Arc news: April 2007
'School trip' to remember
Editor of The Post newspaper, Barry Kirk reviews a performance of Barking & Dagenham Youth Theatre's production of 'Our Day Out' at the Broadway Theatre...
THE POWER of theatre is something that reaches all ages, so a play about young people, played by their peers is sure to carry a strong message.
And so it was with Willy Russell's classic piece of writing 'Our Day Out' at the Broadway Theatre.
Produced by Arc Theatre for Barking & Dagenham, up to 30 young actors with ages ranging from 11 upwards, put on a remarkably warm and moving interpretation of Russell's work surrounding the trials and tribulations of the school trip.
Adding to the uniqueness of the four-performance show, the cast changed roles for alternate nights, presenting a real challenge for those with speaking parts as some played teachers one night and pupils the next.
With every recognisable element of school life, from the grouchy senior teacher Mr Briggs, played with good imagination and energy by Alex Tucker on the night I saw the show, to a remarkable cameo by Sebastian McGinley of an irate zoo keeper trying to reclaim his animals taken by the children. You have probably heard of throwing yourself into a role, and Sebastian certainly did that.
The storyline is a fine example of Russell's superb ability to observe life around him. He came down the to Queen's Theatre some years ago when the Cut to the Chase company put on the play. He talked about his time as a teacher in Liverpool, where part of his responsibilities were to conduct school parties on trips, and the play is a mixture of hilariously funny and sad incidents he witnessed as they were played out before him.
The mix of teachers was an interesting one. Mr Briggs (played by Robert Storey on alternate nights) seemed to mellow after a confrontation with Carol, the teenage rebel who is still trying to sort out her life. Played by Katie Snooks in all four performances, the role called for a mix of emotions and behaviour that Katie handled very well. The 'Harry Enfield' image was sufficiently far reaching to persuade the off-handed Mr Briggs that he had to reach deep inside his persona to deal with the growing adolescent. It was an interesting scene and much along the lines of the professional theatre. It carried strength of confrontation that mellowed down to a seeming understanding between the players.
Another really good performance on the night was Laura Besley as Mrs Kay, the nominal teacher in charge. Ruth Jacob took the role on the other two performances, but Laura's understanding of the reactions of a special teacher who not only cares for her pupils, but is prepared to take on the establishment when she thinks she is right, was a nice piece of theatre. It was a good and mature performance from the Barking schoolgirl.
Chloe Butler played Linda, the over-the-top dresser you find in every class, who thinks she is the icon of attention in the world of men. Not an easy role to play, but Chloe gave an excellent try and gained a lot of attention for herself.
The basis of the play was a bus-load of disadvantaged inner-city kids, whose idea of school was something to do during the day. As with a lot of such schools, the teachers tend to vary from born-again kids to tyrants, and do give playwrights such as Russell, an amazing reservoir of characters.
The essence of this play is the effect on the young people, from Carol's first glimpse of the sea to the group's response to visiting a mini zoo, and taking all the small animals as trophies.
Another nice cameo was a comfort stop at a roadside café where the proprietors sensed a quick financial killing, until they realised the empty shelves did not equate to the lack of coins in the till.
Mrs Kay wins over crotchety Mr Briggs with a well played scene, when he suggests taking the kids to the funfair before going home. However, this would not be a Russell play without a stark ending.
Arriving back at the school, everyone goes their separate ways, tired but smiling at a day out to remember, leaving Mr Briggs with a camera full of photographs of the day with some of him enjoying himself.
The offer to get the film developed is shattered as he stands in the playground alone and stamps on the camera, thus ruining the record of day he briefly dropped the mask of authoritarian school teacher.
Though it was a minimalist set and the coach was a set of chairs evenly spaced, the youngsters captured the feeling of the play with their acting skills, which in any theatre is no mean feat as the set usually plays a major part in the show.
Directed by Andy Rogers and Natalie Smith for Arc, this was another good production for the forward thinking youth theatre in the borough.
Arc is a professional company working for Barking & Dagenham Council to bring an extra element of theatre to the borough and make further good use of the Broadway Ttheatre.
Barry Kirk - Editor, The Barking & Dagenham Post newspaper, Wednesday 4 April 2007
New public performances from Arc coming to the Broadway Theatre soon...
Wednesday 9 May 2007 at 10:30am
Join in with two storytellers to help dream up a fantastical night-time world. Talk with a mermaid, feast at the teddy's picnic and find out just what Professor Bubbly-Quick is up to! Let your imagination run wild!
Wednesday 6 June 2007 at 10:30am
The Boy Who Couldn't Dream
Five and overs
Two friends begin a wild adventure where anything is possible. Meeting magical characters and solving tricky problems they discover the value of friendship and finally learn the truth about who makes our dreams. An inspiring performance full of music, humour, participation, bubbles and the power of the imagination! Anything but sleepy this is an ideal holiday treat!
To book, visit the Broadway Theatre