Schools need students – which is why a large community ensemble has been drafted into Alan Bennett’s 40 Years On, the opening play in this year’s Chichester Festival Theatre summer season.
Richard Wilson is playing the headmaster. Chichester Festival Youth Theatre members Crispin Glancy and Jacob Blazdell are among the dozens playing his pupils.
“I have been in the youth theatre for just over a year now,” says 16-year-old Crispin, “but I have been doing lots of acting and musical theatre for about ten years, a lot with Petersfield Youth Theatre.
“I just love the idea of creating a character, playing that character and making him believable to an audience. I love the singing and dancing.
“I have just starting doing my AS levels. I am doing maths and chemistry and music, not drama. I decided that I do quite a lot of drama outside of school, but acting is still my first choice. It is what I want to do. The plan is to go to drama school after I leave college. I think I am more interested in doing straight acting, but I would like to keep up my singing as well.”
In 40 Years On, he is playing one of the school children: “There are some bits involving the rugby team that derail the entire show at one point!” Crispin promises.
Crispin is enjoying the switch-up from youth theatre work: “It is just about how you are expected to be in rehearsals and never switch off. This is definitely a step up. And the actors are really, really good. Lots of them are so incredible, such good musicians as well. There is a lot of a cappella.”
Jacob, aged 13, a student at Chichester Free School, is also relishing the challenges: “I have taken an interest in acting just lately. It’s just the whole life of actors which seems really nice and a dream. It would be great to be an actor.
“I would like to do more shows. I would like to do drama GCSE and a few drama classes. I just like the idea of entertaining people. I have always tried to make people laugh and to strike up conversations.
“I joined the youth theatre a few months ago. This is my first professional performance. It is quite a big step up for me because I have just been doing school plays and in the village hall.
“This was the first time I had heard of 40 Years On. I love the whole sense of the time it is set in. The whole play is about looking back to the war and trying to honour those that fell and what happened… but it all goes wrong! It is a really witty, hilarious comedy. It is great.”
The prospect is both frightening and exciting: “You get a bit nervous before you go on the stage. But when you are there and you start singing, it just all disappears and you just get on with it. I think everyone is a little bit nervous beforehand, but once you start, you know it is all going to be OK. We are all part of this together.
“And I feel very privileged.”
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