You’d expect, at eight years-old, a performer would provide only a sketch of a character, like the pinpricks in a face, not yet weathered by time.
So what was remarkable about Basics Junior Theatre School’s Shooting Stars - a cast with an age range of eight to 13 - was the maturity of their performances.
In their original staging, Take Me Back, each actor demonstrated an understanding of character beyond their years.
Trixie Higginson, for example, offered a fully-formed presentation of West Side Story’s Anita.
Not only nailing a Puerto-Rican accent and rolling out powerful vocals and confident choreography, she captured with comic skill Anita’s apathy to her homeland, allowing for the full impact of the song’s irony.
But this multitalented actress didn’t stop there: further appearances in the show included gymnastic flips.
Likewise, the Jets cast - also performing extracts from West Side Story - not only pulled off strong American accents and captured the gutsy spirit of the gang but also showcased nuances of character.
Another indication of the cast’s artistic maturity was the ability of each actor to weave together difficult emotions - typically associated with adult life - with control and balance. It’s this kind of understanding that nods towards the professionals. Take the extracts from Les Miserable, in which the ensemble captured the rage of the French Revolution while maintaining tight harmonies and choreography.
Avalon Keenan channelled the fear, anger and hope of Fantine in I Dreamed a Dream to deliver an emotional punch unexpected of her age. It’s a huge ask of any adult to capture a hybrid of painful emotions without compromising the quality of the vocals - but Keenan’s voice soared.
And what the actors lacked in years they made up for in confidence and charisma, as in James Chadwick’s performance of Master of the House.
It’s impressive enough when performative talent - and the confidence to showcase it in a packed theatre - is found in a child but more striking is the cast’s budding perceptiveness. Because it is the little details that make a performance sincere, relatable and all the resonating. And that can be hard to find even among talented professionals.
It was apt to finish the show with a rendition of Fame’s Bring on Tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised, after all, if many of the actors go on to become the stars of tomorrow, each with an eye looking back at yesterday’s hits and the other fixed on a bright future.