For the second year running I found myself at the opening night of Summer on Stage, The Lyceum Youth Theatre’s Summer on Stage experience that I know some FCT cast members have taken part in before.
The evening consisted of two productions, one for younger children (up to about 16 I’d say) and one for older youths. The former was a charming tale called The Musicians in which a school orchestra arrived in Russia to perform as part of a cultural exchange, only to find that their instruments had been impounded at the airport because a spliff had been found in one of the cases. The spliff had been secreted there because the doting flautists in the orchestra had hoped to use it medicinally to calm down the highly excitable conducter played excellently by Louis Plummer.
In the end the performance was mimed to Tchiakovsky’s 4th Symphony but inspired by the supportive (eventually) intervention of two hilarious stage hands/cleaners who stole the show (Keir Aitken and Samuel Adams).
The second performance, A Vampire Story, is a highly complex meeting of 19th Century vampirism with contemporary mental health issues and is quite stunning. Both shows shared basically the same simple but highly effective set but in this one the set was used to meld two very different eras very effectively. Although dark in content it is also hilarious in parts; it deals with the story of a teenage girl who clearly has become delusional and is creating a fantasy world of vampires as she seeks (with the help of her sister ) to escape the grasp of the authorities by constantly moving on.
On her journey she encounters another lost soul in the form of a home taught kid who is similarly trying to escape the attentions of his eccentric parents. I can’t tell from the programme who played what parts but all of the principles were phenomenal and a special word has to go to the dotty teacher, Mint, played by Blair Grandison. (The Home Economics teacher who was played by, I assume, Megan Preistley was a class character part and I recognise the girl who played the part from previous Lyceum Youth performances – a real talent).
Director Steve Mann made a considerable impression on me with this show because the content was complex, the movement difficult and the pace very important. It was reminiscent, albeit without the music, of Claire Stewart’s Jekyll. All were delivered perfectly in a great technical set up so that what emerged was a highly professional production that replicated the sort of conditions that professional rep actors and technicians have to (and most certainly had to) work under; short time scales to learn and perfect the performances. In this case A Vampire Story was created in under three weeks and The Musicians in under two.