Party Poppers: Live Youth Theatre Festival 2013

by Saschk Drakos

Live’s 14th Annual Youth Theatre Festival kicked off with Past Forward, a selection of four short pieces. Tying in with Live’s 40th birthday, each group of kids devised their piece in response to plays featured at Live over the past forty years.

Both “Personal Belongings” and “Hatched, Matched and Dispatched” examined the impact material possessions have on the individual – though in very different ways. “Personal Belongings” focused more on (obviously) personal items and what can actually be considered a belonging (the question of whether a pet or a person could belong to someone was raised). Overall it was a cute and fun way to point out that perhaps some of the things we think we need aren’t really quite so necessary after all.

“Hatched, Matched and Dispatched” took a slightly darker tone. According to the programme blurb, it was set in the not so distant future where your worth is determined by what you can buy. Given the length of the piece, it was an ambitious concept to take on. I would like to see what they would do with it given the time and space to really delve into the idea and tie all the parts together. There were times I wasn’t quite sure how each scene fit with the others, or what it was meant to represent, though I did find the cast’s performance impressive.

“Going Home” told the story of three children who make their way home through a storm by sticking together. This group made creative use of their stage space, and I particularly enjoyed the three narrators’ performances as they facilitated each transition.

The highlight of the evening, however, was “Bernard” – a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of super heroes. The Bernard in question is an assistant manager at Primark who dreams of following in his father’s footsteps to become a super hero, but he hasn’t quite gotten the hang of it yet. When the Super Hero Awards are threatened by some nefarious muffins, Bernard finally gets the chance he’s been waiting for. The piece made great use of humour, the cast gave a stellar performance, and the story was just fun to go along with.

On Saturday evening, I also got the chance to catch the second performance of Your Aunt Fanny, a newly formed six-member sketch group. The girls performed a series of sketches that utilised music and physical theatre to point out the ridiculous in everyday life. I admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect going in – comedy is a tricky thing to pull off, and what one person finds hilarious can leave someone else just perplexed. One of my fellow editors had done a preview of the show, though, and all the buzz around Your Aunt Fanny promised nothing less than exceptional – and the girls did not disappoint.

As an ensemble, there’s a great chemistry between the cast, and you get a sense that they’re enjoying themselves as much as their audience is. The variety of sketches also allowed each one’s individual talents to show as well. The show was smart, witty and a fresh take on the comedic experience.

Lydia, Jackie, Brogan, Matilda, Tiley and Lauren will be back at Live Theatre November 1-2 as part of Juice, and you can keep up with Aunt Fanny’s antics on Twitter: @yourauntfanny.

Live’s Youth Theatre Festival is a showcase for the Youth Theatre programme, which aims to use theatre and drama to help young people living across Tyneside develop their creativity as well as key social skills. You can find out more about the Youth Theatre, and other events happening at Live, on their website.

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