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Troubled Waters: reflections on a season

Our Troubled Waters season has come to a close. We look back on three spellbinding and thought-provoking pieces of original theatre.

Closing night is always emotional, but when the curtain came down on Act One's Lemon Heaven on Saturday 6 April it was a particularly moving moment.

The final performance of this groundbreaking satirical comedy, steeped in scent, flavour and topical commentary on a consumer-led society, also marked the end of a super-season of original theatre.

Act One in Lemon Heaven

All three plays produced by the Young Actors Company this season were extraordinary; dramatically different in story and tone, they shared a common thread. They all told stories of a young generation troubled by the actions of the present; looking ahead to an uncertain future that has been marred by the actions of past generations.

In Lemon Heaven, the actors presented a world where a simple lemon becomes a consumer obsession; saved from extinction, then mass produced by workers who are poorly paid - and poorly treated.

Act One in Lemon Heaven

A tale unfolded of young people with big dreams and great ambitions who succumbed to a profit-driven working world. Heartbreaking at times, there were also moments of pure comedy, perfectly executed by the young performers.

Act One in Lemon Heaven

Act Three told the story of Geoffrey Bliss, an inspired inventor with a new product that has the power to change the world...and the potential to cause political upheaval.

Act Three in To Walk on Water

Set in 2040, To Walk on Water paints a vivid picture of a cruel society where homelessness is rife yet privileged young people are obsessed with possessions and parties, blind to the suffering around them.

Act Three in To Walk on Water

As the name of the play suggests, Act Three's futuristic allegory was laced with themes around religion and the power of belief: in each other, as well as in technology.

Act Three in To Walk on Water

And Act Two made their presence felt at the Royal Albert Hall when they joined forces with Merton Music Foundation (MMF) and presented an original piece of theatre for the second half of the Music is for Life concert, 2019.

Act Two in Thames Tales

Thames Tales told the story of Old Father Thames, played by the opera singer Keel Watson.

Ready to retire and pass on his legacy to reluctant granddaughter, Naomi, this musical piece of theatre addressed intergenerational change as well as the power of the river and how pollution, technology and society has changed its influence.

The size of the stage never daunted or diminished the performance of the cast who soared on the night; and the audience left this grand occasion feeling a renewed appreciation for London's rich past - and present environmental perils

Act Two in Thames Tales

Troubled Waters was not only a great success as a theatrical season, it also inspired debate, fuelled our young actors' confidence and changed the way they view the world.

Confronting the challenges of the future through their art did not dampen their spirits: quite the opposite. By talking about the issues that affect their lives - and their future - and moving their audience in such emotional, intellectual and sensorial ways, they've realised just how much power they have.

As a youth theatre, and a charity, there is no greater gift we could give our cherished young performers.

Act Two in Thames Tales

With our future as a youth theatre under threat due to financial pressure, we are working incredibly hard behind the scenes to continue the life-changing work we do: if you would like to help or find out more, please contact us today.

Thank you to our friends and supporters

As our Troubled Waters season comes to an end, and the cast and crew take a well deserved break for the Easter holidays, we'd like to give special thanks to all the partners, sponsors, friends and supporters who made this season possible:

Charlotte Cooke, Xio He, Salome Janiashvili, Keel Watson, Harry Scotton, Kiaran Hall, Mark Richards, Rikki Beadle Blair MBE, Ursula Pache, David Tims, Nick Parr and the staff at New Wimbledon Theatre, Michael Vale and Wimbledon College of Arts, Katie Walsh and Magdalen College School, White Light Ltd, Merton Music Foundation, Taylor Family Foundation, Jack Petchey Foundation.

A massive thank you to our hugely talented creative crew: Andy Alty, Cassie Eaton, Nataliya Kharina, Andrew McPherson, Dinos Psychogios and Katie Turner-Halliday.

And warm thanks to the families of our young actors, and every audience member who attended one of our shows: without you, we couldn't have made this season happen.

Lemon Heaven preview

Act 1 director, Nataliya Kharina, introduces Lemon Heaven, the original play that brings our Troubled Waters season to a thrilling close this weekend.

Lemon Heaven, the third and final premiere in our Troubled Waters season, opens this Friday 5 April, at New Wimbledon Theatre’s Time & Leisure Studio.

"[Lemon Heaven] is truly a rollercoaster of a piece," says Nataliya Kharina, who devised the original piece with the company. "From big, over the top characters to heartfelt stories of fleeing for your life, this show has it all. To top it off, it is spectacular visually."

Act 1 in final rehearsals for Lemon Heaven

Final rehearsals took place at the weekend and Nataliya says excitement is running high, particularly now the cast can see how their production ties together. "It’s been so interesting watching their journey," Nataliya says. "At the start, it was a little bit of a struggle getting into the world of the Lemon…but watching them this weekend has been so exciting. Suddenly, they are putting real feeling into everything; it’s extraordinary."

Nataliya describes Lemon Heaven, which looks at contemporary issues in a strange but eerily familiar setting, as a learning journey that hasn't just affected the actors. "It has taken a while for the conversations we have had to land - even with me," she says. "A few weeks ago we realised that the ‘Lemon’ concept is like Apple: it had been staring us in the face the whole time but we just didn’t make the connection.

"The length of time it took for all of us to realise what we had actually been talking about all along is the reason it is necessary. The more we speak and deliberate about the state of the world, the more likely we are to know how to make it better. It’s vital to get these conversations started."

Although the play was co-devised, Nataliya insists that all she did was "tie the loose ends together".

As well as devising and performing, one cast member, Olivia, has also been taking photos and recording video (as included in this post) as part of her character development.

Paying tribute to her young cast, Nataliya says: "We decided on a lemon factory, then I said, what characters are there? They all decided their own characters and each individual quirk - a disgruntled employee, a fed up manager, etc. It’s a really good opportunity to hear their perspective and give them ownership over this work.

"It is also an amazing opportunity for the audience to see how articulate, intelligent and intuitive these young people are."

Nataliya describes Lemon Heaven as a "fun" play. "There are big physical theatre moments," she says. "There are floods and shipwrecks. We have a few characters that have really come into their stride and are starting to play with their personas: keep a eye out for our Quality Assurance Officer."


Nataliya admits that, with opening night so close, nerves are a factor too: "They are a young cast. I’ve assured them that nerves means they care - and they certainly do!"

With a truly unique show on the agenda, Act 1 is ready to wow - but Nataliya isn't giving too much more away. "The audience should expect…lemons," she says. "We can’t wait to bring you into our absurd world."

Book tickets today!

Just a small number of tickets are still available for Lemon Heaven on Friday 5 April (evening performance only) and Saturday 6 April (matinee and evening performances).

All profits from ticket sales go straight back into the Young Actors Company to help fund our rehearsals, community projects and performances.

If you are enjoying the work we do, please support us by coming to see our shows.

To Walk on Water preview

Assistant director Sam Luffman updates us on To Walk on Water which opens its run on Friday 29 March at New Wimbledon Theatre's Time & Leisure Studio.More Please