Review: Begin/End

February 13, 2010

Begin/End is the Halfmoon Theatre’s new play for teenagers and young adults written by David Lane. Set in the distilled thoughts and memories of Lili, a young teen girl making her way through school and swimming classes like every normal teenager, until she spots Yaz, another young teen girl on her estate… and things aren’t quite the same again.

David Lane’s play is a fast, often head spinning experience. The dialogue is snappy and poetic, creating an ever climaxing narrative. The text is relentlessly spoken between Lili and Yaz, bouncing back and forth between them, twisting imagery together until you’re completely caught in a web of tangled thoughts and emotions.

Of course, a look back at any teenage years and the dialogue reflects this confusing time, jumping from moment to moment, never landing for pause or reflection. Whilst this is engaging (demonstrated by the school group also watching in hushed silence) it does leave your head numb after 25 minutes of action packed dialogue, fearing the audience might be drowning with Lili in the swimming pool of memories before there is a pause in the text.

What is clear though is the amount of time and energy that has been taken in perfecting Lanes dialogue. 3 years in development, consulting young people in the use of words and dialogue clearly shows. Begin/End isn’t trying to be an adults idea of how teenagers communicate, it is how they talk. From slang, and swearing, the dialogue is written to perfection.

Naturally the dialogue wouldn’t be the same without the outstanding acting of Amy Costello (Lili) and Rachel McKenzie (Yaz) whose energy and portrayal of teenagers is perfection. They allow younger audiences to easily relate to these teenage figures, by expressing the dilemmas that amount during these difficult years in effective manners. Both Costello and McKenzie cope admirably with the demands of Lanes dialogue and even go as far to seem at ease with it.

McKenzie brings about a certain ‘street’-like quality to her acting, whilst Costello juggles the frantic rambling text with great enthusiasm, that creates deeper meaning to the words and themes.

Relationships are fragile things to grasp and hold onto. Lili’s and Yaz’s is your typical teenager friendship from girls who seem drawn to each other from a force of nature. Lili’s feelings though are more than just friendship, they delve deeper than this, a longing, a desire, a love ever so rich. For Lili is gay, and whilst she might not fully realise it, for she has not acted upon it, the emotions and feelings she feels for Yaz can not be disregarded. Whilst the LGBT issues is an area explored in Begin/End, the depth of this is only skin deep which lets the play down slightly.

The play can easily be portrayed that being gay is something that can be seen as a negative thing, and can bring about troubles and issues. Whilst of course this is true (troubles and issues that is), I’m sure this message is not quite what Lane intended. However as this is a piece for young adults the production includes post show discussions, resource packs and activities around these issues that can be addressed in schools and youth groups. The Halfmoon Theatre encourage the use of these services as a tool to engage with these often difficult topics.

Begin/End is a remarkable piece of young peoples theatre, from one of Londons best theatres dedicated to younger generations. It is great to see a production so engaging to a younger audience, and judging from the response of the school group I watched the play with, it truly relates to this often unheard voice and age.

Whilst the subject of abuse and sexuality is slightly muted the overwhelming themes of loving someone you can’t have resounds in every teenager. If you’re gay or straight the message is clear. We love, we lose, but we keep going.

Begin/End is now on tour around the UK, check out the Halfmoon Theatre’s website to see where you can catch it next.


Opportunities For Young People In Theatre

September 3, 2009

The Big Break

This week see’s the National Theatre in connection with Spine Breakers launching ‘The Big Break‘, a young scriptwriter competition. Aimed at 13 to 18 year olds the competition gives the chance of adapting Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, through working with top directors, writers and actors at the National Theatre by seeing your words brought to life.

Whilst this is a great opportunity for young people to get their writing skills in action leading for a fantastic opportunity at the National Theatre, it does leave me pondering what other opportunities are out there for young people/teenagers in actively engaging within the arts (or mostly theatre).

Of course the National Theatre is constantly striving to work towards promoting themselves as an establishments that works closely with Young People, and nurturing the next generation of Theatre Makers. The New Connections programme at the National Theatre actively seeks new talent from groups of schools and youth groups, leading to presenting their work in the main spaces of the National Theatre and working closely with well known writers. Sadly however, New Connections will be closing their doors for a while as they re-establish themselves within the National Theatre… so how does this gap get filled?

Battersea Arts Centre

Battersea Arts Centre

The Battersea Arts Centre,  (BAC) springs to mind when thinking about the opportunities for young people. Their Young Peoples Theatre (YPT) gives 12 – 25 year olds the ‘chance to experiment, create and perform original theatre on a professional stage’. Often working with notable directors and practitioners, YPT are an energetic group of young people.

Although I’ve not been to one of their shows at the BAC I watched a paneled discussion on young people within theatre and the impact upon theatre work and audiences. The YPT members present certainly reminded myself of when I was of an age at a ‘young theatre group’, bursting with the desire to perform and be in theatre. I can certainly see stars in the making from YPT.

LyricYoungCompanyAnother well established theatre working with young people comes in the form of the Lyric Hammersmith. New International Company of Live Arts (NICOLA) the Lyric Young Company were outstanding in their delivery of talented young people. Everything from poetry, monologues and dance was thrown in. There seems to be a real flare within this programme with great results.

Whilst I have highlighted a few of the well known Young Peoples Theatre programmes around London there must be other opportunities for young people dotted all over the city with relation to theatre. There still needs to be more, as most of these groups are highly sought after and over subscribed with waiting lists.

I have spoken about in the past how the future of theatre relies upon the younger generations in bringing new creativity and energy into theatres. What I would love to see is a revolution where the younger generations have their time in taking over the theatres. Often us adults get caught up in being adults and lose all our sense of play and creativity. Why not take a moment to observe the younger generations and feed that energy into theatres, or better still allow that creativity to enter theatres directly through more Young Peoples Theatre organisations.

The time for theatre in the hands of the Younger Generations is upon us, but will you allow it?

If you are under the age of 25 and interested in finding out more about getting involved in theatre, then A Younger Theatre recommends Get Into for more information and opportunities.