Strong sense of ownership
'WALK IN THE SHADOW', performed by the Watermill Youth Theatre, from Wednesday, July 25 to Saturday, July 28
Written and directed by Ben Myers, this very well received play allowed the Youth Theatre not only to showcase their talents, but to convey in a wholly believable way the agonies and confusions of teenage years.
The play centres on Lorna, played with maturity, genuineness and natural ability by Aimee Stones. Her parents' divorce, coming at the most painfully vulnerable age of 17, has magnified all those natural teenage fears, difficulties and extreme reactions. She finds the divorce very hard to cope with; her younger, more happy-go-lucky brother seems to take it with much more ease.
The strength of the play is that it is partly a portrayal of the disintegration of a vulnerable personality under stress, partly an exploration of what it means to be a teenager, and partly a ghost
story: three threads which are so closely interwoven that it is hard to glean the 'truth'.
Lorna becomes withdrawn, anorexic and angry, forcing away the family who love her and those friends who at first try to help her. But are the voices she hears 'real'? Are they her own self-destructive demons, or the voices of those forces which took the
lives of four young people who lived in the house before her? Are they her own negative thoughts or the voices of 'real ghosts'? Is the injury on
Lorna's arm caused by a mirror breaking, or was it the result of self-harm?
The ethereal, often almost invisible masked figures, snaking in and out of 'reality', worked extremely well, as did the device of showing those physically off stage or emotionally unreachable (Lorna's estranged friends and the authority figures of her parents and teachers) as shadows behind lit screens. So, too, did video footage of the teenagers at school and partying, and a disturbing sequence of Lorna's near drowning.
The young cast played with commitment and pace, working with a script which had some blackly comic
lines and which spoke in language absolutely their own, to music arranged and performed by Lukas
Medlam, which is totally theirs. William Richardson was a natural as
Lornas's brother and the mysterious Chris, played by Chris Smith, a good foil to her. There was a nice cameo by Oliver Ford-Lane as Ricky, sensitive playing by Constance Frost as Katie and
Jenny Clarke as Sal, with excellent support from the rest of the cast.
Teenage years are misery, but the grown-ups here were not coping too well either:
Lornas's mother screams at her former husband down the phone, he drinks, and the French
assistante pops pills to get through the next class.