e recently popped to Crowndale Road’s sixty-year-old theatre, Theatro Technis, to a production of Sweet & Salty: The Tasty Plays by Scene & Heard, a unique mentoring project that sees local kids join forces with volunteer actors, writers and directors to create theatre.
Sat in the packed-out auditorium alongside parents, teachers and other (adult) spectators, we spent an hour and a half collectively belly-laughing at the weird and wonderful product of kids’ uninhibited imaginations.
Highlights included the tale of a walking, talking bowl of guinea fowl soup squaring up against Ronnie O’Sullivan in a snooker tournament, a love-starved porcupine desperately seeking amour in a post-apocalyptic Paris, and a fox and wifi box venturing into outer space together. Between shows – ten mini-productions run throughout the evening – we excitedly nattered amongst ourselves. We were all blown away by the, at times, very silly and jovial, at others, very perceptive and wise, theatre unfolding in front of us.
So how does it work? Local kids from Edith Neville and St Aloysius are referred by their primary schools. They attend weekly classes over a term that culminate in a writing weekend, where they are paired with a dramaturg and write a play together. Next, they interview their actors and write their plays with their performers in mind.
The child’s script is then passed to a team of professionals; two actors and a director, who create the production. They work alongside professional designers, technicians, composers and prop makers, and voilà the play hits the Theatro Technis stage at the end of each term.
“There is no other project like this in Britain. Theatre is a tool, the productions are a beautiful by-product of the work, which is to mentor children, to boost their self-esteem, to raise their aspirations,” says Rosalind Paul, Scene & Heard’s artistic director. “The heart of Scene & Heard is that children’s voices come out of adults’ mouths, giving those voices credence, value and a public platform for them to say whatever they want to say,” she says.
One of our highlights was seeing the kids sit in the audience watching their production. Some bit their fingernails in nervous anticipation, others took on the stance of a critic, their hand resting on their chin as they analysed how well the actors were delivering their work. As their piece drew to a close – and the theatre invariably broke into raucous applause – the seriousness instantly melted away. They left their seats and took to the stage where they stood between their actors, hand-in-hand as they took their bow. An inimitable feeling that, judging by the ear-to-ear smiles on their faces, could well see the next generation of British theatre-makers emerge from the heart of Somers Town.