So what to do with the kids? It would appear from the dozens of excited and slightly apprehensive children filling reception at the Theatre Royal Plymouth’s TR2 that one option is to take them along to the Young Company’s Taster sessions. Pretty girls with up dos or plaits, a hint of make up and sparkly shoes and lively boys with snazzy T-shirts. Roughly the same number of each too and all friendly and chatting.
Whys & wherefores
I attended the 8-12 year old session where the tasters available where Acting, Dance and Design. As we waited in one of the Theatre Royal Plymouth’s famous rehearsal spaces, I asked some of the children what made them come along. The answers ranged from ‘just sounded interesting’ to ‘Well we have been doing Gymnastics and fancied trying something different’ The Gymnasts were particularly looking forward to trying the acting. Most of the parents came because of the Theatre’s posts on social media. One Mum had been told about the Young Company at the Panto when her child appeared on stage with Muddles!
The youngsters were then organised by Dani, Young Company lead, into groups to take part in the tasters of their choice, they could do two of the three on offer. Parents were sent away to enjoy a peaceful coffee in the Green Room whilst their offspring headed off. I chose to follow the Acting and the Design groups as I wanted to take part and am sadly not 8-12 years old. We were guided to the right places by the Theatre’s Young Reps who were amazing. They steered us around and looked after us in a friendly, enthusiastic manner which set a positive tone for the afternoon.
The acting took place in another rehearsal space. It was thrilling because there were pieces of sets for a future show cordoned off which made it seem very real. The group were slightly subdued and feet were shuffled whilst the group leader explained what to expect and the first exercises began. We passed a clap around the group, changing direction and even firing across the circle in an attempt to speed up. Then hilarity began as we had to pull a face and strike a pose to represent a fruit or vegetable ‘tomato face’ or ‘pineapple face’. As we did different exercises I watched the children grow in confidence. There was lots of laughter and much of thinking. I was so impressed with how quickly they took on the ideas and expanded them. The time flew by and soon it was time to change to the second choices. This time the group chatted to each other on their way to the next adventure.
Next up Design. This is an embryonic form of Prop and Set Design, older children are given the opportunity to create designs for shows by the Young Company. This time, however, we were making something that has become iconic for the Theatre Royal Plymouth – poppies! These were not quite the awe inspiring poppies that amazed the world at the Tower of London but delicate tissue paper poppies which the children could keep as a memento of a fun session. As the young people were talked through making the flowers they were also briefed on what to expect if they joined, again lighthearted and inspiring. On the table were props guaranteed to interest such as a huge Marmite jar and a severed hand. In no time the children emerged clutching some very creditable poppies to find their parents.
The buzz in the Green Room as a swarm of happy, enthused youngsters extolled the virtues of their experiences at the tops of their voices to waiting adults was fabulous! All seemed really keen to sign up and continue. Out of the children I had spoken to beforehand all loved their afternoon and all wanted to become Young Company members. There were keen potential actors, designers and dancers, quite a few didn’t mind which! My Gymnasts? Well they really liked the acting but had been seduced away by Dance…..
As the afternoon ended I wished for a moment that I was really an 8-12 year old with these opportunities in front of me. I had joined in and enjoyed alongside them, in the words of one lad ‘it was so fun!’ Thank you so much to the families that allowed me to chat about their experiences which was an enormous help writing this blog.