The show began with a bang – a whole cast performance of the hit song “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” (by Tom MacRae) performed with energy, movement, colour and powerful sound. Then a complete contrast – an intense monologue from “Jerusalem” by Jez Butterworth. The performance consisted of fourteen extracts from a wide variety of plays ( and one dance piece) which moved smoothly on the whole from one piece to the next, taking us on an emotional journey from fun to pain and back again. The evening had pace with the first hour flying by. The selection ranged from Euripides to Caryl Churchill, from Shakespeare to Matthew Lopez. It was an interesting and successful list in making great demands in range and depth for the actors. Unfortunately, however, the list contained only one women writer
The set was simple – a bare stage with a series of boxes towards the back creating a series of different levels. As a result, minimal scene-shifting was involved between each piece allowing for the pace of the evening to be maintained on the whole. And when scene shifting was required, it was done speedily and with a flourish – as in “The History Boys”. It was very helpful for the audience to have the title of the next piece on a screen at the back of the stage . In a previous performance of Welsh plays this was not done and the audience experience suffered somewhat as a result. The direction was tight but more attention to the actors’ projection was needed at times.
An extract from “Trojan Women” by Euripides about the futility and horror of war was performed powerfully by some of the young women in the cast – followed by some of the young men (plus one young woman) in “The History Boys” by Alan Bennett. This scene took some time to build but resulted in a sequence of great intensity between Posner and the teacher. The Caryl Churchill selection ( from “Top Girls”) got rather lost by being so squeezed by the subsequent piece that the audience didn’t have time to clap. It was perhaps not as successful a choice as the other pieces – it was more difficult to connect with quickly than most of the other pieces.
The extract from Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” was extremely well done with the actors demonstrating very effectively some of Pinter’s themes such as power play and the threat of chaos. The first half of the evening ended with an extract from “Blood Brothers” by Willy Russell involving a rousing rendition of one of the songs in a definite Liverpool accent.
The second half of the programme began with a fun reminder of how much of our language and phrases derive from Shakespeare. This was followed by a very good performance of “Uprising” by Hofash Shechter by members of the County Youth Dance Company. There were some excellent dancers in the group and the whole sequence held together well. It was good to see such collaboration between different youth arts groups on such occasions.
At times, some context to the extracts was given by members of WGYTC and it was helpful to situate Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” in the 1950’s era of anti-communism in the US. This sequence was an outstanding ensemble effort bringing to life with great intensity the atmosphere and dynamics of a “witch hunt” of whatever sort.
The evening was largely a showcase for the diverse talents of the young people as a group and rightly so. But there were also some outstanding individual performance. Grace Hill’s monologue from “Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez was mesmerising. She played a mother who had lost her son to Aids. The performance was delicately but powerfully played, with very few gestures or movements, locking the audience into the pain of her story. Immediately afterwards she played Lady Bracknell from Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” – a comic role that revealed her versatility.
Robin Haley also demonstrated impressive range and talent, showcased in roles in “The History Boys”, “The Birthday Party” and “The Crucible”.
Once again, WGYTC convinced us of its talent, enthusiasm and its commitment to live performance. The directors are to be congratulated on inspiring such a high standard of performance across a wide range of pieces from this group of young people – in spite of not being able to rehearse in a residential setting this time.
The Company has and impressive history (fostering the talent of Michael Sheen among others) and deserves to have more security of funding than it currently enjoys.