Thursday, 10 July 2014

Deal Festival: Youth Theatre presents Pathfinder

Oh my lord the last couple of weeks have been ridiculously busy!  On top of the day job (which is supposed to get quieter when the students aren't here but doesn't, and University staff don't get the summer off either before you ask), I have also had a Play Reading Group to run, auditions for our next play to attend, a school friend's wedding on a Saturday (first time I have ever been to a wedding with Jewish elements, it was brilliant!), Steve has been in Cairo for work, we have our house on the market (eek!), we had our Players monthly social, Hay Fever was on, which meant doing the dress rehearsal photo's, selling programmes one evening and actually going to see it and my fit club has started again.  One Tuesday evening I was triple booked.  I have no idea how, my diary management has just collapsed.  It has just been a whirlwind of activity!
Somewhere in amongst that whirlwind the Deal Festival was taking place.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to get to nearly as much as I wanted due to said whirlwind above; it just wasn't physically possible, but I did manage to get to one event on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when I had a few free hours.  The Deal Youth Theatre were performing an original production called 'Commemorating World War I, Pathfinder'.  Steve was due to go to Cairo the next morning and needed to pack so I went alone to watch the group perform.
I'm so glad I made it - I'm a real believer in the importance of Youth Theatre in helping young people develop, grow in confidence, explore aspects of their personality in a safe and nurturing environment, get exposure to people from different backgrounds and new ideas and ways of thinking, learning about different cultures and generally helping them mature into well rounded people who are capable of considering ideas and formulating arguments to express their own point of view in a mature and articulate manner.  OK, the acting and stage discipline probably isn't going to be of the highest quality you have ever watched, but it takes a lot of guts to do what these kids are doing, and that should be supported and celebrated.
The Astor Theatre in Deal is a lovely little community theatre- simple but perfect for small productions and a real hub in the heart of Deal.  Pathfinder was commissioned to commemorate the First World War and penned by local writer Rhiannon Tise, with funding from the BBC Performing Arts Fund and Deal Town Council. Tise developed a story inspired by ideas generated by the young people who wanted to do a production about the war that involved a ghost; the result is Pathfinder, a ghostly love story spanning a hundred years. The play draws on multiple factual references to Deal's involvement in the war
Its premise was fairly simple - a young couple in 1913 in love are separated when he has to join the navy on the HMS Pathfinder.  Before he goes, he gives her a necklace and they pledge themselves to each other forever.  In September 1914 the HMS Pathfinder was sunk, killing all on board including the young sailor.  In modern day Deal a young girl, who is helping her mother clear out the belongings of a recently deceased old lady, comes across a necklace and is allowed to keep it.  She argues with her boyfriend over a party that is happening that night.  Later at the party a group of boys are drinking and one offers to drive them all home.  The young girl tries to intervene but her boyfriend ignores her and gets in the car.  The car crashes, and her boyfriend is killed.  The driver of the car is ostracised by the rest of society, including, to start with, the young girl.  During the course of the play she starts seeing visions of the dead sailor, and through a lot of soul searching and forgiving the driver for the death of her boyfriend, she helps the dead sailor cross into the light and be reunited with his old love.
The play was very simply set - a couple of boxes were moved by the cast to become the car, the disco, a bedroom and other key venues.
The sides of the stage became the pier for fishing, and a simple lighting and sound design was very effective.  All the young people gave powerful performances, including some strong singing voices. The themes that they were exploring; lost love, adult responsibility, drink driving, drug taking, grief and commitment were incredibly intense and they did justice to a very moving performance.  It was clear that they were all enjoying themselves immensely and there were a lot of proud parents in the audience!
I would strongly recommend you looking to see if you can support youth theatre in your own area - it is such a valuable resource for young people and a lot of what they do is original work.  The play was a short one, under an hour in length, but incredibly enjoyable.

I'm really a bit gutted I wasn't able to make it to more of the Festival - it has just been one of those weeks unfortunately and I simply did not have the time to make it.  A shame,  as I really wanted to see Romeo and Juliet in Walmer Castle, Jitterbug by the Aurora Orchestra and the Cory Band.  I'm hoping that next year I will be able to see more.

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