The Torch Theatre continues its commitment to the County’s young people. Actor, writer and director Dave Ainsworth leads our youth and education work and he brings a wealth of experience to our work in the County's schools and colleges, the Torch Youth Theatre and our Summer Schools. Please scroll further down for more information about the Torch Theatre Summer School productions.
The Summer School is seen by many as an extension of Youth Theatre, although participation is guaranteed only on the basis of a successful audition. All schools automatically receive information about auditions for future Summer School projects after Easter each year. Take a look below to see what they've been up to.
Torch Theatre Summer School presents The History of Milford Haven in 67 Minutes written and directed by Dave Ainsworth.
Pictured above with director Dave Ainsworth are the cast of the 2011 Summer School Production of 'My Militant Sisters'.
Pictured above with director Dave Ainsworth are the cast of the 2010 Summer School Production of 'Julia'.
Summer School offers a unique introduction to the world of professional theatre: for over two weeks the participants learn how a professional actor approaches the job at hand, working with experienced technical and other theatre staff to create a performance of quality and worth. Hopefully, they will learn that it’s not simply about learning lines and speaking in a loud voice, more about developing a character, evolving relationships and controlling emotive qualities within a piece of drama.
In 2007, twelve young people took part in a production of Vinegar Tom at Carew Castle after an exhaustive three week rehearsal programme. The production was very successful and gave participants a real insight into the world of professional theatre.
In 2008 a similar scheme resulted in a production at the Torch’s new Studio Theatre, a facility sponsored by Milford Haven Port Authority. The Matchgirls told the story of a group of young women led by feminist activist Annie Besant, who, in 1886, formed the first British trade union for women.
The production for 2009 was called Someone Else's Daughter, the story of Sarah Campbell, an 18 year old girl who died in prison and this year, Dave Ainsworth has written a play based on the true story of Julia Stanley and how she met John Lennon's father, as seen through the eyes of a group of Beatlemania girls.
Check out the production photos for these shows by following this link
More about our Summer School Productions ...
Someone Else’s Daughter – The Story So Far
by Aisling Phillips, Youth Theatre/Summer School ASM
Once again, following last year’s successful play The Matchgirls, Dave Ainsworth now presents us with Someone Else’s Daughter – a Brechtian style play concerning the prison systems in Britain and the number of female prisoner suicides in 2003.
From the second I picked up the script, my first thought was “this play’s going to be a success; I can tell!” And, so far it’s looking promising. After roughly a week’s worth of rehearsing, most of the cast are already off script; with a handful turning to me for help with their lines (as is my job, which I take very seriously) whilst a few others prefer to attempt a stab at any forgotten lines before asking me for help (no names mentioned Harri!) – but I think that might be a good thing as it shows that these teenage actors are not the sort to rely on the ASM to provide them with every single line they utter within the play.
With a set so typical of Brecht himself and a director who will do whatever it takes to push us through this; the best thing I have noticed about the performance so far is the group that Dave has chosen to perform this piece. In spite of it being such a serious piece that deals with very real adult themes and issues, the fun is still there on stage during the rehearsals – I am referring to such incidents as Ben’s pronunciation of “Safeways” as “Subways” and Toby’s many injuries from throwing himself to the ground, courtesy of Lisa! But no matter how many times we will end up laughing for hours during our rehearsal, our main focus is on the performance; which is currently, as Dave puts it, about “20% of the way there!”
I can’t guarantee that everyone will see the play as being quite to their tastes in the world of theatre, but I can guarantee that the Youth Theatre actors are putting a lot of hard work and effort into performing it; as well as having a lot of fun into the bargain! After all, if theatre wasn’t meant to have been fun, Shakespeare would have been out of a job! Aisling Phillips, 19 August 2009
Here's a photo of our wonderful cast:
L to R: Aisling Phillips (Pembs College); Jocelyn Aveyard (Pembs College); Sarah Baker (Tasker Milward); Emily Kaijaks (Bush School, Pembroke); Sophie Murray (Tasker Milward); Cherie Morgan (Pembs College); Hatti McLoughlin (Tasker Milward); Lisa Pugh (Pembs College); Angharad Tudor-Price (St Davids); Ben Meagher (Milford Haven Comp); Sarah-Jayne Davies (Pembs College); Nicola Schopp (Pembs College); Sam Lloyd (Greenhill, Tenby); Maya Sonvico (Pembs College); Hope Dowsett (Preseli); Ben MacKenzie (Pembs College); Billi Galliard (Bush School, Pembroke); Toby Weatherburn (Preseli) Photograph by Owen Howells Photography
SOMEONE ELSE'S DAUGHTER … tackles the sensitive issue of prison deaths through retelling the story of Sarah Campbell who died in 2003 aged just 19, and the subsequent campaign launched by her grieving mother.
Performed by a large, mainly female cast of young people, the play hits hard. Its story, perhaps a warning to us all, is re-enforced by its young performers. Someone Else's Daughter could have been any one of ours. A bright girl, a tennis champion and daughter of a lecturer, Sarah came from a middle class home. But, at the age of 15, things began to go wrong when she discovered drugs.
