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Troubled Waters: the story so far

This week, Andy Alty, WCTT creative director, takes over the blog to give us an update on the Troubled Waters season.

Thames Tales, debuts Wednesday 20 March 2019 @ The Royal Albert Hall:

We’re now in full production mode for Act Two’s Thames Tales.

This is a huge undertaking: not only do we have 20 actors onstage, but there’s also a huge choir of over 1,000 children and a full orchestra.

On performance day, we only have three hours to rehearse, which means lots to do in the next two weeks. My list of tasks grows longer by the hour.

We’re keeping the staging simple, but it’s an epic performance with lots of visual stage action. We’re carrying a lot of the show, telling the story and leading on several songs, so Act Two has to nail the staging – and when those moments come together you can feel the energy in the room.

As the writer of the piece, its thrilling to see a young actor grab hold of a character I’ve written and breathe life into it: there’s a lightbulb moment when something clicks and they take a big step towards being an actor. It gives them a new sense of self confidence.

You never know when you dream up an idea (and this one came to me on a bus) whether it’s going to work. The actors are your first critics and, when they get it, you know you’re onto something. But the script is just the blueprint: the real magic happens onstage. In performance, Thames Tales belongs to the actors. It’s not mine anymore

Act Two’s director, Katie Turner, has created a really strong work ethic; the actors know how hard they need to work if they’re going to pull off a performance on one of the biggest stages in London. They seem to have no fear. They’re just motivated – and very excited. They really want to show the Royal Albert Hall what they can do.

Keel Watson in rehearsal with Act Two.

To Walk on Water, debuts Friday 29 March 2019 @ New Wimbledon Theatre’s Time & Leisure Studio:

To Walk on Water now has a full rehearsal script: this is going to be a very pertinent piece.

The world premiere is on Friday 29 March – which is (or isn’t?) Brexit day. We really could not have chosen a more auspicious time for a play about our country’s future.

To Walk on Water is a “state of the nation” play from a group of young adults with lots to say.

Act Three is our oldest group of actors (aged 16-19). They’ve been working together for several years, so there’s a lot of mutual trust. They’re also a thoughtful group. Watching the rehearsals, I can see how much commitment they have to the play and the ideas it explores. These actors are concerned about Corporate Britain. They worry about social media and privacy. Homelessness horrifies them. They don’t understand the vilification of refugees. These are all themes you will see explored in the play.

To Walk On Water: Is this technological revolution too good to be true?

It’s set 20 years in the future, so it’s not “political” in the narrow sense of the word, but it takes a long, hard look at where we’re headed as a nation. We keep telling the actors that they are the future; they have a right to be heard.

Act Three and their writer/director, Andrew McPherson, have thought a lot about their hopes and fears for the future. If you’re interested in young people’s perspectives on the state of Britain, come along and hear it direct from them

(And if you don’t know what a “debt clown” is, you will once you’ve seen this play!)

Act Three in rehearsal at Time & Leisure Studio.

Lemon Heaven, debuts Friday 5 April 2019 @ New Wimbledon Theatre’s Time & Leisure Studio:

Lemon Heaven is going to be very special. It’s also going to be lemon scented because, as one of the characters says, “lemons are the citrus star of the global show.”

Lemon Heaven is a satirical comedy with a big heart. It has been created from the cast’s own conversations about how they see the future.

Many issues are explored: refugees making their way to a new country, zero-hours contracts, climate change, and wage poverty. And it will look – and smell – great thanks to our brilliant designer, Charlotte Cooke.

Act One’s writer/director, Nataliya Kharina, is an amazing writer: I’ve encouraged her to be bold and brave, and the script she’s created from the improvisations with the young actors is funny, smart, touching and quite mad!

As our youngest group, Act One are still finding their feet – but they’re rising to the challenge. Theatre is about teamwork; it’s not an ego-fest. It’s about trusting each other and having the courage to be big, loud and physical. One cast member wouldn’t speak at all for the first month when she joined the company – now she’s up on stage with a speaking part. The difference we see in our actors over the year is phenomenal.

I do think, though, after this show, they will never want to see (or smell) a lemon ever again.

Act One rising to the challenge in rehearsals for Lemon Heaven.
Please support the Young Actors Company

Troubled Waters has been a creative hothouse. Our actors have spent time digging into the stories they are telling, bringing in their research and debating the issues.

Part of WCTT’s mission is to give young actors a sense of how theatre is made, from the simple outline of a story to a full-scale production. They aren’t just learning lines and moves, they are completely engaged in the process and spend time critiquing their own work.

This does wonderful things for them, not just as performers, but as young adults.

It’s not about how talented you are, it’s about turning up, week after week, and making something exciting together.

By booking tickets to see To Walk on Water or Lemon Heaven, you’ll be helping us to keep going as a free youth theatre in Merton – and you’ll have an enlightening – and entertaining – time in the process.