We went to the theatre last night. We caught the tram at Piccadilly Gardens and road to the end of the line to Media City and the Lowry.  Our tickets were for the Studio where there were two one act plays, The Wardrobe and A Letter to Lacey.

The plays are part of the National Theatre Connections 2014 spearheading young talent- script writers, actors and directors.  The Lowry Youth Theatre performed both plays; this was the first time two from the company had been plucked to direct a play.  They had mentors, so they weren’t thrown into the deep end. But what an opportunity for young people!  The theatre is a fully kitted out professional set up with expert lighting, sound cues and music.  Knowing some of Leitrim’s excellent regional theatres I still felt a stab of envy for the extent  of staging equipment they can tap.

The Wardrobe by Sam Holcroft explores secrets and shame through the ages starting with an historic wardrobe belonging to Elizabeth of York, future mother of Henry VIII. During the course of the play the wardrobe witnesses the ages. Some set pieces work better than others.  The scene with two secret Jewish boys in 17th century York worked particularly well I thought.  The young actor playing Daniel was outstanding- character, voice projection, textual understanding – all pitch perfect.

While all the young actors are to be applauded I felt rather sorry for the actor speaking the section delivered completely in Russian.  She was great! But I was so distracted by thinking “WTF has this got to do with what’s come before?” that I got lost.  Not the actor’s issue.  It’s a point that the writer might need to readdress.

Having got that quibble off my chest, may I add that the non-naturalistic staging and the actor’s company minuet like scene changing is a credit to Young Creatives Director Will Bishop.  He really welded these teenagers into a precision army.  I am sure there are adults in awe at this achievement alone.

A Letter to Lacey by Catherine Johnson has the more traditional beginning, middle and end story arc.  The challenge was the subject, domestic violence, and its insidiousness.  The play addresses the inter-generational aspect of domestic violence as well as denial of it within families.   The cast was excellent, with three actresses playing the lead character Kara at various stages of her journey through love, disillusion and ultimate liberation.

What always surprises me  when I see stage productions is how certain actors just shine on stage. There was a red head who played a number of minor characters so vividly that I felt that we definitely had a future jobbing character actress in the making.  With Granada Studios not fphoto(3)ar off I’d not be surprised if she continues her acting apprenticeship with a turn on Coronation Street in the near future.

Since domestic violence has cropped up as a theme in my own short fiction writing these past couple weeks Catherine Johnson’s play was particularly interesting to me. Even on my ‘off’ hours I seem to be working or researching.

We have another visit to the theatre at the Lowry Studio tomorrow where we will see an Irish touring company. By this time I think quite a few of us have varying degrees of homesickness. Although there is also a buzz of excitement to see how they do Paddy’s Day in England!

Bee Smith is travelling in March 2014 with the Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning Programme “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders” to Yorkshire and Lancashire organised by the Cavan Arts and the Social Inclusion Unit offices.

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