Our resident youth theatre group, The Young Company, have drawn the curtain on their latest production of Gargantua in sensational style, following a fantastic final performance at the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith last week. We spoke to company member Jade and our resident Marketing and Press Officer, Jon Mileman, about Gargantua, it’s connection with the National Theatre and what opportunities The Young Company offers to performers.
Tell us a little bit about the recent production of Gargantua. What was the story?
Jon: Gargantua is the story of Hugh and Mini Mungus who give birth to a giant baby, appropriately named Hugh, after a two and a half year pregnancy. Camera crews, politicians and scientists all flock to the tiny village of Skanton Marsh to see what all the fuss is about, meanwhile an evil physicist and a US General hatch a scheme to kidnap Hugh to create an army of giant super babies!
Who did you play?
Jon: As there are only 16 of us in the Young Company and this show has hundreds of characters, everyone ended up playing several roles. My main role was playing Prime Minister Dave, a clueless and dithering politician who is constantly making terrible decisions and covering his own back – a character I had little difficulty in finding inspiration for! I also took on the role of the local bobby, Constable Yapp and was responsible for some of the shadow puppetry, an integral part of the show which many of the cast also helped with when not on stage.
Jade: I played Nurse 2, Agent, Sally the Hair Dresser and a Soldier!
The show came as part of the National Theatre’s Connections Festival’s 21st birthday celebrations. What is Connections and how was Gargantua a part of that?
Jon: Connections is an annual festival run by the National Theatre to provide youth theatres across the country with the chance to create a piece of theatre from an emerging new writer which they perform at their home venue and then take to a larger venue in their region.
For the festival’s 21st birthday celebrations, the National chose their 10 favourite plays from across their whole Connections 21 year programme and encouraged 500 youth theatres groups to pick from one of these. As it is so completely bonkers and fun to create, Gargantua by Carl Grose was part of the selection and the Young Company snapped up the chance to give it a go!
How was it performing the show at the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith?
Jade: It was the most amazing thing I have done in a long time. The theatre was beautiful and modern and it was great to work in a professional performing space.
Jon: The whole group had such a fantastic day at the Lyric. It is such an honour to act on the stage of a newly refurbished state of the art London theatre and was great fun working with some of their resident actors and producers as well as their technical teams. You might think that by being a regional youth theatre only performing for one night, the team there might take little interest in your show but they were very accommodating and treated us all like any touring professional company. Thanks to all the team at the Lyric!
How was it different to the show here at the Maltings?
Jade: The staging was different which meant that our space backstage was compromised, whereas at the Maltings there was more space to move which meant on the performance day at the Lyric, we had to adapt quickly.
Jon: The main difference was the audience make-up where in Farnham you were playing to your highly supportive friends and family but in unfamiliar Hammersmith the audience was more made up of theatre professionals and the other performing youth theatre. I would say I was therefore more nervous for the performance at the Lyric but they were incredibly supportive and there was a nice comradery with the other group who also gave a fantastic performance.
Why should people get involved with the Young Company?
Jade: Everyone is really lovely and friendly and the environment around us is so creative and positive. You also get to meet lots of new people from different backgrounds, schools and areas.
Jon: The Young Company is a great chance for young people interested in theatre to work with professional theatre makers to grow their passions and see a great new production come together. The whole gang are really nice (and pretty boisterous) and so supportive of each other. It is nice to see your fellow actors gaining more confidence in their roles and swap ideas of how to get the most from their characters. Farnham Maltings has such good facilities and Rebecca is a great teacher; I can’t wait to start on the next project!
To learn more about The Young Company and how to get involved, please visit our youth theatre page.