre for 16 fantastic years, she left a legacy of success behind her. Hannah Austin, however, has shown that the Youth Theatre is in safe hands as it continues its next era under her leadership.

"Hannah herself acted in several Youth Theatre plays and had fond memories of 'Our Day Out' by Willy Russell, one of the first plays to be performed by the Junior Group, as it was then known. This play, which tells the story of a class of unruly children with their teachers on a school outing, is as entertaining now as when it was first written many years ago. Mrs Kay, the children's teacher, is only concerned with the class having a good time on their trip but she clashes with Mr Briggs, the disciplinarian sent by the headmaster to check on their (and Mrs Kay's!) behaviour. Played most convincingly by Charlotte Moore and Matthew Moore, the two teachers try to ensure some kind of order in the chaos, with Mr Briggs by the end acknowledging the children's need to have some fun.

"The whole cast worked well together to portray a class of underprivileged children being taken out of their environment. One of the most moving scenes of the play, acted with real feeling and pathos by Matthew Moore as Briggs and Lucy Oakley as Carol, showed the human side of the teacher and the plight of the girl who never wanted to go home again.

When the play was first produced with Haddenham Players, the teachers were played by adults. The cast in this production showed that the excellent acting abilities of the Youth Theatre did not need support from adults on stage with them. They were well able to entertain and amuse their audiences with their own talents.

The second play, 'The Writer', presented by the younger actors, was also a most entertaining play with a witty script. The actors supported one another well and clearly understood the humour of the play. The action was held together by The Writer, played by Harry Blowfield, with just the right mix of enthusiasm for his homework task of writing a play and a teenage need to placate his nagging parents. As each idea came to him, the cast acted out his scenes with such characters as Skylock Homms, Julie and Ronaldo, and the Quiz Show Host. The finale, where The Writer mixes all the characters together into one play, was a lovely conclusion to a very well-acted play.

Cynthia Floud also attended a performance of two plays, 'Our Day Out' and 'Smugglers' and has provided this review of the latter play:

The youngest actors, aged 7-11, had great fun with Geoff Bamber's 'Smugglers', a comedy set in Cornwall in the days of the Excise Men. Although only two of the cast were called smugglers, almost the entire ensemble were complicit in hiding the barrels of rum. This presented some technical challenges, as a rather large barrel had to be rolled hither and thither, a manoeuvre which the actors accomplished with aplomb.

All the cast showed great enthusiasm and made the most of the witty script. They performed even better at the evening performance where the larger audience was more vocal in taking sides as the plot developed. These actors have shown how effectively they can get inside the characters in a well-chosen play.

See a large portfolio of images from 'Our Day Out' and 'The Writer' in the Galleries section of this website.