Friday night takeover at the Alnwick Playhouse

Review: Young Alnwick Playhouse – Spring, organised by the Silver Arts Award events team; Friday, March 14 .

There was a dramatic coup at Alnwick Playhouse towards the end of last week – and one that was actively encouraged by theatre bosses.

The Silver Arts Award Events Team with Jo Potts, front left, Alnwick Playhouse manager.

The Silver Arts Award Events Team with Jo Potts, front left, Alnwick Playhouse manager.

It was a coup in every sense of the word – both a takeover and a major triumph.

The theatre was willingly handed over to the youth of north Northumberland to allow them to express themselves within an arts environment and to encourage along a younger audience.

The entire programme for the evening was chosen and organised by a young team, who are working towards their Silver Arts Award, a scheme funded by the Arts Council and National Lottery.

There was an incredible buzz in the Playhouse, which is a designated Arts Award centre, as the mainly teenage audience were firstly entertained by an eclectic range of music from their piers.

Johnny Diggens’ sublime, soulful saxophone gave way to the ukulele and then folk guitar of haunting singer-musicians Jess Field and Amber Brown.

Even before the main performance of the evening, it was easy to forget you were watching schoolchildren and not professionals playing.

The senior group of the Playhouse’s Youth Theatre then took to the stage with a new NT Connections play called Same by Deborah Bruce.

This was one difficult piece to pull off.

The set was stripped bare and there were no flashy costumes or lavish set to hide behind. It was all about raw acting ability. Same tackles a traumatic subject – the death of an old lady in a nursing home and the way in which her grandchildren, then her friends in the home, react to the news.

While the two groups are poles apart, there are also parallels in their conversation.

The characterisation was sharp and realistic, resulting in a poignant and moving performance.

The youngsters now take the play to Northern Stage in Newcastle on April 22, where they will be up against the Young People’s Theatre, near Jesmond Dene, for the right to perform at the National Theatre.

More expert singers and musicians entertained during the interval before a couple of numbers from singer-songwriter Erik Bagenal-Lowe and the premiere of a hilarious, insightful documentary of the Duchess’s High School recent musical Return to the Forbidden Planet, made by students.

The evening was capped by the incredible musicians in a group dubbed The Band With No Name – Andy Holden on vocals and guitar, Jack Simpson on guitar, Tommy Sarosi on bass guitar and amazing drummer Harry Summers, who showed his versatility on a cajon drum box.

They were joined on vocals by Harry Brierley, one of the stars of Forbidden Planet.

It had been a great, varied and well-planned night, one that I know the young audience and performers enjoyed and one that they all left hoping it would be repeated.

The organisers, Andy Hunt,Helena Davidson, Arthur Mills, Catherine Walker, Daisy Sawyer and others deserve more than a silver award – it should be gold!

THE TEAM THAT ENTERTAINED

SILVER ARTS AWARD EVENTS TEAM

Andy Hunt, event manager and co-ordinator; Helena Davidson, programming co-ordinator; Arthur Mills, marketing manager; Catherine Walker, designer and events assistant; Daisy Sawyer, events assistant; Zoe Gilroy, creative evaluation manager; Helen Ferguson, group facilitator and project manager; Carrie Morrison, assistant facilitator.

Musicians and singers

Johnny Diggens, Jess Field, Amber Brown, Lindsay Manion and Evie Mortimer, Andy Holden and Jacob Brook, Erik Bagenal-Lowe and the Band With No Name – Andy Holden, Jack Simpson, Tommy Sarosi, Harry Summers, with guest singer Harry Brierley.

SENIOR YOUTH THEATRE’S CAST OF SAME

Catherine Walker, Lexy Bee, Billy Swan, Katie Mewett, Alex Clark-Thompson, Daisy Sawyer, Zara Sumner, Bea Barnes, Stella Deckers-Coulter, Charley Anstee, Ula Campbell, Sophie Thomson, Arthur Mills, Anna Tucker, Lacey-Mae Gerrard, Lucy Draper, Matthew Hardy, Megan Fletcher, Paige Howie, Tamzin Hezlop.