In 2001 I was part of a totally devised piece of theatre. The characters, narrative even the staging was decided upon by the company. Costume was pulled together from the casts own wardrobes and second-hand shops. Every mistake and every success was ours and ours alone. It sounds like a fairly standard story for a theatre company taking it’s first steps into the world of performance, except that I was 15 years old and my oldest colleague was only 17. We were the Theatre Royal Bath’s Young People’s Theatre. We met once a week under the guidance of a brave and nurturing leader who allowed us to fully explore what our limits were without censure.
To publicise the show we took to the streets of the city, my good friend Pete & I decided to choreograph a fight that would sprawl through the centre if Bath. We were encouraged in our efforts. Pete & I spent two hours fighting, he armed with a large walking stick, me with chopsticks. I repeatedly flung myself onto the becobbled streets, whilst Pete swung wildly at my head. It was fabulous fun and undeniably dangerous. Would we be allowed to do that now? I happen to know not.
I am now in the position of course leader for the Natural Theatre’s Youth Theatre and we specialise in improvised street theatre. There is no way we could ever dream if letting two young people design a fight (with weapons) and let them take to the streets. Even when working in the relatively controlled environment of a stage fight choreographers must be used. Which is right and proper, my life would’ve dramatically altered had one of Pete’s lungs removed an eye. But they didn’t and it remains one of the most thrilling performance experiences of my acting career. I don’t want to sound too much like disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells but maybe our never-ending quest for ultimate safety for our children is robbing them of some of the richness of life.
It should be noted that the show itself was self-indulgent, highly sexual, very silly and pretty crude. Exactly what you’d expect to find inside the minds of a group of teenagers.