Someone Else's Daughter tells the stark tale of how a series of unfortunate circumstances led to Sarah’s death and how her mother's determined campaign brought the subject to the attention of the public and Parliament.
Researched and written by Dave Ainsworth, he chose this subject because he felt it was an important story but he also wanted his students to experience the challenge of performing a re-creation of recent events. It opens at the Torch Theatre on 3rd September .
THE MATCHGIRLS: The story of the 1888 Matchgirls is one of courage in the face of adversity and prejudice in a very male world. The 12 to 15 year old girls working at the Bryant and May match making factory in the East End of London had long been used to the hardship of working 14 hours a day for 5 shillings a week but it was the yellow phosphorous (banned in Sweden and the USA) used to make the matches that caused the horrific illnesses associated with the work of a match girl: yellowing of the skin , loss of hair and a form of bone cancer which caused one side of the face to turn green and black before a painful death.
Initially, with neither funds nor organisation a group of girls came out on strike in July 1888. Their cause was championed by Annie Besant and what happened next was eventually seen not only as one of the most important events in the history of labour organisation in Britain, it was also to change the way women and trade unions were perceived forever.
Narrator – Amy Lewis-Norman (Tasker Milward)
Annie Besant – Natalie Burgess (Ysgol Dyffryn Taff)
Alice France – Suzi MacGregor (Ysgol Bro Gwaun)
Kate Slater – Georgia Coles-Riley (Pembrokeshire College)
Eliza Martin – Sara Howell (Ysgol Bro Gwaun)
Mary Driscoll – Angharad Tudor Price (Ysgol Dewi Sant)
Jane Wakeling – Kate McLoughlin (Tasker Milward)
Mr Bryant – Ben Meagher (Milford Haven)
Tom/John – Toby Weatherburn (Ysgol Preseli)
Sally – Sophie Dobson (Sir Thomas Picton)
Bridget – Cherie Morgan (Greenhill)
Betty – Zoe James (Pembrokeshire College)
Lighting and Sound Technician – Lisa Mayhew (Ysgol Dewi Sant)
Costumes – Sophie Dobson (Sir Thomas Picton)
Assistant Stage Manager – Aisling Phillips (Pembrokeshire College)
Directed by Dave Ainsworth
THE MATCHGIRLS REVIEW by Tim Barrett
'MATCH GIRLS MADE IN HEAVEN'
An Irish comedian performing at the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago suggested that everybody should give themselves a treat at least once a day but that the best treat of all, the one that never fails to generate that warm-all-over, Ready Brek glow, is always the unexpected treat. Yet for those for whom the words 'Youth Theatre' conjure up an image of surly, 1980s teenagers taking advantage of a fraught, well-meaning drama teacher while on the skive from double games and balancing half-smoked Woodbines on their lower lips, the prospect of a Saturday night spent watching the latest annual Torch Youth Theatre Summer School show would have seemed to offer about as much chance of entertainment as an overdue hernia operation. Even the latest in the tired Star Wars series showing next door on the same night may have seemed the smarter option. Yet in a heartbeat 'The Matchgirls' had grabbed you by the short and curlies and for 70 minutes never let go, playing with you, teasing you, entrancing you, filling you with admiration, twisting your pericardium in knots and leaving you gasping, wanting more, more, more. Plunged headlong into the lovely, ugly Victorian world of damp-dog drudgery where these still lives, these distant voices, these ghosts were suddenly among you, alive and immediate, only a corpse would have failed to be astonished by this fabulous, vibrant piece of work simply bursting with talent, energy and invention. The invention caught you unawares like a boot up the backside even 15 minutes before the 7.30pm start: to find your seat in the dim light you had to step over at least one of the 5 or so barefooted match girls, draped like human flotsam around the auditorium in filthy and exhausted sleep, prompting an unspoken "Hullo, this could be interesting." When the Narrator, Amy Lewis-Norman, then cheekily stepped onto the stage out of the blue and out of her seat in the audience to set the scene and tell you that "the winners in this story were poor, working class and female" you thought "Hullo, this could be really interesting. What's goyen' on 'ere then?" Both features could have easily felt contrived, just embarrassing gimmicks, yet (as was to be the case with the innovative touches throughout the rest of the show) both worked perfectly and felt integral to the whole: Lewis-Norman's gravitas and seen-it-all-before persona made her role essential rather than an intrusion while the sleeping girls was one of the many points that subliminally blurred the boundaries between audience and cast making you really feel as if you had stepped back in time for a privileged peep. Perhaps the entrance money was going to these girls' strike fund. Eventually the 5 sleeping match girls, the powerful central core of the play, Alice, Jane, Eliza, Kate and Mary (respectively: Suzi MacGregor, Kate McLoughlin, Sara Howell, Georgia Coles-Riley and Angharad Tudor Price), took to the stage and engaged us immediately with the soft, staccato single opening lines spoken with machine gun precision and beauty out to the waiting silence. Essentially, within 3 or 4 minutes then, a whole world had been created and the whole tone set. Masterfully. Every element fitted together perfectly, nothing was redundant, nothing out of place, like a sculpture the whole pared down to its essence. Whether it was the wonderfully concise and suggestive writing, whether