I’d been looking for more creative opportunities in theatre so when I had the chance to be part of the Young Creatives group at the Albany, I snapped it up! Upon arriving at the theatre, we learnt that Levantes Dance Theatre (run by Bethanie Harrison and Eleni Edipidi) were teaming up with the Albany to devise a piece. The only limitations were that the main theme had to be about hair, it had to be an outdoor piece, it had to be targeted towards children and the budget was £10,000. I’d never done anything like this before or been involved at such an early stage in a theatre project so it was really interesting to see how it all worked, and how everyone’s ideas were incorporated.
We split up into groups and got to know each other while we brainstormed ideas for the project. A lot of people immediately thought of Rapunzel and other fairy tales as they were the most synonymous with a children’s play about hair. However, a lot of other groups had completely different ideas involving aliens, cults and other original concepts! The group of Young Creatives was then streamlined from the first session as the Albany and Levantes really wanted a selection of creative individuals that genuinely got along well and bounced ideas off each other. As a person of 25 in the older end of the ‘Young People’ spectrum, it was really exciting to meet youths from all walks of life that were talented in many aspects of production and performing arts, with a variety of skillsets in the room.
Next we got stuck in with designing the stage that the play would take part in, which Bethanie and Eleni visualised as a small shed-style building that was painted and decorated to be twee and pastel. This became known as the ‘parlour’, and we all sketched our ideas for how it would look, as well as creating the props that would go inside it. This was really fun and a great chance to do some art and crafts, which a lot of us don’t do in our day-to-day lives, but is very relaxing and meditative. Every week we would present our ideas to the whole group, as well as the Albany and the Levantes team for feedback.
Finally we had decided on the concept of a group of people looking the same but being different. The character of ‘Kathy’ was created, a woman of unusual style (to put it mildly) who wants everyone to look exactly like her. She brings people into the ‘parlour’ to have a makeover, which actually involves them putting their heads into a cut-out hole to have their picture taken, like on Brighton Pier. Unbeknownst to them, they actually look like Kathy when they do this as the costume is attached to the other side of the wall. They write down their address and the picture is sent to them in the post, when they finally realise they have become a Kathy.
I had my first performance as Kathy yesterday, and getting into character as her is very surreal. She wears a reversed dressing gown with 80s shoulder pads, tucked into a long white skirt with tights including dismembered Barbie dolls stuck to them. The pièce de résistance is the hair, which is made up of two huge white fluffy wigs stuck to each other and piled high on our heads. By the end, we look like people from the Capitol in The Hunger Games. Our performance at Lewisham People’s Day was extremely fun, with lots of people being curious about us and wanting to have their picture taken with us. Kids are particularly interested and we get a variety of questions like “is your hair made of candyfloss?” and “what are those things on your legs?” It’s very fun to become Kathy, and ‘perform’ to the people around you. As you are playing such a provoking character, it’s very easy to confidently approach people and ask what they think of your outfit or wave to them as they pass by.
Overall I think that this year’s Young Creatives project has been key in learning new skills and improving my existing skills in performance and production. It is a realistic look at the world of theatre, and offers insight into the industry which allows you to decide if you want to follow this path. We were involved from inception to actualisation of this project, and we can all take the experience with us to future theatre projects.
By Helen Monaghan