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Chrysalis 2017

at Traverse Theatre

Stewart McLaren reports back on an inspiring weekend of youth theatre.

Image of Chrysalis 2017

Youth Theatre Arts Scotland and the Traverse Theatre gave us the exhilarating, meticulously planned, and produced third edition of the Chrysalis festival this past weekend in Edinburgh. A truly inspirational weekend jam packed with new works by young people from across the country.

Once again, the festival highlighted the myriad of talent that can be found in the fearless young theatre makers currently working away within youth theatre groups. Amongst a raft of workshops lay performances from theatre companies that included Beacon Young Company (Inverclyde), Firefly Arts (West Lothian) and Reading Rep.

There is a Light: Brightlight was a key highlight of the weekend with three performances planned over the course of the festival. It’s a challenging piece of verbatim theatre that focuses on the lives of young people who are diagnosed with cancer. Contact Young Company from Manchester devised the performance from a nationwide research programme. Through a series of vignettes, the company have produced a moving, challenging and at times uproariously funny opus that gives a voice to those who have been diagnosed and faced the illness. With support from Edinburgh Napier University and MacMillan Cancer Support this is an important piece of youth theatre that deserves to be seen on a broader scale from this point forward.

Elsewhere the festival offered a series of Scratch performances titled “Emergence”. Here youth theatre companies were given the chance to perform works-in-progress to an audience who in return could submit feedback. Lyceum Youth Theatre and Citizens Theatre Young introduced their talented ensemble of young actors and showcased highlights of their upcoming performances, both companies produced work that radiated an infectious passion for their project.

It was then something rather magical happened. Performance Collective Stranraer took to the stage with a touching, charming and wonderfully cheeky piece of theatre. The small cast of five youths played heightened versions of themselves talking about the town they either lived in, or nearby, Stranraer. Directed by Drew Taylor, the production delved into the remoteness of being part of a forgotten Scottish town and was a playful jaunt through the town design. The entire piece was enchanting and the energy of the small ensemble who all supported and played off each other was indistinguishable. Through all the wonderful buzz happening around the Traverse over the weekend, this little group came along and practically stole the show.

When youth theatre like that which was on show this weekend is of this high quality, it really is an encouraging consideration of what lies ahead for these talented youngsters and the next generation of theatre makers. Bring on Chrysalis 2018!