it was the naturalness of the movement, the pacing or the grouping. The action regularly frozen by the narrator. The time shifts. The mastery of the London accent (not a cartoon cockney in sight). The lightning scene changes that prevented applause so as not to puncture the illusion, the spell. Whether it was the clever use of space on a minimalist set underpinned by Lisa Mayhew's superb lighting and sound effects or the subtelty, individuality and thoughtfulness of each of Sophie Dobson's costumes (it's no wonder she's already done a stint at the National Youth Theatre in London); 'The Matchgirls' was seamless. But what was most incredible, what hit you within seconds with double barrel force was the maturity and depth and detail of the characterization, the body language, the acting. It just blew you away. Each of the 5 main Match girls had completely individual characters and Howell, Tudor Price, MacGregor, Coles-Riley and McLoughlin were a sheer joy to watch individually and as a unit. The interaction between Cherie Morgan who played troubled Bridget gradually tempted from the match factory into prostitution by Zoe James as world weary Betty could so easily have descended into cliche. But their ability too meant they were note perfect as was Sally, the seventh match girl played by Sophie Dobson (moonlighting from the costumes), and Toby Weatherburn who played both Tom the sailor and John the factory foreman with a lovely, quiet, understated manner. These actors were no mere expert line readers, mimics with their collections of mannerisms. These were 15 to 18 (yes 15 to 18!) year olds exhibiting unbelievable insight, living deep inside those characters. And nowhere were these qualities more apparent than in Ben Meagher as the Gradgrindian Mr Bryant and Natalie Burgess prim perfection as Annie Besant. Both could so easily have been one-dimensional, the pantomime heroin and villain. But Burgess somehow, between her lines, always suggested the complexities of the real life Besant while the physically striking Meagher expertly avoided becoming the cartoon Victorian monster again skillfully suggesting that part of him really believed he was a force for good, the embodiment of Shaw's 'every man is a walking contradiction', a belief, of course, that was to be gradually eroded by Burgess, his nemesis. What came across in both of these actors to an extent perhaps only matched by the brilliant Tudor Price, Howell and MacGregor was the feeling that they had a sort of 'back character', that their onstage characters had had long lives before we arrived to see the play and would have a life long after we had left the auditorium. Perhaps this is where the Mike Leigh influence in the actors' preparation was most apparent. And always there was the presence of the Narrator, Lewis-Norman, part of whose skill lay in the illusion she wasn't even trying. It was an illusion that applied to the whole performance. The Matchgirls seemed effortless: as in any work of true quality the huge level of work that underpinned it was totally invisible. Everything was achieved with a lightness of touch and It will be a crime if this play is not taken on tour round the local schools to be seen by greater numbers, a crime if many of these actors do not become professional. The Victorians are still with us because the world they created is still here, if changed. Theirs was the period of the most radical transformation ever seen by the world. It is a period so full of contradiction so full of energy and achievement so full of poverty, and suffering. Many of their problems are still with us, in the Balkans, in Ireland, in the postcolonial world of Africa in the current call centre employment culture. Yet returning to the 19th century in a time machine the 21st century traveller would notice dozens of differences between our world and theirs, differences that would assail the eye, heart and nostril and make us know that the Victorian world was utterly different to our own. But the greatest and most extraordinary difference is the difference between women then and now. The Matchgirls strike came at the end of a 20 year period from 1860, a period that began the slow change from the male dominated Victorian society, and its success was to be acknowledged as having a huge influence on the way women were perceived and on the development of the Trade Union movement. In lesser hands the play could have been dull and worthy, preachy and polemical. In the hands of Dave Ainsworth and his superb cast, both onstage and backstage, it was never for a minute anything less than inspirational, moving, powerful, spellbinding and, at times, laugh-out-loud; always whispering there is 'nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come'. Underneath the screen on the back wall of the stage which had displayed images and photos from the 1880s throughout the play, the ending, when it came, was fantastic. It brought a lump to the throat, a tear to the eye and rigor mortis to the hairs to the back of the neck. In one fell swoop it encapsulated the whole tone and quality of the play and left an energy fizzing in the air: "We are the Match Girls. No one remembers our names," declared MacGregor, McLoughlin, Howell, Coles-Riley and Tudor Price, before defiantly holding up their lighted matches and adding: "we are gone". Then blowing out those matches they took our breath away, the sudden blackness, the deafening silence only broken for a second by the image of flames flaring on the back screen. Phew! Well, well, well. Abso-bloody-lutely marvelous, a bleedin' treat ma'am, beggin' your pardon 'n all.
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