Chesil Theatre has gained a local reputation for creating high quality performances and productions at its intimate venue, often enhanced by first rate scenery, costumes and effects. Tonight, in its Spotlight on Youth, complex aesthetics were stripped back to reveal the pure, raw, burgeoning talent of its very youngest members as the two youth sections presented four short pieces under the umbrella title of Delusions. With each piece lasting no more than around 5 – 10 minutes each, this is a short evening at the theatre – but a genuine treat nonetheless!

The senior group (aged 13 – 16 years) open the evening, continuing after the interval: their first performance is an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s satirical play, The Government Inspector, where a group of townsfolk seek to impress the (correct?) visiting official, while their second – a short improvised piece called School Rules – explores how students see themselves within the school environment, a thought-provoking narrative devised and directed by JB Black from the University of Winchester.

The junior group (aged 8 – 12 years) explore how nobody should be judged by the way that they look in Are You New Here?, introducing what rates as one of the cutest green three-eyed aliens you could wish to meet into the local school as prejudices, misconceptions and inflated egos are studied with hilarious effect. Their wide-eyed delight and radiant faces are so joyful to watch, you can’t help but find amusement and a sense of fun watching their enactments.

The final ensemble performance of the evening, Listen Pretend Dance, is a darkly comedic dance drama performed with style and skill, proving that you don’t need words to tell a story. Although the verbal backdrop is from a voiceover, this is used to enhance both the facially expressive and physical skills of the cast, as a tool to demonstrate their growing skills with comic timing, an impressive combination of choreographed movements and still tableaux, and with a subtext that means Listen or Watch With Mother will never be quite the same again!

Right from the start, it is evident that this group of talented youngsters love performing and are being taught the rudimentary elements of theatre and its disciplines to a high standard; this is clearly demonstrated by their cohesive, collaborative, enthusiastic and energetic performances. The direction from Tom Humphreys, Black and Dee Jones encourages the young actors to show their comic timing, physical reactions and interaction, physicality and characterisation to the extent that their enjoyment and enthusiasm becomes infectious. They are focused and committed to their story-telling throughout, radiating infectious excitement and interest.

It is right that the groups are named collectively rather than as individual performers to specific characters; these are truly ensemble pieces where each member is a crucial part of the whole, working together and, sometimes literally, bouncing off each other! These youngsters are diamonds in the rough who will, no doubt, continue to progress into accomplished performers as they continue to be carefully nurtured and develop their blossoming skills. The evening may be a little short on time, but fun and entertainment are present in abundance!

(Photographs: Peter Bateson)