“A group where I fit in.”
by Brave Writer student and intern, Finlay Worrallo
On a cold January evening, I stood outside the studio door. Thirteen years old, gawky and nervous, I’d been gently pushed by my mother into signing up to the local Youth Theatre, as she thought it would be a “great opportunity to meet new people” in a county three hundred miles away from my previous home. I took a deep breath and stepped into a room full of noisy teenagers. Within two minutes, I’d been warmly welcomed by half-a-dozen potential friends, and told, “We’re all mad here.”
That first term was a gentle introduction to the world of theatre. The first play we studied in depth was called Hope Springs, and set in an obscene correctional facility. After a month or two of exploring character and motivation, we performed several scenes in the theatre itself to an audience of our parents. It was as amateur a production as we ever did, but it was a revelation for me. Standing on a stage, reciting someone else’s words and feeling the whole audience listening, enraptured — it was incredible.
I moved up to the next group the following term, during which we focused on more mature drama. We jumped straight in with workshops on the Holocaust, where we acted out scenes we’d devised together by listening to real-life stories and interviewing each other while acting as Jews and Nazis. This all culminated in an unforgettable evening of large-scale improvisation. Some of us played Jews, some of us played civilians hiding the Jews, and the teachers played Nazi officers who kept searching the building. Inevitably, the fugitives were discovered and we were all driven away to Auschwitz. But because we’d been acting our characters solidly for an hour and a half, it felt completely real to us. I’ve never believed in fictional characters or a fictional setting more.
After that, we moved on to work on another play: a comedy version of Romeo and Juliet, set in modern-day Britain, called Rain on Me. This was a complex experience for me. I learned a lot of useful techniques, like the funniest ways to deliver funny lines, but I struggled with my character for ages. I played an angry, violent snob, as far from my own personality as you could get (I hope). Plus, the fight scenes made me uncomfortable, as I hate throwing myself all over the place in front of people. But when we returned to the play after the Christmas holidays, I was more comfortable with my part, and I enjoyed the play more and more as we went on. We finally performed in May and had a fantastic time. By the end, I’d learned about realistic stage combat and how to play a character totally unlike myself; and most importantly I’d forged bonds with the rest of the cast.
The rest of that term, our work veered from the serious (exploring the emotions around bullying and how to act it) and the silly (a crazy Power Rangers game where we all joined together to form a giant robot), and we finished off with a massive lip-syncing competition. Happy days.
Next term, we began on our next production — The Three Musketeers. Easily the most complex play I’d been in, it had a cast of seventeen, a running time of over two hours, and seven different sword-fights. I was cast as a sadistic villain, with an eye patch and a snarl. It was great fun! However, it was a long production. Autumn, winter and spring had all passed before we were ready. We had pages of lines to memorize and intricate scenes to block, and that was before we started the stage-fighting itself, which took ages to perfect. A further challenge was the mixture of ages in the group, with some young as fourteen and others as old as eighteen, and the range of maturity that entails. But ready we were, and our epic, sexy play burst onto the stage on two baking hot evenings in June, without too many mistakes.
I’m sixteen now and drama is an integral part of my life. Not just the acting; but the sense of belonging in a mad and lovable group, who drive me nuts most days, but are capable of so much when we work together. It took me a while, but I’ve finally found a group where I fit in.