Youth theatre invaluable to our children

The cast of Pendle Hippodrome Youth Theatre's High School Musical. (s)
The cast of Pendle Hippodrome Youth Theatre's High School Musical. (s)

Many readers will have seen at least some amateur youth theatre in the past years, not least at two of Colne’s historical venues, The Colne Muni and The Hippodrome.

And while it is true prices for admission may have had to rise with the costs incurred during production, it may be a little known fact, and come as some surprise to many, to learn these musicals and plays seldom make a profit of any substance.

One could ask, why then do these societies continue? I have a few answers that spring to mind: youth theatres provide one or two rehearsal sessions a week, in an environment tightly managed for the safety of the children and young people involved.

They are, however, not simply a means to an end – that of a production. Rehearsals provide social interaction and group support; they are a means by which independence and expression is developed and maturity attained.

The body of individuals behind a production can be vast depending on the venue and tasks required for each production. Almost all contributors give their time (huge amounts of it) on a voluntary basis, with no payment other than to see the performers develop - in confidence and skill - and an audience revel in the achievements on stage.

Since my own children were small they have been performers in one way or another and without youth theatre group support, it is very unlikely the strength of character my own children now have, and that of their peers, would exist.

Theatre (and music) gives performers young and old a voice that may not otherwise have been heard; and when one has performed well within a group, the mutual and shared pride as the audience cheers and claps loudly in recognition of a performance’s success, cannot be adequately described in words, which is why a huge hug as the final curtain drops, says it all.

So when you or I go to see an amateur youth production and wonder at the price of a ticket or question the purchase of a programme, it is worth remembering it takes months of energy and time to produce what you are about to see; it is worth reflecting on the soaring swell of the orchestra before the curtain rises; on the beauty of that first jete, solo or chorus number from a group that has developed over a several months, growing from perhaps a timid footstep to a confident leap and twirl, practised notes filling the air, and ending in that beautifully choreographed landing.

Colne is extremely lucky to have three wonderful theatre venues, all very different, all very special. And all three - and the theatre groups that step onto these stages - play such a valuable role in the creative development of our children.

Gilly Fontaine-Grist

(via email)